Automation is usually characterized by two major principles: (1) mechanization. i.e. machines are self-regulated so as to meet predetermined requirements (a simple example of self-regulation can be found in the operation of a thermostatically controlled furnace); (2) continuous process, i.e.. production facilities are linked together, thereby integrating several separate elements of productive process into a unified whole.

There are three basic kinds of automated process: (1) assembly-line automation. characteristic of the automobile industry: (2) extensive use of computers, as found in many modern offices and businesses: (3) utilization of complex electronic equipment as controls in the manufacturing and processing of products, such as in the refining industry.