How fast is the world changing in the manufacturing industry? Today’s technological evolution is altering automation industries at a much faster pace, in comparison to when I graduated from engineering school in 1991. Back in the 1990’s, as I installed numerous automation systems, I was confident that the major components I utilized at that time would still be available for purchase and be supported by the manufacturer for 10 years minimum. However, that’s no longer the case.
It seems new and updated automation controllers (AC), AC drives, operator interfaces, sensors, safety devices, and servo motors are being introduced every two or three years. These fast-paced industry component changes mean that maintenance departments need more and better training than ever before. Additional and up-to-date training must match the frequency in which companies are purchasing new machines in order to meet greater production demands.
In addition to automation advancements, system networking is also changing how manufacturing companies operate. When I look back to the 1990’s and 2000’s, many of the machines I helped install on manufacturing floors were standalone and not connected to a network. Those older standalone devices now require more time and resources to keep them up and running.
One solution to consider is how a connected enterprise can support manufacturers in today’s fast-paced production environment. Almost all new equipment being installed on manufacturing floors is now networked together via Ethernet. The connected enterprise can provide insight into how well a company’s manufacturing processes are fine-tuned.
As many companies continue to expand to keep up with customer demands, the new challenge manufacturers face is the shortage of skilled workers to fill open positions. Companies must utilize automation and automation training to get ahead of skilled worker shortages. Training can aid employees in becoming more efficient, resulting in increased manufacturing production.
With today’s skilled worker shortage, it is extremely important that facilities have all critical operating equipment residing on an Ethernet network. An Ethernet-connected facility allows the health of each machine, along with production changes, to be monitored and controlled, requiring fewer people to oversee entire plants. Technology today also allows employees to receive and monitor machine health status reports directly on their smartphones. Workers can complete basic troubleshooting with the simple touch of a button and without having to walk out to a machine on the factory floor.
As today’s automation industry evolves at an ever-increasing pace, manufacturers must train employees to command automation systems. In-house, highly trained automation experts can help employers troubleshoot, meet the latest technological demands, and facilitate innovative solutions. Employers who are proactive in integrating the latest automation products along with applicable training, will ensure their enterprise remains competitive and profitable.