Automation refers to the use of devices for saving human labour. That is, automation means complete mechanization of a process or operation thereby elimination of manual labour. It involves not only substitution of machinery for human efforts, but also a system of mechanical feedback in scientific manner.
The terms ‘automation’ and ‘mechanization’ are not synonymous. Mechanization means use of machines to replace human labour. The mental work has to be done by the human mind. But in automation, mental work is also done by machines. Thus, automation is the next stage after mechanization.
Feedback is inherent in automation. In case of automatic machinery, the machine is able to sense, feel, detect and correct errors and mistakes while they are occurring.
There is generally resistance by the employees to any scheme of automation. Trade unionists also oppose it as it will create unemployment. This is of course true in the short- rim, but in the long run this is not really true.
Although the manpower requirement in direct production will be reduced in industries introducing automation, more skilled indirect labour force will be required to operate the machines and provide for their maintenance. Production increases with automation leading to increased requirements for skilled labour.
Hence automation does not necessarily lead to unemployment. In developed countries having ‘full employment’, automation is essential, otherwise the available resources will not be fully utilized and standard of living will not be improved.
The following principles should be borne in mind when selecting an office machine:
1. Principle of cost
2. Principle of equality
3. Principle of suitability
4. Principle of durability
5. Principle of adequacy
6. Principle of leased space occupancy
7. Principle of multiple uses
8. Principle of standardization
9. Principle of fullest use
10. Principle of safety.
Through processes of automation the production increases. With more production, the overhead expenses go down leading to reduction in cost per unit. Consequently, the prices go down, prices also go down because of more goods being available against demand.
Further competition is also a reason for low price. However, the sellers can make more profits by selling more quantities at lower prices. Thus, automation helps both the consumers as well as the manufacturers by keeping down the price level.