The automotive industry and other global manufacturing businesses have long espoused the mantra of a reduced supplier base in order to find assembly efficiencies and reduce costs. The real benefits are in a drastically reduced expenditure on development and a faster time-to-market for new products. The same benefits can be realised by machine builders of any size, confirms Mitsubishi Electric.
Product compatibility and flexibility are the key to realising the benefits of a consolidated supply of automation equipment for machine builders. Typically the overall cost of design, programming, development, assembly and testing of a new machine far outweighs the purchase cost of the individual components. If the individual cost of the components is comparable across a range of different vendors, then the vendor that offers the greatest savings in terms of design, integration and assembly, also offers the greatest cost benefit to the machine builder.
Mitsubishi Electric provides a full portfolio of machine and production line automation technologies, each of which represents a huge investment for the company; the result, however, is guaranteed product performance and reliability. The benefits of this macro-scale investment are effectively then transferred to any machine built using those components, especially when all the components are easy to integrate and work synchronously. Controlling machining, processing, packaging and pick-and-place tasks - while managing a complete assembly line, including safety systems and the interface between machines and operators - has never been more achievable from one source of supply.
How much of a saving does that represent? It would be fair to suggest that for a reasonably complex standalone machine, the cost of the automation components to control the machine are much smaller than the costs of engineering design, development, build and test. For the machine builder, reducing these costs is extremely attractive, and reduction in engineering design and programming time is an area where significant savings can be made. Factors such as ease of automation equipment integration and a common programming environment, which saves the "˜double or treble input' of control tag data, can save hours of design time which not only reduces engineering costs but also the lead time to deliver the machine.
Mitsubishi Electric is in the unique position of being able to deliver own manufactured inverters, servos, PLCs, motion, CNC controllers, HMIs and robots that are totally integrated; this means that when used on a common automation platform they are to a great extent plug-and-play components. Programmed, commissioned and operated using the iQ-Works engineering software suite they offer huge benefits in terms of convenience and speed of set-up when applied together.
Mitsubishi Electric's integrated offering can deliver a combination of control, robotics and safety, all on a common PLC rack. Not only does this offer many technical advantages in terms of speed of data exchange between these various control aspects but also delivers additional hardware consolidation benefits, which means more savings.
The robot offering is a big differentiator for Mitsubishi Electric. The company has provided free seminars tailored to various industries such as Food & Beverage, Packaging, Automotive etc. for several years, designed to help engineers familiarise themselves with its highly competitive MELFA range of articulated arm and SCARA robots. Attendees are usually surprised by the low package cost, combined with ease of use and simple integration. This acceptance is driving significant sales growth; correspondingly, this means industry usage is on the rise. If the robots can be integrated quickly, using the iQ-Works software suite which is a common platform for programming and configuring all the machine control disciplines of PLC, HMI, inverter, servo and robots then the cost of integration is also coming down.
Chris Evans, Marketing and Operations Group Manager at Mitsubishi Electric - Automation Systems Division UK comments on the overall benefits of consolidating automation component supply for machine building: "From our perspective the benefits are clear, we offer a wide range of high-precision automation equipment that is easy to integrate and therefore saves a huge amount of time in the design and commissioning phase.
"What many customers only see once they are using our equipment however is the unrivalled level of technical support we provide during the development cycle. Plus, there are end user benefits that can greatly reduce the total cost of ownership for machines supplied with Mitsubishi Electric automation control on board. Our products are backwards compatible far beyond most other vendors from both a hardware and software perspective, which means extending the asset life is much easier and cost effective, knowing that a migration path will exist in the future for the current technology to the future generations, without replacing the entire original equipment. Couple this to complementary technologies offered by our e-Factory Alliance partners and it is clear that a total plant end to end solution is available from Mitsubishi Electric.
"Delivering a more cost-competitive machine benefits both the vendor in terms of being more competitive in the market, while taking care of improved overall equipment effectiveness for the end user. You simply can't deliver both without reliable products that are ultimately compatible and easy to integrate, hence why we have pursued the route of becoming a total solution provider."
Mitsubishi Electric is the world's largest supplier of PLCs by volume and also one of the world's largest suppliers of industrial robots with a payload of 15kg and under. Regular training is held at the company's HQ in Hatfield and other locations throughout the year; for more information click here.