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Helukabel unveiled its newest control cable to join the TRAYCONTROL family at the 2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS). The TRAYCONTROL 550 TPE is a flexible, oil-resistant control cable with blue- or red-coloured conductors that is approved for open, unprotected installation in cable trays from power sources/control units to the machine. The TRAYCONTROL 550 TPE was developed to help offset the need for PUR cables in tray applications. The specially blended TPE has been designed to perform as well as standard PUR cables with the added benefit of being able to transition from cable trays to free air, an installation method not permitted for PUR cables, the company says. The special combination of TC-ER, PLTC-ER and ITC-ER allows this cable to be used as a connecting cable for AC, DC or control wiring in accordance with NFPA 79 Edition 2007.
Kollmorgen recently introduced E-learning – a suite of educational and technically substantive automation and motion control training resources designed to help OEMs design and build superior performing machines, at their pace and on their schedule. These include self-paced Learning Modules with an interactive learn-on-demand focus, Blended Courses that combine self-paced learning with live online interaction with instructors and other students, and In-Work Learning that utilizes quick, concise “guide me” lessons and how-to videos. Kollmorgen also offers traditional classroom training, with workshops that are all about hands-on access. Students can sign up for online and classroom-based courses here. For OEMs interested in training sessions on more narrowly focused topics, customized courses are also available.
Automation Systems Interconnect’s modular industrial signal tower lights line, featuring 70-mm signal towers, allows customers to stack up to seven modules, including a sound module. Light modules are available in six different colours — red, green, orange, yellow, blue and white — and three different illumination types — steady, blinking and flash. Fixing bases can be ordered in wall or surface mount, in plastic or metal, with extension tubes. Fixing bases and light modules are constructed with polycarbonate and offer IP65, NEMA 4X protection, making them ideal for industrial settings, the company says.
Palmer Wahl Instrumentation Group is proud to announce the Factory Mutual (FM) Approval of its Wahl DST500-FM Temperature Indicators with fixed probes in the U.S. and Canada. The Wahl DST500-FM Digital RTD thermometer is designed for hazardous locations where accurate and reliable temperature monitoring is critical. Fixed stem probes in straight or 90-degree back, left- or right-angle connection from either 304 or 316 stainless steel are available. The four-wire RTD has a temperature range of -200 to 800 degrees C. The one-inch, four-digit LCD display is readable from 30 feet.
Measurement Specialties’ U5300 industrial pressure transducer features a total error band (TEB) of ±0.5 per cent F.S. for demanding commercial and heavy-duty applications. The compact unit offers maximum design flexibility with a variety of pressure ports and electrical configurations available for low- to medium-volume OEM applications. The U5300 measures liquid or gas pressure in difficult media, such as contaminated water, steam and mildly corrosive fluids in high-end, high-accuracy applications. The transducer can operate in temperatures ranging from -40 to 125 degrees
Unitronics has introduced another member of its Jazz 2 Series - the JZ20-T40. With 48K (virtual) Ladder Logic memory, 30 times faster performance and a new, built-in mini USB programming port, the new JZ20-T40 allows industrial control processes to enjoy more power, speed and functionality at the same price as its standard Jazz series counterpart. With the same look, dimensions, wiring and functional behaviour, the JZ20-T40 model has complete backward compatibility with the standard Jazz. Upgrading an existing project is hassle-free, and can be completed in three easy steps, the company says. First, open the application. Second, select the new model in Hardware Configuration. And lastly, save the application. Jazz and Jazz 2 units also feature a full-function HMI with a two-line LCD text display that shows up to 60 user-designed screens, and a 16-key keypad. The multilingual display supports more than 15 languages and 20 graphic
Renishaw’s new XCal-View software brings an updated look, increased functionality and greater flexibility to laser calibration data analysis. The software is the first part of a planned suite of new software covering data capture, analysis and error compensation. It is compatible with Renishaw’s ML10, XL-80 and XR20-W rotary axis laser calibration systems, and features a new, simplified interface that allows users to select, edit and format data in a variety of graph formats. The software’s improved generic error compensation function now allows assessment of machine errors and creation of linear compensation files. The software’s compare function overlays multiple data sets on the same screen, especially useful when monitoring the effect of mechanical and servo adjustments or comparing different types of data sets, such as linear and yaw errors, the company says. The generic error compensation function uses a simple “profile” entry screen for fast generation of data values with a graphical display of expected compensated performance overlaid on the original test
GE Intelligent Platforms has announced upgrades to one of its core automation software products — Proficy HMI/SCADA – CIMPLICITY, a product that monitors and controls every aspect of a company’s SCADA environment, equipment and resources. Version 9.0 brings a set of new capabilities that enable companies to develop better applications, improve operator experience, extend the reach of existing systems, and take advantage of the latest OS and interoperability technologies. New features include improved configuration capabilities, better interaction with new, richer protocols, and an improved operator experience with reduced alarm noise. There is also a new object library, and long point names allow 256 characters for building a structured database quickly. GE Intelligent Platforms is also including Proficy Historian for SCADA in the new
Yaskawa Motoman’s MH50 II-series robots have an extremely flexible design, allowing them to be used for a variety of applications, including coating, dispensing, machine and press tending, material cutting and handling, the company says. The long reach of the MH50 II model and the extended reaches of the MH50 II-35 and MH50 II-20 make these robots ideal for processing large parts. In many cell layouts, the extended reach models can eliminate the need for an external track, decreasing system costs and simplifying programming. The robots have brakes on all axes and can be floor-, wall- or ceiling-mounted for layout flexibility. These models use the DX200 controller that includes patented multiple robot control technology to handle multiple tasks and control up to eight robots (72 axes), I/O devices and communication protocols. Its extensive I/O suite includes integral PLC and HMI pendant displays, 4,096 I/O and a graphical ladder editor that can provide system level control. The DX200 supports all major fieldbus networks.
The G100 Series blue line of pneumatic parallel grippers from Robohand, a DE-STA-CO brand, is designed to provide machine builders and OEMs with higher-quality, low-maintenance grippers for cost-sensitive applications, the company says. The grippers’ shielded design protects all mechanisms and internal linkages from environmental contaminants, providing continuous smooth rack and pinion operation with reduced maintenance. Robohand’s G100 Series grippers include an extended jaw option to support finger interchangeability with third-party grippers. Existing user-designed fingers can be removed from a high-maintenance third-party gripper and re-installed on a G100 Series gripper. This makes it simple for OEMs to substitute G100 Series grippers in existing machines with minimal design time and resources, the company explains. Twenty different models are available to provide high grip force, with stroke options from five to 50 mm.
AutomationDirect’s NITRA line of pneumatics products now includes compact modular valves. Each valve is enclosed in a reinforced technopolymer protective shell that acts as a shock-absorber and prevents the infiltration of dirt. The smooth, rounded design makes the system ideal for applications requiring frequent washing. All pneumatic connections are on one side, with built-in push-to-connect fittings. The system offers a variety of flexibility from one to 16 valves, with input and output terminals for tubing of different sizes. This, the company says, allows the versatility to mix valve and size numbers as needed. The 24 VDC electrical signal is relayed from one valve to the next by gold-plated contacts, so the electrical connections are entirely automatic.
Siemens Canada and the Halton Learning Foundation have partnered to introduce an educational program to students at Oakville’s Garth Webb Secondary School.
Ontario is expanding and enhancing its Specialist High Skills Majors program to help more high school students find their career passion and get the skills and knowledge they need for jobs in the 21st century.
The demand for skilled professionals who understand the exchange between information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) is increasing as the industrial plant floor and corporate enterprise become more connected. In response, Rockwell Automation, in collaboration with Strategic Alliance partner Cisco, has launched a new training course to help IT and OT professionals overcome the challenges of converging their network technologies. The new training helps candidates prepare for the recently introduced Cisco Industrial Networking Specialist certification.
Safety is the top priority at the Siemens Wind Service Training Centre in Orlando, Fla. That was the message Siemens executives relayed to the 31 journalists from 11 countries who attended its recent international press trip to Orlando. Manufacturing AUTOMATION was among the attendees.
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.
Manufacturing AUTOMATION has launched a series of short videos providing tips to help you increase the safety of your machinery - and your employees - on the plant floor. In Part 3 of this series, Michael Wilson, a machine safety specialist with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, outlines four simple things to keep in mind when assessing your safeguarding. This video is sponsored by Omron Automation and Safety.Click here to see Part 1, where Michael Wilson shares some tips to help you navigate through the Pre-Start Health and Safety Review process.  Click here to see Part 2, where Michael Wilson outlines what your lockout program should look like.
Manufacturing AUTOMATION has launched a series of short videos providing tips to help you increase the safety of your machinery - and your employees - on the plant floor. In Part 2 of this series, Michael Wilson, a machine safety specialist with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, briefly outlines what a hazardous energy control or lockout program should look like. This video is sponsored by Omron Automation and Safety. Click here to see Part 1, where Michael Wilson shares some tips to help you navigate through the Pre-Start Health and Safety Review process. 
Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology has launched a 1,500-square-foot Additive Manufacturing Resource Centre at its Fennell Campus in Hamilton, Ont. In this video, Robert Gerritsen, professor, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering Technology, gives us a tour of the new facility, detailing the equipment in the lab, and the capabilities of the state-of-the-art additive technologies in the lab, including their "pride and joy" - an EOS M 280 direct metal laser sintering machine.
Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technogy has launched a 1,500-square-foot Additive Manufacturing Resource Centre at its Fennell Campus in Hamilton, Ont. The new centre is both a resource to students and the industry, allowing them to explore the opportunities of additive manufacturing in both metal and plastic. In this video, Tony Thoma, Dean, Engineering Technology, discusses the new facility and how it will benefit the manufacturing industry and the students.
Manufacturing AUTOMATION has launched a series of short videos providing tips to help you increase the safety of your machinery - and your employees - on the plant floor. In Part 1 of this series, Michael Wilson, a machine safety specialist with Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, shares some tips to help you navigate through the Pre-Start Health and Safety Review process. This video is sponsored by Omron Automation and Safety.
AutomationDirect’s new white paper, “When to Use Multi-Function Safety Relays,” explains how to determine when applications will benefit from multi-function safety relays over other options.
While safety functions have been integrated into drives packages for some years now, the current trends are very exciting, from many angles. Today, a full complement of safety functions can be implemented at the front-end of a system design on all types of production machines. This can be accomplished in full compliance with all the current regulations for machines used worldwide.  
Unico Systems, a manufacturer of home air conditioning and heating systems, previously used manual methods to track manufacturing workflow, a time-consuming task that increased the chance for errors. Today, the company automatically enters the tracking information into a database using Cognex wireless handheld scanners to read barcodes on the product, and QR codes on employee badges and assembly stations. Operators now spend much less time on data entry tasks which, along with other improvements, has helped increase the production rate on the company’s lines by an average of 40 per cent. The new system also provides additional safeguards to ensure that only quality products are shipped to customers, resulting in a reduction in warranty costs. Here’s their story:
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.
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.
The companyCytonome develops, manufactures and markets cell purification systems available worldwide for Biomedicine, Bio-industry and Bioscience. The company’s proprietary technology is combined with optical detection for the precise and safe selection of discrete cell subpopulations. Their Biomedicine products are aimed at cGMP-compliant cell purification using a closed, sterile and disposable cartridge to guarantee operator safety and sample isolation.The challengeCytonome’s engineering department focuses on developing new products. Engineering works quickly to develop concepts and manufacturing works in parallel during the prototype phase. Cytonome needed to create a product development environment to ensure efficient communication among engineering, manufacturing and purchasing. The company managed product development with tools that did not communicate with each other. Product information was converted from SolidWorks to Excel spreadsheets. Cytonome was having a difficult time with this environment because information had to be manually entered into each system, which took up valuable employee time, introduced costly human data entry errors and resulted in systems containing incorrect or out-of-date information.“The process was rather cumbersome and prone to errors,” said John Bragg, mechanical CAD designer for Cytonome. “We needed a solution that could automate engineering change order workflows, ensure steps are not skipped, and could provide a one stop location for all of our documentation.”Cytonome was also preparing for their International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification and needed to have formal processes in place to demonstrate proper management, tracking and reporting of product development and manufacturing procedures and information. The solutionTo achieve a cohesive environment, Cytonome needed to address their manual product development processes. They searched for a solution that provided a central location to manage product information and quality processes and could communicate directly with SolidWorks and Expandable to eliminate manual data entry. Past experience with PLM technology and Omnify Software prompted them to look at Omnify’s Empower PLM solution. “After seeing a customer demo, we were impressed with the capabilities and simple web interface of Empower,” noted Bragg.  Adopting Empower helped Cytonome to create automated signoff workflows for New Part Requests (NPRs) and Engineering Change Orders (ECOs), as well as establish automated data transfer with SolidWorks and Expandable. To support their ISO compliance and goal to obtain full cGMP compliance, Cytonome also uses the Omnify Empower Quality Management and Training Management modules. All Non-Conforming Material Reports (NCMRs), Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPAs), process deviations and customer service repair processes are managed within the Quality module and directly connected to the product record in Omnify Empower. Cytonome uses the Training Management module to manage and track employee training documentation, calibration processes and calibration records. General business documents are also maintained and controlled in Omnify Empower, such as product development reports and Non-Disclosure Agreements. The resultsOmnify Empower serves as a central location to securely access accurate product data and documentation for all Cytonome team members. “Over 85 per cent of the company uses Omnify Empower at Cytonome, including engineering, quality, manufacturing and purchasing,” said Heather Kiessling, chief financial officer for Cytonome. “The most significant business benefit of using Omnify Empower is the real-time global updates among engineering, purchasing and manufacturing that we did not have before.” Quality information is now shared in real time across the organization. When an ECO is under review, engineering, purchasing and production know this information immediately. Decisions on buying parts or build plans for assemblies under ECO are made in real time. Purchasing can access the system to pull the most up-to-date drawings that need to go to vendors for fabricated parts. Manufacturing has access to the most accurate and current BOM with automated updates from Omnify Empower to Expandable ERP.  “Our overall product development processes are faster and more efficient due to the time savings and improved data accuracy we have realized by implementing Omnify Empower as our central product information management system,” said Kiessling. With the new centralized and automated product development processes in place, Cytonome had the proper signoff, history tracking and reporting to meet ISO compliance guidelines. During their first ISO audit, the auditor gave accolades to Cytonome’s tracking and management of calibration records, training on quality documents, and procedures associated to groups. The auditor noted that they were very impressed with the capabilities of Omnify Software and the extent to which Cytonome uses it to control information, documents, changes, training, project data, manufacturing processes and engineering data, and was particularly pleased with their automated workflows and signoff stages with history tracking for NCMRs and ECOs. “The success of our preparation for our first ISO audit as demonstrated by having the first two days having no findings is a direct result of having (and using) Omnify Software,” said Kiessling.  Adopting Omnify Empower validates Cytonome’s commitment to manufacture their products under the strictest quality control guidelines, and to deliver the most advanced, high-quality cell purification systems to the market.Alaine Portnoy is a marketing manager with Omnify Software.
One of the primary challenges most manufacturers face is driving efficiency in meaningful ways to positively impact cost per unit, schedule adherence and the other individual factors that determine productivity. Many factory employees still rely on outdated paper-based methods to monitor shop floor processes, which further decrease productivity.
EST Analytical was looking for a document control system to replace several inefficient and time-consuming paper-based product development and business processes, and found a system that resulted in substantial improvements in both data integrity and process times. Here’s their story:
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.
A very wise man once told me that if we are not aware of certain things, we cannot acknowledge them, which means we won’t be able to change them. Wise words, indeed.
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.