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5 for Friday: A Look Into the Future for Design, Plant Investments and Pneumatics

March 3, 2023
Machine Design takes a look at the past week, and a look ahead to the issues facing the design and manufacturing sector.

1. Leaping Into the Future of the IT/OT Convergence

We write extensively about the IT/OT Convergence. It is the fundamental concept behind our upcoming Engineering Academy presentation starting March 23 on Design For Manufacturing and Assembly. Perhaps the clearest statement of the value of this convergence was stated by Craig Resnick of ARC Advisory Group at a recent panel discussion hosted by Schneider Electric. In part, Resnick states:

Connectivity and/or convergence between OT and IT is essential for businesses to compete. Manufacturers and other industrial organizations today face the increasing demand for tighter integration and more information. In response, they have started to leverage Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 technology and approaches.

Convergence between IT and OT also provides an integrated, digitalized approach that increases interoperability and flexibility, reduces CAPEX and OPEX expenditures, increases production efficiencies, decreases unscheduled downtime, and improves overall profitability. Rather than a trend, ARC Advisory Group believes that this convergence between IT and OT will become permanent, representing a true technology fusion.”

There are a lot of manufacturers out there who still have not moved all in on the digital transformation. Our recent Salary Survey pointed to low adoption in areas such as robotics, data software and smart manufacturing. Resnick’s comments confirm that the digital transformation we’re experiencing is not technology for the sake of technology, but a true competitive advantage for manufacturers today—and into the future.

2. Investing in the Present Drives the Future

A practical example of this is the Poclain Group, a France-based manufacturer of hydrostatic and electrohydraulic transmissions with plants around the world. Its North American headquarters is in southeastern Wisconsin. Company officials touted the expansion and capital expenditures that brought the 167,000 sq. ft. facility to what it called “best-in-class manufacturing and innovation.”

The $25 million investment in the plant included improved inventory parts management, improved environmental standards for the 280-person workforce—including lighting, dust management and air flow—an improved paint line and an improved assembly lines for motors and pumps.

“The investment came with an emphasis on logistics and deliveries in response to current market demands while utilizing best practice manufacturing to process our highly designed products,” said Pierre Antoine Bataille, CEO of Poclain North America, in a press release. “The plant has room for several new assembly lines as market demands increase, and we plan to invest another $2 million CAPEX for 2023 to ensure a robust supply of components given any uncertainties in the logistics market with an emphasis on continuing to exceed our customer’s expectations.”

There are hundreds such stories to tell out there, and Machine Design stands ready to highlight more success stories that turn the abstract concepts around smart manufacturing into real-world examples of what’s possible when you invest in technology and people in equal parts.

3. And in the Present: The Slump Continues

Manufacturing output fell for the fourth consecutive month in February, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s monthly PMI Index. While improving slightly from 47.4% in January to 47.7% in February, the index remained below the 50% growth level again. Panelists in the ISM survey remain cautiously optimistic about growth in the second half of 2023, and to that end are avoiding the kinds of layouts that have impacted the tech sector.

The full February PMI report can be found here.

4. The Future of Maintenance as a Design Tool

If you can’t join us for a Machine Design webinar March 3 at 2 p.m. EST as I discuss the idea of designing for operations and maintenance with Shon Isenhour, an expert in the field of maintenance and owner of Eruditio LLC, the good news is that the webinar will be available on demand next week here. This discussion will look at the ways designing with operations and maintenance in mind can pay dividends throughout the manufacturing process.

5. Back to the Future on Pneumatics  

As we continue to prepare for the International Fluid Power Exposition, to be held this year March 14-18 in Las Vegas, Machine Design looked at a fundamental concept around pneumatics: matching a pneumatic cylinder’s output to the application. “Although calculating the theoretical force output is fairly straightforward, properly sizing a pneumatic cylinder for an application is much more challenging,” the article notes. “So here are some simple tips that will help engineers determine the right cylinder for the task at hand.”  

And a Final Note

Machine Design sends its condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Sean Hägen, the co-principal, founder and director of research and synthesis at BlackHägen Design, who died Feb. 25 after a brief illness. Sean was a visionary and a regular contributor to Machine Design, particularly in the area of medical device manufacturing.

Said Philip Remedios, Sean’s business partner of 21 years, “He was a brilliant yet humble leader and designer who cared deeply for his colleagues, his family, and his clients. Sean will be greatly missed, but his wisdom and legacy will certainly be carried on by those he inspired, led, and nurtured.”

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