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Reaching new heights

Concept team: (from left to right) Donavan Moore, Wayne Williams, Shane Cooley, and Jerry Flynn with the FANUC M-2000ia.

Concept team: (from left to right) Donavan Moore, Wayne Williams, Shane Cooley, and Jerry Flynn with the FANUC M-2000ia.

Last year was in an exciting year for us, integrating 33 FANUC robots! Now integration begins on FANUC’s largest robot. The impressive FANUC M-2000ia has arrived at Concept Systems! This robot is a heavy-lifter, offered with a 900Kg (2,094lbs) capacity or 1350Kg (2,976lbs) capacity, so it can handle huge objects. Watch the robot in action to see for yourself.

Concept Systems growth in robotics workcells has been transformed due to our FANUC partnership.
To learn more about the FANUC robots, visit FANUC America.

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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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A Lesson From Early Technology Adopters

iStock_000008833592LargeHow to use proof-of-concept testing to identify potential automation risks early and understand mitigation plans for each.

Early adopters focus on the rewards of integrating advanced technologies into their manufacturing processes. They see the opportunity to jump ahead of the competition by improving quality, reducing costs, increasing flexibility, adding features, and speeding up production. Ultimately, they plan to—and generally will—grab market share.

The risks with these pursuits, however, can be equally significant, by diverting time and money that could be used for more modest, conservative advances. What do these early adopters do to swing the odds in their favor? Most will engage in proof-of-concept testing, which tests key technical challenges that could hamper the project’s success. This step precedes any work on the project and can usually be done quickly and cost effectively. Continue Reading →

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Humans and robots work safely together

projects-roboticsTogether, humans and robots can achieve new levels of efficiency and productivity that neither could achieve alone.

A collaborative robot interacts directly with a human in a defined cooperative workspace, which allows both to safely perform tasks simultaneously. This new frontier creates a wealth of new opportunities for robots and humans to work safely together.

A risk assessment is an important first step. As we’ve learned in our work with customers, the best approach is to let the robot adapt to humans.

Learn more about standards and the guidance they provide. Continue Reading →

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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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How Safety Technology Can Increase Productivity

Elimination of physical barriers to production equipment is key to improving productivity. To get started, however, you must begin with a safety assessment.

valuesIn my last several blogs, I wrote about the importance of developing an Automation Roadmap and how to create one for yourself. I am wrapping up the sequence with two topics that often fall off the radar during planning—your network infrastructure and safety. In my last blog, I went into detail about the network side of things. This blog addresses the importance of considering safety at the planning stage.

Manufacturing processes and operational intelligence have benefitted from the rapid advance of technology. Safety has, too. Historically, the most common way to safeguard workers in and around manufacturing equipment was to provide physical barriers between workers and operating equipment. While this type of safety system both provides for safe operation and maintenance as well as meets the appropriate codes, it limits productivity. Continue Reading →

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