Secrets to improving machine performance

Control Design has created an event that significantly facilitates peer-to-peer interaction and promotes important conversation among machine builders, and we invite you to participate as our guests.

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By Dan Hebert, PE, Senior Technical Editor

AS AN INDUSTRIAL OEM, Priority #1 is to get machines built, tested, and shipped. Your second priority is to support your machines at customer sites. These two responsibilities are so important and time-consuming that it’s difficult to find time for your third priority: to make your machines better. However, if this critical task is neglected, competitors invariably leap ahead with alternatives that are cheaper, perform better, and can be delivered quicker.

There certainly is no scarcity of products and technologies that can improve the automation, instrumentation, and electrical components and systems on your machines. The trick is to find, evaluate, and implement these products without spending an inordinate amount of time or taking on too much risk.

Wading through the swamp of vendor claims with respect to product performance can be daunting. We get inundated with such claims here at Control Design when we write articles, so we’ve settled on an uncompromising method for trying to validate these claims.

We ask vendors to supply us with the names of machine builders and/or independent system integrators who use their products. We contact these users and get their opinions. Input from these sources—and from machine builders and independent system integrators that we contact directly—form the backbone of all staff-written articles in the magazine.

Fortunately for us all, almost all of the sources referred by vendors are technical people, and we know that technical people tend to be world’s worst liars. In the end they always seem to give us the straight truth. This independent third-party verification means that you and your peers—not magazine editors—judge the merits of vendors’ claims.

You also can use the same technique when you evaluate new products. Simply ask for and contact references. Not only does peer input aid evaluation, it also helps inform you of implementation issues your selection might involve.

"Fortunately for us all, almost all of the sources referred by vendors are technical people, and we know that technical people tend to be world’s worst liars. In the end they always seem to give us the straight truth."

The corollary to all this is, of course, that we’d love to hear from you when we develop articles, and so this is my periodic chance to invite you to get in touch and tell me what areas of machine control you’d like to talk about. Evaluation of new products may be your third priority, but finding ways to make it a more-efficient experience is our first priority.

Because of this mission, we have another way to collaborate that I’ll mention now, so there’s plenty of time to consider its value. Control Design has created an event that significantly facilitates peer-to-peer interaction, and we invite you to participate as our guests.

Control Design will hold its next annual AutomationXchange on May 7-10, 2006, in Carefree, Ariz., just outside of Phoenix. This event promotes important conversation among machine builders, and helps you locate new technologies and products that can improve your machines’ electrical, automation, and instrumentation components and systems. There is no cost to you or your firm since we cover all expenses.

However, attendance is limited to a small and select number of machine builder automation executives to ensure that the environment minimizes distractions and optimizes focus.

If your firm accepts an invitation to attend AutomationXchange, we first get to know you by creating a profile that describes your firm’s needs and wants in the areas of automation, instrumentation, and electrical components and systems. We then use our evaluation expertise to research the marketplace for solutions.

Based on your needs and the needs of other machine builder attendees, we invite relevant vendors to attend the event. Each machine builder is matched up with appropriate vendors, usually about six vendors per OEM. Pre-event contact between you and selected vendors assures that your private 50-minute meeting with each vendor at the event will be productive.

Aggregation of machine builders’ interests creates a critical mass. For example, many of the machine builders attending our 2005 event expressed an interest in motion control. Based on this interest, we invited specific motion control vendors to participate, and we also scheduled machine builder-only meetings to discuss motion control and share best practices.

Our AutomationXchange event web site has a short video of your peers speaking about their experience at last year’s event. As I said earlier, it’s what they say that really counts. Then, contact me at my e-mail address if you’re interested in learning more.


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