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Automation Roadmap: Assessing Your Network Architecture

To facilitate efficient and cost-effective process improvement, your network architecture needs to be thoughtfully planned out, not just patched together.

By now, you know you want to create an automation roadmap that aligns with corporate goals, which typically center on production, efficiency or quality gains. In my last couple of blogs (accessible here and here), I provided a structured approach to developing your automation roadmap, which generates a nice list of projects, in order of priority, accompanied by budget and timeline considerations. But before you make your way to the corporate offices to garner budget approval, there are a couple of additional considerations that will add the finishing touches to your automation roadmap: network architecture and safety. In this post I’ll address network architecture; next month I will address safety. Continue Reading →

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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 →

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Got vision?

camera lensToday’s vision technology can address so many challenges – from sorting variable sized boxes on automated packaging lines to inspecting 100 percent of product at various stages in the manufacturing process.

An early Concept vision project was a rivet inspection system, and we’ve moved onto more complex systems, including pulling full sized unmanned ships out of the ocean. That project administrator indicated that we had won the competition simply because our system was the only one that worked. We also develop vision tools to meet unique challenges.

Our Vision/Robotics team thrives on learning new things and enjoys taking on projects that require unique solutions. Here are some insights from our team:

Improve picking and assemblies
Daniel Sidlauskas Miller, Senior Engineer, Oregon

We’re seeing more companies use 3D vision coupled with robots for complex picking and assemblies and quality control applications. A well set up vision system can take a large number of complex, non contact measurements and evaluate them with more focus than a person ever could.

Continue Reading →

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An ROI Approach to Budgeting

results-productionDetailed evaluation of anticipated return on investment for each prioritized project helps gain project approval and maximize project results.

In my last two blogs, I discussed the importance of an automation roadmap and how to get started developing one. Hopefully, you’ve created a prioritized list of potential projects and are now ready to tackle how to budget for them.

Many people seem to think that in order to establish a budget, they need to develop a spec, reach out to vendors and conduct a formal Request for Quotation (RFQ) process. All of this takes a lot of time and energy, so I hope it is welcome news that I do not recommend this approach. Rather, look at it from a Return on Investment (ROI) perspective.

What payback period does your company expect on each investment? A two-year ROI seems to be an undocumented industry standard, but each company will have its own. Meeting or beating that payback timeline is typically important for project approval. Continue Reading →

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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 →

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Automating the Manufacturing White Space

iStock_000008833592Large I’m an engineer at heart. I love to solve technical challenges. When I walk through a modern factory I’m looking for just that: challenges to solve. Most factories today have done an admirable job of automating their primary processes. When I visit factories, I see machine centers humming away, dutifully performing the tasks they have been designed to do. But when I look closer I still see challenges. Almost every factory I work with is still operating with automation silos – highly efficient and productive islands of automation that are not connected, and whose inputs and outputs are still manual. I call the space between the automation silos the Manufacturing White Space. And it is ripe for automation.

In the discipline of process management, this “white space” is where important handoffs happen. It is also where many organizations have the greatest potential for improvement. The manufacturing white space is chock full of people – people handling product and people handling information. And anywhere a manufacturer has people touching product or dealing with information, a manufacturer has a candidate for automation. Continue Reading →

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