Posted: December 24th, 2013 | By: Eagle Tech
As the increasing use of technology creates the expectations of variety and fast change among people, the food industry is looking to be on the cutting edge of this trend. Adept might just have the answer.
Apter said that automation technology enables parameters of a processing system to be adjusted with a quick change of menu options on the control panel. Such flexibility is essential in the face of ever-evolving consumer preferences, he told FPD.
“New tastes are arising for reasons as diverse as health consciousness and budgetary concerns,” Apter said. “New categories such as ethnic, organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, low-fat, high-fiber, low-sodium, and caffeine-free continue to proliferate product and part types, or SKUs.”
The desire of food firms and retailers to build brands through a broadening range of portion sizes and packaging formats (including fridge packs and club-store sizes) also are driving product diversification, Apter said. Consumers also are seeking smaller-quantity packs that meet low-budget concerns.
Adept’s Quattro robot is the only one that is FDA approved. Adept also works directly with food processing companies to better understand and meet their needs. The Quattro is Adept’s answer to the increasing expectations of consumers. With the Quattro, and the understanding of the consumers wants and needs, Adept believes that they can supply the machines that will keep the food processing industry on the cutting edge.
Read more about Adept’s Quattro at foodproductiondaily.com.
Posted: December 17th, 2013 | By: Eagle Tech
There are a handful of common mistakes that companies make when they upgrade their automation technology. They can make the difference between increased efficiency, production, and savings and playing catch-up as machines need to be replaced. These include:
- 1: FOCUSING ON THE PROBLEM, NOT STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES
- The most common mistake made in automation projects is one we all make in our personal lives or in business decisions — we spend too much time dealing with the issues that are counter-productive to our goals and strategic objectives.
In this case, money is being spent to fix or replace obsolete hardware and software, which limits a company’s ability to grow. By spending money on hardware and software that not only solves immediate problems, but allows for growth, a company can develop over time rather than making equivalent replacements as problems arise.
- 2: FAILING TO INCLUDE ALL ASPECTS OF BUSINESS IN PROJECT
- Many organizations put initiatives in place to optimize manufacturing operations in order to gain efficiency or reduce costs.
Failing to include all aspects of business in a project happens all too often. A company might look to increase production or increase efficiency in production or save money, selecting systems that fit the immediate need, but don’t fit in with the business goals as a whole. Rather than replacing individual parts of the production process, the entire process should be taken into account in order to develop a strategy and integrate technologies that will function the best as a whole.
- 3: FOCUS ON RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI) RATHER THAN NET PRESENT VALUE (NPV)
- Historically, capital expenditures have always had one key metric for the invest-or-save decision — return on investment calculation.
Typically, Return on Investment (ROI) is the key factor in whether or not an investment in technology should be made. This, however, is not always the best strategy. While ROI is generally determined by how quickly a new technology will pay for itself, this doesn’t take into account other savings that may come with implementing this new technology. By looking into the savings implementing a new technology can create as well as the increases in production, a company can better justify making a capital investment.
- 4: CHOOSING THE WRONG PARTNER
- Manufacturing organizations have made the choice to use a consulting engineering firm or system integrator to spearhead the effort for upgrading their automation system.
It’s normal to use a consulting firm to help implement or upgrade automation systems. The problem that most companies make when hiring these firms is to make sure the firm fits their needs. Making changes to an automation system is an important decision. The firm you hire to help you with this decision should be chosen the same way you would hire a doctor – making sure they have the expertise and experience to help you, as well as making sure they will be focused on you.
If you are aware of these mistakes, it’s much easier to avoid them when making the decision to invest in your automation systems.
To read more about these mistakes and how to avoid them, visit Manufacturing Business Technology.
Posted: December 10th, 2013 | By: Eagle Tech
Automation company Festo has been experimenting with biomechatronics as a way to better develop their automation technologies.
Two years ago at Hannover Fair in Germany I caught my first glimpse of Festo’s ventures into biomechatronics. At the event, Festo introduced its automated herring gull (a seagull to those of here in the U.S.), which it referred to as the SmartBird. Essentially, the SmartBird is a light (less than 16 oz.) flying robot with a wingspan of more than 6 feet that can autonomously take off, fly, and land. Behind Festo’s development of the SmartBird is the company’s belief that learning more about efficiencies in natural motion can help deliver efficiencies in its automation technologies.
At this year’s SPS/IPC/Drives show, Fest unveiled its latest biomechatronic flier, the BionicOpter. This device is inspired by the dragonfly and can hover, fly in any direction, and glide.
According to Festo, the BionicOpter features thirteen degrees of freedom through control of the shared flapping frequency and twisting of individual wings in addition to an amplitude controller on each of the four wings. Amplitude control allows the intensity of the thrust to be regulated. When combined with the tilt of the wings to affect the direction of thrust, the remote-controlled dragonfly can reportedly assume almost any position in space.
The BionicOpter’s aim is to demonstrate the use of integrated systems, allowing it to identify and evaluate “complex events and critical states”.
R&D of this type underscores Festo’s concept of integrated automation based on its CPX automation platform . Dr. Ansgar Kriwet, a Festo management board member, noted at the SPS/IPC/Drives event that CPX is helping position Festo to take advantage of the Internet of Things as it develops because the CPX platform can integrate field device bus systems as well as industrial Ethernet.
Festo’s view is that through using integrated systems for automation technologies, the most efficient and natural ways of performing tasks can be found and then implemented safely, creating a more productive manufacturing environment.
Read more at Automation World.
Posted: December 3rd, 2013 | By: Eagle Tech
With manufacturers investing in automation technologies and training employees to use and maintain them, it’s only natural that company executives would begin to ask what the value of all of this technology really is. Automation World’s David Greenfield asks the question, “As someone who’s responsible for automation at your company, do you know how the executives at your company view what you do?” He asks this because, although there has been a surge in investment in automation, there has not been a clear answer what to do with automation, or the information that comes from it.
The reality is that your company’s executives probably see what you do and the technologies you oversee as being a cost. Though this is not your fault—industry as a whole has come to view automation technology as an industry that exists principally for technology’s sake.
With automation comes information, and that information is currently being collected at a fast pace. But what is being done with it?
To bring things back to a true problem/solution mindset, Martin said it’s critical to realize that, as Einstein said, “information is not knowledge.” Capturing and storing data that is rarely, if ever, used is counterproductive and a symptom of an ill- thought-out automation system application. You have to realize—and be able to communicate— that automation “puts knowledge to work.”
Thankfully, this idea of putting knowledge to work is starting to happen more often as more companies—and automation suppliers—are focusing on technologies that deliver actionable intelligence to the operator where immediate decisions can be made to benefit the bottom line in real time.
By putting the information collected by automation technologies to use is the best way to show the value of automation technology. Reducing waste and increasing productivity and efficiency are always looked highly upon by executives.
Posted: November 26th, 2013 | By: Eagle Tech
The manufacturing sector has held steady in the US economy during the last two decades, maintaining about 300,000 facilities. Today this sector of the economy employs eleven million people and is responsible for slightly more than half of all export dollars.
Sectors of the manufacturing industry that are performing the best, in terms of shipment value, are: petroleum and coal products ($837 billion), chemical ($777 billion), food ($710 billion), and transportation equipment ($690 billion). From there, the size of the industry sectors, in terms of shipments, are considerably smaller, with the next category—machinery—clocking in with $366 billion in shipments, about half of the shipment value total of the equipment sector.
As well as being a large employer and exporter in the US economy, a worker in the manufacturing sector is paid, on average, 27 percent more than the average US worker’s salary. Manufacturing also spends more than $3 trillion on materials and almost $150 billion in capital expenditures.
It seems that the attention paid to the manufacturing sector in recent years has been worthwhile, and with off-shore manufacturing returning to the US, it seems like this industry is continuing to grow.
Posted: November 19th, 2013 | By: Eagle Tech
As automation technology improves and prices are reduced, there are many more opportunities for smaller manufacturers to include robots and other automation technologies into their facilities, creating safer, more productive work environments for their employees.
Robotics and automation technologies installed at small manufacturing operations are assisting employees in completing what we call the “dirty, dangerous, and dull” jobs. Instead of an employee completing a mundane or unsafe task all day, that same employee could be trained to operate automation equipment that can do that task in a safer environment. This leads to many benefits to the employee and employer, including higher job satisfaction.
In addition to employee benefits, automating can mean the difference between staying competitive and going out of business.
The main driver is the need to compete, often on a global basis. Can certain tasks be automated in order to improve productivity and product quality? Can overall manufacturing costs be lowered by automating? Can the company respond to changing demands more quickly if they automate? Can the company find new customers if they automate (because they are now producing more products faster and with greater quality)? Have our competitors automated in order to gain an advantage? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, automation is likely to be considered.
If a firm that is not automating is losing business because of competitive pressures, then they risk going out of business. Marlin Steel in Baltimore is a great example of this. They used to bend wire baskets by hand, producing about 300 a day. Once they automated, they were producing thousands a day with higher quality and no injuries to employees. This allowed them to remain competitive, win new business, and ultimately add more and better (higher-paying and safer) jobs. Marlin is a great example of increased productivity and profitability through automation.
However, there are still those out there that believe that automating factories can, and will, replace employees completely in an effort to be the most efficient, productive, and competitive. The Association for Advancing Automation has a different take on automation’s effect on employment.
Overall, we believe automation has a positive impact on employment. The real threat to jobs is when a company is no longer competitive. In that case, the options are (a) go out of business, in which case all the jobs are lost; (b) outsource the jobs to another country; or (c) automate, in which case jobs are saved and the opportunity for growth exists. Of course, I’m just talking about the jobs inside a factory or business. When you include the jobs outside a factory, automation that helps keep a plant open also is helping keep open restaurants, gas stations, bowling alleys, and many companies that supply the factory – an entire ecosystem of jobs that might otherwise be lost.
Overall, it seems that through factory automation the manufacturing industry can create a more diverse industry landscape and continue growing.
Read more at areadevelopment.com.
Posted: November 13th, 2013 | By: Eagle Tech
Eagle Technologies was a major participant in this year’s Michigan Manufacturing Day, on October 4th. Check out the video from the event below!
Posted: November 12th, 2013 | By: Eagle Tech
In the 1970s, American automakers dreamt of completely automated factories reducing the workforce as a way to compete with the Japanese competition making its way into the American car market. As it turned out, though, automation didn’t reduce the need for people to be on the lines, keeping the lines moving and building the cars.
But competitive globalisation had not been taken into account. Today, reduced headcount and increased leisure are not options; the remaining employees are working harder than ever.
Factory automation has come a long way since then. And it has plenty of room to grow.
Many of the new production methods in the next manufacturing revolution will require fewer people working in factories, and some lights-out manufacturing is now possible.
Manufacturing will still need people, if not so many in the factory itself. Automated machines need people to design, program and service them.
As manufacturing transforms into a high-tech workplace, the new generation of process and automation engineers and technicians will be completely different – they will have grown up with the Internet, smartphones and video games.
The next step in factory automation still won’t remove the need for people in the manufacturing sector, but as it continues to change, it will change the way those people work.
Read more about the future of factory automation.
Posted: November 5th, 2013 | By: Eagle Tech
With the increase in automation, sensors, and data in the factory, the question of what to do with all the data that’s being collected is being asked more and more. The first step for any manufacturer is to manage all of the data being collected.
GE has been dealing with Big Data for quite some time, Walsh says, with more than 200,000 GE assets connected around the world. How does Big Data get big? Consider just one consumer goods manufacturer, which takes 152,000 sensor samples every second. “That adds up to 4 trillion samples a year that they’ve got to figure out a way to deal with,” Walsh notes.
But it’s not just about the size of the data; it’s about the type as well, Walsh says. With 4 trillion data points, you need to be able to correlate that data, managing it in a consistent and coherent way.
Walsh emphasizes the importance of laying a solid foundation, however, and not trying to rush the data process. “Everybody wants to start too far up the continuum,” he says. “They want the change-the-world analytics. But you need to lay the foundation. That’s not as sexy as the analytics that have an impact on your balance sheets.” He adds, however, “If you have the foundation set up, your ability to accelerate up that value continuum increases exponentially.”
In addition to managing the data, however, getting people to begin to accept the data is a large hurdle.
The technology of Big Data isn’t actually the hard part; it’s the people, Courtney says. To a large degree, there is a shift in thinking that needs to happen for Big Data to really be effective. An operator often knows just by the vibration or sound that a machine is going to go down. And now we’re asking that operator to trust numbers instead of his own instincts. “If you can’t get him to take action, predictive analytics is useless.”
Courtney cites an example from a recent pilot with a potential customer. GE’s sensor data found vibration on a turbine that didn’t make sense. So GE asked the manufacturer to shut it down to take a look. The operator, however, insisted there was nothing wrong, and didn’t want to stop production for what he saw as load-related vibration. Some time went by, and GE was still monitoring the disturbing vibration on what was a very expensive asset. So they contacted the company again, urging them to shut it down.
Because it was a trial situation, the customer essentially said that if they shut it down and GE was wrong, that would be it for their relationship. But GE stood by its data, confident that there was a problem that needed to be explored. The customer shut down the turbine and put a bore scope in, finding corrosion on one of the blades that ran most of the way through. As Chad Stoecker, who runs GE’s Industrial Performance and Reliability Center, put it, “That blade was three to five days from liberation.”
While this issue was a large one that could have cost the company millions, more often than not, the data being analyzed is catching problems before they reach this point. The idea is to be proactive, finding small problems and fixing them before they become large, costly problems. In manufacturing, where uptime is the goal, finding and fixing the problem before it happens is the name of the game. And Big Data is part of the solution.
Read more about Big Data at Automation World.
Posted: October 29th, 2013 | By: Eagle Tech
A major drawback for many European manufacturers looking to add automation to their factory floors is the price and turnaround time. The costs associated with switching over to an automated factory cause many manufacturers to stick with their current processes. Now there is an alternative: the Factory-In-A-Day project.
The FACTORY-IN-A-DAY project’s ultimate goal is to reduce the installation time – and related cost of installation – from months to one single day. As part of the Commission’s Economic Recovery Plan, this will help European manufacturing enterprises adapt to global competitive pressures by improving the technological base of manufacturing across a broad range of sectors.
In practice, the project will achieve the following. Before the robot is actually taken to the SME premises, a system integrator will analyse which steps in the process can be taken over by the robot. In most cases, repetitive work can be done by a robot, while the human worker carries out more flexible, accurate tasks and deals with problem-solving.
New standardised arms, mobile platforms, and hands will be combined with 3D printed custom parts, capable of being designed in a matter of hours from novel design templates. This will greatly reduce the time it takes plants to automate and be up and running. New self-calibration routines and a novel software framework will furthermore allow the easy interconnection of robot components and existing machinery.
This system will allow for collaboration between robots and humans, faster implementation times, and even offer leasing to relieve the burden of the cost associated with purchasing. The project has a budget of 11.9 million Euro for a four year term.
Check out phys.org for more on this project.