Building and industrial automation
Meant is less a mechanical automation, e.g. automatic transporting of material and machines, than complete process measuring and control technology (MCA).

Automation is basically divided into building automation and industrial automation, automation of building resp. of machines and plants.

Automation level
One differ mainly 4 levels in the automation technology:
- Process- and field level: signals are detected and outputted.
- Control level: a PLC process, control and adjust input- and output signals.
   Thereby guidelines from the management level are respected.
- Management level I: detailed planning, monitoring, operate and executing on process- or   
    plant management level.
- Management level II: overriding rough planning on enterprise level. 

Open and closed loop control technology
The building automation has its focus on closed loop control.
I.e., permanently adjusting of outputs to have actual measured values equal to the set-points. E.g. adjust the heating valve to regulate the room temperature (closed loop cycle).

The classical industrial automation and machine control has the focus in the open loop control technology. Fix PLC programs steers the output signals without comparison of actual values and set-points.
A special position takes the so-called process industry or process sequences.
Processes are regulated continuous flows which are mainly regulated instead of is steered.
An example for this in the wooden industry are kiln dry chambers.

Degree of automation – fourth industrial revolution
In the building automation as well as in the industrial automation one can observe an increasing level of automation and complexity. Thanks to more and more efficient and more low-price PLC and PC technology as well as networking and software, the efficiency increases in comfort, service and result more and more.
New program tools, hardware and interlinking allow up to now unexpected possibilities.
The data exchange between field level up to the enterprise level and vice versa grows more and more. Besides, the data do not hold any more at enterprise border thanks of the interlinking via the www.
E.g., we ourselves are of using the internet to access to control systems for service purposes.
The total information exchange over all levels is sometimes called the third or fourth industrial revolution.

The development speed is high, so that it is difficult even for professionals to keep track.
You as a user must not keep updated immediately with the newest technology.
Costs for this would be too high.
However what you should know, is the state of the technology nowadays in general lines and which possibilities / effectiveness it offers, as well as where the trip will go in close future or could go.
You should consider this knowledge in investment decisions to keep up competitiveness.