Omron focuses on discrete application leadership

Omron focuses on discrete application leadership

 
By Bill Lydon - Editor, February 2011
 
In November of 2010, I attended the Omron Automotive Summit in Chicago and had the opportunity to interview Gregg Holst, Chief Operating Officer and President of Omron Americas. The clear message is that Omron is laser focused on discrete automation and control applications.
 
Interview with Gregg A. Holst, Chief Operating Officer and President
 
Since 2007, as COO, Holst has directed the marketing, sales, and service operations of Omron Electronics LLC in the United States, Latin America and Canada.   Holst’s background includes Executive Vice President of Revere Electric Supply Company in Chicago and positions at Square D and General Electric. Holst told me Omron believes they are past the bottom of the downturn and they have seen significant growth over the last 20 months. Omron has been ramping up their operations by adding more application engineers in North America to support their growing customer base.
 
Holst stressed that they are committed to being the premier suppler for discrete applications and have a number of ways to support and partner with customers. Holst discussed Omron’s commitment to management principals, building on a long history of delivering high value products with exceptional quality. In the last four years, he has focused on making it easier to do business with Omron, their distributors and systems integrator partners. The company has a particular focus on delivering value added solutions as a machine automation solutions company. In the last two years, they have convinced over 140 machine OEMs to change their standard controls from other vendors to Omron. All of these OEMS are machine builders that produce over 30 machines a year.
 
Holst stressed that Omron has the products to address discrete customers’ needs including safety, vision, motion, speed and connectivity from sensor to ERP systems. He emphasized that Omron is committed to delivering high performance across the product line, from the smallest to large controllers, and supporting open communication standards. 
 
The communications options supported include Modbus TCP, Profibus, PROFINET, DeviceNet, EtherNet IP, and EtherCAT. Omron more recently is “championing” EtherNet IP for higher level communication and EtherCAT for machine control where high performance is required.
 
Holst noted that customers really appreciate Omron’s CX-One software - an integrated package to program PLC, motion, vision, and HMI for one fee per site, including free software upgrades.
 
The company has a systems integrator program, OASIS (Omron Authorized Systems Integrator Solution). The OASIS systems integrator partners have completed training and are certified on Omron products in the area of motion, PLC control, and machine vision technologies. The OASIS partners are listed on the company website, www.omron247.com under the Services tab.
 
Automotive Summit
 
The Omron Automotive Summit provided perspectives from Omron as a tier one supplier and manufacturing automation solution provider. The event included Omron systems integrators and channel partners.
 
Shawn Adams, Marketing Director of Omron Industrial Automation, kicked off the day with an overview of the automotive industry in the Pan American market. Omron provides a wide range of products to the market including control, automation, and OEM parts. Through research they have found three major “pain points” that intersect with communications. Omron estimates, for North American, the automotive industry investment in automation is about $6 billion for 2010. Adams discussed major automotive manufacturing issues and how Omron addresses them. Omron quality tracking systems enable improvements in quality with, bar code readers, vision systems, PLCs, laser sensors, and RFID.   Omron PLCs and CX-One software enable the diagnosis and troubleshooting of machines quickly. Omron PLCs and PACs support multiple languages for flexible automation. Tracking and traceability are accomplished with Omron bar code readers, vision systems, 2D code reading, and RFID. Adams noted that Omron has adopted EtherCAT for high speed networking. Editor’s note: EtherCAT adoption seems to be growing within a number of companies.
 
U.S. Auto Industry in Transition
 
Jay Baron, PH.D., President of the Center for Automation Research (http://www.cargroup.org) in Ann Arbor Michigan, provided an update on the U.S. automobile industry. Some key insights:
 
  • Automakers can now break even at lower levels due to restructuring of capacity and labor contract modifications. 
  • 2010 J.D. Powers study indicates increasing quality of US manufacturers. 
  • U.S. vehicle production is forecast to increase in 2011 and 2012.
  • Lowering the weight of vehicles to improve fuel economy is driving the industry to use lighter materials requiring new manufacturing processes and equipment. A 200 pound reduction in weight yields approximately 1 mpg.
  • Uncertainty about future government regulations, market demand, and fuel economy requirements also drive the need for manufacturing flexibility.
Omron’s Automotive Business
 
Mark Sadie, Omron Pan American Sales Manger responsible for automotive business, discussed the success that Omron has had over the last 8 years in the automotive industry. Sadie described various Omron solutions that have been applied to improve quality, logistics cost, and safety for automotive plant customers. An interesting example was the application of S8VS Power supplies that have become standard at Toyota and Honda. These supplies are higher cost but the features provide money saving benefits. Features include runtime monitor, power factor correction, overload & voltage protection, 3 year warranty, 100-240 volt input, and alarm outputs.  
 
Safety
 
Jim Mooney, Vice President of Sales at Omron STI (www.sti.com), provided an update on the company’s safety products and services.   Omron Scientific Technologies, Inc. provides automation safeguarding products and services. In addition to products, Omron STI can be a total solution provider including risk analysis, design, integration, and development of safety specifications.
 
Thoughts & Observations
 
The automotive industry is growing again and remains a signification user of automation and control technology.
 
The use of new materials in cars to reduce weight is going to change manufacturing processes and require new machines and associated automation and control solutions.
 
Omron was a founding member of ODVA and early adopter of DeviceNet and EtherNet IP. The adoption and “championing” of EtherNet IP for higher level communication and EtherCAT for machine control where high performance is required is an interesting mix. EtherCAT is being adopted by a number of companies.
 
Omron Americas is laser focused on the discrete market rather than trying to be all things to all people.   This is a sharp contrast to the larger companies they compete against that are expanding their focus to other areas, particularly process control.
 
Omron has a reputation of providing well engineered, quality products. The scope of Omron’s products is good fit for today’s automation requirements including control, motion, safety, and vision.
 
The decision of 140 OEM machine builders, each manufacturing over 30 machines per year, to convert to Omron controls from another brand is impressive.