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Transforming Mid-Sized Manufacturing Companies

How four automation technologies, with lower price points today, can dramatically change your manufacturing game.

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From a birds-eye view of the industry, automation seems so pervasive. Yet even today, a surprisingly high number of companies still haven’t made the investment to streamline their production lines with modern automation technologies. This is especially true of mid-sized companies who have been waiting for hardware prices to decline. Many of these companies are now seeing their competitors implement automation solutions and gaining a significant advantage in the marketplace.

If this scenario sounds like your company, here are four applications to seriously consider that can springboard you to the front of the pack in 2016.

Vision Systems. Advanced laser scanning and other vision technologies, such as thermal imaging, near IR, and millimeter wave cameras, offer clear advantages because of their ability to see the environment beyond what the capabilities of the human eye and make real time decisions. Coupling this technology with robotics provides the ultimate in manufacturing flexibility, reliability, and efficiency and represents the current vanguard in manufacturing automation.

Industrial Safety. Keeping employees safe during production has moved well beyond physical guarding. Safety automation products like light curtains, laser scanners, and area (3D) scanners can be integrated with existing equipment to provide significant productivity gains without sacrificing reliability. A safety assessment will identify opportunities and help minimize unplanned costs stemming from unsafe operations and resulting injuries.

Real-time data. Knowing how a machine, production line or even an entire manufacturing floor is performing 24/7 is a game changer for management. With real time, actionable information available, informed business decisions can positively affect your bottom line and provide significant competitive advantages. Wave7, a Concept Systems sister company, provides a robust manufacturing intelligence system that is designed to deliver this capability. It also offers an affordably priced Starter Kit, which was designed to implement real time data for new adopters.

Robotics. With today’s technologies, integrating robots into an existing line is efficient and can provide a significant return on investment within 12-24 months. We recently designed and installed custom robotic manufacturing systems for a client’s new flagship product. These systems incorporated Fanuc delta robots, Rockwell Automation controls, and Sick safety sensing devices. Dozens of these robotic cells were installed across eight production facilities. The robotic system can go through six tooling changes in a 10-hour shift and is fully customized to meet the clients multi-facility needs.

As automation costs come down, these technologies become more accessible to a wider range of manufacturers, including small start-ups that never considered adopting this technology. Broader use will result in even more affordable prices, as more manufacturers gain capabilities and efficiencies that were previously unattainable.

As system integrators, we’re adept at identifying automation solutions, whether for a small manufacturer implementing automation for the first time or for a multi-national company putting in a completely new production line in multiple locations.

Michael Gurney is CEO of Concept Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association. See Concept Systems’ profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

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