Of Safety, Sustainability and Integrated Architecture

Machine Builders Say an Integrated Architecture Helps Meet End-Users' Expectations Over the Life of Their Machines

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For Grenzebach's Kaiser, incorporating safety into the automation system is business as usual. "In Europe, as a CEO, I have a CE certification to sign. It would be big legal trouble not to be in compliance."

Patty Roberts, Rockwell Automation marketing programs manager, explained that the company sees the newer concept of "cradle-to-cradle" as a key trend that better describes machine users' sustainability expectations. "How do you take that machine and repurpose it, perhaps over and over, to make it more flexible and reusable for new requirements and not throw it out."

Andy Pringle pointed to another important factor in PCMC's design considerations. "Some of our large customers, such as Georgia-Pacific, P&G and others, move their assets from one facility to another to respond to demand and product changes," he explained. "So we have to provide a global solution with global standards. That customer doesn't expect to have to redesign that machine if he moves it. He also doesn't want to pay to do that, so we have to negotiate that into the initial costs."

Michael Senske is president and CEO at Pearson Packaging Systems. His company, like PCMC, builds to order with virtually no inventory, despite being in what he calls a low-volume, high-variability business. His company's product management group surveyed around 300 old, new and potential customers to distill their important needs and translate them into the actions that met their need for shorter lead times. "That was the number one request," said Senske.

"They obviously wanted increased reliability, but also identified unanticipated downtime as key factor, so they wanted our choices of components and sub-assemblies to be accurate and dependable." Next, they wanted more functionality for their dollar spend, and pricing actually came fourth on the list. "Although that's from the technical folks' perspective," he said. "It's an entirely different conversation with some purchasing folks."

Among Pearson's response to these needs was less design "freelancing" and much more use of common components and subassemblies to reduce and stabilize BOM and CAD library maintenance, and to reduce the number of suppliers and purchase transactions.

Finally, in an action that addressed both smarter, more productive assembly and demonstrated some sustainability success as well, Senske talked of how the company eliminated assembly prints. "When we hire machine assembly technicians, especially young ones, they've never seen a blueprint. Technical and vocational schools aren't teaching that. If you put up a 2-D drawing on an assembly board, and they're trying to interpret seven levels deep, it's very difficult and it creates a very steep learning curve."

Now, said Senske, every assembly bay has a computer workstation with Autodesk Inventor with a 3-D CAD viewer. The assembly technicians can manipulate views of the machine. They can orbit, they can flip, they can zoom the view and actually see individual components. It greatly reduces the learning curve and improves productivity and accuracy, with resultant improvement in delivery time.

"We used to spend more than $7,500 per month on assembly prints," he reported. "That's nearly $100,000 going straight to the bottom line by putting maybe 30 workstations on the floor. In addition, it reduced the recycling we had to do and the paper-use reductions help us score well with customers that grade sustainability initiatives as part of their evaluation process."

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