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Demand for information and automation systems in manufacturing is soaring. Systems in demand include programmable controls, robotic systems, supervisory controls, data acquisition and information management systems. These systems deliver high-quality, reliable and repeatable solutions to our customers, improving their processes. In our work designing and implementing these systems, we have observed ten important emerging trends:

  1. Following the economic downturn, automation spending has sharply increased as manufacturers continue to look for ways to increase productivity, improve quality and reduce costs by automating human tasks that involve hard physical or monotonous work. According to the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association and the Association For Manufacturing Technology, U.S. manufacturing technology orders totaled $388.27 million in May 2011, a 108-percent increase over 2010.
  2. The use of automation, including industrial robots, is increasing across a range of industries. A couple of decades ago, 90 percent of robots were used in car manufacturing. Today the auto industry represents only 50 percent, with the other half spread among other factories, laboratories, warehouses, energy plants, hospitals and other industries.
  3. As robots replace workers in the more mundane, repetitive areas, the need for workers with more advanced training is increasing. Manufacturers are asking more from their shift supervisor-level workers, thus needing to train and pay them more.
  4. Additionally, technical operations and high-tech maintenance personnel are in greater demand, as automation enables more proactive monitoring and information management with preventative and predictive maintenance strategies.
  5. Automation equipment and process vendors have recognized this trend and are now providing field service teams to meet manufacturers’ maintenance demands.
  6. Manufacturers can now monitor production remotely and be alerted to systems that need attention.
  7. In highly regulated industries such as the food industry, where food safety is paramount, a shift is occurring, with many manufacturers placing a greater focus on quality, repeatability and safety in automation, in addition to productivity and cost reduction.
  8. Robots can now handle higher speeds, increasing the volume of material that one line can handle.
  9. Manufacturers can now do more with less space as robots and automation are reducing the space needed for production lines. More vertical space is also being used. This reduction in footprint leads to lower energy costs per square foot.
  10. Combining technologies such as robots with vision systems — enabling them to recognize things like barcodes, color and size — means that manufacturers can use assets on one line for improved tracking or to handle multiple products, increasing the speed and efficiency of production and delivery systems.

Stellar’s team of in-house control engineers, programmers and technicians provide custom-designed control systems featuring the latest technologies. As an Allen Bradley/Rockwell Automation Solutions Provider, we provide full turnkey services, including design, fabrication, installation, testing, and 24-hour monitoring if required. For more information, contact Steven Hawkins at shawkins@stellar.net or 904-899-9398.

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