amtXpo Focuses on Future of Manufacturing

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By Candace Roulo

Orion, MI — Last week AMT (Applied Manufacturing Technologies; Orion, MI), held its amtXpo, where industry experts convened to discuss automation technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). AMT is an automation engineering company that supports manufacturers, robotics companies, systems integrators, line builders, and users of robotic automation worldwide.

Joe Gazzarato, engineering director of product development at FANUC, discusses IoT and IIoT.

During the event, Manufacturing Engineering had the opportunity to sit down with James Cooper, vice president of sales at AMT, and discuss workforce development. AMT is a member of the Association for Manufacturing Technology and Cooper is on its Smartforce development group. The mission of Smartforce is to talk about industry careers and spread the message about considering manufacturing as a career.

“Technology is emerging and heading into different areas. The market is really changing now, and the biggest opportunities happen to be the biggest challenges, such as the skilled labor shortage,” said Cooper. “The labor shortage is driving a huge push in automation. Automation is needed because we cannot find people to do the work. The challenge of end-customers is that they cannot automate fast enough.”

According to Cooper, the industry needs to reach out to students in middle school about the benefits of having a career in manufacturing, and it’s also key to reach out to students’ parents — it’s important to educate parents about the manufacturing industry of today and the different career opportunities available.

“These are higher value jobs — the people that work on the line can now do more value added work,” explained Cooper.”

IoT, IIoT and Collaborative Robots

Some of the technologies and changes in the industry Cooper mentioned when discussing workforce development were discussed during two amtXpo sessions.

During a session about the IoT, IIoT and manufacturing, Joe Gazzarato, engineering director of product development at FANUC, explained the difference between IoT and IIoT — IoT is about networking things together and the consumers’ convenience while IIoT is for industry.

“The IIoT is expected to revolutionize manufacturing,” explained Gazzarato. “With the IIoT you can find ways to reduce operating costs and create new value systems. IIoT is for the long term. You focus on supply chains, facilities and manufacturing processes.”

The IIoT requires long-term support and ruggedness. IIoT solutions need to work with existing legacy equipment, and IIoT solutions must be secure.

According to Gazzarato, there are positive predictions of value created by the IIoT, ranging as high as $15 trillion of global GDP by 2030, and with increased operational efficiency, manufacturers could boost productivity by as much as 30 percent. However, security is a big issue.

Also during the session, Gazzarato touched upon Industry 4.0 and Cloud connectivity to create smart factories.

Gazzarato noted that, according to a PwC Survey of 2,000 senior executives in 26 countries, industrial companies are expected to invest more than $900 billion per year in Industry 4.0 through 2020.Also, more than half of the companies surveyed expect an ROI of less than two years on Industry 4.0 Investments.

Regarding Cloud connectivity, there are many benefits, such as increasing awareness of how products are being used after they are shipped; connecting service teams to robots for improved response time; enhancing technical support capabilities; and providing a foundation for future value added services. Cloud connectivity also speeds the deployment of new and refined analytic functions.

“The key take away here is that the IoT is enabling a revolution to take place in the manufacturing industry,” said Gazzarato. “Those who connect early will gain tremendous advantages through increased access to information and control.”

During a collaborative robots session, Greg Buehl, senior engineer of collaborative robots at FANUC, discussed factory automation and using the right tools to select a collaborative robot when the operator must actually interact with the robot.

“By putting a collaborative robot in, the operator can do more value added work,” explained Buehl.

According to Buehl, for users to develop advanced functionality, several characteristics are key:  the ability to pick and place in a 3D Matrix; calculate vector math for path control; frame control for simple offset calculations; integrated vision; advanced cell control capabilities to counter lack of existing PLC; and integrated cabling and routing to alleviate risk assessment stress.

“Know your process, where you are and where you want to be,” said Buehl. “Have a well-stocked tool box and know a good professional journeyman to consult with if necessary. Risk assessment is important too. You need to identify hazards and have solutions to those hazards.  read more