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NK Technologies’ APN-R Series Power Monitor measures the power usage of a single piece of equipment, an extensive machine system, an area of a plant, or an entire facility. The APN-R is equally suited for large-scale plant energy management applications, as well as specific equipment monitoring tasks, such as detecting conveyor jams and overloads, or identifying dry running pumps caused from clogged intake or discharge lines, impeller cavitation or bearing wear. The APN-R is factory-configured with zero- to 500-amp or zero- to 2,000-amp range flexible coils to measure the load current. The line voltage (up to 600 VAC) connects directly to the transducer; no potential transformer is needed unless the line voltage exceeds 600 volts. The ease of installation over multiple conductors or bus assemblies speeds installation and produces an accurate set of data that will identify areas of excessive energy consumption and allow intervention to reduce demand, the company says. The APN-R measures three phases of current and voltage, and computes 14 values necessary to track the power usage. The monitor's digital format provides information on the system voltage, current and power factor in addition to wattage. www.nktechnologies.com
A fan speed control sensor for Rittal’s TopTherm fan-and-filter units automatically adjusts the fan speed in response to changes in temperature inside the enclosure. The device solves the problem of fan-and-filter units running continuously, even when not required, helping to reduce energy consumption and, consequently, running costs, the company says. With a fixed set point of 35 degrees C, the device provides continuous control with fan speeds varying linearly between 10 per cent at 20 degrees C and 100 per cent at 35 degrees C. No additional power supply is required because the sensor takes a 10 VDC feed from the fan-and-filter unit. www.rittal.com
Origin International Inc. has released CheckMate for SolidWorks. The availability of the CheckMate suite of CAD-based dimensional metrology software on the SolidWorks platform further pushes the envelope of the “art to part” concept of product development and process improvement on a common CAD platform to unprecedented levels, the company said. Quality professionals and manufacturing engineers whose companies use SolidWorks can now implement CheckMate dimensional metrology functionality on the CAD platform of their choice, eliminating the pitfalls of “islands of automation” and benefiting from the common interface to which they are accustomed. www.3ds.com/solidworks, www.originintl.com
Luxion, a developer of advanced rendering and lighting technology and makers of KeyShot, a real-time ray-tracing and global illumination program, has recently introduced KeyShot 5 with integrated support for PTC Creo 3.0. This feature is meant to provide seamless workflow in creating photographic 3D renderings and animated visuals throughout the product development process. With KeyShot 5, Luxion provides smooth integration between modelling and rendering, allowing users of PTC Creo 3.0 to open their designs directly in KeyShot from inside PTC Creo, and push all changes to their model back into KeyShot, including the ability for Mechanism Animations created within PTC Creo to be directly imported into KeyShot. NURBS geometry import is now supported for fast, accurate NURBS ray-tracing inside KeyShot 5. With additional performance improvements in KeyShot 5 and the free KeyShot for PTC Creo plugin, incredible visuals are only minutes away, the company said. www.keyshot.com
Honeywell Process Solutions has launched Leap project services to help manufacturers in the processing industries get their plants up and running faster and at a lower cost. Leap combines Honeywell Process Solutions' proprietary hardware and software, virtualization and cloud engineering to give users greater scheduling flexibility while reducing risk and total automation costs by up to 30 per cent, the company explained. Leap represents a major departure from the way plants are typically designed and built by using parallel workflows to keep automation systems off critical implementation paths. Leap creates separate streams of work for the physical and functional aspects of project design. This approach allows project engineering to take place from anywhere in the world, and removes workflow dependencies to allow core project tasks to start much earlier in the process. It also dramatically minimizes the cost and volume of rework typically associated with automation projects, the company said. Leap combines three key core technologies available in Honeywell’s Experion PKS Orion: • Universal channel technology – Honeywell’s proprietary solution allows instant remote configuration of channel types, standardized input/output cabinets, reduction or elimination of marshalling cabinets and reduction in equipment needed. • Virtualization – Use of virtual machines in the control system removes dependencies between the functional and physical design, enables standardized server cabinets, reduces hardware requirements and delivers corresponding savings in space, power, cooling and weight.• Cloud engineering – Engineering in a secure, centrally hosted cloud environment allows project execution and testing anywhere in the world, delivering improvements in collaboration and travel savings.www.honeywellprocess.com
System integrators and OEMs often develop applications that require PLC control, but that settle on simple text displays due to limited budget. But Unitronics has specifically developed the Samba all-in-one, palm-sized controller for these situations. The HMI 3.5-inch QVGA 16-bit touchscreen enables data entry and display of variable data, including colour trend graphs and alarm screens. Samba supports 24 user-designed screens, and up to 40 images per application. The integrated PLC controller features two auto-tuned PID loops, time-based RTC control, data logging, recipes and more. Internal memory holds 0.5 MB of application logic, plus 512K for fonts and 0.5 MB for images. Onboard I/Os offer digital, analog and high-speed functionality. Samba offers a built-in RS232 port, but users can add an additional RS485 serial, Ethernet or CANbus port. It supports GPRS/GSM, email, SMS, as well as industrial TCP/IP protocols, MODBUS, DF1 slave, CANopen, J1939 and more.www.unitronics.com
Phoenix Contact says PLC Logic, the company’s programmable logic relay system, combines the strengths of an established relay technology with logic functions in a single package. The system, suited for small automation tasks, has a modular design, features plug-in relays and enables flexible assembly, depending on the switching task. The system consists of logic modules, the PLC-Interface relay system, and the Logic+ software that requires no previous experience in this area. To start up the system, the logic modules are plugged into eight relay modules. A compact, 50-mm-wide logic module can process 16 input/output signals. The base module can be expanded with up to two add-on modules for more complex applications, making it possible to process up to 48 input/output signals.www.phoenixcontact.ca
The SemiRigid 1050 is a highly specialized machine for stripping aluminum or copper jacketed semi-rigid coaxial cable. It can process cables with outer diameters ranging from 0.86 to 4.5 mm. The machine can be programmed to perform: a one- or two-step strip, with or without pointing of the centre conductor; or stripping and pointing of the inner conductor on cables with soldered connector already in place. The machine features a colour touchscreen user interface. The predefined stripping templates show a graphic representation of the cable and allow simple dimensional data entry, ensuring that cable programs can be created, saved and recalled very quickly, the company explains.www.schleuniger-na.com
Schunk has expanded its EGP series of grippers with an electric small part gripper, which weighs 110 g and has a stroke of three mm per finger. The gripping force can be adjusted on two stages and its maximum gripping force amounts to 40 N, while it can handle workpieces of up to 200 g. The maintenance-free servo motors are brushless, and are equipped with efficient cross roller guidance. The mechatronic gripper is based on the platform of the proven pneumatic MPG-plus small part gripper, and offers many additional advantages, the company says. In many cases, users can transfer the sensor system of the MPG-plus onto the EGP, and existing systems can be quickly changed from pneumatics to electronics. Actuation is done analogous to the MPG-plus digitally directly or via a sensor distributor. www.schunk.com
Emerson's System Plast multi-directional, roller-top conveyor belt provides users with the ability to align packages to any angle, divert them, sort to multiple lanes, rotate, combine or gap them — all non-contact. System Plast 2253RT roller-top belt simplifies conveyor system design and installation with its independently controlled moving surface that provides multi-function product handling in a small footprint, the company says. The roller-top surface easily handles large or small, flat-bottom products, moving them on 12.5 mm balls spaced on 25.4 mm centers. It supports loads up to 9,000 Nm/m (617 lb/ft) or 0.5 kg/ball (1.1 lb/ball). The belt's non-contact product manipulation eliminates impact and abrasion damage from pushers, as well as the need for mechanical adjustment or changeovers for conventional diverters or guides.www.EmersonIndustrial.com
Applied Motion Products has extended its line of brushless DC motors and drives with the addition of model BL200-H04-I, which features 200-watt output power capability and is designed to work with the company’s BD-10 series BLDC motor driver. The new 200-watt 80-mm BLDC motor is available with a matching BD series brushless DC drive (BD10-I7-AH). The drives are aimed at OEM applications that require high performance, high-speed stability, basic speed control and low cost, the company says. The supply voltage is 48 VDC. www.applied-motion.com
Manufacturing AUTOMATION caught up with Skills Canada CEO Shaun Thorson at the Skills Canada National Competition in June. He talked to us about the competition, how it has evolved over the last 20 years, how the perception of skilled trades has evolved, and what industry can do to help bridge the skills gap. Take a look.
Skills Canada’s National Competition took place in Mississauga, Ont., in June, and Manufacturing AUTOMATION was there. Five hundred of Canada’s best skilled trade and technology students and apprentices competed for a chance to make it on Team Canada for Worlds Skills 2015 in Brazil. In this video, we find out more about the Robotics, Mechatronics, and Automation and Control competitions.
Siemens Canada Ltd. and the University of Waterloo will partner on a new youth training and skills development initiative to expand Canada’s capacity and research excellence in sustainable green technologies and advanced manufacturing.
Sheridan College and ABB Canada recently announced a partnership that has led to the creation of a new Robotics Centre in the Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies (CAMDT), located at Sheridan’s Davis Campus in Brampton, Ont.
Loyalist College has received confirmation of eligibility status for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), one of Canada’s three research granting agencies. Having this status with NSERC allows Loyalist to pursue new grant opportunities and financial resources, furthering the college’s applied research and innovation activities across campus. “Confirmation of eligibility with NSERC is the next step toward advancing innovation and research leadership within the college community,” said Loyalist College president Maureen Piercy. “NSERC eligibility brings opportunities to build on the innovative research we are conducting at the college to benefit our students, faculty, businesses and industry partners.” Since its establishment in 2012, Loyalist Research Services has continued to grow its resources for research and development. The office co-ordinates applied research projects, conducted by college faculty, staff and students to optimize opportunities that Loyalist provides. Eligibility enables the college to offer new and innovative research inputs to further engage the internal and external college community. “Having this status will allow Loyalist to access grants through NSERC, increasing the breadth of applied research at the college,” said vice-president, Academic, John McMahon. “It will increase our capacity to work with local industries and businesses, and support our faculty, who are committed to research and to facilitating student research experiences.” To continue fostering strong relationships with community and local businesses and industries, Loyalist Research Services plans to expand research and development opportunities through Canada’s other research granting agencies - the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
In one week, 500 of Canada’s best skilled trade and technology students and apprentices will converge at The International Centre in Mississauga for the 20th Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC).
Malcolm Haines has been named dean of NAIT’s School of Trades, the largest provider of trades-related programming in Canada.
Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) will invest $2.3 million over the next five years for the establishment of a new Centre for Smart Manufacturing at Conestoga College in Cambridge, Ont. The Centre will accelerate innovation and support the region’s manufacturing sector.
Progressive Automations has announced a new scholarship program that will give away a prize of $1,000 each to two engineering students. The aim is to make engineering education more affordable, more accessible and less financially strenuous.
Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) recently announced a series of initiatives, in partnership with the Government of Canada, to help narrow the nation’s skills gap. Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney and CME president and CEO Jayson Myers made the announcement at the Siemens Ruggedcom plant in Concord, Ont., on April 12.
Skills Ontario is hosting the qualifying competition for its annual Ontario Technological Skills Competition on Saturday, April 12. At colleges across the province, high school students will face off in the carpentry, welding, culinary arts, small powered equipment, TV and video production, and 2D character animation categories.
Typically, a manufacturer’s main goal in developing or implementing an innovative automation technology is to speed production and boost the bottom line. In this endeavour, it almost always pays to keep an eye on the basics.
Terry Sammon, CEO of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Mico Industries, is on a laser-focused mission to drive his company to create dies, weld fixtures and check fixtures without compromise, providing the highest possible level of products and service to his customers, all at the best price possible.   
We’ve all seen car crashes. Most of us have had one or two in our lifetime. But imagine a car crash where neither car has a steering wheel, or wheels of any sort. Hard to picture? Not if you are watching an assembly line in an automobile manufacturing plant. Needless to say, having cars crash before they have been completely assembled is not good for the bottom line.
Fluke recently unveiled an app that allows maintenance technicians to wirelessly transmit measurement data from their test tools to their smart phones. Manufacturing AUTOMATION was in Chicago for the exclusive media preview of Fluke Connect. Watch the video to learn more.
Electronic gauging probes provide the data collection capability for many of today’s automated dimensional data acquisition systems. Widely used in machine tool inspection and gauging equipment, electronic gauging sensors serve as important components of quality assurance systems, providing dimensional feedback used for online quality control and post-process statistical analysis. But how do you know which gauge head is best suited for your specific application?
Implementing welding automation can be a daunting task, especially for first-time purchasers. From justifying the capital expenditure to determining space requirements for the robotic welding cell and ensuring parts are suitable for the operation, every detail is critical. When done properly, however, these steps can lead to drastic improvements in productivity, quality and cost savings compared to a manual welding operation. A robotic welding system also offers companies a competitive advantage over those that have not made the shift to welding automation.
Fluke recently unveiled an app that allows maintenance technicians to wirelessly transmit measurement data from their test tools to their smart phones for secure storage on the Cloud and universal team access from the field, and Manufacturing AUTOMATION was invited to Chicago, Ill., for an exclusive media preview.
Mark Barfoot, managing director of Hyphen, a rapid prototyping and environmental testing facility, was appointed president of the 2014-2015 board of the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG). A Canadian, Barfoot is the first international board member to hold the president’s title for the U.S.-based association.
Automation can be a huge investment for a company, one that has to be carefully planned. But once a company has made the investment, the returns can be impressive.
As electronics become smaller, faster, cheaper and smarter, it’s safe to say that the plant floor of the future is here — at least on paper.
This week's Industry Update video focuses on additive manufacturing. Watch the video and learn about the double-digit growth expected for the 3D printing market over the next several years; a new event in Canada that will focus on the technology; and what's ahead in Manufacturing AUTOMATION's May 2014 issue.
The boards of directors of the Fieldbus Foundation and the HART Communication Foundation have approved unifying the two foundations into a new industry organization dedicated to the needs of intelligent devices and their integration in the world of process automation.
Vimal Kapur has been named president of Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS), a Honeywell business that supplies automation control, instrumentation and services to process manufacturers in industries such as oil and gas, refining, pulp and paper, petrochemicals, and metals, minerals and mining.
The Fieldbus Foundation, conducting a press briefing at the Hannover Fair on Monday, announced significant progress in its discussions with the HART Communication Foundation on the potential for merging the two organizations into a single industry foundation dedicated to the needs of intelligent device communications in the world of process automation.
The Fieldbus Foundation, conducting a press briefing at the Hannover Fair on Monday, commemorated its 20th anniversary.
A white paper from InduSoft, an Invensys company, describes in depth the benefits multi-touch HMI offers the automation world.
The term "dry wine" has a new meaning at Vincor International's Quebec bottling operation since soap-and-water lubrication have been eliminated from the conveyor line by installing a new conveyor chain and wear track.
To stay competitive with large-scale agricultural producers, today’s small, privately owned farms are turning to automation as a way to improve the efficiency of their operations.
Process automation projects are most often driven by bottom line results, return on investment and an appropriate value position or justification.
AutomationDirect has released a new white paper that explains how businesses benefit from the in-depth information that new PLCs and PACs can provide on processes, machines and manufacturing operations. 
  With the arrival of the latest generation of KSB’s Movitec pumps, KSB Canada has widened its portfolio of small size centrifugal pumps. The 2013 Movitec series feature optimized laser welded hydraulics.
Manufacturing AUTOMATION columnist and respected industrial networking expert Ian Verhappen, has been named to the Process Automation Hall of Fame. Verhappen’s entire career has been dedicated to automation. As a leader in automation practices, he has worked closely with the Standards Council of Canada and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Among his many achievements, Verhappen led the world's first multi-vendor Foundation Fieldbus (FF) pilot test. While serving as International Society of Automation’s (ISA) vice-president of publications, he co-authored the Foundation Fieldbus book, soon to be in its fourth edition in English, Spanish and Portuguese. The Process Automation Hall of Fame was established by Control magazine, a publication dedicated to process automation. Inductees are celebrated for their major contributions to the automation profession. You can read past issues of Verhappen’s popular “Columnbus” column in back issues of Manufacturing AUTOMATION or on the Columnbus page on our website.
A distributed I/O network can provide a universal and modular way to connect a wide range of signal input and control output possibilities. Hosted by journalist and industry expert Peter Welander, this video shows the benefits of using a distributed I/O network to send information between instrumentation devices in their and control elements in a control room or on a factory floor. Connecting field devices to the network saves time and expenses associated with the installation and repair of wiring. The modular nature of distributed I/O networks makes it easy to add expand operations or integrate legacy process sensors. In addition, peer-to-peer systems are redundant, meaning that a break in a wire pair will not affect signal transmission.
When you’re selling to the national chain of Boston Pizza restaurants, the reputation of your food products has to be solid. It also has to meet the franchising requirements for consistent quality, taste and look of food items sold across all locations.
In the automotive industry, cutting lead times — and costs — is the secret to staying ahead of the competition. Wasting time is just not an option, especially when it comes to building new assembly systems. Automotive manufacturers need to know that the system they install on the plant floor is going to work immediately, and the robots are going to be programmed perfectly to meet their specifications.
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Systems has announced that Siemens PLM Software is expanding its current relationship with SNC by officially joining the SNC Dream Chaser Dream Team - a group of experts designing and building a commercial system capable of transporting crew and cargo to and from low Earth orbit, including the International Space Station.
Risk. It’s something most manufacturing managers try to avoid at all costs. Of course, that isn’t always possible.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software provides a central location to manage all of the information associated to a product, automates processes and provides tracking capabilities to capture and resolve issues. With the ability to share information across the enterprise, PLM technology touches many phases of the engineering design and manufacturing cycle. As PLM has evolved from managing core engineering data to encompass more information management downstream, the opportunity for plant managers to leverage this technology is obvious.
Dassault Systèmes, a provider of 3D design software, 3D digital mock up and PLM solutions, has signed a definitive merger agreement to acquire San Diego, Calif.-based Accelrys, Inc., a provider of scientific innovation life cycle management software.
Dassault Systèmes, a provider of 3D design software, 3D Digital Mock Up and PLM solutions, has announced the completion of the acquisition of an 84 per cent controlling interest in Realtime Technology AG for approximately 151 million euros.
Tech Soft 3D, a provider of engineering toolkits and the developer of Adobe’s 3D PDF technology, has acquired tetra4D, a provider of 3D PDF technology to the end user market, and its line of 3D PDF products, including 3D PDF Converter — a solution for converting native 3D CAD data into rich, interactive 3D PDF documents from within Adobe Acrobat.
An Edmonton, Alta.-based food manufacturer has received a $100,000 federal grant to help pay for the adoption of digital technologies to maximize productivity.
  Headquartered in Burlington, Ont., Higginson Equipment was founded in 1945 as a manufacturer of pneumatic and hydraulic NFPA-style cylinders, and as a distributor of fluid power and industrial product lines. In addition, the company manufactures “Economax” corrosion-resistant cylinders for the trucking industry, custom designs and builds special cylinders for a variety of uses, and leverages its expertise in pneumatics to create C-frame air presses. In 2009, Higginson decided to part ways with its 15-year-old business software. “There were three factors motivating our decision,” says company president Bill Allan. “First off, we'd been with our old system for 15 years. It was simplistic, and it didn't have a materials resource planning (MRP) component. The writing was on the wall. Secondly, the recession – we needed to increase our productivity without increasing our manpower. Finally, we received funding in the form of two government grants, one through the Yves Landry Foundation, and the other through the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters' SMART Program. I was already a big believer in ERP. With government assistance, I couldn't say no.” A 20-person company with revenues in the $7 million range, Higginson recognized the necessity of optimizing itself for the future. “We've been steadily growing,” says Allan, “but we needed something to help us get to the next level. We wanted to eliminate the inefficiencies and bottlenecks in our processes, and in doing so, we wanted to build a solid base for improvement and growth.” To facilitate its strategy, Higginson engaged its long-time VAR to perform an assessment and recommend an approach. “Our company-wide processes were analysed in detail,” says Allan. “As a result, we were advised to implement a new, more advanced ERP system. After doing due diligence, and on their recommendation, we chose Syspro.” When it came time for implementation, Higginson did it with alacrity. “We took what is usually a six-month process,” says Allan, “and did it in two months. We spent late nights, inventing on the fly, even made some rash decisions. Fortunately, the VAR that sold us Syspro gave us amazing support, and at the end of the day we got what we wanted.” Bill Allan says the company's new ERPbrought new efficiencies. As Higginson implemented its new ERP, says Allan, most of the old, inefficient processes were funnelled into one of the following categories: • Automated functions available in Syspro (e.g., automated work order creation from sales order; automatic serial numbers generation for manufactured parts) • Product configuration (to automatically define product specifications, Bill of Materials and cost at the time of quotation)• Integration with office productivity tools (such as Microsoft Office)• Electronic faxing and remote connectivity. “Syspro has made us much more efficient,” says Allan, “especially as far as the Bill of Materials and work orders are concerned. We used to have to do an excel spread sheet for every job, and then more spreadsheets to calculate cut-lengths of different materials. Now we just put the model number in and Syspro calculates everything for us.” Before Syspro, adds Allan, Higginson's system supervisor, a highly skilled machine operator, sat at his desk three hours a day doing repetitive calculations. “Thanks to Syspro,” says Allan, “he's now gained three hours a day in production time. We've also managed to eliminate a good number of mistakes. Occasionally, in the past, we'd cut a batch of tie rods incorrectly – not anymore.” Because of Syspro's modular nature, one can add efficiencies to work-flow as time and energy allows. “One thing we want to do more of is load levelling,” says Allan. (Load levelling is the process of evenly distributing demand, in terms of orders or schedule, over a given period of time.) “We haven't quite figured out how to take advantage of it, but load levelling will give us a bird's-eye view of production. That will help us smooth things out, and see problems that might be coming down the road. It's a nice feature that we still have to leverage completely.” When asked about Syspro's ROI, Allan gives thanks again to the government-sponsored grants. “The grants considered,” says Allan, “Syspro is going to pay for itself in a year. The company is out-of-pocket approximately one person's yearly salary. For a relatively small amount of money, we automated our business processes and removed the repetitive paperwork. But the real money-saving consequence of Syspro is that we can now do more with fewer people – and that makes us more competitive. I would definitely recommend Syspro to any manufacturer.” For more information on Higginson Equipment, please visit www.higginson.ca. Odete Passingham is marketing manager for Syspro Canada.  
Dassault Systèmes, a leader in 3D design software, 3D digital mock up and PLM solutions, has announced that SolidWorks World 2014 will take place from January 26-29, 2014 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, Calif.
CAD MicroSolutions presented the launch of SolidWorks 2014 to a room full of customers and also announced it would be representing electronics PCB design software from Altium across Canada. Darren Gornall, CAD MicroSolutions president, talks about the support his company provides for customers and provides an example of productivity gains that can be achieved. Chris Watkinson, managing director, explains some of the key the benefits of SolidWorks 2014, including SolidWorks Electrical, and introduces the Altium platform and how it fits into the product design process.
During a merger, transition can be overwhelming for employees and problematic for companies to manage. Leadership expert and internationally acclaimed business consultant Susan Steinbrecher puts it this way: “During a merger or an acquisition, there is usually a disproportionate amount of time and money spent on the financial due diligence and, sadly, very limited resources are allocated to the ‘people due diligence.’ But numbers don't make a merger work; people do.”
In the business of investment banking, there are all kinds of difficult situations that business owners can face. Sometimes a client’s need for financing is driven by an unexpected business or sector slowdown; other times it is for acquisition or growth purposes. But more often than you might think, a need for capital will arise as a result of a breakdown of existing credit facilities through no real fault of the borrower.  
Manufacturing AUTOMATION’s editorial advisory board recently gathered for our eighth annual roundtable meeting, which is the cover story for our June 2014 issue. During the meeting, the board members discussed four challenges that remain for Canadian manufacturers following the recession. Take a look at what they had to say.
The hype around “smart” products continues to grow as manufacturers, vendors and even customers speculate about the opportunities resulting from embedding sensors in passive objects that communicate information. Examples are everywhere - from the Nest thermostat, which uses a learning system to program itself, to Nike, which looks more like a tech company than a sportswear manufacturer. In fact, 50 billion devices are forecasted to be Internet-enabled by 2020, and somewhere between 40 and 60 per cent of the value of a modern product is now in its software.
It happened. Statistics Canada reported that Canadian manufacturing sales reached a post-recession high in March, increasing 0.4 per cent to $50.9 billion — the highest level since August 2008. That’s good news.
This month’s column focuses on two major subjects: the future of automation technology and why we resist change for innovative automation processes.
There are Toyotas in our midst. That’s the good news. The bad news is that lean has been misappropriated, misapplied and just passed over as another management fad. But first, the good news!Lean has taken hold in the manufacturing sector, better than in the health care industry, the office and other sectors. A great deal of this success can be laid at the feet of Toyota and its suppliers for pulling us along, but a very large portion is due to organizations seeing the need to transform their businesses, becoming more customer- and process-focussed, and thereby earning the savings and efficiencies that they’re seeing now. People really do see the need for human capital models, a different view of accounting and the radical differences that running lean organizations can bring. Moreover, they see that these things all have a multiplying effect. You can’t really have a lean organization run by old-fashioned accounting rules, just as you can’t run your lean organization without putting your people first, training them well, taking time to select them and empowering them so they can become the changes they want to see. In this regard, John Shook was right when he talked about the A3 being the change agent for lean organization culture change. Toyota doesn’t do “organizational change”; they practise it every day with every suggestion.The bad news is that we still have organizations that say, “What we’re doing is good enough,” or “We’re too busy to change.” Most economists agree that one of the most immediate causes of the problems in manufacturing, at least recently, is the rise in the value of the Canadian dollar. This reflects an overriding interest in cost grazing as opposed to finding efficiencies in what you’re doing right here. Cost grazing has manufacturers moving their production operations all over the world to places where rates of pay are dramatically lower. They argue that when the Canadian dollar goes up, they must look for “efficiencies” in lower cost because most of their costs are labour.This is the wrong way to think. Toyota builds cars where they sell them and does not cost graze. They save millions of dollars every year through their employees’ kaizen suggestions. They hire well and they hire those people who can do kaizen well. They then keep those people, realizing a return on investment for their training that multiplies for every year they remain working. Data suggests that every Toyota facility of about 3,000 people will save over $100 million a year. This will more than offset any labour cost.These organizations do not consider their error rates, reject rates, quality defects and so on. Like the GM scandal with low-cost ignition switches, they are not putting the customer first and then getting their error rates down to Six Sigma (3.4 or fewer mistakes per million). I had one client in southwestern Ontario that had an 80 per cent error rate for their number-one product and they (initially) thought that was fine. They would simply throw the defects back into the smelter and make more! Consider the downfall of a major Canadian handset manufacturer. They had such a high error rate that they had to overproduce just to break even. They weren’t watching the competition and they certainly weren’t watching their error rates!Where are we now?Though thousands of jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector since 1972, I believe that this sector can make a recovery. It’s already starting, but lean needs to be an integral part of the recovery.We need to truly value our employees and listen to our customers. We can do this by having our senior leaders practise what they preach, go out there and do their gemba (go and see) walks, and entrust their employees with the powers to make change. We need to trust the employees to become the changes they want to see. Then we need to sustain this success so it doesn’t turn into the flavour of the month.We need to differentiate between capacity and utilization. I often hear, “Our people are busy right now, and they don’t have time to be lean!” Fine. Your people may be busy, but busy at what? Are they busy creating value or are they waiting on a machine, some process or someone to get back to them? Are they waiting while they could be doing something else? I remember stories about Taichi Ohno walking up and down lines asking why someone was just standing at a machine. “They’re waiting for that machine,” was often the answer. “Can’t this person prepare work for the next cycle,” would often be his reply. Ohno was great at looking at a situation and seeing waste. Too many people do not see waste — they see how it’s always been done. Are your employees working to the best of their capacity?We need to just do it! Lean, at its core, is simple. Look for waste and eliminate it! Since Ohno first shared the Toyota Production System outside of Japan in 1978, everyone has been in a hurry to emulate Toyota’s success. They forget that it took decades of work to get to that 1978 point. Go ahead, put up a lean board, get employees’ feedback and input, and allow them to make changes. Someone once asked me, “Does this mean I get to fix the stuff that’s been bugging me for 20 years?” When I said yes, he replied enthusiastically with, “I’ll take more of those A3s!” From the bookshelfThe Remedy: Bringing Lean Thinking Out of the Factory to Transform the Entire Organization, by Pascal Dennis.I was flying to Ireland to teach a group of Black Belt students about strategy deployment (Hoshin Kanri) and I thought this would be a good book to relax with. After all, Pascal Dennis is a Canadian lean sensei and spins a good yarn.It turned out that this book was a great read! Along the lines of Andy and Me, it told the story of the struggles that a hypothetical person (Tom Papas) was going through. I felt that this story resonated with every one of my client organizations.This book does a great job of explaining a very broad variety of topics related to the lean quality improvement philosophy. It is not meant for a fully lean or mature organization. After all, how many of us are there? It is easy to read, even down to the quick and dirty. It also does an excellent job showing how the lean approach can be applied outside of the manufacturing setting, and illustrating how lean production is only one part of a business system that affects all parts of a company’s operations and strategy.The book does a good job of indicating just how deep each topic goes and how much more there is to learn than what can be covered in the book.It tells the story of a fictional auto plant manager who has transformed his plant with lean thinking and now has to spread the philosophy to the other parts of the enterprise. As a novel, the book is not likely to be made into a film anytime soon, but the story moves rapidly and (spoiler alert) has a happy ending, so it doesn’t take away from the book’s value.Question from the floorQuestion: We tried lean once years ago. It started off okay, but then it petered out and we kind of lost it. Now I’m thinking about bringing it back, but the folks have said it failed and they don’t really want to try again. Any help?Answer: Don’t call what you’re doing “lean!” I’m only half joking here. In fact, where I’ve seen lean fail is when they put together all kinds of change management, organizational development and lean guidance teams. For the most part, this is a waste of time. You need to start off simply with a couple of lean events — perhaps a simple kaizen or something larger. Then you need to have a conversation about those events (hansei) and somehow annotate them and make them available to others so that they won’t make the wheel all over again. Then you need to share these successes for others to see (yokotan). Share these gains with your senior leaders for them to see and become involved with.Establish your own local successes and spread the news about them. Don’t follow the guidance from a mature lean organization if you’re not a mature lean organization. The Toyota Kata approach to coaching and mentoring will work well when you’re ready for them. In organizations that are just starting (or restarting) their lean journey, I recommend just asking the first two questions from the Toyota Kata. Coach people to become better problem solvers by asking them about what their target condition actually is and what their current state actually is. If you can instill a sense of problem solving, keeping an eye open for waste and getting them to do something about it, I think you’ll overcome any resistance you might find. This column originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.
Dream Report, from France-based Ocean Data Systems, is marketed as a real-time reporting generator solution for industrial automation. It is interesting to note that the company is trying to get Dream Report recognized as the global standard for reporting in automation. This is a new development, and while it is unclear to me what this really means, it is worthwhile to examine the technology.
Many Canadian manufacturers are producing advancements and innovations that have the potential to help these companies — and the industry as a whole — grow and create jobs. Many governments are trying to do their part to fan any small sparks of growth, or to encourage employers to take leaps of faith to make fresh investments in their region. But for some of the traditional manufacturing regions that have been hardest hit in the recent decade, this will not be enough. Organized labour needs to participate in any potential manufacturing revival, and our governments may need to play a new role, too.
If you’ve ever been involved in a workplace accident, you’re likely familiar with what happens next. Emergency personnel arrive to tend to the injured employee, and the police investigate whether a crime has been committed. Once the police release the scene (given no crime has been committed), the Ministry of Labour (MOL) starts its investigation. The machine is taped off, power locked out, interviews scheduled, statements taken, and interim order may be issued. Then the lawyers are called.
Every industrial network has more than a single protocol within it. A simple analogy for a protocol is to think of it as a language. So if we are changing from one protocol to another, we are effectively translating between languages. And because of the complexity of today’s networks, you can almost guarantee that it will be necessary to translate protocols between different networks.
Our editorial advisory board recently sat down for our annual roundtable meeting. Among the topics we discussed this year were the positive trends our board members are seeing in the Canadian manufacturing industry. Watch the video to learn the five top positive trends they've noted. To learn more about the discussion, read the cover story of our June 2014 issue. Stay tuned for Part Two of the video, which will focus on the challenges that remain.Manufacturing AUTOMATION editorial advisory board members: Al Diggins, EMC; Don McCrudden, Festo; Bill Valedis, Precision Training, Products and Services; David Green, marketing professional; Piero Cherubini, Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology (Absent from meeting: Sherman Lang, NRC)