by Harry Aghjian, CEO CMA/Flodyne/Hydradyne
Long Term Liability
In the world of automation, most projects are defined by the amount of risk the machine builder will incur. An important factor is knowledge of current standards: UL standards and OSHA standards, CE directives and many others may apply to your project depending on the final installation location of the equipment. The liability that the machine user incurs is over the life of a given machine. That could be a long time — five, ten, 25 years? We have all worked on machines that have been in service for over 50 years!
No matter how large or how small, from the start, an automation project needs to dynamically formulate a plan to mitigate the risk using common methods such as hard guarding (barriers) or soft guarding (ie. light curtains). As the machine performance specifications are defined, a given project engineer now has an enormous task on his or her hands. The project engineer must meet or exceed the performance requirements at the lowest market cost.
A Simple Example
Let’s assume the automation project requires a single axis of point to point motion. Let’s make one more assumption that this motion or axis requires an electric actuator and sufficient thrust as to be powered by a 380 or 460v, three phase power source (high power stuff). The sum total of all the manuals that a project engineer needs to read and re-read to successfully size, program and integrate all of the ancillary components equal about 4000 pages of documentation! That’s before doing the actual machine risk assessment.
In today’s competitive market where speed to market and innovation are keys to success, does a project engineer really have time to read 4000 pages? One could simply duplicate the last project or BOM (bill of material) — but have we then truly been innovative and taken advantage the latest in automation technology? The answer is to leverage the market knowledge. Your technology supplier must first and foremost be a “source of knowledge”. The product knowledge supplied can be more important than the given component. The sum of these components, along with superior product knowledge, allows the project engineer to be innovative and accelerate the machine to market.
Product Knowledge is King
I was recently reading the latest web ad from a company that touts lowest price “direct” from their warehouse. In my opinion they lacked the key ingredients that a project engineer needs…product knowledge and local service. Product knowledge when sizing the automation system. Product knowledge when developing the BOM options. Product knowledge when starting up the automation system. Product knowledge when doing the risk assessment.
Most industrial automation suppliers provide competitive pricing. I ask that you judge your next supplier based on their knowledge and their ability to service your needs, at your location and at your convenience. Great service along with great knowledge will produce the most cost effective solution.