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When will we see more four-year U.S. degrees in automation engineering?

If Americans want to strengthen our manufacturing base, we need more engineering graduates who are focused on automation.

project-phasebIf Americans want to strengthen our manufacturing base, we need more engineering graduates who are focused on automation. Many schools have degrees that touch on the needs of manufacturing, but they don’t really do a deep dive into automation.

To give you a feel for the current state of affairs, when I typed into Google search “list of universities with automation degrees,” Google’s response was, “Did you mean ‘list of universities with automotive degrees?'” Then there were two ad links for automotive programs before an automation program was even listed. Not a good sign.

From my experience, many members of the higher education establishment view automation as an associate’s degree, technician-level program. They are underestimating the complexity of designing and integrating automated systems on a plant-wide basis. Automation is more than just programming or electrical engineering or mechanical engineering. It is all of these and more.

A couple of years ago, I attended a university dinner and was speaking to the dean of engineering at a major public university whose engineering program is highly regarded. I asked him why they haven’t added an automation engineering degree, or at least some related classes, to their undergraduate engineering program. He dismissively responded that automation was covered by the local community college, so the university didn’t need to provide that. What the local community college was offering was a program to train technicians to program and troubleshoot automated equipment. It wasn’t teaching how to design and integrate automation systems in a complex industrial environment.
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Improving Your Manufacturing Process With a Main Automation Contractor

Manufacturers want to improve their manufacturing process, but they’re not sure where to start. Plus, they want to minimize problems at start up and get the best return on their investment.

Typically, a company will design a process, put specs together and send out RFPs. Controls is just one item on the list. Actually, focusing on controls from the beginning can save time and add value. Integrating controls from day one ensures an automation process that gets a plant up and running faster. This best practice puts a plant in full production sooner than with the traditional approach.

Manufacturers can tap into control integration expertise by using a main automation contractor, often referred to as a MAC, who takes the lead by integrating all aspects of their project, resulting in a smoother and faster start-up. In fact, our customers have shared that for every dollar they invest in this model, they saved $10 on the backend because the plant started up properly the first time.

Three factors are key to achieving these results: engaging a lead integrator early, following a well-structured methodology and tapping into deep technical resources. Together, they create alignment and ensure the plant achieves its integration goals. How does this happen? It starts with identifying and engaging all stakeholders early in the process. Sounds simple, but it takes a MAC team that knows how to work side-by-side with owners, process engineers and operators, while taking a systemic approach and collaborating with equipment suppliers.

By following a proven project methodology, all elements will be considered and addressed. The process should have three main components:

  • Getting started: Scope, project kick-off, and functional and detail design
  • Building and testing: Acceptance planning, system development, procurement & assembly, panel quality control, factory acceptance testing, and shipment
  • Final acceptance: Integration, installation, and training

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Concept Systems earns FANUC recognition

from left to right: Mick Estes General Manager, Authorized System Integrator Group Sales, Marketing, and CERT Sales & Execution for FANUC; Mike Walling, Senior Engineer; Patrick Cross, Senior Engineer; Lou Finazzo, Director of Sales – Authorized System Integrator Group; Jack Gourley, Regional Engineering Manager.

from left to right:
Mick Estes General Manager, Authorized System Integrator Group Sales, Marketing, and CERT Sales & Execution for FANUC; Mike Walling, Senior Engineer; Patrick Cross, Senior Engineer; Lou Finazzo, Director of Sales – Authorized System Integrator Group; Jack Gourley, Regional Engineering Manager.

NEWS RELEASE – For Immediate Release
May 14, 2015

Albany, Ore. – Concept Systems Inc. was recently honored with two awards at FANUC America’s 16th Annual Authorized System Integrator Conference, in Orlando, Fla.

Concept Systems received an Outstanding Sales Growth award for increasing robot sales compared to the previous year and a Sales Leadership award for reaching an exemplary level of sales.

“We value our collaboration and partnership with FANUC,” said Michael Lindley, VP Sales and Marketing. “FANUC is a leader in the robotics industry, allowing Concept multiple options to address the manufacturing challenges that our clients face. Concept combines the power of the FANUC robotic platform with vision solutions to improve worker safety, increase productivity and manufacturing quality while providing a healthy ROI. We work with our clients and identify the best solution for each situation.” Continue Reading →

Boeing retools Renton plant for 737’s big ramp-up

After finishing systems installation, a Boeing 737 is prepared for wing installation at Boeing’s 737 assembly plant in Renton. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

After finishing systems installation, a Boeing 737 is prepared for wing installation at Boeing’s 737 assembly plant in Renton. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Boeing is transforming its 737 plant in Renton with new automation as it prepares to ramp up production to the unprecedented rate of 52 jets per month, or even more.

Six shiny, green 737 fuselage shells, freshly delivered by train from Wichita, Kan., sit snugly cradled in a steel superstructure like giant eggs in a carton at Boeing’s Renton factory.

Underneath, swarming mechanics install the guts of each airplane — wads of insulation blankets, snaking bundles of electrical wiring, intricately intertwined metal hydraulic tubes and pumps.

But despite appearances, those fuselages aren’t trapped in steel.

Soon, the steel walkways encasing the jets will lift away like drawbridges, freeing the fuselages to slide 150 feet forward during the night into the next position in Boeing’s newest moving assembly line.

The factory, already a showcase of efficiency with its two final-assembly lines churning out 42 of the single-aisle jets monthly, is gearing up by 2018 to build them at a prodigious pace of 52 a month — and later perhaps even more.

A key step is extending the use of moving assembly lines to the back-end shops where mechanics build the wings and stuff those fuselage shells. Continue Reading →

Real-time, Actionable Data at a More Affordable Cost

wave7-ipad-200x160Concept Systems works with manufacturers in many different industries. And while they each face different automation challenges, there are some striking similarities.

One thing we see in common, especially with directors and executives, is the desire to have actionable data presented in a clear and concise dashboard. They want to be able to see instantly how a machine, a production line or an entire manufacturing floor is performing.

Often companies gather data after the fact – at the end of a shift, week or month. But that doesn’t allow managers to make decisions and corrections when they matter most. Companies that have easy access to real-time performance metrics can make timely decisions that have a direct impact on the bottom line.

Software providing this kind of information has been available for a while, but it typically has been offered via a large enterprise-wide platform. Concept Systems is excited to announce that this is about to change. Concept is proud to introduce Wave7’s Starter Kit, a powerful real-time performance data interface offered at a far more affordable price point.

Concept Systems’ sister company Wave7, has developed a software appliance that resides on top of a machine center control system, and provides Key Performance Indicator dashboards to Web-enabled computers or tablets and smartphones. The appliance has been designed to fill a visible need in the market – especially for small to mid-size organizations that are looking for lower cost and quick deployment.

To learn more about Wave7’s Starter Kit or to discuss some of the many ways Concept Systems is working with our clients to address their automation and business challenges, CONTACT US HERE.