Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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Talking Industry 4.0 at the Design Engineering Expo


May 18, 2016
By Andrew Snook Canadian Forest Industries

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May 18, 2016 – The future of automation was the focus of keynote speaker Ben Hope’s presentation at the 2016 Design Engineering Expo, produced by Design Engineering Magazine, a sister publication of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

Hope, the technology driver for advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0 at Festo Canada, tackled a variety of topics including the definition of concepts like the Smart Factory, Cyber Physical Systems, Industrial Internet of Things and the framework of Industry 4.0; trends in automation and what is driving the need for Industry 4.0 technology; challenges and solutions for implementation; how the technology is being applied to manufacturing automation today and how OEMs can prepare for tomorrow; and how OEM’s and technology providers will drive standards but compete on function.

Hope stressed the need for Canada’s manufacturing sector to embrace more advanced automation practices and the importance of collecting big data from the manufacturing floor and using that data to improve efficiencies across various aspects of operations. He said it is a necessity for Canada to remain competitive on a global scale, especially since the country’s domestic market is to small to offer the kind of support the sector requires.

Canada’s manufacturing sector lost 500,000 jobs during the same timespan that overall employment in the country grew by 3 million jobs, he told the crowd.

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One focus of the presentation was the need for connectivity on the manufacturing floor.

“If we can connect to our automation components, we can get big data from that and insert that big data into analytical software and that’s important,” Hope said.

By collecting big data, identifying what is valuable and performing data analytics, companies now have the opportunity to optimize various aspects of their operations through condition monitoring, energy consumption monitoring, proactive maintenance and more.

With the ability to see all the energy that’s coming into its machines, a company can optimize its energy usage by scheduling certain machines to run during off-peak hours when energy is cheapest to purchase.

Proactive maintenance can also generate a big cost savings in parts and labour.

By knowing when a bearing is coming to its end of life, or the strategic time to change a valve, managers can order the spare parts when they need them instead of having a surplus of spare parts being stored on shelves unnecessarily, Hope told the crowd.

He also stressed that increasing the amount of automation in an operation doesn’t necessarily mean a reduction in labour positions.

“People are a huge part of manufacturing” Hope said. “There’s a lot of tasks that might be repetitive in nature that industry can help people do things more efficiently.”

Programming collaborative robotics for handling hazardous materials was one example Hope used as an example where automation can assist workers without taking away much-needed employment opportunities.

The 2016 Design Engineering Expo also featured a full-day trade show with approximately 60 exhibitors. The event took place on May 17 at the Mississauga Convention Centre in Mississauga, Ont.

Special thanks to Andrew Snook, editor of Canadian Forest Industries magazine, another MA sister publication, for this report.