Information and product flexibility at IMTS

The rise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is forcing companies to streamline their operations while keeping them secure. Companies are also looking, through this, to remain flexible and broaden their operations.


IMTS 2018's motto for the biennial event is Where dreamers and doers connect. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE MediaIMTS 2018 officially opened its doors Monday at McCormick Place in Chicago with a plethora of machining and automation products designed to help companies of all shapes and sizes. The biennial event's motto is "Where dreamers and doers connect."

Many of the companies on the shop floor aim to achieve just that with an emphasis on multi-faceted production. It's not enough anymore to have a great product that can do one task very well. That product must be able to accomplish many tasks and work in tandem with the other products on the plant floor to achieve maximum efficiency with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) leading the charge. 

Collaboration and safety taking on many forms

Mitsubishi Electric isn't just demonstrating their new products on the show floor; they're asking for feedback, particularly with their collaborative robot, to help make it better as they plan for an early 2019 launch.

"We're taking the feedback from the industrial to know what we can do to make the robot better than the competition," said Scott Strache, product manager, Mitsubishi Electric.

Mitsubishi Electric is asking for feedback with their collaborative robot to help make it better as they plan for an early 2019 launch. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE MediaTheir collaborative robot, which is still in development, is designed to connect with tablets and other human-machine interfaces (HMIs) to transmit information can then be transmitted to the user to give them information in real time. And it's not just robots. Just about everything on display in the Mitsubishi booth was designed to provide useful information to the user.

"We want our machines and controllers to be capable of connecting to a manufacturing execution system (MES) so it can be transmitted to the cloud and show the data on the floor," Strache said. "We want more info on a whole solution and not just need."

Gathering information into a single source has been a constant theme during the show. Companies are trying to streamline everything in their operations from the machine to the input/output (I/O) to the controller and transmitting that data to the cloud. While the name rarely came up, this is certainly a byproduct of companies rushing to take advantage of the IIoT, which offers the potential of taking all this disparate data and making it useful to manufacturers.

"Everyone," Strache said, "is going to higher-level data. It's not just about pulling info out of the controllers, but they're looking for easy ways to get it to the cloud and then to applications."

The information transmitted doesn't have to be widespread and composed of several different items. It can be something as simple as a sensor transmitting data to a controller, which was what Humanistic Robotics, Inc. (HRI) was demonstrating in the East hall.

"We're focused on industrial safety over wireless," said Doug Riffle, director of sales at HRI.

To ensure safe wireless transmission, the company has developed a system called SafetySense, which allows the information transmitted from sensor to controller and back again to be sent securely.

"It helps prevents drops," Riffle said. "That's important because with wireless there's going to be some transmitted loss and we're trying to create a system that's safe and definable for the user." 

Flexibility on the plant floor

Open and secure information isn't the only priority on the plant floor. Flexibility is key, as well. On the second floor of the East hall, the Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) freely roamed the floor space. They were able to swerve around humans and other objects with relative ease.

The Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) freely roamed the floor space on the second floor of the East hall at IMTS 2018 at McCormick Place in Chicago. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE MediaThat kind of adaptive thinking and flexibility is something users are looking for, according to Niels Jul Jacobsen, chief strategy officer (CSO), Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR).

"We're about the people on the shop floor," he said. "The ones who know what is happening."

Güdel vice president Joseph Campbell, whose company comes at the problem from a different perspective with gantries, agrees with that sentiment.

"We've positioned ourselves as work envelope experts and we're working to help the integrators," he said. "For us, we provide less customization, more standardization, but more flexibility."

This approach for their gantry products works well given that Güdel deals in some very precise and specific industries such as aerospace. Within that realm, Campbell said the company has been able to provide assistance in seemingly mundane tasks such as painting and coating.

"For us, we want to provide a situation where the company needs one machine instead of two and giving that machine or robot flexibility," Campbell said. 

Companies expanding their existing base

SEW Eurodrive mostly produces servo drives and has built their product and customer base around that identity. However, the company isn't content to just providing the servo drives for users. They've started using their own products in their product line of gantry robots and automatic guided vehicles (AGVs), which were on full display in their booth.

Jason Oakley, an electric product and application engineer, said the company is using what they have in new ways to expand their base, and it seems to be working.

"A lot of people when they visit don't know we were doing this and this is a good chance for us. It really seems to be helping people realize what we can do," Oakley said.

Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media,

ONLINE extra

See additional stories from IMTS linked below.

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
November 2018
2018 Product of the Year finalists, mild steel welding: finding the right filler, and new technique joins aluminum to steel.
October 2018
Tools vs. sensors, functional safety, compressor rental, an operational network of maintenance and safety
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
Summer 2018
Microgrids and universities, Steam traps and energy efficiency, Finding help with energy projects
October 2018
Complex upgrades for system integrators; Process control safety and compliance
November 2018
Analytics quantify processes, Fieldbus networking and IIoT, Choosing the right accelerometer

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me