Without advanced automation, operational requirements to safety, availability, efficiency and flexibility of large-scale industrial processes and technical infrastructures cannot be satisfied. The societal importance of automation will increase even more in a future with growing needs for green and sustainable technologies and with the increasing interactions between complex production, distribution technologies and information technology. These challenges cannot be met without the proper use of the intelligence provided by automation systems.

The human factor
Past incidents in the energy and chemical industry showed the importance of considering human factors in design of interactions between human and machine. New advanced nuclear power plants reduce the need for automated systems in accident situations by redesigning the process to rely on passive safety features. Developments within power systems in Denmark suggest an increased level of automation to realize the intelligent grid, which can supply power to its customers on demand by using markets to coordinate power generation in a system of highly distributed intermittent and renewable energy sources.

Process design

Automation systems are not always fool proof. They should not be introduced without considering their effects on the control room operator’s tasks in accident situations. Furthermore, an automation solution is highly dependent on the production technology. The level of automation and the vulnerability of the plant to automation failure can therefore often be reduced by changes in the process design. Proper use of automation in the service of society requires a symbiotic approach considering the interaction between several technologies and their users.