Survey Finds Machinery Users Look for Lower Operating Costs, Improved Quality

Technology is under scrutiny today in all its forms. Results from a special Automation World survey on sustainable manufacturing trends reveal what manufacturers are doing now and hoping for in the future.

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Readers of AutomationWorld.com responded enthusiastically to a multi-question survey this summer to present new insight into areas of sustainable manufacturing.

The survey, specifically targeting machinery and equipment, received 205 responses, and ascertained that 80.1% of those responding are involved with buying/specifying/recommending machinery.

Among those queried, 70.7% said that they were familiar with the term “sustainable manufacturing,” and 40.9% of the companies already have a sustainable manufacturing initiative in place.

The chart that outlines what respondents said about how recent purchases of machinery and equipment provided their companies a competitive advantage shows the top category of competitive advantage is “Lower Operating Cost” (52.7%), with the category “Improved Product Quality” next at 49.5%. This was followed by “Increased Throughput” at 43.6% and “Reduced Downtime (equipment availability)” at 43.1%. Next were “Improved Equipment” and “Asset Maintenance” at 38.3% and “Better Energy Management” at 30.9%. Finally, “Allowed You to Enter into New Markets/Niches Previously Unexplored” came in at 19.7%.

The graphic representation of the sectors of machinery manufacturing from which respondents purchase equipment reveals that the sector most cited (47.1%) is Metalworking (Machine Tools). The next category is Packaging at 40.5%, followed by Plastics and Rubber at 22.2% and a tie for the categories of Food Technology (Processing) and Printing, Graphic and Converting at 21.6%. The lightest sector of purchase is Footwear, Leathergoods and Tanning at 1.3%.

In response to the question “What are the top challenges for your manufacturing organizations?,” Quality and Reliability are tied as the top challenges, with 97% of respondents saying these are extremely or very important. Efficiency, Production Costs and Machine Uptime are ranked next in order of importance.

An array of individual opinions

A variety of answers was forthcoming as respondents considered in what areas of technology they would like to see innovation in their industry.

Concerns ranged from broad areas targeted by multiple respondents—particularly wireless networks and automation (including electronics, robotics, vision systems, control systems, optical systems, inspection, communication, telecomm, diagnostics and monitoring, remote, IT systems, RFID, motion control programming, and additional related categories).

There was a strong response, termed in various ways that focused on green technology, renewable energy, general efficiency, battery efficiency, and power consumption.

Many respondents targeted much more specific topics such as packing and labeling, modular servo amp design, laser applications, improved control valves, leak detection, safety and protective solutions, CANopen networking, subsea compression, conveyor belt weighers, improved data bridging, and marking and coding systems.

There also was the occasional very specific answer such as “automated bone in beef cutting,” a best-in-class wiper blade, and automaton of damaged mail recovery. And who could argue with that respondent who dreamed of “idiot-proof machinery.”

Others wished for innovation in preventive maintenance, industrial buses, nanotechnology, graphical displays and simulators, reduction in manpower, part identification for tracing, free tech support, and end forming of tubes.

Generic categories included cost, packaging, production, and robustness and intelligence. A very few marked N/A and one respondent simply said, “I don’t know.”

The diversity of the responses and the specificity of so many of them appear to indicate a wide-ranging commitment to the evolution of an array of technologies across industry.  

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