Application drives automation
Automation technologies are used to improve product and process consistency and quality and are used for integration both on the plant floor and over the industrial networks that have become so vital to the day-to-day activities.
The fact that automation technologies are used in manufacturing to increase product and process consistency and quality, reduce lead times, simplify production, and improve work flow is understood and widely accepted. While the aforementioned characteristics are true, I firmly believe automation transcends simple definitions. Application drives automation and automation, in turn, enables more applications. You guessed it—that’s what AppliedAutomation is all about.
Another term that’s deeply embedded in applying automation is integration. As with automation, integration can have many definitions and contexts. However, the context I’m talking about is that of combining diverse automation technologies in a manufacturing environment to harmoniously provide benefits well beyond the sum of its individual components.
For example, consider an automotive manufacturer with assembly lines capable of producing a batch size of one unit with any product mix for which the lines are designed. Now, consider RFID technology for product location and communicating workstation assembly instructions from an enterprise sequencing server. Also consider high-speed RFID communication segments for communicating large amounts of data quickly.
Now, expand these theoretical automotive assembly lines by introducing servo-driven nutrunners with torque measurement capabilities. Torque values can be communicated to the servo system via the RFID system, and verified torque measurements can be uploaded to the appropriate enterprise server in case recalls or serial-specific audits are required.
Finally, place mobile handheld devices in the hands of authorized personnel in this automotive plant. Then tie all of this distributed architecture together with an industrial Ethernet-based network.
With the exception of Ethernet, the topics covered in the stories below—RFID, servo technology, and mobilization—are integrated into this column.
This article appeared in the February 2013 Applied Automation supplement to Control Engineering and Plant Engineering, both part of CFE Media.
Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.