News that Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced £70 million of investment in a new strategy for manufacturing - A Manufacturing Future for Scotland - is strongly welcomed by Mitsubishi Electric which, unusually amongst suppliers of automation equipment, operates its own Scottish Regional Automation Centre.
As the UK arm of one of the world's leading manufacturing companies, Mitsubishi Electric Automation Systems Division has been supplying automation products to Scottish industry for many years, including programmable logic controllers, human machine interfaces, inverter drives, robots and servo motion products.
Manufacturing represents over half of Scotland's international exports, with nearly 190,000 people employed in the industry. Products range from food and pharmaceuticals to textiles and aero-engines.
Mitsubishi Electric has long been aware of the importance of providing structured support to its customers, hence the Mitsubishi Electric Automation Centre in Livingston, Scotland, was opened in March 2008, with a new training suite added in 2015. Recognising the importance of customers needing to keep abreast of fast-moving automation technology, Mitsubishi Electric has consistently provided training opportunities to industry.
The training facility in Scotland supports education in automation through various initiatives; live demonstrations, for example, show prospective customers how to visualise automation concepts, such as filling and packaging and robotic assembly. George Paterson, Regional Manager, Automation Systems Division, Scotland Office says: "Our services mirror those available from the main UK Mitsubishi Electric facility in Hatfield, England.
"These include not only the supply of automation and process control technology, but training courses, site surveys and assistance with the design of automation systems and the associated software development. In addition, for Scottish customers, we manage repairs and offer a sophisticated choice of customisable service contracts so that each customer gets exactly the support they need."
Mitsubishi Electric's 2016 programme of Training Courses features a new course in GX Works3 and an updated course in GOT 2000, alongside many of the established basic and advanced learning opportunities for professional engineers. Courses are held at the company's Regional Automation Centres in Livingston and Wakefield, West Yorkshire, in addition to Mitsubishi Electric's Head Office in Hatfield. Training can be tailored to suit an industry sector, an end user team, or a system integrator.
Mitsubishi Electric's Livingston facility works directly with both end users and through systems integrators, particularly from the prominent food & beverage industry and oil & gas sector. The Scottish-based systems integrator Industrial Solutions is a great example of a system integrator working in partnership with the Livingston team. Craig O'Rorke, Sales and Support Manager at Industrial Solutions comments on a recent application: "A good example of us working together is the well-known biscuit and teacake manufacturer Tunnocks, based in Uddingston: We were asked to supply a control system to upgrade a Special Purpose Machine, called a Teacake Depositor. The machine is subject to a wash-down every night and due to water getting into the AC motors and other components the previous machine was unreliable at times.
"The main thrust of the upgrade was to simplify the machine, improve reliability and increase its performance. The previous machine was designed using a mixture of servo control and inverter drives. The majority of functions used inverter control with standard AC motors and gearboxes, which were having issues with the wash-down conditions. Working with the Mitsubishi Electric Scottish office, Industrial Solutions took the decision to use IP-rated servo motors on all drives.
"This made it possible to synchronise the machine running cycle, so a master cycle time could be set on the main servo drive. At the same time, all other sensors and encoders were removed and the servo motor positions were used instead to energise other functions, with all drives adjusting their speed accordingly. The higher IP rating provided the protection needed from water ingress."
Amongst the Mitsubishi Electric products used were a Q Series PLC, complete with a 16-axis simple motion module, the GOT HMI Display and nine MR-J4 SSCNET servo drives with servo motors. O'Rorke says: "We selected Mitsubishi Electric components for a number of reasons: the products are very reliable, high quality and available off the shelf. We get good local technical and application support when required. Mitsubishi can provide a total system solution and we find the products very easy to install and commission.
"Another reason for using Mitsubishi was that Tunnocks had been very impressed with the Mitsubishi products installed on other machines and how reliable they are. They are essentially fit-and-forget products, so the company was happy that the new machine was based around Mitsubishi. It's worth noting that up until a few years ago the company based its automation equipment around products from two other major suppliers and we have helped change that."