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Makino’s a51nx-5XU five-axis horizontal machining center features a newly designed 5th-axis table and work-pallet magazine, enabling manufacturers of complex parts to obtain the highest levels of utilization and efficiency, the company says. The linear X, Y and Z axes of the a51nx-5XU are built from the same structure as Makino’s a51nx horizontal machining center. Its rigid bed casting with three-point levelling system provides a solid foundation for all critical machine components, the company says. A tiered-column design redirects machining forces and resists deflection even high in the Y-axis. www.makino.com
Banner Engineering’s XS26-2 expandable safety controller has the capability to add up to eight expansion I/O modules. The XS26-2 platform was designed to adapt to diverse automation requirements and address a wide range of safeguarding applications. The base controller models have 26 input terminals, four terminals for two redundant safety PNP outputs and a USB connection for loading configurations. Base models are available with an optional on-board display or an embedded Ethernet IP/Modbus TCP capability for access to live I/O status and system diagnostics to assist in troubleshooting and commissioning. According to the company, the safety controller’s complementary PC graphical user interface configuration software is uncluttered and easy to navigate for configuring and documenting safety functions and assessing the status of connected input or output devices. The system configuration tool uses a function block diagram format that consists of pre-engineered and pre-tested safety function blocks, as well as a set of Boolean functions. As the function block configuration is created, a corresponding logic ladder reference diagram and a text-based summary are created.www.bannerengineering.com
Watlow’s “N” Type thermocouple wire is designed to provide superior repeatability and resistance to oxidation over “K” Type wires at high temperatures (1,500 degrees F and above), or in applications where sulphur is present, the company says. Watlow’s Type N thermocouple wire meets special limits of error from 200 to 2,000 degrees F. This nickel-based thermocouple alloy is used in many high-temperature heat-treating applications, including specialty aerospace heat treating. It offers the same accuracy and temperature limits as Type K, but has improved repeatability between 700 and 1,100 degrees F (370 and 593 degrees C), according to the company.www.watlow.com
Lovato Electric expanded its range of measuring instruments by adding the DMG600 and DMG610 digital multimeters. Both models provide a complete set of electrical measurements, such as voltage and current values, meters for active and reactive energy, both imported and exported, Harmonic distortion (THD). The multimeters are capable of offering different solutions for acquiring measured data. The new white-backlit LCD screen guarantees excellent visibility, even in low light conditions, the company says. The built-in RS485 serial port allows the DMG610 model to be immediately inserted into an existing network. Many other optional ports are also available, such as analog input and output, relay output, static output, communication port Ethernet or USB.www.lovato.ca
Belden has released new Wash-Down Cord Sets as part of its Lumberg Automation product portfolio. The new cord sets are designed to withstand extreme temperatures, immense pressure and the chemical exposure typical in high-intensity cleaning processes. They also ensure functional reliability in all harsh industrial settings, particularly for the food and beverage, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Lumberg Automation’s Wash-Down Cord Sets feature gold-plated crimp contacts, high shock and vibration resistance, and IP67, IP68 and IP69K certification for ingress protection. They are also specifically designed to withstand the high-shock and vibration found in industrial environments, which helps to maintain a high productivity level of equipment. www.belden.com
Wieland Electric Inc. says it has significantly enhanced the design of its DIN rail mounted screw-clamp terminal blocks. Part of the company's selos family, the WT Series terminal blocks feature an enhanced push-in jumpering system that forms a low-resistance, vibration-proof connection when inserted. This is achieved by separating the rugged steel spring for mechanical fastening from the jumper's copper current bar. The dual-channel jumpering system enables extended jumper lengths, as well as the ability to bridge multiple potentials on parallel blocks (e.g., linking alternate terminals, such as every second or third block, using notched jumpers). Another new feature of the WT Series terminal blocks is the introduction of screwless (snap-on) ground blocks to speed up installation onto DIN rails. In addition, the redesigned terminal blocks now come in a uniform size up for wires up to six AWG. The WT Series terminal blocks now have the option of using a flexible terminal marking system using commercially available thermal transfer labels. Wieland's standard hard plastic marking tags are also available for applications requiring a non-sliding, robustly anchored tag. www.wielandinc.com
The linear modules of Schunk's LCx series are ideal for when complete Z or Y axes are to be moved in high-precision, high-speed applications. The profiles of the standardized linear motor axes made of reinforced carbon composite weigh approximately 58 per cent less than the profiles of comparable aluminum modules, resulting in quicker acceleration with less energy, the company says. Since the thermal expansion of the material is minimal, the axes are designed to ensure high precision even when they heat up during operation. Lightweight modules in the LCx series result in high-speed and accurate repeatability due to a servo-electric linear motor drive, according to the company. The absolute-value transducers provide repeat accuracy of 0.01 mm per axis. www.schunk.com
Linear Technology’s LTC3107 is a highly integrated DC/DC converter designed to extend the life of a primary battery in low-power wireless system networks (WSNs). The LTC3107 combines energy harvesting and power management capability with a primary battery cell to extend the battery’s usable lifetime. It harvests energy from thermoelectric generators (TEGs) and thermopiles when these sources are available, storing excess power in a storage capacitor and transitioning to the primary cell to power a wireless sensor node when harvested power is unavailable. The LTC3107’s internal boost converter, combined with a small step-up transformer, harvests energy from input voltages as low as 20 mV, and delivers an output that tracks the battery voltage. If harvested energy is not available, the system is powered directly from the battery.www.linear.com
Artila Electronics, a designer and manufacturer of device networking and computing, has launched Matrix-618, an ARM9 WinCE-embedded computer. Matrix-618 is a WinCE-ready programmable communication gateway for remote device management, M2M and IoT applications. It comes with Atmel ARM9 400MHz SoC, 128MB DDR2 RAM, 256MB NAND Flash, two 10/100Mbps Ethernet and eight RS-232/422/485 ports with WinCE 6.0 pre-installed. The RS-232/422/485 serial ports are used to access a wide variety of equipment, such as meters, RFID readers and solar energy inverters. The built-in ASP web server is available for users to design web-based applications, allowing users to manage their devices anywhere at any time. The USB interface is used for function expansion, such as data storage and wireless communication.www.artila.com
The Sysmac NJ Machine Automation Controller from Omron Automation and Safety provides direct connectivity to SQL databases, including Microsoft SQL, Oracle, IBM DB2, MySQL and Firebird. This enables OEMs and end-users to improve machine performance by eliminating the maintenance complexities associated with PCs and middleware, while collecting data for analysis and optimization. Sysmac NJ can help OEMs differentiate their machines without requiring a change to their solution architecture or panel size. It is also meant to simplify the design and build process because it uses just one program and software for logic, motion, vision and database connectivity. Sysmac NJ is quickly programmed with pre-made SQL function blocks, making it easy for controls programmers to read and write data to/from the SQL database at speeds up to 20 ms per transaction, the company says. www.omron247.com
The Siemens Industry Automation Division has expanded its Simatic S7-1500 generation of controllers with what it calls the most powerful failsafe CPU so far — the Simatic S7-1518F. The new failsafe CPU is suitable for high-end standard and safety-related applications in machine and plant automation. It features a 10-megabyte user memory and has four communication interfaces: a Profinet interface with a two-port switch for communication with the field level; two Profinet interfaces; and one Profibus interface. The high performance and large memory allow connection of up to 128 drive axes and their isochronous operation in the range of 250 microseconds. www.siemens.ca
Ontario is appointing former Secretary of Cabinet and Head of the Ontario Public Service, Tony Dean, to review key areas of the province's skilled trades system that fall within the mandate of the Ontario College of Trades.
A $1,050,000 gift from Dow Canada will support student success and campus expansion at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). Dow’s investment includes $800,000 for NAIT’s Centre for Applied Technologies, and $250,000 to sponsor a biennial seminar at NAIT showcasing the field of power engineering.
AutomationDirect’s new eBook, “Automation 101: An Industry Guide to Control System Engineering”, is now available as a free download. Designed as a general guide for the specification, design and installation of automated control systems, this eBook is filled with information and references that take readers from the skills required to recognize an operation or process suitable for automating, to tips on setting up a program to maintain the control system. Whether an expert or a novice at electrical control devices and systems, the information presented provides a checklist to use when implementing an automated control system. Topics covered include: safety considerations, identifying automation needs, specifying device needs, system design, building tips, installation and maintenance. The eBook also contains information, such as steps for choosing the right controller, understanding discrete and analog I/O, sinking and sourcing concepts, and more.To learn more and to download “Automation 101: An Industry Guide to Control System Engineering”, visit: http://library.automationdirect.com/download-free-ebook.
Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology in Hamilton, Ont., has opened an Additive Manufacturing Resource Centre at its Fennell Campus.
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.
Increasingly individualized products and more intelligent, networked components are transforming the world of production, and Festo is embracing the changes. That was the message from Dr. Eberhardt Veit, chairman of the management board of Festo AG, during Festo’s recent International Press Conference at its headquarters in Esslingen, Germany.
While at Festo's recent International Press Conference in Germany, Manufacturing AUTOMATION sat down for an interview with Dr. Eberhardt Veit, chairman of the management board, to discuss recent investments the company has made, the economy and which markets he's seeing growth in.
Manufacturing AUTOMATION recently attended Festo's International Press Conference at the company's headquarters in Esslingen, Germany. During the conference, Dr. Eberhardt Veit, chairman of the management board of Festo AG & Co. KG, discussed Industry 4.0 and Festo's view of future production.
From November 3 to December 14, the Ministry of Labour's Health and Safety Blitz initiative will focus on machine safety in the workplace.
Marcos Aranha, process engineer with Yaskawa America Inc., demonstrates four technologies in the Yaskawa Motoman booth at IMTS 2014 in Chicago.
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.
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.
Consumer power has reached an all-time high, and businesses have felt the impact across their supply chains globally.  
The Company: August Electronics is an electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider headquartered in Calgary, Alta. They have a long-standing track record of customer satisfaction and productivity, as shown by their yearly recognition in Profit magazine’s PROFIT 200 — Canada’s top 200 fastest growing companies. As an ISO 9001:2008 certified company, August Electronics is committed to a philosophy of continuous quality improvement. The Challenge:  As an EMS provider, August Electronics receives product/BOM information from customers in various formats, including emails, spreadsheets and even phone calls. Without an electronic system in place to track and manage this information, August would run into issues with duplicate data and wasted time spent searching for information. The company's existing ERP system did not keep a history of any change/ECO process, and was not capable of storing and controlling documents. This made it difficult to gather all of the support documents needed with regards to engineering change and document control.The Strategy: The company needed a software solution to electronically manage BOMs, keep track of ECO history, provide document revision control and integrate with the ERP system. August Electronics selected the Empower PLM solution from Omnify Software based on a recommendation from its ERP vendor. The Results: “Omnify Empower offered exactly what we needed,” says Tanya Korenda, general manager at August Electronics. “It has allowed us to simplify and efficiently manage engineering changes, and document control is now easier than ever.”The Omnify Empower system is integrated with August’s Intuitive ERP environment. Information is shared bi-directionally, where released files are uploaded from Empower to Intuitive, and data is also uploaded from Intuitive into Empower. Sharing this data electronically provides a guarantee that design and manufacturing have access to accurate and current product information. “Omnify Empower makes it easier to find the information needed to communicate with customers by allowing us to tie much more information to parts and assemblies than would be possible with just ERP,” states Korenda.Implementing Omnify Empower also helped August Electronics obtain ISO 9001 certification by supporting proper processes to meet the ISO Quality Management Systems requirements. With Empower PLM, August has the necessary controlled processes in place for managing product information and aiding continuous improvement practices. “Our emphasis on quality, customer focus and innovative technology is what provides our customers with significant advantages in the marketplace,” says Korenda. “Adopting Omnify Empower to improve our development processes is another verification of our focus on consistently delivering high-quality products and services that meet our customer’s needs.”www.omnifysoft.comThis case study orginally appeared in September's Automation Software Case Study Guide.
The Company: Privately held and based in Ottawa, Ont., TrueNorth Avionics is an airborne connectivity company that designs, develops and manufactures satellite communication solutions for high-end corporate jets and VIP aircrafts. TrueNorth enables jet owners and operators to offer airborne telecommunications equipment that allows passengers to stay connected while they’re in flight. Because TrueNorth delivers the ability to make critical phone calls, send and receive faxes, connect to the Internet and send email — regardless of travel schedule and location — the company’s products are in high demand, and its client base continues to grow rapidly.The Challenge: Six years of rapid growth — including the establishment of international offices — put a strain on the company’s product development processes. TrueNorth needed to accelerate time-to-market for new product introductions without sacrificing quality. The difficulties of managing fast-changing inventory figures and customer demand magnified the impact of business decisions. In order to out-maneuver and out-innovate the competition, TrueNorth made a strategic decision to move towards lean manufacturing, seeking to eliminate any expenditures not focused on creating value for the end customer. But TrueNorth introduced a twist into the lean manufacturing equation — cloud computing.The Strategy: TrueNorth implemented cloud-based NetSuite ERP to provide greater control over its data and operational processes, while eliminating the high capital costs of in-house servers and software, and the exorbitant IT resources required to troubleshoot and maintain those systems. With the ERP system in place, TrueNorth’s executive team recognized the need to make sure that precise, up-to-date product revision data and document approvals were reflected in NetSuite. To help control product changes, co-ordinate their supply chain and continue scaling production to meet demand, TrueNorth turned to BOMControl, a cloud-based product life cycle management (PLM) application. The Results: Since the PLM implementation, TrueNorth can more readily maintain accuracy within and across multiple bills of materials (BOMs) without having to open up each BOM individually. Engineering change orders (ECOs) move quickly through review processes with less delay, fewer opportunities for error and greater efficiency. TrueNorth now keeps all core product data within PLM, which in turn seamlessly integrates with NetSuite. When a change takes place on the engineering side of the house, NetSuite is automatically updated with the information in the appropriate areas. Everyone has access to the up-to-date and accurate information that lets decision-making move along quickly. The company now enjoys timely inventory views across the entire supply chain. The views are integrated with a demand planning module and real-time executive dashboards for comprehensive business decision-making. As a result of the NetSuite and PLM integration, TrueNorth completed a critical audit and earned its first-ever AS9100 certification, demonstrating the company’s ability to achieve the highest level of quality in manufacturing in the aerospace industry. This certification is required to sell to OEMs in TrueNorth’s target markets, an important expansion of its sales opportunities. www.netsuite.comThis case study originally appeared in September's Automation Software Case Study Guide.
Kaizen – translated loosely from the Japanese, it means “good change.” Masaaki Imai, founder of the Japan-based Kaizen Institute, defined kaizen as: "...continuous improvement in the personal life, home life, social life and working life." Even more profoundly, Imai taught that kaizen was a “...state of mind that encourages everyone to consider it unusual when conditions do not continuously evolve.”
The Company: Iggesund Tools is a tooling company with a proud heritage spanning more than 300 years. Today, its core business is the design and production of specialized tooling for the forest products industry. In each of the sectors it serves — debarking, lumber production, chipping technology and chip analysis — Iggesund Tools is recognized as a world leader.The company’s TurnKnife Systems for chipping and lumber production, its ScanChip Analyzer, its debarking systems and PartnerChip, and its service options have kept it on the cutting edge of the lumber and pulp and paper industries.The Challenge: Competition in this arena is keen, driving down lead times for all involved. “Some of the original equipment manufacturers are delivering machines with very short lead times, so for us to stay in the game, we must be able to deliver our tooling at an even faster rate than they can deliver the machine,” explains Ian Zinniger, engineering manager for Iggesund Tools’ Canadian operation. “For us, the possibility of getting an order is often driven by how quickly we can deliver. These days, this is as important as the technical merits of the solution.”Iggesund Tools is a global business. Headquartered in Iggesund, Sweden, the company also has North American operations in Laval, Que., and Oldsmar, Fla. Engineering is done at all three sites, while production takes place principally in Sweden. In the past, the three engineering sites primarily worked independently. In fact, at times each site designed its own version of the same part. Although this was inefficient, it was safer to work that way because the company had limited centralized data management. “You couldn’t be sure, if you wanted to use a part designed somewhere else, that it wouldn’t be changed later on without your knowledge,” explains Zinniger. There was a similar problem sending data from the three engineering sites to the production facilities. Without good product data management (PDM) functionality, it was difficult to ensure that production worked with the latest revisions of the data. In addition to the possibility of working with out-of-date information, there was a great deal of administrative overhead devoted to controlling engineering data. The need to handle product data more efficiently, and ultimately to drive down cycle times, led management to consider a PDM software solution.The Strategy: The need for PDM coincided with the demise of Iggesund Tools’ previous CAD/CAM software. In searching for a new solution, the company knew exactly what it wanted. “We required robust, integrated design and manufacturing functionality,” says Zinniger. “But we also wanted that functionality to be integrated with PDM, which was seen as being crucial long-term for our success.” After evaluating the available options, Iggesund Tools found that NX and Teamcenter software from Siemens best met these criteria, delivering a managed development environment capable of handling the complexity of the company’s designs, along with powerful data control.The Results: From the design perspective, the company has seen many advantages to working in NX. “With NX, we gained a considerable amount of functionality that has been extremely helpful in cutting design and development time,” says Zinniger. Because the previous system was a surface-based modeller, engineers weren’t able to do interference checking on the digital data. With NX, they can now do that.The main advantage, however, has been the ability to automate routine product design, which includes tasks such as modelling, drawing creation, engineering checks and implementation of engineering changes, all the way through to release. “In the past, routine product design could take up to two to three weeks,” says Zinniger. “Today, using the knowledge capture and automation capabilities within NX, it can often be reduced to two to three days.” Zinniger has run the numbers and reports a consistent two- to three-fold decrease in cycle time since the Canadian operation started doing routine design in NX. The time saved is not the only value, however. “You can put know-how into the automation tools, and that cuts down on the training of designers,” Zinniger adds. “This is especially important when you have multiple sites and you have to teach design methods and standards across different continents, languages and cultures. Creating these automation tools in NX and then sharing them is much more efficient.”Teamcenter delivered the multi-site data control Iggesund Tools was looking for from a PDM system. “We can move data between sites with the confidence that up-to-date versions are always being used,” Zinniger says. One important outcome of this is an ability to better leverage the work of the three engineering groups. “In the past, one site didn’t take advantage of existing components designed by another site because they couldn’t be sure they wouldn’t be changed without their knowledge. Teamcenter gives you confidence that you can freely make use of components that are not owned and controlled by your site. They are being controlled by Teamcenter,” he explains. Production is experiencing the result of this, no longer seeing the same component being manufactured under multiple control numbers.There are other benefits to Teamcenter as well. One is the ability to instantly search the data vault to determine where a component is used. “If we want to change a piece of equipment, this capability makes it much easier to evaluate the implications of the change because we can see every instance where that part is used,” says Zinniger. Also, the company often services existing installations that were done earlier in the product cycle. With Teamcenter’s product structure editor, they can retrieve the exact configuration of any product with a few mouse clicks. “We use this in the case of troubleshooting or reviewing a change to that piece of equipment. It’s a capability we did not have previously, and it saves a great deal of time,” he adds.“A goal from highest levels of Iggesund Tools is to reduce delivery times on routine products,” Zinniger concludes. “The use of NX and Teamcenter has allowed us to shave a week or more off of our delivery times compared to what we had in the past for our Canadian customers. And this is happening even though our products are now much more complex and advanced.”www.plm.automation.siemens.comThis is a longer version of a case study that originally ran in the September issue's Automation Software Case Study Guide.
The Company: Hammond Power Solutions (HPS) is the largest manufacturer of dry-type transformers in North America. The company engineers and manufactures a wide range of standard and custom transformers that are exported globally in electrical equipment and systems, and supports solid industries such as oil and gas, mining, steel, waste and water treatment, and wind power generation. Headquartered in Guelph, Ont., HPS has five manufacturing facilities and 11 distribution centres located throughout Canada, the United States and Mexico.The Challenge: HPS was using a homegrown product configuration system for 10 years prior to adopting new technology. This old solution was not fully integrated, making it very difficult for HPS’ management team to get a full picture of the company’s operations at any given time. Over time, the software also became difficult to maintain, and adding new products and specifications into the mix only made the process more arduous. As a result of this hands-on approach, day-to-day activities were very inefficient.HPS wanted a solution that was managed centrally and would provide better service to their customers – the heart of their business. More specifically, they were looking for a technology that would provide end-users with a tool to dynamically generate prices, quotes and orders, and provide the most accurate information to customers, dealers and manufacturers, while also running itself and providing a more compelling web experience. The Strategy: Once HPS identified these pain points in their business, the company turned to Infor Product Configuration Management (PCM) and Infor Sales Portal to streamline the sales and production of their configured products. Infor PCM has a wide variety of applications that allows HPS to increase efficiency, including the ability to create bills of materials and develop manufacturing instructions, as quotes are sent into their existing ERP system. Through Infor Sales Portal, dealers and distributors can place and send quotes directly to HPS. Infor Sales Portal further supports dealers and distributors by allowing them to enter their own items. The Results: Since implementation, HPS has been able to eliminate a significant amount of administrative work on the customer service side, improving data integrity and quality while reducing data entry. The company now has roughly 1,500 active users on a regular basis, resulting in nearly 1,000 quotes per week and around 200 new product configurations every single day. The company can now also offer its services to customers over the phone, on the computer or through a mobile device, allowing users to start the implementation process however they would like. Moreover, HPS employees are also now able to calculate more accurate lead times and pricing for products that haven’t even been engineered yet – a big change from its previous legacy system. Based on the needs of the end-user and product specifications, the system can also recommend which of the HPS manufacturing facilities is best suited to make a specific product and how long it will take. This sophisticated integration and data quality allows HPS to work more efficiently and cut costs.Relative to their competitors, HPS now feels that they are able to provide the best customer service because they are continuously getting real-time updates as they or their customers change the attributes of a product, providing more accurate, planned availability. In addition, being able to deliver CAD drawings directly to users is a unique selling point and proves to customers that HPS provides great service and high quality products.www.infor.comThis article was included in the September issue's Automation Software Case Study Guide.
The Company: Every single day, gas, diesel and petrol are used around the world to keep vehicles running. Through a process called “fractionation,” crude, unprocessed oil is separated into these important fuels. An entire facility is needed to carry out the fractionation process. Enerchem International Inc., a leader in the production and distribution of hydrocarbon drilling and fracturing fluids, runs one such facility at Slave Lake in Alberta. To efficiently handle the daunting task of maintaining and controlling this facility, Enerchem uses a flexible HMI, SCADA and MES software platform called Ignition by Inductive Automation.The Challenge: The fractionation process begins when raw crude oil comes into the facility from the tank trucks, and goes through a series of preheats into the big crude furnace. The crude oil is super-heated, then moved into the fractionation tower. In the tower, crude oil is separated out into three main byproducts — base oil, fracturing fluid and wax solvents — which are then collected. All of the oil products are processed and maintained by very tight controls, provided by the Ignition system, that maximize the yield that the facility gains from the crude oil process.Before using Ignition, Enerchem’s Slave Lake fractionation plant was using an outmoded HMI system that required a lot of attention from the personnel. “With previous HMIs we’ve used in the past, we had to have two to three operators on each panel to be able to control it,” says Kevin Bouchard, director of plants and terminals for Enerchem. “The existing system that was in place had a lot of flaws,” says Kyle Chase, CEO of Kymera Systems. With over 25 years of combined experience, Kymera Systems is an Alberta-based systems integrator that primarily serves the oil and gas industries of Western Canada, and also works in the water/waste water, manufacturing and asphalt industries in Alberta. “It was reporting using a different vendor’s package, it was exporting to a very primitive database, and all the reports were made up in Excel. It wasn’t very manageable or accessible,” says Chase. With just over 30,000 tags, the fractionation plant was in need of an HMI/SCADA system that could allow them to manage the entire facility with precise controls and with a far higher level of efficiency.The Strategy: Taking full advantage of Ignition and its built-in, cross-platform OPC-UA server, Chase and his Kymera Systems integration team helped Enerchem build a cost-effective system that has increased the efficiency of their processes. The Kymera Systems team started out by taking Enerchem’s old system, which lacked the accessibility and manageability that the plant needed, and introduced Ignition. With Ignition’s flexible Java-based platform, Kymera Systems was able to customize Enerchem’s system to fit their needs. They implemented a database, which boosted the ease of use for all of the operators and allowed easy access to years and years of data produced by the facility. Through the use of an OPC-UA server, Ignition is able to easily connect with multiple control networks, such as Ethernet/IP and Modbus. Ignition also acts as an OPC-UA client, connecting to many PLCs at the plant, which have an embedded OPC-UA server. All of Enerchem’s facilities are connected through OPC-UA, sharing live plant information between them.Kymera Systems also sets up remote access, as well as individual user accounts. All of these helped to organize their plant and increase the efficiency of the operators. By providing greater access to data, the plant or company could get more done using a smaller number of people.The Results: The Enerchem Slave Lake facility has now used Ignition for five years. The software has increased efficiency at the plant and helps the operators accomplish more. One operator can control 10 to 15 different processes at a time, instead of having two to three operators on an HMI panel, reducing labour costs and boosting work output. Ignition has also helped the plant become more successful by giving operators more power to reduce waste and manage the fractionation process. Bouchard says, “With real-time remote access and trending capabilities, the overall efficiency of the yield of the product as compared to the crude we consume is much better. Ignition has been an economical and profitable system for us.”With their use of Ignition, Enerchem has remained at the forefront of technology and is respected as a leader in their industry.Watch the video case study here: https://inductiveautomation.com/scada-software-solutions/casestudy/enerchem-opc-ua-case-studyThis article is a longer version of a case study that ran in the September issue's Automation Software Case Study Guide.
The Company: Athletica Sport Systems (Sport Systems Unlimited Corp.) specializes in engineering, manufacturing and installing dasher boards and associated products for ice hockey and indoor soccer. The Waterloo, Ont.-based company brings world-class sport solutions under the well-known Crystaplex, Border Patrol and GamePlex brands to customers worldwide, including universities, municipalities and private owners, and is the preferred rink equipment supplier of the NHL. In addition, Athletica has a vastly growing Arena Services division, which accounts for a significant piece of the company’s business, particularly in the winter months during the off season. Athletica’s core manufacturing facility is located in Waterloo, with a sales and distribution facility in Minneapolis, Minn.The Challenge: Athletica grew (fast) from entrepreneurial roots, and tried to augment with spreadsheets and homegrown databases. While this was seemingly manageable back when Athletica was a $5-million company; today, the company has annual sales exceeding $19 million and requires a sophisticated enterprise system to satisfy the needs of a larger organization. “We were using homegrown systems that weren’t connected, and multiple spreadsheets of data that weren’t integrated,” says Bonnie Love, operations manager, Athletica.Athletica’s business demands fluctuate significantly during hockey’s on and off seasons. The summer is a rush to manufacture custom hockey dasher board systems and other arena products made to the unique specifications of its customers — all with short turnaround times and all delivered within the same week. In the winter, Athletica largely handles maintenance, product replacements and customer service requests. Due to the project-based nature of their business and the seasonality of the sports industry, forecasting and production planning was difficult. “We needed a comprehensive system to give us better control, help us manage cash flow, provide insight into true project costs and inventory accuracy, and to better organize production scheduling,” says Love.Athletica was previously challenged with overpaying for materials, erroneous inventory and expedite fees, among other complications as a result of information inaccuracy. The Strategy: After a thorough investigation of software solutions, Athletica narrowed the search down to two platforms. The depth of the product, extensive engineer-to-order capabilities, user friendliness, and a strong implementation process carried out by Six S Partners were the key differentiators that led Athletica to select Epicor.Athletica worked with Six S Partners, a Platinum member of the Epicor Inspired Partner Network, to select, implement and train on the next-generation Epicor enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Epicor ERP provides a robust financial management suite and engineer-to-order manufacturing solutions, among other enterprise applications, to help Athletica better manage their costs, control inventory and optimize business assets, while also improving efficiency across their multi-site operations.  The Results: Within the first 16 months of implementing Epicor, Athletica calculated a $225,000 ROI. Inventory accuracy contributed significantly to this success, along with downsizing administrative positions. Athletica also received a $164,000 new technology grant from the government for their proven efficiency and competitive pricing strategy, which has enabled Athletica to earn more business and keep its manufacturing operations in Canada. Price is a competitive advantage in every industry. “Cost is our main driver. In order to compete, we have to understand where we can and can’t cut costs, while also making sure we are selling our customers on the quality of our products. We didn’t have this visibility before Epicor,” explains Love. “Epicor is a very important tool that helps us properly price our products and services. We now have a better understanding of if we are selling at the right value, or if we’re over or under pricing our products. We made a lot of assumptions before and didn’t have insight into cost savings or price increases for materials. If you don’t fundamentally know the costs of your materials, then you don’t have a competitive advantage.”Among the features that Athletica implemented is Epicor Project Management. Embedded within the robust capabilities of Epicor, Project Management utilizes the detailed estimation, planning, scheduling, costing and supply chain logistics of Epicor for complete control and analysis of any projectAthletica also uses Epicor Product Configurator, which has greatly improved order and quote entries. Moving away from islands of spreadsheet models, Product Configurator standardizes processes, which can be utilized by multiple people across the organization so everyone is working smarter and hassle-free. “If a customer needs to build a rink for $200,000, for example, Epicor Product Configurator automatically pulls in the right costs and material prices, allowing us to estimate correctly and quickly,” says Love.A single, integrated system with information shared in real time across the enterprise has also improved customer responsiveness. “We can look up inventory to determine: Do we have it? Can we offer it to the customer? If not, what’s available to promise? We never had this visibility before. We had to call the customer back and do a whole exercise to get the proper information. Our services division is much more efficient,” says Love.Athletica consults with Six S Partners frequently to help with their ERP support and training needs. “A lot of our success is because of Six S Partners. They are very good partners to work with. They are very attentive and address our issues immediately. Their professionalism and the way they handled our project helped us through the entire implementation process. They continue to be a fantastic support for us,” says Love.John Preiditsch, president and founder of Six S Partners, comments on how a strong commitment from Athletica’s senior management team had a significant impact on the success of the project: “Commitment meant that our organizations (Athletica and Six S Partners) had the proper support we needed to make decisions and move forward in a way that best suited Athletica. This is a strategic customer for us, as Athletica continues to use more features of the Epicor system to leverage best practices and grow their business.”“We’ve adopted some really good best practices, mostly getting our policies and procedures more refined and benchmarking against other companies in our industry,” says Love. When asked to give an example of a best practice essential to their success, Love replies: “All of them!” For Athletica, one of the biggest achievements is having a single system to “close the loop” on their accounting transactions and records such as purchase order and invoices. Athletica appreciates the value of Epicor Signature Methodology to ensure implementation success. “The Signature Methodology puts a clear project structure in place – you move through milestones without even realizing it. Our project managers did a good job of reminding us about deadlines and next steps to keep us focused and to keep the project on track,” says Love. This article is an expanded version of a case study that ran in the September issue’s Automation Software Case Study Guide.
The discrete manufacturing industry’s quest to reduce capital expenditure, shorten lead times and improve productivity is expected to fuel investments in the global product life cycle management (PLM) market, according to new analysis from Frost and Sullivan.
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:
Nearly every Saturday afternoon, a friend and I go to the movies. We don’t know what movie we will be seeing before we buy the tickets. This gives us a sense of adventure.
My husband and I painted the walls and installed new wood trim in our home. Everything was great until the day our friend fell against an open door and it hit the wall behind it, damaging the drywall. Yes, we forgot to replace the doorstop. Unfortunately, another weekend of summertime activities was replaced with spackling and repainting.     
Many years ago, I read Steven Covey’s landmark book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I have read many other good books since that time, but this one still stands out as a foundational book for me, especially as I consider the roles in my life where my abilities as a leader matter.
I laughed out loud when I first heard about CAVE people. They are the “Citizens Against Virtually Everything,” and they are the group of people resistant to lean changes. Some of the people involved in your lean initiative will be on board with the change; others will be sitting on the fence until they see proof that lean works; and the remaining group will be the CAVE people.One of my senseis, Masaaki Imai, was once asked by Taiichi Ohno (the father of TPS) how the terms kaizen and kairyo (reform) were differentiated in the West. Imai told him that while kaizen means to make improvement by using brains, kairyo means to make improvement by using money and, in the West, most managers only think of improvement in terms of money. Imai told me that Ohno liked this definition and quoted it on several occasions during his public speeches.What does that have to do with CAVE people? Simple. In the West, if the managers think the continuous improvement idea will not be accepted (read: make or save money almost instantly), they won’t approve it. It gets worse if the workplace has a group of vocal CAVE people. You know the type. They will tell you they’ve tried lean (or whatever else) before and it didn’t work. They’ll tell you it’s not the way they do things. They’ll tell you what they’ve been doing has worked well enough for a long time.What you need to do is convince these CAVE people that lean works. You want to get to the sources of organizational savings that come from getting the job done right the first time, by getting everyone to stop and ask “Why?” five times. In short, you really want to transform your workplace by creating a lean organizational culture.Here’s how to convince the CAVE people that lean is worth their commitment:One: Treat them with respect. Respect for all people is a central tenet of the Toyota Production System. You’ll want to announce your continuous improvement efforts to everyone and invite them to participate. At the same time, you’ll have an understanding of the people who will comprise the first group of people. You’ll direct everyone’s attention to this first group’s outcomes and successes.Two: Integrate them slowly. Once you’ve got your preliminary successes under your belt, go ahead and ask the CAVE people if they’d like to participate in the next continuous improvement (CI) efforts. Connect a few of them to the next round of CI exercises.Three: Convince them with data, not your say so. You can talk about the glorious results of your lean initiatives until you’re blue in the face, but people want to see something they can “take to the bank.” Let your successes do the talking. Chat about them right after you meet a major milestone, note what worked and what didn’t and record them. Present the results each month to everyone, and be sure to include senior management in this group. This will reinforce the “lean is for everyone” mentality.Four: Ask them what they’d like to change. If they don’t want to participate in early lean efforts, ask them about what they’d like to change about their work. This isn’t a free for all, so there are some ground rules: Don’t throw money at a problem. All that shows is you’ve got a lot of money. Don’t rely on IT or automation. That might come later, but for now, exercise your wits, not your wallets!Remember, they will be CAVE people until they’re not! You can bring everyone along the lean journey by sharing the facts of your success, making that success shared and being inclusive. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have heard from clients that “Person X” used to be the biggest CAVE person — nothing was done right; they complained about everything; and they did nothing to bring about improvement. Then they tell me about the change! They tell me that “Person X”, who used to be the biggest CAVE person, is now the most pro-lean person they’ve got — this person contributes suggestions, sees them through, and prompts others to contribute to the lean board or make suggestions. I really love hearing these stories because it means that the lean culture is catching on. It means that those closest to production are becoming the change that we all want to see! Question from the floorQuestion: What are the most common mistakes when implementing lean?Answer: Lean must never be a tool for simple cost reduction. This fundamentally misses the purpose of lean, which is to empower those closest to production to create value through eliminating waste. The thinking is that as companies improve their processes, they should be able to save time, prevent errors and generally reallocate their resources to new value-creating work.Another important attitude to avoid from the beginning is the tendency to rush into using the tools. When this is done without giving any background or support to lean, you’ll wind up with a new “flavour of the month.” This can be hard to avoid, since many tools, like 5S, deliver immediate payoffs. You want to provide enough background so people can see that their efforts lead to positive change. The best way to achieve this is to make sure everyone is involved in lean.Lean beginners should also be careful of biting off more than they can chew. Make initial continuous improvements in small steps. Communicate their successes. Make sure everyone hears about them. And ensure they have a lean leader with deep knowledge and a gemba attitude. Indeed, one of the hardest challenges is the degree to which individual lean successes will invariably uncover new problems and greater challenges. Simply be aware of how difficult this work will be. From the bookshelfLead With Respect: A Novel of Lean Practice by Michael Ballé and Freddy Ballé This book tells the story of CEO Jane Delaney of Southcape Software. She is forced to review everything that she’s been doing and, in the process, discovers from her sensei, Andy Ward, that learning to lead with respect enables her to help people improve every day. “For us, lean is all about challenging yourself and each other to find the right problems, and working hard every day to engage people in solving them,” said Ward. One of the true powers of lean is the ability to develop people while building a culture of continuous improvement. Some people believe that lean is successfully implemented by following a rigorous application of proven tools and methods. In fact, lean’s successful implementation comes from changing the culture to one of continuous improvement. And that means asking the right questions when faced with an anomaly, getting down to the correct root causes and approaching everything with a “Why?” attitude.Lead With Respect has a timely message. While lean has become essential for companies to compete in today’s global economy, most practitioners see it as a rigorous focus on process to produce higher quality goods and services. This really is a limited understanding and it’s one that fails to realize the true power of lean. It’s no wonder people ask whether they should mention Toyota when doing their lean training. They’ve forgotten the basics, which is what this book delivers.The authors have also written The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager, but this work shares huge amounts of practical information on the most important yet least understood aspect of lean management: how to develop people through a rigorous application of lean tools. The Checklist Manifesto – How to Get Things Rightby Atul GawandeThis book is one that I’ve discussed before in my column, but I think it’s worth revisiting. It makes the case for making something complicated simpler. Although Gawande uses many medical examples of where simplicity is needed, it is truly required in areas as diverse as software engineering, financial management, fire fighting, policing, the law and, of course, clinicians. Readers will appreciate the B-17 story from chapter two. The B-17 crashed on its test flight on October 30, 1935. The “Flying Fortress” went on to help gain a decisive air advantage in World War II. Right after the accident, the test pilots created a pilot’s checklist because the new airplane was too complicated to be left to the memory of any one person.Gawande is really interested in a problem that afflicts virtually every aspect of the modern world — how professionals deal with the increasing complexity of their responsibilities. He makes a distinction between errors of ignorance (mistakes we make because we don’t know enough), and errors of ineptitude (mistakes we made because we don’t make proper use of what we know). Most of the time, the mistakes that we make are about the second of these errors. He introduces the origins of the checklist (the B-17 story) and then takes us through a series of examples from medicine, showing how the routine tasks of surgeons have now become so incredibly complicated that mistakes are virtually inevitable.As our manufacturing systems get more complex, it gets easier to make “errors of ineptitude.” Having a checklist overcomes these errors because we’re now making proper use of what we know. Think about what happens in your manufacturing operation and where mistakes have become almost inevitable. I once had a manufacturing client that had an 80 per cent failure rate for their most important product. A simple checklist eliminated this error! This column originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.
The Fieldbus Foundation (FF) celebrated a significant milestone earlier this year — its 20th anniversary. In honour of this occasion, this month’s column will focus on how FF has evolved over the last two decades, and what’s in store for the future.
If you want to be a programmer, but don’t want to spend the money on the tools, you have some options.
It’s happening. In many sectors of business, the great globalizing manufacturing transient is coming to an end. With long supply chains needing much inventory and babysitting, the so-called low-cost labour jurisdictions are out, and much shorter and more sustainable supply chains that put manufacturing and other value-adding processes closer to the customer (helping the planet with more sustainable business practices) are in.
It’s been proven time and time again — small groups perform better than large groups.
I read with interest a column by Jeff Hajek called “11 Common Continuous Improvement Mistakes You Are Probably Already Making.” Two of the items on the list — “Using averages” and “Collecting data without using it” — struck me as pertinent to any discussion of automation software, ERP software and other automated data collection systems. In the “Using averages” section, the author explained that the average size, time or other measurement might make it look like you’re within tolerance, when in reality you have a high defect rate or a number of outliers that aren’t reflected in that average. Any average without a measure of dispersion or variability will be useless because it’s uncommon for averages alone to help you improve processes. He goes on to say, “Let’s say that your takt time on an assembly line is 12:07, and your average cycle time is 11:52 on all of your stations. Using the average would tell you that you are in good shape. However, you know nothing about how often you have to stop the line. The same holds true in virtually any meaningful metric. The average ship time compared to your target time tells you very little about on-time delivery…Make sure you have some way of looking at the spread of your results rather than just the average.”The same advice applies when using automation. You can collect vast amounts of information without answering the question of what you’ll be doing with it, whether everyone understands it and whether it will help you improve your processes. In the “Collecting data without using it” section, Hajek makes the point that everything you do should be adding value to the customer — everything you do should have a purpose. I agree.We often forget to ask how this step will add value for our customers during customer-facing processes because we get caught up in the way that we’ve always done things. This only gets worse when we think about our management and administrative processes. When I deal with manufacturers, I often tell them that delays are caused by inefficiencies in the office.Very often we believe that the more information we collect, the better off we’ll be. We spend huge amounts of resources collecting data. Then we spend more resources sorting, processing and compiling it. But how many times do we actually use that data? Typically, we never get around to actually using it to make an improvement. There is no return on that investment.Here are some things to keep in mind as you automate your data collection to fit in with your lean endeavours:•    Keep the numbers simple. Collect them in real time. Make sure that everyone knows what those numbers mean. Don’t have numbers that only one area will recognize. For example, one factory I was in had fancy charts set up — different ones for different areas. They were fed from their ERP system, but none were in real time. I set up a simple Andon board that used real-time data. The simple numbers meant more to them than the data that was a day or two old. We took the time to complete a task down from over 11 hours to just two and a half with the Andon board!•    If you’re going to automate your data collection, make sure you’re collecting the right data, displaying it at the right time and using it for the right purpose. Ideally, this data should be collected automatically and displayed immediately. If you’re a small shop, this still holds true (although you might have to make do with paper charts and tables instead of computer display screens). I often tell my clients that it doesn’t matter how the information gets down to the floor; it’s only important that it does.•    Co-ordinate with your ERP provider to develop an Andon board to show the status of all the jobs you’ve got going on. Knowing is better than guessing! Let people know how they’re doing currently and let them know how well they’re doing compared to standard. This information will be motivating for them. After all, engagement surveys tell us time and time again that people want feedback about how well they’re doing and they want their managers to listen to them. Question from the floorQuestion: I’m trying to bring lean to a multi-plant operation, but it’s looking as if I’m getting as many different versions of lean as I’ve got locations or departments! How can I rectify this?Answer: I’ve seen this happen when Factory “A” tries something, and then Factory “B” tries something else. They wind up following divergent paths and everyone gets their own version of lean. It’s best to try to co-ordinate the sites and start with something simple (i.e., a 5S or a kaizen), and then have them compare their notes by establishing a competition. First hold this “Kaizen Off” within each facility, and then the leaders go on to compete across facilities. By leading the way within the plants, you’ll be lining them up and showing them how to do the 5Ss or kaizens. By having them compete across plants, you’ll be reinforcing the standard approach to continuous improvement. I find that having the kaizen teams present in-plant to a management meeting works best. It brings the management team in on the kaizen efforts and lets everyone in the plant know what’s what. Try this first before you try co-ordinated training or hiring a development person. Remember, it takes about two years to build up a lean culture, so take your time. This column originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.
It’s a belief that has persisted for decades — safety and productivity are squarely at odds with each other in the manufacturing environment. Safety has traditionally been associated with compliance, while productivity has been associated with competitiveness — both with separate, sometimes competing, paths to meet their individual goals.
My father-in-law is 81. It’s been over a quarter of a century since he retired from Goodyear, but every year he still attends the company golf tournament, and he keeps connected with many of his former colleagues. The bulk of his career was in the time where people spent their whole working life with a single company, and where there was a reciprocated loyalty between employer and employee. (I still don’t dare to buy a different brand of tires because I know he would notice it right away, and in a small way, it would offend him.)  
AutomationDirect’s “Point of View” (POV) Windows-based software is a feature-rich industrial HMI with SCADA tendencies designed for machine control as well as plant floor enterprise. To be clear, AutomationDirect has licensed the core of a third-party technology and value-added to it to create POV.