At Optimation we design and fabricate manufacturing systems for companies all over the United States and the world. To build this equipment, we use a lot of steel and stainless steel and lesser amounts of aluminum and exotic alloys. A couple months ago, the rules changed when getting prices for these commodity items. Many of our suppliers began to provide pricing which was good for only 24 hours. This reaction by our suppliers was created by threats of tariffs being placed on steel and aluminum.
This post originally ran in the Automation World CSIA Blog.
Recent advances in technology have made it possible for manufacturers to build processing lines that will create products faster, cheaper and of higher quality. Many of the new technologies have moved so quickly that they are considered disruptive in the changes they make to manufacturing processes. But new technology doesn’t come without a cost.
Robots, and the dream of intelligent working robots have been with us for a very long time. As early as 1495, Leonardo da Vinci designed the first humanoid robot. It was designed to sit up, wave its arms, and move its head via a flexible neck. There were hundreds of other robots designed over the next five hundred years. In 2003 NASA used twin robots as Mars rovers. Robots were used in industry for activities like welding and painting automobiles. But until recently most robots were fairly simple, single application, machines. But it is only because of rapid advances in artificial intelligence that robots are advancing to the potential uses we now visualize. If robots can learn, improve and “think” in ways similar to humans, they can take on a whole new set of challenges. And, as part of this evolution, robots are also taking on uncannily human-like appearances. The future of robots now appears unlimited. A robot recently advanced one step closer to human status, when it was granted citizenship to Saudi Arabia.
"Unintended consequences." Sounds harmless, guilt-relieving, “not-our-fault” kind of language. On the surface it's a simple-enough statement, declaring that there were outcomes to some actions taken that (usually) ran counter to the intent of the project, and generally they were not desired. In other words, "some bad things happened that we did not expect."
At Optimation, we describe our company in terms of our ability to provide turnkey solutions to the manufacturing segment. Our solutions and services can start early in the project process, as we are able to assist our clients in investigating a variety of technologies that might help them with their production challenge or problem. We generally receive a problem statement and some User Requirements from our contact at the client company. We respond to the customer’s needs with a Concept Design phase, which includes performing a technology assessment. Our Media Conveyance Facility stands ready to offer Development Engineering and modeling to predict behavior for products that are built on flexible webs, for example. Once a preferred technology is selected, a manufacturing platform or machine configuration is generated that answers the client’s User Requirements (the first steps of our Project Process). We then invite our client to participate in a Concept Design review to validate our work product so far.
The first week in October was designated as National Manufacturing Week in the United States. President Trump made a proclamation, as President Obama did before him. Friday of National Manufacturing Week is proclaimed Manufacturing Day. Manufacturing Week and Manufacturing Day are a celebration of modern manufacturing to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. In Rochester, we held some activities planned to help with this celebration. The Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association held an open house for high school students featuring displays and sessions showing them the opportunities that are available in manufacturing and encouraging them take the math and science classes needed to be eligible for these professions. Optimation participated in this event which was held at Eastman Business Park. Over 300 high school students participated.
Fifty years ago, manufacturing in the US was strong and manufacturing jobs accounted for over 25 percent of total employment. In addition to the jobs for production operators on the factory floor, major US manufacturing companies had large research divisions and engineering departments, internal construction divisions and maintenance departments. They were self-sufficient and outsourced very little. Self-performance was one of the tools they used to develop proprietary products, support quality of these products, meet schedules on aggressive time to market for these products and make certain they could manufacture in sufficient quantities to meet market demand.
Very often commercial and industrial decision-making whether to outsource or not is governed by the time value of money, cost savings, and potential for productivity increases. But what if we look at another dimension, that is the opportunity to explicitly buy time? Who doesn't want more?!
Most of us use cloud services in our daily lives. Our email, music, financial software, and shopping are regularly becoming a browser experience or a data connected mobile app. This paradigm is now moving into for our automation platforms but what shape will it take as it pertains to Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
When one is in the business of selling purpose-built manufacturing systems and equipment, one is frequently asked by one’s prospective customers to provide pricing for their goods and services. Depending on how well defined the needed solution is, which would be embodied in the equipment to be priced, calculated equipment costs can be widely variable. In these situations, where a selection of different technologies and even approaches may satisfy our prospect, we recommend that some preliminary engineering be performed to better define the needs of the client’s operation, and thereby provide criteria with which to limit options and better judge best fit/return on investment from the solution options.