Stellar recently completed a new, state-of-the-art hatchery for poultry processor Bell & Evans. The facility — which is the first certified organic, humane, animal-welfare focused chick hatchery in the United States — is an example of trailblazing a new approach to traditional food processing.
Not only does it employ fascinating and cutting-edge technology, but this food processing project contains lessons for any food manufacturer looking to pioneer or experiment in their own particular market.
Regardless of what sector of the food industry you are in, there are important factors to consider before investing in a new technology or adventuring into uncharted territory in plant processing.
Robots are a critical part of today’s manufacturing. Keeping them running is a high priority, while minimizing downtime for repairs is essential.
In places like automotive plants, the robots can be massive, so sending them out for repair is not an option. Typically, when something goes wrong with one of these large machines, the problem can be traced back to a single component—a board or drive, a human-machine interface (HMI), a programmable logic controller (PLC) or a touchscreen, for example. Once the customer identifies the component that has failed, the next step is sending it out for repair or replacement.
Radwell International, a leader in industrial repair, distribution and surplus automation, maintains a $2-billion surplus, which is a great cost-effective alternative for a customer with a machine down. This this surplus also allows for their Engineering Department build efficient test fixtures. This huge on-site inventory of parts and robots means technicians can put the part in question through a full-load test in the same model robot as the one the customer uses. As a result, Radwell’s customers have confidence in the repairs and replacements because they know their components have been thoroughly tested. Radwell can also repair or replace teach pendants, control panels and any of the control components, as well as other parts such as servo motors.
This surplus and testing capability sets Radwell apart from its competitors and greatly enhances its capacity to quickly test components and replacement parts, so that its customers are up and running again as soon as possible. The extensive testing enables Radwell to offer its customers a two-year warranty (compared to the industry-standard of 12-18 months), and also keeps the warranty rate very low (4 percent versus the 6 percent industry average).
Watch a short video about the company’s robotic repair and test capabilities featuring the Kawasaki UX120F, a robot that improves production line efficiencies and general industry and automotive applications. The Kawasaki UC120F is just one of the many robots Radwell has available to test components.
Recently we’ve acquired a new machine at Radwell International headquarters to add additional repair services to our capabilities. Our latest addition is a KH7050 Laser Engraving Machine, which allows us to design and cut new graphic overlays and gaskets for our customers.
The major benefit to having this machine in a production facility is the amount of time it saves on repair turnaround for customers. Currently there is up to a four week turnaround for customer overlays and gaskets to be made when these items are outsourced during our repair process. With this machine, turnaround can be under two hours. With this significant time difference, better service can be provided to customers who need custom items created.
In this day and age, human machine interfaces are everywhere. Think about every point of contact a human has with technology and it becomes a reminder that as humans, we interact with machines in just about every aspect of our lives today. Self-service checkout at the grocery store, plugging an address into your car’s GPS or getting some cash at the ATM are all examples of instances when humans interact with an interface designed to help foster human/machine communication.
As it applies to automation equipment in a manufacturing facility, human machine interface products offer the necessary electronics to easily control automation equipment in an industrial environment. HMI products can range from a simple design with basic screen controls to a more complex touchscreen with numerous features and windows. In most environments, whether for service oriented tasks or in an industrial environment, HMI systems must be resistant to dust, water, moisture, high or low temperatures and even chemicals.
All over the world, manufacturers in the glass fiberizing and glass wool industry are interested in increasing the quality of their products. The Gedevelop GFM System is suited for this process. It works with glass flow and collects data in real time for optimum control of the manufacturing process. This system reduces material costs and shortens production downtime.
How exactly does this system work? The Gedevelop system uses a camera which looks at the glass stream and reads information for stream diameter and stream velocity. The information is then sent to the central unit and based on set parameters, calculates the glass flow. The glass flow meter continuously measures glass flow individually for each fiberizing unit and allows the pull to be controlled within .5%. It also checks that the quality of the glass stream is at the correct level and if it isn’t, the system can make adjustments. This glass flow meter is a non-contact, optical measurement system that calculates the flow of molten glass that falls from the bushing into the fiberizer. Many installations worldwide have proven that glass flow measurement is a very profitable investment in a short amount of payback time.
One of the repair services we provide for our customers at Radwell International is CNC spindle drive retrofits. This service is something that is designed to not only provide cost savings for our clients but also extend the life of a CNC machine tool without requiring an entire machine retrofit. We recently caught up with Mark Councilman, the CNC Sales Manager at Radwell International, based out of our Arlington, Texas location. Mark is a CNC Subject Matter Expert and has been working in the CNC area for 17 years. We had the chance to discuss a bit about CNC machines and how CNC Spindle Retrofits can save time and money for a manufacturing environment.
What is your role at Radwell International?
My role as CNC Sales Manager is to develop & implement strategies for production, distribution, inside/outside sales, and marketing that position Radwell as a leader in the CNC support market. Currently, my day includes gathering information as I research the CNC market. Typically, I’ll review and validate current pricing on the website and process requests for CNC parts as they trickle in from ASM’s, ISM’s, and customers. I might reach out to Alan Gage with an opportunity for Radwell Verified Subs, and/or seek support from Todd Radwell for a list of parts that should be targeted for pre-certification. The facilities I worked in specialized in exchange and repair of motors, drives, power supplies, CRT’s, and control boards for the CNC market. That's how I came to be considered a subject matter expert in this area.
For many manufacturers, the prospect of moving towards eco-friendly solutions and innovations such as renewable energy is very much front of mind; however, actually implementing the necessary changes is easier said than done. Luckily, as technology develops, and the appetite for carbon neutrality increases around the globe, there are many options for saving not only the bottom line, but the environment.
In the business climate of today, it’s no longer an option to run a manufacturing facility as greenly as possible- it's a necessity. With the rising cost of doing business, finding ways to help the environment and reduce costs is a new standard. It's a standard that many are working hard to achieve in their daily business operations.
For manufacturing facilities, with their large working spaces and equipment-driven operations, going green can be even more critical. Finding ways to help the environment can be challenging but there are four simple ways to make a decent level of “green” impact:
A collaborative robot or cobot is a robot designed to assist humans as a guide or helper in completing a specific task or set of tasks. A regular robot is designed to be programmed to work mostly autonomously. In contrast, a cobot is programmed to work alongside a human in a helpful capacity. Depending upon the capacity, having a robotic "helping hand" can make a big difference in terms of productivity.
Non collaborative robots are designed to work autonomously. In fact industrial robots are far too dangerous to share space with humans and have been linked to many fatal accidents. They are great at performing monotonous jobs and complete heavy lifting but when they make contact with humans they can cause serious injury.
Collaborative robots, on the other hand, are designed to work alongside humans and can even complete tasks that help prevent injuries with the humans they work alongside. The most advanced cobots are functionally flexible so they can switch quickly between a range of tasks. They even emulate humans and, in some instances, respond to facial expressions to understand what is expected. It's fascinating to consider that technology has progressed to the point where a human facial expression can help a robot "think" and respond to a given task.
Technology has evolved beyond merely driving efficiency in the workplace and has moved towards enhancing the capabilities of a workforce by becoming a collaborative partner. Wearable robotic devices and smart machines have enabled man and machine to work together. The teamwork approach leverages capabilities of both humans and machines to create a most effective and efficient partnership. Cobots fit well into this equation. In fact, for some organizations, cobots can literally transform an entire operation.
How do you know if cobots are a great fit for your company?
Cobots are mostly used to boost performance, and this can be valuable in just about any industry that exists. Any type of environment in which things can be automated with human/cobot collaboration would be suited to introducing or building collaborative robots into existing workflow. Based on technological advances, cobots seem suited to both repetitive tasks, as well as, a series of changeable tasks. Odds are good this will only improve over time.
Companies that produce cobots are even planning for future needs. What works in an environment today may need to be greatly expanded in the future. By producing robots that can gain expanded capabilities to match growth and future need, robot manufacturers can help companies in any industry save time and money. They can also gain efficiency as it is required. A company that invests in cobots for their organization today will continue to benefit from expanded capabilities moving forward because of today's designs with the future in mind.
Collaborative robots are manufactured today in a way that is very effective. They are built so that they are easy to set up, flexible to work with, safe, and cost effective for various business types and sizes.
Once cobots are well established in industrial environments, they'll probably begin to appear in domestic environments too. Of course, this will present new challenges that will have to be overcome. Some day robots may serve humans breakfast, but while the challenges are being overcome, breakfast may end up in a human's lap until the kinks are worked out (see "The Breakfast Machine" below). Progress takes time. It will be interesting to see how things evolve.
It’s been 51 years since the birth of the Programmable Logic Controller. We look back at the history of the PLC and how replacing hard wired relay systems changed the world of manufacturing.
It was the year 1964 when a young cunning engineer, Dick Morley, was unemployed, had a new baby, a mortgage to pay and only $1,000 in the bank. Morley had previously worked a desk job designing atomic bombs, aeroplanes and communication systems performing the duties he was instructed to do. Morley did not enjoy his job, and, at that time, he had no plans in the pipeline to create such an influential piece of automated equipment. After finding his passion for skiing, Morely quit his job and focused on his hobby which eventually lead him to engineering ideas.
Morley eventually opened up his own professional consulting firm with friend Geogre Schwenk under the name ‘Bedford Associates’’ located in Bedford, Massachusetts, USA. Morley and Schwenk worked with local machine tool firms to help them evolve into the new, solid-state manufacturing sphere. Unfortunately, as his firm progressed, he began to notice that each project he worked on was practically the same; the manufacturing industry was using similar minicomputers and Morley found himself bored.
With his creativity and his engineering motive to ‘make things work’, Morley started to wonder if he could invent a controller which could automate industrial process with multiple input/output arrangements in real time. This would alternately replace the likes of hard wired relay control systems.