2014 Automation Trends for material handling, logistics and machine tools

  • November 26, 2013
  • Feature

By Thomas R. Cutler

During 2013 the past-paced, ever-changing elements of automation impacting manufacturing, material handling, and logistics was remarkable. The new trend of holistic material handling or industrial automation practitioner drove dramatic growth for Trilogiq USA, based in Livonia, MI, which held the largest Annual Solution Expo in October and recently expanded operations into Canada.  The team automation consultative approach is ground zero and for 2014, the company will introduce a new fast-acting, short time-commitment version of a kaizen event.  Finding rapid solutions with measurable impacts is part of the 2014 model for this progressive company.

Ultriva, based in Cupertino, CA, implemented a global demand driven manufacturing model by providing full visibility, scheduling, and sequencing of production of customer orders.  The company best known for electronic kanban, advanced an automation concept of End to End Pull (or E2E Pull). The need for a collaborative transactional portal is essential and E2E allows large multi-national manufacturers to actively collaborate with customers for actual demand and synchronize with suppliers for replenishment. E2E offers a better solution to balancing supply with customer demand through procurement strategies, materials and inventory policies tied to actual demand signals. Many suppliers want to provide sufficient service levels to customers and turn supply replenishment and synchronization into a competitive advantage.  The company’s global footprint is increasing rapidly with implementations in wide variety of industry sectors and enterprises such as ATK, CareFusion, Emerson, Ingersoll Rand, McKesson, Magellan, Regal Beloit, Thermo Fisher and more.  The recognition of E2E Pull portends major growth for the company in 2014.

Industrial Truck Association President, Jeff Rufener, predicted that by 2025 fully automated and guided vehicles will account for 50% of industrial truck sales.  Based in Pittsburgh, PA, Seegrid flexible automated guided vehicles (AGVs), the cutting edge robotic industry truck leader, has seen a 350% increase in sales since 2012 and an 1860% increase in lead generation.  From automotive to appliances, the prognosis for Seegrid growth is extraordinary.  In fact, due to a partnership with Linde, the Guided by Seegrid robotic technology will be utilized throughout Europe in 2014.

Earlier in 2013, Automation.com revealed the efficacy of vimana and the limitations of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).  OEE is a composite metric, combining machine availability, part quality, and schedule adherence. At best, OEE conflates each of these individual aspects of productivity, and at worst, OEE incorrectly inflates a device’s productivity by one of the three metrics, overwhelming the others.

System Insights overcame the limitations of OEE by developing the vimana platform; vimana is a next generation software platform with real-time pattern matching and historical machine learning capabilities which makes sense of data from multiple shopfloor sources using the MTConnect standard.  Manufacturers that are interfacing with elements of logistics and material handling are able to apply these data to understand the productivity improvement opportunities. Information is presented in the form of dashboards, real-time metrics, alerts, and contextual reports.  The company is poised for extraordinary growth in 2014 because Industry 4.0 technology is available with vimana today. 

The term Industry 4.0, refers to the fourth industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution was the mechanization of production using water and steam power; it was followed by the second industrial revolution which introduced mass production with the help of electric power, followed by the digital revolution, the use of electronics and IT to further automate production.

Industry is on the threshold of the fourth industrial revolution. Driven by the Internet, the real and virtual worlds are growing closer and closer together.  Industrial production of the future will be characterized by the strong individualization of products under the conditions of highly flexible (large series) production, the extensive integration of customers and business partners in business and value-added processes, and the linking of production and high-quality services leading to so-called hybrid products.

The prognosis for more automation innovation in 2014 is axiomatic and reporting on transformative companies like these will illuminate the possibilities of great efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

Author Profile:

Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., (www.trcutlerinc.com).  Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 5000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 500 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler is the most published freelance industrial journalist worldwide and can be contacted at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com and can be followed on Twitter @ThomasRCutler.

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