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. www.destaco.com/robohand-grippers
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. www.automationdirect.com
NK Technologies’ AT/ATR-LS Current Transducer combines a current transformer and signal conditioner for monitoring large loads. The AT/ATR-LS is easy to install due to a large, split-core design that can be installed over existing conductors without disconnecting the load, even in applications with multiple conductors per phase, the company says. It measures current use to detect over or under current conditions. Features include industry standard output, loop-power, factory calibration, a split-core case and DIN rail mount. The transducer uses two wires to connect to the power supply and the load: programmable logic controller, panel meter or data acquisition system. www.nktechnologies.com
The UXX ironless motor from Tecnotion, and available through Electromate, is designed for heavy-duty industrial applications that demand ultra-precision and maximum force output. With no cogging and zero attraction force between the coil and the magnets, it is ideal in flat panel and semiconductor applications.www.electromate.com
Absopulse Electronics’ CTP 300 series of DC-AC inverters provide 300VA output power with three-phase pure sine wave output voltage. The series offers a convection-cooled solution for industrial applications that require a low power, three-phase AC-voltage solution. They are typically used for testing small, three-phase equipment in engineering labs and for testing avionic instrumentation and equipment. The CTP 300 series employs field-proven, microprocessor-controlled, high-frequency PWM technology to deliver a three-phase output of 208 Vrms (line-to-line) at 60 or 400 Hz, or 380 Vrms or 400 Vrms (line-to-line) at 50 or 60 Hz. Voltages of 115, 220 or 240 Vrms phase-to-neutral can also be used. The inverters operate from DC voltages of 24, 48, 110 or 125 VDC. Custom input and output voltages are also available. Both input and output are filtered for low noise. www.absopulse.com
Jitterbit, a provider of integration solutions, has released what it claims is the world’s fastest enterprise-class cloud integration for SAP ERP. The new Jitterbit Harmony SAP Connector empowers organizations to streamline crucial business processes with SAP integration between SAP ECC, CRM, vertical applications, and more than a thousand enterprise endpoints, ranging from legacy on-premise software to the latest cloud-based solutions. Certified by SAP and running on Jitterbit’s new, fully cloud-based Harmony platform, the SAP Connecter offers the fastest time-to-value integration — averaging implementation time of 10 days or less — and includes support for SAP’s new in-memory appliance, HANA. www.jitterbit.com
Harting has introduced complementary M12 X-Code components — straight and angled PCB receptacles and M12-to-RJ45 panel adaptors, as well as an M12 gender changer — that expand the deployment capabilities of its har-speed M12 X-Code connectors. Like the har-speed M12 X-code itself, these new parts have been developed to facilitate 6A Gigabit Ethernet installations increasingly common in machine and plant automation. The new straight and angled receptacles and adaptors meet the requirements for Cat 6A and Performance Class EA, with maximum transfer rates for 1/10 Gigabits. That makes them effective additions for the eight-wire Ethernet environment or for transferring signals. A mounting bracket also is offered for the M12 X-Code gender changer.www.harting.ca
The new Automation Interface in TwinCAT 3 automation software from Beckhoff enables remote control of TwinCAT engineering systems and the automatic generation of programs and configurations. Depending on the degree of automation, manual processing of control projects and the associated errors can be reduced or eliminated. The quality of the software engineering is increased, while programming time and costs are reduced by the automation of project generation, the company says. Enabling remote access and control is another key area where the TwinCAT Automation Interface increases efficiency — it provides the user with a programming interface that can be used for remote control of the TwinCAT system. This enables the external control of almost all offline and online functions. The error-prone and (in terms of personnel) cost-intensive generation of I/O configurations and programs can be simplified in this way, the company says. The Automation Interface consists of a large number of programming routines that are available to the user within the Automation Interface API in the form of classes and methods. These enable TwinCAT projects to be generated, changed and saved in a standard and flexible manner — in conjunction with a source code database such as Team Foundation Server, if desired. The resulting application possibilities are extremely varied and can range from a simple application for automating common and recurring TwinCAT tasks up to complex, user-defined engineering tools that only use the regular TwinCAT development environment in the background.www.beckhoffautomation.com
Omron Automation and Safety’s NX Series Safety Controllers combine automation and safety on the same EtherCAT network in a mixed I/O backplane to promote design flexibility and minimize wiring costs. A single intuitive software programming environment reduces machine and safety design time, while an auto configuration restart function eliminates the need for tools or software to exchange I/O hardware, the company says. These safety controllers are ideally suited for applications such as automotive robotic work cells, larger flexible packaging machines and material handling work cells with multiple access points.www.omron247.com
The SmartKey key management system from Smith Flow Control is designed to provide additional security for managing safety interlock keys. The SmartKey provides protection against unauthorized or inadvertent operation of interlocked valves or process equipment, with the added ability to record movements of the keys required to operate mechanical interlocks in real time. SmartKey traps all keys in the cabinet until authorization is granted. To access the key cabinet, users must identify themselves with a PIN code. SmartKey highlights specific key positions that the operator is authorized to use. The user then selects the appropriate key from the panel and removes the key as the selected key position is unlocked. To return a key to the cabinet, the user scans the key with the integrated scanner and the corresponding key position is highlighted on the front display for re-insertion. SmartKey uses RFID technology to report the recent actions and current status of interlock keys. www.smithflowcontrol.com
SafeGuard Sentinel safety monitoring software is designed to continuously measure, monitor and alert operations and management to process safety risks. Available from Canada’s ACM Facility Safety, the software also delivers contingency plans that can be executed immediately to address issues and reduce risk. It runs on a Windows-based server in a plant network, and can be accessed by any device capable of running a browser, including DCS workstations, operator terminals, tablets and smart phones. The SafeGuard Sentinel gathers information from a variety of systems, including DCSs, PLCs and PACs from all major control system suppliers. The software only needs one-way communication from the various systems to gather data, thus preserving plant security, the company explains. www.acm.ca
Manufacturing AUTOMATION caught up with Skills Canada CEO Shaun Thorson at the Skills Canada National Competition in June. He talked to us about the competition, how it has evolved over the last 20 years, how the perception of skilled trades has evolved, and what industry can do to help bridge the skills gap. Take a look.
Skills Canada’s National Competition took place in Mississauga, Ont., in June, and Manufacturing AUTOMATION was there. Five hundred of Canada’s best skilled trade and technology students and apprentices competed for a chance to make it on Team Canada for Worlds Skills 2015 in Brazil. In this video, we find out more about the Robotics, Mechatronics, and Automation and Control competitions.
Siemens Canada Ltd. and the University of Waterloo will partner on a new youth training and skills development initiative to expand Canada’s capacity and research excellence in sustainable green technologies and advanced manufacturing.
Sheridan College and ABB Canada recently announced a partnership that has led to the creation of a new Robotics Centre in the Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies (CAMDT), located at Sheridan’s Davis Campus in Brampton, Ont.
Loyalist College has received confirmation of eligibility status for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), one of Canada’s three research granting agencies. Having this status with NSERC allows Loyalist to pursue new grant opportunities and financial resources, furthering the college’s applied research and innovation activities across campus. “Confirmation of eligibility with NSERC is the next step toward advancing innovation and research leadership within the college community,” said Loyalist College president Maureen Piercy. “NSERC eligibility brings opportunities to build on the innovative research we are conducting at the college to benefit our students, faculty, businesses and industry partners.” Since its establishment in 2012, Loyalist Research Services has continued to grow its resources for research and development. The office co-ordinates applied research projects, conducted by college faculty, staff and students to optimize opportunities that Loyalist provides. Eligibility enables the college to offer new and innovative research inputs to further engage the internal and external college community. “Having this status will allow Loyalist to access grants through NSERC, increasing the breadth of applied research at the college,” said vice-president, Academic, John McMahon. “It will increase our capacity to work with local industries and businesses, and support our faculty, who are committed to research and to facilitating student research experiences.” To continue fostering strong relationships with community and local businesses and industries, Loyalist Research Services plans to expand research and development opportunities through Canada’s other research granting agencies - the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
In one week, 500 of Canada’s best skilled trade and technology students and apprentices will converge at The International Centre in Mississauga for the 20th Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC).
Malcolm Haines has been named dean of NAIT’s School of Trades, the largest provider of trades-related programming in Canada.
Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) will invest $2.3 million over the next five years for the establishment of a new Centre for Smart Manufacturing at Conestoga College in Cambridge, Ont. The Centre will accelerate innovation and support the region’s manufacturing sector.
Progressive Automations has announced a new scholarship program that will give away a prize of $1,000 each to two engineering students. The aim is to make engineering education more affordable, more accessible and less financially strenuous.
Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) recently announced a series of initiatives, in partnership with the Government of Canada, to help narrow the nation’s skills gap. Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney and CME president and CEO Jayson Myers made the announcement at the Siemens Ruggedcom plant in Concord, Ont., on April 12.
Skills Ontario is hosting the qualifying competition for its annual Ontario Technological Skills Competition on Saturday, April 12. At colleges across the province, high school students will face off in the carpentry, welding, culinary arts, small powered equipment, TV and video production, and 2D character animation categories.
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.
Fluke recently unveiled an app that allows maintenance technicians to wirelessly transmit measurement data from their test tools to their smart phones. Manufacturing AUTOMATION was in Chicago for the exclusive media preview of Fluke Connect. Watch the video to learn more.
Electronic gauging probes provide the data collection capability for many of today’s automated dimensional data acquisition systems. Widely used in machine tool inspection and gauging equipment, electronic gauging sensors serve as important components of quality assurance systems, providing dimensional feedback used for online quality control and post-process statistical analysis. But how do you know which gauge head is best suited for your specific application?
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.
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.
Headquartered in Burlington, Ont., Higginson Equipment was founded in 1945 as a manufacturer of pneumatic and hydraulic NFPA-style cylinders, and as a distributor of fluid power and industrial product lines. In addition, the company manufactures “Economax” corrosion-resistant cylinders for the trucking industry, custom designs and builds special cylinders for a variety of uses, and leverages its expertise in pneumatics to create C-frame air presses. In 2009, Higginson decided to part ways with its 15-year-old business software. “There were three factors motivating our decision,” says company president Bill Allan. “First off, we'd been with our old system for 15 years. It was simplistic, and it didn't have a materials resource planning (MRP) component. The writing was on the wall. Secondly, the recession – we needed to increase our productivity without increasing our manpower. Finally, we received funding in the form of two government grants, one through the Yves Landry Foundation, and the other through the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters' SMART Program. I was already a big believer in ERP. With government assistance, I couldn't say no.” A 20-person company with revenues in the $7 million range, Higginson recognized the necessity of optimizing itself for the future. “We've been steadily growing,” says Allan, “but we needed something to help us get to the next level. We wanted to eliminate the inefficiencies and bottlenecks in our processes, and in doing so, we wanted to build a solid base for improvement and growth.” To facilitate its strategy, Higginson engaged its long-time VAR to perform an assessment and recommend an approach. “Our company-wide processes were analysed in detail,” says Allan. “As a result, we were advised to implement a new, more advanced ERP system. After doing due diligence, and on their recommendation, we chose Syspro.” When it came time for implementation, Higginson did it with alacrity. “We took what is usually a six-month process,” says Allan, “and did it in two months. We spent late nights, inventing on the fly, even made some rash decisions. Fortunately, the VAR that sold us Syspro gave us amazing support, and at the end of the day we got what we wanted.” Bill Allan says the company's new ERPbrought new efficiencies. As Higginson implemented its new ERP, says Allan, most of the old, inefficient processes were funnelled into one of the following categories: • Automated functions available in Syspro (e.g., automated work order creation from sales order; automatic serial numbers generation for manufactured parts) • Product configuration (to automatically define product specifications, Bill of Materials and cost at the time of quotation)• Integration with office productivity tools (such as Microsoft Office)• Electronic faxing and remote connectivity. “Syspro has made us much more efficient,” says Allan, “especially as far as the Bill of Materials and work orders are concerned. We used to have to do an excel spread sheet for every job, and then more spreadsheets to calculate cut-lengths of different materials. Now we just put the model number in and Syspro calculates everything for us.” Before Syspro, adds Allan, Higginson's system supervisor, a highly skilled machine operator, sat at his desk three hours a day doing repetitive calculations. “Thanks to Syspro,” says Allan, “he's now gained three hours a day in production time. We've also managed to eliminate a good number of mistakes. Occasionally, in the past, we'd cut a batch of tie rods incorrectly – not anymore.” Because of Syspro's modular nature, one can add efficiencies to work-flow as time and energy allows. “One thing we want to do more of is load levelling,” says Allan. (Load levelling is the process of evenly distributing demand, in terms of orders or schedule, over a given period of time.) “We haven't quite figured out how to take advantage of it, but load levelling will give us a bird's-eye view of production. That will help us smooth things out, and see problems that might be coming down the road. It's a nice feature that we still have to leverage completely.” When asked about Syspro's ROI, Allan gives thanks again to the government-sponsored grants. “The grants considered,” says Allan, “Syspro is going to pay for itself in a year. The company is out-of-pocket approximately one person's yearly salary. For a relatively small amount of money, we automated our business processes and removed the repetitive paperwork. But the real money-saving consequence of Syspro is that we can now do more with fewer people – and that makes us more competitive. I would definitely recommend Syspro to any manufacturer.” For more information on Higginson Equipment, please visit www.higginson.ca. Odete Passingham is marketing manager for Syspro Canada.
Dassault Systèmes, a leader in 3D design software, 3D digital mock up and PLM solutions, has announced that SolidWorks World 2014 will take place from January 26-29, 2014 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, Calif.
During a merger, transition can be overwhelming for employees and problematic for companies to manage. Leadership expert and internationally acclaimed business consultant Susan Steinbrecher puts it this way: “During a merger or an acquisition, there is usually a disproportionate amount of time and money spent on the financial due diligence and, sadly, very limited resources are allocated to the ‘people due diligence.’ But numbers don't make a merger work; people do.”
In the business of investment banking, there are all kinds of difficult situations that business owners can face. Sometimes a client’s need for financing is driven by an unexpected business or sector slowdown; other times it is for acquisition or growth purposes. But more often than you might think, a need for capital will arise as a result of a breakdown of existing credit facilities through no real fault of the borrower.
Manufacturing AUTOMATION’s editorial advisory board recently gathered for our eighth annual roundtable meeting, which is the cover story for our June 2014 issue. During the meeting, the board members discussed four challenges that remain for Canadian manufacturers following the recession. Take a look at what they had to say.
The hype around “smart” products continues to grow as manufacturers, vendors and even customers speculate about the opportunities resulting from embedding sensors in passive objects that communicate information. Examples are everywhere - from the Nest thermostat, which uses a learning system to program itself, to Nike, which looks more like a tech company than a sportswear manufacturer. In fact, 50 billion devices are forecasted to be Internet-enabled by 2020, and somewhere between 40 and 60 per cent of the value of a modern product is now in its software.
It happened. Statistics Canada reported that Canadian manufacturing sales reached a post-recession high in March, increasing 0.4 per cent to $50.9 billion — the highest level since August 2008. That’s good news.
This month’s column focuses on two major subjects: the future of automation technology and why we resist change for innovative automation processes.
There are Toyotas in our midst. That’s the good news. The bad news is that lean has been misappropriated, misapplied and just passed over as another management fad. But first, the good news!Lean has taken hold in the manufacturing sector, better than in the health care industry, the office and other sectors. A great deal of this success can be laid at the feet of Toyota and its suppliers for pulling us along, but a very large portion is due to organizations seeing the need to transform their businesses, becoming more customer- and process-focussed, and thereby earning the savings and efficiencies that they’re seeing now. People really do see the need for human capital models, a different view of accounting and the radical differences that running lean organizations can bring. Moreover, they see that these things all have a multiplying effect. You can’t really have a lean organization run by old-fashioned accounting rules, just as you can’t run your lean organization without putting your people first, training them well, taking time to select them and empowering them so they can become the changes they want to see. In this regard, John Shook was right when he talked about the A3 being the change agent for lean organization culture change. Toyota doesn’t do “organizational change”; they practise it every day with every suggestion.The bad news is that we still have organizations that say, “What we’re doing is good enough,” or “We’re too busy to change.” Most economists agree that one of the most immediate causes of the problems in manufacturing, at least recently, is the rise in the value of the Canadian dollar. This reflects an overriding interest in cost grazing as opposed to finding efficiencies in what you’re doing right here. Cost grazing has manufacturers moving their production operations all over the world to places where rates of pay are dramatically lower. They argue that when the Canadian dollar goes up, they must look for “efficiencies” in lower cost because most of their costs are labour.This is the wrong way to think. Toyota builds cars where they sell them and does not cost graze. They save millions of dollars every year through their employees’ kaizen suggestions. They hire well and they hire those people who can do kaizen well. They then keep those people, realizing a return on investment for their training that multiplies for every year they remain working. Data suggests that every Toyota facility of about 3,000 people will save over $100 million a year. This will more than offset any labour cost.These organizations do not consider their error rates, reject rates, quality defects and so on. Like the GM scandal with low-cost ignition switches, they are not putting the customer first and then getting their error rates down to Six Sigma (3.4 or fewer mistakes per million). I had one client in southwestern Ontario that had an 80 per cent error rate for their number-one product and they (initially) thought that was fine. They would simply throw the defects back into the smelter and make more! Consider the downfall of a major Canadian handset manufacturer. They had such a high error rate that they had to overproduce just to break even. They weren’t watching the competition and they certainly weren’t watching their error rates!Where are we now?Though thousands of jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector since 1972, I believe that this sector can make a recovery. It’s already starting, but lean needs to be an integral part of the recovery.We need to truly value our employees and listen to our customers. We can do this by having our senior leaders practise what they preach, go out there and do their gemba (go and see) walks, and entrust their employees with the powers to make change. We need to trust the employees to become the changes they want to see. Then we need to sustain this success so it doesn’t turn into the flavour of the month.We need to differentiate between capacity and utilization. I often hear, “Our people are busy right now, and they don’t have time to be lean!” Fine. Your people may be busy, but busy at what? Are they busy creating value or are they waiting on a machine, some process or someone to get back to them? Are they waiting while they could be doing something else? I remember stories about Taichi Ohno walking up and down lines asking why someone was just standing at a machine. “They’re waiting for that machine,” was often the answer. “Can’t this person prepare work for the next cycle,” would often be his reply. Ohno was great at looking at a situation and seeing waste. Too many people do not see waste — they see how it’s always been done. Are your employees working to the best of their capacity?We need to just do it! Lean, at its core, is simple. Look for waste and eliminate it! Since Ohno first shared the Toyota Production System outside of Japan in 1978, everyone has been in a hurry to emulate Toyota’s success. They forget that it took decades of work to get to that 1978 point. Go ahead, put up a lean board, get employees’ feedback and input, and allow them to make changes. Someone once asked me, “Does this mean I get to fix the stuff that’s been bugging me for 20 years?” When I said yes, he replied enthusiastically with, “I’ll take more of those A3s!” From the bookshelfThe Remedy: Bringing Lean Thinking Out of the Factory to Transform the Entire Organization, by Pascal Dennis.I was flying to Ireland to teach a group of Black Belt students about strategy deployment (Hoshin Kanri) and I thought this would be a good book to relax with. After all, Pascal Dennis is a Canadian lean sensei and spins a good yarn.It turned out that this book was a great read! Along the lines of Andy and Me, it told the story of the struggles that a hypothetical person (Tom Papas) was going through. I felt that this story resonated with every one of my client organizations.This book does a great job of explaining a very broad variety of topics related to the lean quality improvement philosophy. It is not meant for a fully lean or mature organization. After all, how many of us are there? It is easy to read, even down to the quick and dirty. It also does an excellent job showing how the lean approach can be applied outside of the manufacturing setting, and illustrating how lean production is only one part of a business system that affects all parts of a company’s operations and strategy.The book does a good job of indicating just how deep each topic goes and how much more there is to learn than what can be covered in the book.It tells the story of a fictional auto plant manager who has transformed his plant with lean thinking and now has to spread the philosophy to the other parts of the enterprise. As a novel, the book is not likely to be made into a film anytime soon, but the story moves rapidly and (spoiler alert) has a happy ending, so it doesn’t take away from the book’s value.Question from the floorQuestion: We tried lean once years ago. It started off okay, but then it petered out and we kind of lost it. Now I’m thinking about bringing it back, but the folks have said it failed and they don’t really want to try again. Any help?Answer: Don’t call what you’re doing “lean!” I’m only half joking here. In fact, where I’ve seen lean fail is when they put together all kinds of change management, organizational development and lean guidance teams. For the most part, this is a waste of time. You need to start off simply with a couple of lean events — perhaps a simple kaizen or something larger. Then you need to have a conversation about those events (hansei) and somehow annotate them and make them available to others so that they won’t make the wheel all over again. Then you need to share these successes for others to see (yokotan). Share these gains with your senior leaders for them to see and become involved with.Establish your own local successes and spread the news about them. Don’t follow the guidance from a mature lean organization if you’re not a mature lean organization. The Toyota Kata approach to coaching and mentoring will work well when you’re ready for them. In organizations that are just starting (or restarting) their lean journey, I recommend just asking the first two questions from the Toyota Kata. Coach people to become better problem solvers by asking them about what their target condition actually is and what their current state actually is. If you can instill a sense of problem solving, keeping an eye open for waste and getting them to do something about it, I think you’ll overcome any resistance you might find. This column originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.
Dream Report, from France-based Ocean Data Systems, is marketed as a real-time reporting generator solution for industrial automation. It is interesting to note that the company is trying to get Dream Report recognized as the global standard for reporting in automation. This is a new development, and while it is unclear to me what this really means, it is worthwhile to examine the technology.
Many Canadian manufacturers are producing advancements and innovations that have the potential to help these companies — and the industry as a whole — grow and create jobs. Many governments are trying to do their part to fan any small sparks of growth, or to encourage employers to take leaps of faith to make fresh investments in their region. But for some of the traditional manufacturing regions that have been hardest hit in the recent decade, this will not be enough. Organized labour needs to participate in any potential manufacturing revival, and our governments may need to play a new role, too.
If you’ve ever been involved in a workplace accident, you’re likely familiar with what happens next. Emergency personnel arrive to tend to the injured employee, and the police investigate whether a crime has been committed. Once the police release the scene (given no crime has been committed), the Ministry of Labour (MOL) starts its investigation. The machine is taped off, power locked out, interviews scheduled, statements taken, and interim order may be issued. Then the lawyers are called.
Every industrial network has more than a single protocol within it. A simple analogy for a protocol is to think of it as a language. So if we are changing from one protocol to another, we are effectively translating between languages. And because of the complexity of today’s networks, you can almost guarantee that it will be necessary to translate protocols between different networks.
Our editorial advisory board recently sat down for our annual roundtable meeting. Among the topics we discussed this year were the positive trends our board members are seeing in the Canadian manufacturing industry. Watch the video to learn the five top positive trends they've noted. To learn more about the discussion, read the cover story of our June 2014 issue. Stay tuned for Part Two of the video, which will focus on the challenges that remain.Manufacturing AUTOMATION editorial advisory board members: Al Diggins, EMC; Don McCrudden, Festo; Bill Valedis, Precision Training, Products and Services; David Green, marketing professional; Piero Cherubini, Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology (Absent from meeting: Sherman Lang, NRC)