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IIoT empowered by data analytics at AMT

March 16, 2021
Applied Manufacturing Technologies controls director Steven Johnstone embraces the Industrial Internet of Things

Applied Manufacturing Technologies (AMT) hired Steven R. Johnstone as director—controls application.

“Steve is an industry professional with a proven track record of leadership in automation and brings added strength to our controls and automation team as we continue to grow,” says chief operating officer Craig Salvalaggio. “With AMT’s growth in systems integration and controls solutions, Steve will work to provide additional group and project leadership as we grow our presence within new industries. In addition to his business leadership, he will support the sales team with estimating and the execution team with project management. Steve is an industry pro and will work to represent AMT’s technical ability and ethics to serve our industry.”

Johnstone brings nearly three decades of experience in a wide variety of roles in the industrial automation and control systems industry to his new role at AMT. Johnstone’s most recent position was senior electrical engineer at a packaging products and systems company where he oversaw capital projects and supported plant operations. For 25 years prior to that, Johnstone owned and operated JS Controls, which specialized in automation and systems integration for the southeast Michigan region.

Johnstone holds a variety of certifications and training, including Schneider Unity Pro PLC Programming certification and Horner Automation’s OCS Training for PLCs/HMIs, as well as being a member of the Sandler Sales Institute’s President’s Club.

What are three key things that a machine builder, system integrator or manufacturer should know about your organization?

Steven Johnstone, director—controls application, Applied Manufacturing Technologies: AMT provides turnkey automated systems, controls and robotics engineering and engineering services to end users, as well as other system integrators and OEMs (Figure 1). I think what makes us unique is the fact that we have the ability to build full turnkey system automation, as well as providing engineering to support other integrators and OEMs. As one of the largest full-service system integrators in the country, one of AMT’s cornerstones is our knowledge and experience in the robotics and controls engineering arena. Our Engineering Services Group caters to OEMs and other system integrators, as well as providing services to manufacturers such as automation consulting and design for manufacturability. Our Automated Systems Group is heavily experienced in material handling and logistics with a focus on robotic solutions. Our depth of experience allows us to be very flexible in the way that we engage with our customers; we can tailor our deliverables based on the customer’s needs, whether that means providing an engineering study for future automation, working with retrofit projects, designing or upgrading control systems or a fully automated turnkey system for a greenfield site.

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What new technologies are driving product development and why?

Steven Johnstone, director—controls application, Applied Manufacturing Technologies: In terms of applications, machine vision and AI are key enablers that are allowing us to enter into new markets and new applications. Faster, more intelligent systems allow us to expand the use of robotics in the manufacturing world, especially with critical upstream and end-of-line palletizing and depalletizing solutions.

How does the Industrial Internet of Things figure into business strategy?

Steven Johnstone, director—controls application, Applied Manufacturing Technologies: As manufacturers embrace IIoT technologies and upgrade their systems to have connectivity, we can provide them with services such as installing the IoT network, analytics platforms and more. The first task is to design the physical system architecture and install the IoT network from the fiberoptics to the switches. After that, you go to the machine level with machine control and machine visualization. Finally, you set up the analytics of the equipment, where you will be able to predict machine failure and diagnose process irregularities. The analytics is where all the power of the IIoT comes from, and every company should be looking at this because it has the ability to transform your manufacturing.

How will machine automation and controls alter the way companies staff their operations in the future?

Steven Johnstone, director—controls application, Applied Manufacturing Technologies: Since COVID hit, manufacturers are scrambling to automate, not to replace people, but to continue to operate under restrictions and make the workplace safer for employees. Especially now, manufacturers are having a difficult time finding and retaining employees. Many manufacturing environments are set up to have people working shoulder to shoulder, and adding automation can create a safer work environment by spacing them out.

Automation is a good thing; it does the dull, dirty and dangerous work, and at the same time increases the quality of your product. Automation doesn’t eliminate people; it takes technical people to install and maintain the equipment and requires operators to monitor and run the equipment.

How is the development of software solutions impacting requirements for hardware?

Steven Johnstone, director—controls application, Applied Manufacturing TechnologiesNew software solutions have most definitely impacted all areas of our business. Normally, system integrators are not on the leading edge of hardware or software development; they take technology that has been developed by others and apply it to industrial automation. AMT is unique in that the company is developing state-of-the-art solutions for some longstanding automation challenges.

One new technology we have had a hand in developing is a decanting solution that allows a robot to unload a pallet full of boxes that are not uniform in size or shape. This is truly revolutionary; in the past, human operators had to unload mixed pallets, which is a slow process and can put the operators at risk for injury. With new vision software, we are able to calculate the dimensions of the boxes on the pallet and tell the robot how to unload them, and sort, pack out, place on a conveyor. This will revolutionize material handling by extending the use of robots into new areas and greatly increase efficiency and throughput for the warehousing and fulfillment industries.

Looking into the future, how will technology change your organization or other organizations over the next five years?

Steven Johnstone, director—controls application, Applied Manufacturing Technologies: As a system integrator and provider of engineering services, evolving technology will certainly have an impact at AMT. It will allow us to better serve our customers and help them meet their changing business needs. Being on the leading edge of technology rather than following the pack is something I attribute to the extremely high caliber of people who work at AMT. At all levels of the organization, from the folks on the shop floor, our many engineers and our senior management setting the company’s course, all are committed to ensuring our reputation for excellence is well-deserved. Our employees embrace technology in a way that I haven’t run across in the past. From automation equipment and robotics to vision and peripherals, our people delight in learning the latest advances to keep us ahead of the pack.

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About the Author

Mike Bacidore | Editor in Chief

Mike Bacidore is chief editor of Control Design and has been an integral part of the Endeavor Business Media editorial team since 2007. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning multiple regional and national awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at [email protected] 

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