Industrial automation can be defined as the integration of computer technology with industrial machines, processes, and operations. It ranges from the industrial scanner that reads the bar codes on items purchased at the supermarket to the automated factories that utilize robots with artificial intelligence. The reasons for pursuing industrial automation range from reducing manufacturing cost and improving quality to the need for greater flexibility to change and the ability to respond to market demands. Industrial automation encompasses information processing, process control, inventory control, and sales forecasting. The results of industrial automation raise many questions concerning the use of technology to replace workers and the resulting social and economic impact. The government is addressing many of these issues and has a number of productivity and standardization initiatives that are directly related to industrial automation.
The initiatives that have been undertaken by the Department of Defense (DoD) that will have an impact on industrial automation include the Very High Speed Integrated Circuits (VHSIC) Program, the various interface standards that will play a key role as the integrator of machine and computer, the Industrial Modernization Incentives Program (IMIP), DoD Software Technology for Adaptable, Reliable Systems (STARS), Ada® Programming Language, and the Initial Graphics Exchange Specification (IGES).