Everything is getting smarter in the plant. Manufacturing efficiencies keep increasing because of these smart systems. We're seeing improvements in set-up time, networked communication (from ERP to suppliers to customers), energy consumption, safety, and throughput. The new plant is clean, quiet, and requires less space. Hardware and software intelligence is at the heart of these improvements.
For plant managers, this is good news. The emerging plant intelligence saves money and increases profit. It also takes some of the pressure off the control engineer. Gone are the days of original programming and endless visits from integrators. Much of the plant system comes pre-integrated and needs just a little bit of tweaking from the supplier. And the suppliers are often connecting to the plant offsite. The intelligent plant is collecting more data and analyzing it for greater optimization, efficiency, and predictive maintenance.
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ATS Automation's ATS SmartVision software delivers high-performance image processing with an easy-to-use control interface, while ATS Cortex hardware is designed to reduce integration time and deliver electrical hardware savings. (Source: ATS Automation)
Let's hope hackers don't get into the heart of it then. Also let's hope that the low cost labour markets don't implement similar systems and out flank us. Honestly though, I think the benefits of keeping manufacturing and engineering closer to the target markets has a lot of other follow-ons that outweigh the cost benefits alone of outsourcing.
Thanks JimT. Yes, that is a nice piece of intelligent work. And certainly much more to come. The plant is quite an exciting place these days. Some of the older plant managers are saying, "If we can let engineering students know just what's going on in the plant today, we'll attract a lot more engineers.
Paging thru the various controllers and robotic arms, I was taking it all in stride, as fairly routine things; until a came to slide 10/14 showing the endoscopic biopsy jaws as stamped from a single blank of sheet stock, via progressive die.
Having been a former Engineering manager to a progressive die company, I can see and appreciate the extreme complexity of this part, and marveled at the creative forming, coining, and draws that created this as a single part – not an assembly. Kudos to the tooling engineers of this P/N.
I agree, Elizabeth. In fact the connected plant may be ahead of the curve on the Internet of things. Some of these plants are so connected and so automated, the optimization of one plant can be captured digitally and deployed at another plant on the other side of the globe. In some cases, these plants are then run remotely by a vendor.
Debera, products created without a whole lot of regard as to the actual use are a big part of the problem. The result is a proliferation of mostly worthless and often useless features, given the mistaken belief by idiots that features equal quality. Unfortunately many of the products that you describe wind up in our landfills, a waste of materials and talents.
That's a good question Rob... More often that not it seems to be the people we contract with to build the machine who are the ones finalizing the integration. That and we have 2 engineers that are a pretty good team on the floor. There are times though where a specialist rep from the manufacturer of the system being tweaked (vision or a robot for instance) might come in. That's always been a minor part of bringing a new machine on line. I suspect the machine builders use what they know, and/or get up to speed on what they need to.
I can't say what interactions the builders have with the robot venders and manufacturers or the vision systems people before the machine gets here. It could be more or less at the builders shop than it is after we get the machine.
We've done some pretty far under the hood tweaks, repairs, and upgrades over the years ourselves too. In those cases a phone and an internet connection right at the point of service saves time and money. At least that's the theory.
I saw that you're moderating a webinar on Mechatronics on the 16th. I won't be able to make it but that topic fits with what I see here at work and with our machine venders. Multidiscipline is the rule.
Unlike industrial robots, which suffered a slight overall slump in 2012, service robots continue to be increasingly in demand. The majority are used for defense, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); and agriculture, such as milking robots.
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