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Programmable industrial automation can help meet the socioeconomic needs for increased productivity and job enrichment in labor-intensive industries. Characterized by production flexibility and ease of setup for new products, programmable automation is especially adaptable to manufacturing a variety of products in variable lot sizes at mass-production costs. Programmable, automated hardware/software systems existing in industry today include numerical control of machine tools, computer-aided design and manufacturing, production information and control, and industrial robots. These systems are being advanced by ongoing research and development activities; one major activity entails the application of robots with sensors to material-handling, inspection, and assembly operations. The ultimate goal of programmable automation is an essentially unmanned, computer-integrated automatic factory.