While I was over in Europe attending Hannover Fair a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit with B&R Automation in Egglesburg, Austria. B&R is one of those automation companies whose products you’ve probably used, but may not have known it due to the high number of devices created for other brand’s nameplates. This is especially true of the company’s human machine interface (HMI) products.
That aside, what I found most interesting about B&R during my visit to their headquarters was the company’s commitment to R&D, training, long-term outlook, and levels of automation used to produced and manage storage of its automation products.
On the R&D side, the company spends about 16-17% of revenues annually on R&D, according to Peter Gucher, general manager of B&R International. To make use of this level of spending, 340 of B&R’s employees are in R&D. In addition, 450 employees are application engineers. Considering the company has 2,300 total employees, this means that nearly 40 percent are involved with R&D and/or product development/application in one aspect or another.
Touring the B&R facility in Egglesburg, two things in particular stood out: the company’s circuit board manufacturing and testing process and its warehouse operation.
B&R manufactures 400,000 circuit boards each month for use in its various products. Each board has a serial number on it in order to trace it through all production and testing steps. Testing is performed visually and by robotic flying probes and bed of nails procedures.
The company’s warehouse is an impressive sight. The area is fully automated and controlled by four CPUs, 132 servo axes and hundreds of I/O slices. Practicing what it preaches on the sustainability front, B&R captures and reuses 35% of all energy expended by its warehouse systems.
B&R supplies automation across a variety of industries, but is primarily focused on machine building. According to Gucher, 2500 machine building companies worldwide do all their machine building using B&R products. He added that, in 2010, 120,000 machines were produced with B&R automation products onboard.
“Our products are used by all European automotive manufacturers, mostly in systems designed for body work and painting applications,” Gucher added.
The company’s portfolio of automation products includes “everything needed to build a machine,” says Gucher. These products include HMIs, control, motion, safety, I/O, software and services.
When it comes to software, B&R designs its products to run on PLCs or PCs. B&R claims it is the only automation provider that offers a single software tool for PLC, HMI, motion and network programming and diagnostics. The company software is based on the IEC 61131-3 standard.
You can get a glimpse of B&R facility yourself by clicking on the video link below.