By Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief
You’ve got Manufacturing Convergence. You’ve got Mechatronics. You’ve got collaboration.
They’re big. They’re really big. They’re the elements that, by most accounts, shape the organizational direction of progressive manufacturing companies these days. But most of them are based in theory and lacking in grounded evidence of real-world implementation.
So while getting my annual—all-in-all benign—dose of Rockwell Automation brainwashing at its Automation Fair last month, I found myself reporting on these subjects through machine builders that really do these things.
It confirmed that these are pretty much the same things. They’re aimed at making simplified, intelligent business choices.
For Paulo Scarabelli, manager of automation and line integration for TetraPak, and a discussion-panel participant, integrating the equipment train with itself and with the factory system drives operational convergence. “We’re not just a machine builder,” he said. “There are suppliers, ourselves, customers, retailers, consumers, and even society itself. We have to address them all.” As a result, says Scarabelli, “we shifted from mechanical to electronic design schemes, and had to think about deployment, support, key suppliers, and product lifecycles.”
Call it better decision making.
After an introductory presentation by Dr. Kevin Craig, professor of mechanical engineering, Marquette University, who argued that Mechatronics means the integration and simultaneous optimization of all system components from the beginning of the design process. “Modeling is the key,” said Craig. “It relates the hardware to the performance need.” That helps define problem-solving success where technology, business, and human values overlap to define a domain where the technology is feasible, the business is viable, and the values include desirability and usability.” Again, better decision making.
How this influences machine builder Eagle Technologies came from subsequent remarks by Michael Koziel, vice president, sales and marketing for Eagle, who says Mechatronics means simultaneous engineering of design work with its customers.
Koziel explained how this collaboration paid off. Eagle bid on a job that specified particular controller brand, no exceptions. “We also offered an alternative that was less-expensive, reduced the customer’s total cost of ownership, and would make the machine run better.”
Koziel added that, before the job was awarded, they went to the customer and really pitched the alternative. The result was beyond any reasonable expectation. “Not only did they go with our controls proposal across the machine, they actually decided to changeover their entire facility to [accomodate our approach],” he said.
That, I think, is better decision making that machine builders can identify with.