While safety in manufacturing facilities is certainly not a new issue, our guests today provided some insights into how it is changing. Tony Overy, Vice President, and Alan Sharrow, Engineering Group Leader for Advanced Motion Systems contend with these new challenges every day.
Re-shoring is a perfect example. Great news right? Work and jobs coming back to the U.S. from overseas. Problem is, many of the machines coming back don’t have safety designed into them. It’s easy to see how a lot of unanticipated effort needs to be expended to bring them up to acceptable safety standards.
Another example is collaborative robotics. These robots are designed to work in close proximity to people. How much hard and soft guarding is required? There simply are not a lot of folks with the experience to answer the question confidently.
And speaking of lack of experience…
Experienced, senior controls and automation engineering resources are in really short supply. Until recently, that sort of skill was considered to be expendable overhead. Tony and Alan both see way too many situations where a lack of engineering resource inhibits their customers’ ability to get equipment installed, up and running. They sometimes can’t “pass the baton” of ownership!
A big bright spot is software. They both feel most vendors are doing a great job in this arena. No more dealing with Windows 95 crashes, for example. The newer software is easy to use and reliable. It has things like hardware emulation built right in, making testing and development much faster. It also enables a lot of remote support using tools like GoToMeeting, again saving substantial time and money.
What do customers expect? Lots! CAD drawings, point to point electrical schematics, code examples and maybe most importantly, a consultative approach. Customers want to have their designs questioned. “They want us to poke holes in their designs and find something more efficient or less expensive.”
Some really interesting insights here. Listen to whole interview to learn more about how a top-notch high tech distributor delivers value to its manufacturing customers.