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Opening the Machine Network

So here we are. Last week was Automation Fair. What did you learn?

Oh, you didn’t go? Well, that is your loss, truly. A free show in Chicago where you could have learned about all sorts of new products and insights from Rockwell Automation and their network of partners, of which Cisco is a proud Alliance Partner. And you would have gotten free breakfast and lunch too!

Ok, in multiple booths we showed how one machine can integrate into another, and form a production line. Funny how that happens. We at Cisco are a part of ODVA, a trade association of many partners that subscribe to open standard networks.

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Converging on Convergence, Part Two

We recently co-hosted a Voice of the Customer (VoC) event where we had several End User manufacturing customers as well as Machine Builders and Systems Integrators present. My new series on Machine Builders will start next week, but I wanted to capture a few thoughts and ask for opinions.

We’ve been working along on an assumption that many End User manufacturing customers are reducing their engineering staff and working under cost pressures as well as time pressure. We presumed that they are relegating or subcontracting a lot of the work that would typically be done in house back to machine builders or systems integrators. This clearly has impact on the business model of a machine builder, considering up front design, integration, installation, support and retrofitting. Read More »

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Converging on Convergence

What does Convergence mean to you? I recently did a search on the term “convergence” and found that it can relate to many technical, societal, political, and economic terms. All of them are correct, it just depends on the context.

I am going to be focusing on “convergence” as it applies to a Machine Builder that builds a machine that gets integrated into a manufacturing operation. You understand that, right? The final product gets bought and we all get paid.

So lets back up, just a bit. Machine Builder applies to those that build specific purpose machines that fit into a manufacturing operation. There may be decorating machines, metal forming machines, painting machines, wrapping machines, transfer machines, all sorts of machines. All of them tie together in some manner and form a production operation.

Every one of those machines may operate internally (so, within that specific machine) via its own network. I mean pieces talk to other pieces, right? But every one of those machines needs to integrate into the production operations at some point. And if the machine needs a gateway to talk to the line, that is an extra piece to maintain and more cost. Read More »

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Machine Builder Business Models, Sustainability and Innovation

So my wife and I recently took a two week vacation to Alaska – without computers or anything but camera’s and our ever important smartphones. I didn’t realize that Marie Hattar, our Segment VP was going to write a blog about the importance of vacations and productivity – see that here. Imagine that, I overachieved via a vacation!

At any rate, back to the vacation – we left on Sunday so Saturday was reserved for clothes washing and packing. Great plan until the motor on the washing machine froze. We ended up Saturday night finishing the wash at her father’s house. Then after the trip (that was fabulous by the way. Everyone needs to take a cruise through the Inside Passage!) we ended up having the repair service visit to confirm the motor was shot (new motor cost more than the washer was worth, so conclusion: buy a new one) and using his washer/dryer for another week. That meant bundling up two plus weeks of wash, carrying it to his house, doing the wash for a few hours, etc.

I was reminded of the challenges a manufacturing company would have due to an unexpected machine breakdown. You have to isolate the problem, get appropriate repairs, possibly upgrade the machine, possibly line up alternate manufacturing capability, etc. I’ve blogged before about the needs for continuing MRO schedules and the importance of properly servicing your manufacturing machines and lines. But how do you prepare for a critical machine that suddenly breaks? Can you rapidly sub out the work? Can you quickly get the machine replaced? What if the newer machine doesn’t fit in the line directly? Read More »

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