Automation Session | Automation Insights

Video Transcript


Hello, everybody - my name is Darren Greene, Director of Marketing Communications for DESTACO and I'll be the moderator for today's session. Today - we'll be talking about automation and how to utilize it to your advantage. This is a pre-recorded session, but we do have experts available on the chat, so at any time during this presentation, please feel free to text a question, and our experts will be happy to answer them as we go along. I'd like to introduce our panelists. We have Jason Dove, East Coast Sales Manager for DESTACO. Luke Keisel, West Coast Sales Manager for DESTACO. And Gary Michaels, the Central Sales Manager for DESTACO. Guys, the idea of automation has been around forever, even back in the 1700s with the cotton gin and the flour mill. The idea of finding new ways to speed-up production, processes, and activities has always been around.


Looking at the different ways that you can come about doing automation - they include mechanical, electrical, electronics, hydraulics, pneumatics, and computer software. There's tons of different ways of doing automation. In-fact, I looked at a study the other day that said industrial automation is a 214 billion dollar market today with projections to be about $326 billion by 2027. That's a huge amount of growth for this kind of market, so what I'd like to know is, what is driving companies into implementing more and more automation? Okay - I'll start with that. So a lot of times you've got a lot of these companies that are not automated and so they know that in-order to keep up with their competitors, both abroad and locally, they're having to automate.


A lot of the times, whenever I'm walking-in and I'm talking with customers, one of the first things that they ask is, “where do I start?” One of the first things that I say is, “start simple.” Probably the two easiest places that I would recommend starting are going to be on repetitive processes and on non-ergonomic processes. What I mean by that is in-regards to repetitive processes. These are processes that are done over and over again with almost no thought. You're picking and placing. You're moving from here to there. You're taking a part or a product off a conveyor, placing it into finishing packaging. These are the easiest operations to automate, because again, you're moving point A to point B and they're very repetitive. The next thing is going to be like non-ergonomics. These are processes that probably aren't the simplest places to start but they're probably the best place to start because what you're doing is looking for operations that may be repetitive and also put strain on a human worker.


Maybe it's lifting a heavy object overhead in an application that's going to cause fatigue and possibly put the human worker at risk of injury. There's a lot of advantages when it comes to automation. If you've never automated a process, you have much higher throughput but less downtime. With human operators and less human error, your labor costs also go down, and it lowers your overall compensation costs. Overall, when you're doing something a lot faster, without a human that labors, that human labor can be diverted to more complex tasks. Another reason why companies might also be automating certain processes is, as consumers want things much quicker, I call it the “Amazon effect” with a click of a button, you could have something shipped to your house that same day.


That requires some type of automation to get that done. Another reason is safety. As we all experienced in 2020, pandemics could put a big toll on automation and other companies. When workers were sick or we had to rely on them, and we couldn't for other reasons, companies have to figure-out ways to find automation to work for their favor. It eliminates some of the external environments that might affect their performance, people calling in sick, or just safety in-general. This is something that is going to be in the forefront of companies, that by automating something, it eliminates the safety portion of it or maybe just someone getting hurt.


A robot will work and an indexer will run, not relying on anything else, so that's also a reason why companies want to automate. And a follow-up with what Luke was saying about the “Amazon effect,” especially over this last year with the environment that we've been in. Automation is so key for repeatability, reliability, and quality. You look at what it takes to get products to us, so automation has to be reliable 24/7/365. The quality of it, moving the products, has to be spot-on. You have to understand that the automation for moving product, if it is not in a quality fashion, then you start getting rejects and those companies start losing revenue because of the bad quality.


Same thing with repeatability. Repeatability is key. You have to be able to grab or move a product from A to B. Then touching on automation and the future of automation, the workforce has dynamically changed in the last 20 to 30 years with the skilled labor trades being split between mechanical, pneumatics, and controls. Well, in today's younger workforce, they paired it all together into what's called “mechatronic,” so now we have one person tending the automation - compared to what it was in the past. When we think of automation, the first thing everybody thinks about is robots.


That can't be the only thing that's used in automation. What other things are used in automation? Yeah- there's a lot of things that go into automation. Here at DESTACO, we offer a variety of products that will assist in automating a process. One of them, which is an index drive, will rotate something in a circular form from station to station very accurately. Another form is conveying systems in a linear form. You're moving something very precisely with the movement and you're stopping very accurately. Repeatability is like, as Gary mentioned, key - so there's other ways than just using a robot to move something. Our indexers and conveying systems are typically the heart and soul of a given machine, and then you've got other components around there that help it progress things down the line or make it functional.


There's other than just robots, from grippers to indexing devices. There's other forms of automation, so the robots we mentioned have evolved. We now have cobots, and all these different types of robots now have the technological advances of indexers and conveyors. What have we done with those? Yes - I think one that comes to-mind in the indexing world, a traditional indexer, is something of a mechanical device. Over the years, it's been proven to last and work. It's very simple in-general, speaking from your traditional DC motors to AC motors, and now to servos. It progressed over the years. The new terminology that we hear in the marketplace is “flexible automation.”


What flexible automation means is we're using a traditional indexing device but we're using a servo motor to move it into position. The guts of the indexer pretty much stay the same. The only difference is that we have a constant lead cam that the servo itself drives and rotates the indexing dial plate into position with a conveyor system and moves something very accurately into position. It eliminates the mechanical dwell portion where it requires it to stop. The servo actually controls the position itself, so that's one big change in the industry. It's a very useful technology, especially when you're automating multiple items that a certain company can produce. In the past, traditionally, a company would automate something that that has a high volume of something.


If you're doing something by the thousands, you 100% want to automate. Repetitive motion for an individual to do all day is not the safest, so people would think flexible automation actually applies to the low volume products as well. What I mean by that, today you could have an indexer be a four stop, but within a few programming clicks of a button, you can make it a six stop. As you can imagine, you could have two or three different product lines on that same indexing device being assembled, or some type of automation process could happen, so flexible automation has gone a long way. Okay - what about grippers? You talked about indexers. What about grippers in automation?


A lot of times within grippers, robots are pretty simple. I mean robots are doing something, so you know they're either performing a task or they're moving something from here to there. We have rotaries, slides, and thrusters so we can also use those with grippers to do the same thing, to tend to highly repetitive operations that tend to be kind of a shorter, high-speed motions - like robots tend to. You can go fast with a robot, but typically, it's on a larger stroke with our thruster. With slides and thrusters, you can do something really fast. In-fact there's really several operations that I've seen that they're going so fast that you barely can even see that thing stop. They're moving so fast. We can also size a gripper to pick-up the same part over and over again or we can size a gripper to pick up a variety of parts.


Typically - we try to measure the largest, or the smallest, part and then we'll try to pick a gripper that will be able to pick-up the variety of parts between the largest and smallest. In almost every robot application or slide rotary system, the slide rotary system is going to be much faster than a human, and you're going to have less errors. That's one of the biggest things with this. You’ll want to remove that monotonous work that's putting the strain on the human workers. A lot of times, you can either do that with robots or with a small XY gantry, like what we're talking about. Thanks, guys. I'd like to remind everybody that we do have the chat available if you'd like to ask any questions. If you have a certain a certain question, please go ahead and enter it into the chat, and our experts will answer it for you.


Moving on to our next question. Is there certain markets or types of applications that are growing faster in automation than others? Let me take that, Darren. In my opinion, no. I think pretty much every market out there, every industry, every type of application is growing so fast, because everybody is realizing that they're having to use automation in-order to be competitive. Contrary to the common belief, the US manufacturing as a whole, we are really years behind other countries that we deem third world nations. Almost all of these other markets, they are so far advanced from us, and we as the US and North American market, and in-general, we're having to automate in-order to compete on a global scale.


If every market or every type of application is viable for automation, can you guys share some examples of some ones that you guys have seen? Some maybe unusual ones or interesting ones. Sure - I'll take that one. I think three that stand-out for me with DESTACO is the first one, which was a manual process of moving pork shoulders. The company actually was doing it by hand, and kind of going back to Jason’s first question about having us come in to look at the application, look at the processes and automate it, we were able to go in there and give them a solution for automating the pork shoulder. A couple other examples that are kind of outside of the box is moving bread that's actually just got done being packaged in its film casing.


You would think it is not that tough of a deal but it actually is because of the thickness of the casing holding that bread. It's super delicate, so you have to be able to cradle it either with grippers or a vacuum and not perforate that film. The third application that I think was the most unusual was picking and placing from a distribution center of your standard propane tanks. You don't think of it when you think of propane tanks. You don't think of it being moved around with an end-of-arm tool off of a gantry, but they actually do it in distribution, and we were able to go in there and provide them with solutions for it.


Some other industries that I think are growing in automation is the food industry. In particular, as Gary mentioned with one of the examples, I ran into an application where we actually designed a unique stainless steel, all stainless steel indexing device using, I believe it was, a servo motor then rotated, or spun, soup as they were mixing. They were mixing the soup in this machine, and this indexing device was right at the center of the entire tank. That was a pretty unique application where obviously you cannot have any oils or anything like that in there then it was all fully sealed in stainless steel, which was a pretty unique application. Another growing market is, as we can all probably relate, is the medical market. I actually worked with a company that is automating how quickly they could do blood sample testing.


As you can imagine, you're going to your doctor, and typically, you do your blood work and, then they send it out to a laboratory of some sort that's off-site. These machines typically would do the diagnostics of your blood. Specifically - those are their larger machines. Our customers now have designed more desktop-friendly machines that every doctor's office could have in the back room, and they could test the blood samples right on the spot, so utilizing RDH grippers that move the blood samples from one station to the other, we were able to achieve that in a smaller footprint. Now every doctor in the country could essentially have it in the back office.


To follow up on that, with uniqueness in automation, if you just look at vending machines, the history of vending machines back when I was a kid. The vending machine was just this linear screw that pushed the product to the front of the glass waiting for it to drop. Now - it's a miniature gantry system that has a gripper on it that reaches over to spot B12 to grab your Payday candy bar, grab it and take it over and deliver it into the chute. I use that small example to show you how automation has changed the world and is influencing us every day. I know one of the unique applications that I've seen for grippers.


Typically - when you think of a gripper where you're grabbing something, but I've got a customer that they actually took our gripper, and if you're familiar with a wire stripper for electricians, what they ended-up doing was actually taking the gripper and they made a two-step process on it where the gripper would grab the wire and actually cut it so it would splice the wire. Then it would come and would back-up a little bit and they would then strip the wire to expose the coaxial cables, so they could do a process where they could put the cable in from the server company outside the box. It sounds like there's so many different applications, so many different ways, to use our products in automation. I would assume that all of those solutions were not off-the-shelf, or were they mostly off-the-shelf? Yeah – well, the industry standard. I'm going to go off of the enhanced 80/20 rule, and usually the industry the standard is you want to do as much standard components as you can for your plant, systems, or any kind of automation.


Obviously depending on the application, there are times when you have to take a standard product and convert it into a special. It could be you're dunking it into a harsh environment. You're getting it wet. You're submersing it. Typically, between 10 and 15% of automation products could be specials, based off that application. When it gets into that 15-20% percent of customs, or specials, what kind of things can DESTACO do to help determine what best fits for the customer? Well, I would say probably the first thing to do is, because we don't know, so the first thing we would do is to have the customer call us and let us utilize the years of experience that we have to help to figure out what the right the answer and the best answer is, for you, the customer.


Now simply put, we're here to help you. We've got a team of applications engineers that can help size everything, from a small latch clamp to a 100 foot, or greater, precision link conveyor. We get the fact that there's so many areas of technology out there that nobody can be an expert in all of these areas. No one has the bandwidth to do that, and so that's where we ask you to lean on us because we are experts in this field. That's why we're here, our team of applications engineers. They're experts in their field. In-regards to clamping, workholding, gripping, and indexing solutions - we're here to help determine the right product for your application. Whether that be on a component level, or sometimes that can be on a complete package solution that we can deliver to the customer.


Again - we're here to help. Another aspect that I think brings a lot of value to the table is the diversity of our products. As you can imagine, the engineers out there in the world, I always say that they're kids at heart. They're the brains of the world. They take our products and they pretty much play with them like Lego blocks. They take a rotary actuator, they put a thruster at the end and they put a gripper at the other end, so the things that you could do with our product line in engineering in-general, the things they come up with - it's just amazing. There's no end in sight. You think we've done it all, not at all. There's always something that someone will think of, something new, something different - which is very neat and exciting.


What I think is one of our key aspects for DESTACO is the sales team being true sales engineers. Like myself, I was in mechanical design for a number of years before coming to DESTACO. That gives me the ability to go on to our customers’ floors and understand what they need and apply a solution along with the rest of the sales team here at DESTACO. We're coming-up to the end of our time. I'd like to thank you for all of your insight, your knowledge, and I think hopefully it's been very helpful for our viewers to gain some more knowledge and insight about how DESTACO can help provide you the answers and solutions you need. Again - if you have any questions, please feel free to add them to the chat.


We'll be here for a little bit longer. You can also navigate over to the product pages and chat with our experts there and also start-up one-on-one chats with our experts through the contact the DESTACO experts tab. Again, if you still have any more questions, please visit or give us a call, and I'd like to remind you of all the other sessions that are going on over these two days regarding automation, indexers, conveyors, and grippers - so please join one of us at one of those events.

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