Digital transformation is the key to evolving the manufacturing workforce, says InfinityQS

As younger workers enter the manufacturing sector, it is imperative that manufacturers enhance their digital transformation initiatives if they want to attract the best talent. This is according to Jason Chester, Director of Global Channel Programs at InfinityQS.

To become more agile and competitive, manufacturers need to accelerate the adoption of emerging and maturing technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, analytics, and cloud computing. This will give rise to the evolution towards smart factories that are driven by data and intelligence, rather than merely sweat and labour, which will be key in attracting the right talent.

Jason comments: “Young people who are now entering the industry don’t want to be performing manual and laborious tasks on the production line, they would rather spend their time working with modern data analysis tools that can quickly convert critical shop-floor data into actionable insights to optimise their operations. However, despite the pandemic accelerating digital transformation initiatives across the world, the manufacturing sector is still lagging behind in comparison to other sectors.”

A recent study conducted by InfinityQS showed that 75% of manufacturers are still collecting their data manually, with nearly half still using paper checklists to record information.

Jason continued: “It’s not that manufacturers are outright refusing to embrace digital transformation but they are resisting due to fear of failure, change management, and perhaps the biggest problem – lack of talent. After all, if you introduce these technologies, you need people who understand how to use them effectively, so it’s a Catch-22. The solution that I propose is to think less about the now and more about the future of manufacturing.”

“The new manufacturing workforce are tech-savvy individuals who are used to having information at the click of the mouse or tap of the screen. Whereas previous generations needed to get comfortable with technology, today’s workforce has grown up with it. They expect to have the same real-time access to information on the job, on computers and mobile devices, not papers and checklists.”

Recently InfinityQS conducted its 2021 Annual Customer Satisfaction Survey which revealed that 52% of respondents have already or are exploring the option of adopting digital transformation initiatives.

Jason explains: “This shows that the increase, or planned increase, in digital transformation is largely down to the impact of Covid. What was once a long-term strategic vision became an urgent and necessary tactical response to the Covid firefight and while it’s great to see this increase, many manufacturers often write off an investment if it doesn’t show an immediate, big return.

“Manufacturers need to now truly capitalise on these new digital environments. To do this they must invest in, and recruiting new talent, into the workforce that can drive even greater levels of innovation. It is vital that manufacturers see this as a long term and permanent endeavour and not one that turns into a missed opportunity,” concluded Jason.

Brooks Instrument opens new manufacturing, service and applications support centre in Korea

Brooks Instrument, a leader in precision fluid measurement and control technology, has opened a new manufacturing and engineering center in Korea to expand production of its mass flow controllers used extensively in semiconductor manufacturing.

The new facility, located in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, significantly increases the company’s operational footprint in Korea. It includes a significantly larger Class 100 clean room manufacturing area, as well as increased space for engineering, service and sales support.

Brooks Instrument has operated in Korea for nearly 25 years. The company moved from its previous location in Korea to the larger Yongin facility to better serve the needs of the fast-growing semiconductor manufacturing sectors locally and throughout the Asia Pacific region.

“With the anticipated continued growth of the semiconductor industry, we wanted to relocate and expand our operations to provide increased local production capability, faster service and sales and applications engineering support,” said Hans Sundstrom, Global Semiconductor Business Unit Manager for Brooks Instrument.

The much larger facility will initially support production of the Brooks Instrument GF100 Series of mass flow controllers used in semiconductor and other critical gas flow control applications. The GF100 series is widely seen as the semiconductor industry thermal MFC standard for reliable, repeatable delivery of process gasses.

“Once the new production facility in Yongin reaches full scale, we will have increased our global production capacity by close to 30 percent,” Sundstrom said. “It will also serve as an additional location for manufacturing and parts inventory, complementing our facilities in the U.S. and Hungary, thereby further reducing the risk of a supply chain disruption for our customers.”

The Yongin facility will also improve the company’s ability to provide rapid repair, maintenance and calibration support to customers in the region. The facility staff includes applications engineers ready to assist customers with expert support and insight on how to integrate Brooks Instrument mass flow technology with specific applications and advanced processes.

Jason Lee, Korea Country Manager at Brooks Instrument, added, “By relocating closer to our customers, we will have increased opportunity for collaboration, be able to learn more about their unique challenges and work with them to further enhance our technology to better meet their current and future needs.”

NI unlocks the power of test data and software at NI Connect

NI has announced its latest product advancements designed to fuel innovation across the production process, from testing and validation to R&D and design. NI unveiled these product advancements at NI Connect, a virtual experience dedicated to exploring how test and data analytics will shape the world’s newest innovations and provide engineers the information they need to make the next big breakthrough.

Today’s rapid pace of technology advancements requires increasingly complex products and more efficient product development. By leveraging a software-connected approach, organisations can unlock the value of test data to not only keep up with that pace but get there faster, smarter and with the right data insights to make informed engineering decisions.

NI’s software-connected approach creates a more complete enterprise data and insight chain, collecting and connecting the data that accelerates digital transformation, enabling customers to optimise every step of the product life cycle.

“A digital thread of data across each phase of the product life cycle delivers powerful insights to enhance product performance,” said NI CEO Eric Starkloff. “At NI, our software-connected approach unlocks the power of test, from early research to the production floor and beyond. We continue to aggressively invest in the technology to make this compelling vision a reality.”

As part of NI Connect, NI shared its latest product updates and innovations designed to help engineers and enterprises save time, reduce costs, gain data insights to help them innovate and ultimately get to market faster. Product advancements include:

  • Streamlined SystemLink Software Interface to Increase Efficiency — By connecting test systems and test data to enterprise outcomes, SystemLink software substantially accelerates each phase of the product life cycle. With a unified view of test operations in design validation and production environments, SystemLink manages and simplifies test scheduling, resource utilisation, system health and maintenance.​ The latest software enhancements include new UI customisation options, simplified product navigation and expanded asset health monitoring capabilities. The result is test insight acceleration, more efficient use of assets and reduced cost of test.
  • New LabVIEW 2021 to Improve Interoperability with Python and MathWorks MATLAB Software — Open-source software is increasingly important as systems become more diverse and complex. NI’s 2021 version of LabVIEW, the leading software platform for building test and measurement systems, features improved interoperability with Python and MathWorks MATLAB software, improved support for version control using Git and usability enhancements. These updates make it easier for engineers to connect disparate systems and hardware to accelerate innovation, especially in the design and validation environments.
  • New PXI Hardware Solution to Enable Software-Connected Workflow in a Smaller, Cost-Effective Package — Like open-source software, modular hardware is also increasingly important to flexibly connect with existing systems and workflows. PXI hardware delivers openness, software options, modularity and I/O coverage for customers seeking to develop adaptive and scalable systems. NI’s first 2-slot PXI chassis delivers these benefits in a smaller, more cost-effective package. Modular hardware like PXI enables a software-connected workflow to achieve better results.

NI also announced new products to enable the fast-moving technology behind ADAS and wireless:

  • NI Collaboration with Seagate to Deliver First-of-Its-Kind In-Vehicle Edge Storage and Data Transfer Service — The next generation of autonomous vehicles requires more real road data than ever before, making efficient data storage exceedingly important. NI and Seagate Technology Holdings, a world leader in data storage infrastructure solutions, announced a new collaboration to enhance data storage services, including a first-of-its-kind advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) record offering. This in-vehicle data storage as a service (STaaS), powered by  Seagate’s Lyve Mobile edge storage and data transfer service, enables original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers to modernise their data storage strategy from self-managed to STaaS, leading to reduced costs and efficient storage.
  • NI Ettus USRP X410 Software Defined Radio Platform to Accelerate Wireless Innovation — The next generation of wireless technologies, 5G and 6G, are poised to transform the way people and systems connect, making test data insights that much more important. Because wireless technologies are becoming increasingly complex, advanced tools to support research and prototyping are needed. The new NI Ettus USRP X410 Software Defined Radio Platform is high performance and fully open source, allowing engineers to achieve a faster time to prototype and accelerate wireless innovation

To learn more about the latest trends in test and data analytics, and to hear more about the newest product advancements from NI, attend or watch NI Connect on demand.

Are your metrology systems 21 CFR Part 11 compliant?

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 7,252 medical products were recalled in 2020 — 41 per cent of these products were medical devices. Recalls are costly, both financially and to a business’ reputation, but also can pose a risk to patient safety, something all medical device businesses want to avoid. Here Jason McGlynn, commercial manager for Ireland at industrial metrology specialist The Sempre Group, explains how quality engineers can maintain data integrity — and stay 21 CFR Part 11 compliant — to prevent recalls.

Traceability is vital when manufacturing medical devices. Manufacturers must be able to provide information about every step of the process — including when each operation was completed, why, how and by who — to ensure product quality and safety.

What is 21 CFR Part 11?

Audit trails chronologically catalogue every process to provide records of operational activity during manufacturing. Auditors of devices that will be sold in the US market will check this trail to ensure that the process is fully traceable and there are no gaps where human error could cause issues, in accordance with 21 CFR Part 11.

This FDA regulation refers to how medical device companies use electronic documentation and signatures in their quality management systems. 21 CFR Part 11 was first published in 1997 to help companies in the medical device industry know how to use computers and software, maintain data safely and securely to ensure it is not corrupted or lost and trace changes to data to prevent and/or detect falsified records. It has been updated since, to reflect how technology use has changed in medical device manufacturing.

Full traceability

Not all 21 CFR Part 11 compliant equipment and software will provide a fully traceable audit trail. For example, a validated measurement system can take hundreds of measurements of a device and generate large reports of raw data so manufacturers can monitor quality. However, if quality engineers export that data and import it into another data analysis system, it leaves a gap. If there are no clear security controls when moving data manually between systems, there are multiple opportunities for human error to introduce faults that cannot be traced.

Moving data between systems can compromise data integrity — which the FDA defines as the completeness, consistency and accuracy of data and how it is recorded. Using an electronic quality management system (EQMS) can both ensure data integrity and reduce the risk of issues occurring. Information is automatically time stamped, alterations are recorded and information is stored in one central location.

Compliant equipment

When choosing data collection software, opting for one that is 21 CFR Part 11 compliant will help ensure security and authenticity. Automated, real-time data collection software, such as the Prolink SPC Data Collection Software, otherwise known as QC-CALC, can extract real-time data from any device to enable full analysis and reporting. An easy-to-use system can provide total visibility and control of data across the entire manufacturing process. Another benefit is the ability to automatically generate password protected reports, which makes it easy to spot any changes during production, identify where they happened and why and take steps to investigate and fix the issue.

Effective quality management and reporting processes can help prevent expensive recalls that can damage a manufacturer’s reputation. A compliant electronic system also means that, if a recall does occur, medical device companies have the ability to refer to transparent and authentic data so that they can correct the issue quickly and effectively.

Meteor Communications wins Scottish Water monitoring contract

Meteor Communications has been awarded a multi-year shared framework agreement by Scottish Water for the provision of multi-parameter wastewater quality final effluent monitoring. The contract has an estimated value of £2 million and follows a competitive tendering process which began in November 2020.

Bidders were invited to tender for the supply of monitoring systems that are well suited to continuous remote monitoring of final effluent. Flexibility was required in terms of the monitoring parameters; the systems should be able to operate on low (ideally solar) power in a turbulent final effluent discharge. Secure access to cloud-based data was a key requirement, in addition to minimal levels of maintenance.

The data provided by the systems will allow operators to better understand plant performance and resilience, and provide further insights into performance trends, events and pollution incidents.

Following the contract award, Meteor Communications will supply ESNET (Environmental Sensor NETwork) portable and kiosk systems in conjunction with Xylem EXO multiparameter sondes to measure final effluent water quality. The ESNET systems met the tender requirements and are ideal for this application. Meteor’s MD Matt Dibbs explains: “Historically, the installation cost and on-site maintenance requirements of final effluent monitors at smaller wastewater plants have been preclusive, but the development of ESNET systems has meant that water companies can now equip smaller rural plants with a comprehensive monitoring capability.

“There are hundreds of ESNET systems delivering water quality data from all over the UK, providing customers with high-resolution, real-time, accurate data to manage their resources with greater confidence.

“In addition to fixed applications, portable ESNETs can also be deployed in minutes; providing users with the opportunity to easily move the monitors from site to site in order to conduct short-term investigations and assessments.”

This contract award builds on the existing ESNET network in place with Scottish Water which is already providing data that can be viewed securely using the MeteorCloud portal on a tablet, PC or smartphone. The Meteor Data Centre is integrated with Scottish Water SCADA as well as upcoming platforms to deliver a futureproof solution.

As part of the framework, Meteor will provide training to Scottish Water personnel to build a comprehensive knowledge base around water quality monitoring to enhance understanding of works performance.

D-Sub demand drives connector specialist’s expansion

PEI-Genesis, a leading provider of custom-engineered connector and cable interconnect solutions, has extended its partnership with global connector manufacturer Positronic across Europe and Africa. The expansion comes after considerable demand from customers in these regions. As of June 25, 2021, enginee­rs in Africa and Europe can benefit from PEI-Genesis’s value-add service of Positronic connectors. This service involves custom configuring the vast range of standard Positronic D-Subminiature connectors from component stock, meaning greater choice with shorter lead times.

Positronic, an Amphenol company, is known for the reliability of its connectors and offers customers a range of power and signal connectors for several critical sectors, including industrial and military. PEI-Genesis offers many products from Positronic’s full portfolio of power and hybrid, rectangular and circular connectors, but it is the D-Sub product line in particular that has attracted demand from customers worldwide.

The previous franchise agreement covered the Americas, China, Southeast Asia, Oceania, and a few countries in Europe. After seeing success and demand for Positronic connectors in these regions, PEI-Genesis believes this expansion will help meet the growing needs of industrial businesses in the European and African markets, several of which have already expressed interest in the range.

“Our European and African customers have been keen for us to introduce the Positronic range, including connectors such as the D-Sub, to these markets for some time now,” said Jonathan Parry, Senior Vice President, and MD Europe for PEI-Genesis. “The D-Sub is well known for its versatility as it is used in a range of sectors for transmitting data, power, and radio frequency signals. Additionally, its reliability and relatively low cost make it a popular choice for engineers.”

Anita Warner, Director of Inside Sales and Distribution at Positronic, added: “PEI-Genesis has a strong reputation in the interconnect market for providing quick and easy access to electrical components. We are pleased to expand our relationship with them in Europe and Africa. This partnership will provide customers with an additional resource for sourcing world-class connector products.”

As part of the new franchise agreement, PEI-Genesis will assemble components at its South Bend facility in Indiana, USA. By assembling connectors from component parts, instead of holding inventory of finished goods, the company can offer greater choice with over 88 million interconnect parts in stock.

Off to a flying start

Can enclosures be machined and fitted out even faster? This article explores how the AX compact enclosure from Rittal speeds things up.

The Perforex cuts all necessary holes using data from the digital twin. Faster assembly: Interior fit-out is around 30 per cent quicker with the AX than with the predecessor model, the AE.

Meurer-etechnik is looking to the new AX compact enclosure from Rittal to improve its production efficiency. How does the new model differ from its predecessor, the AE? A day spent with enclosure production staff reveals all.

A new working day dawns at Murer-etechnik in Germany’s Westerwald region. In the incoming goods section, a young man wearing a black T-shirt with the company logo on the front and the sleeve is taking delivery of a pallet with eight AX compact enclosures from Rittal. Production Manager Steven Lauer is al- ready waiting for their arrival. In just a week’s time, the UL-compliant enclosures are set to be delivered to a special-purpose machinery manufacturer based in the Cologne area. Lauer, can’t wait to see how the new AX enclosures differ from the predecessor model, the AE.

Let’s get started,” he says. Lauer has assigned the task of fitting out the AX enclosures to three of the plant electricians. One of them is already clamping the first enclosure door into the Perforex CNC machining centre. The mounting plates are next. Progress is rapid, because the doors and mounting plates are simply added to the delivery package and staff don’t have the hassle of first detaching them from the enclosure, as is normally the case. Using the digital twin’s manufacturing data from Eplan Pro Panel, the machine cuts all the necessary holes in double-quick time. “That part is the most fun,” says Lauer, who is standing casually at the machine’s operator terminal.

“There are hardly any questions to deal with and you can see the results straight away,” he adds. t’s now time for pre-assembly, configuration and wiring. A fully automatic wire processing machine has already produced the necessary cable harnesses – also using data from the design engineering department. In this way, Meurer-etechnik is gradually implementing “enclosure manufacturing 4.0”.

The AX’s doors and mounting plates are simply added to the delivery package and are quick to machine using the Rittal Perforex BC

Lauer indicates an area in the rear part of the light-filled factory building to three members of staff, who lift the compact enclosures onto small metal trestles. Next to each of the plant electricians is a trolley with tools and a number of boxes containing electronic components. The enclosures are now lying on their backs with the doors fitted. Beside them are the mounting plates, to which the men next attach the mounting rails and cable ducts. Contactors, terminals, inverters and similar components are then installed.

During this configuration process, the electricians regularly consult their tablets to compare their work with the 3D model. Next comes the wiring. Last but not least, the fully wired mounting plate is fitted into the enclosures.

Lauer has been with Meurer-etechnik for ten years. Back when he was an apprentice, he still had to learn how to position each hole manually. “The technology has come a long way since then,” he says before asking his colleagues the following question: “So, what’s different about the AX?” The answer: “It feels like there’s more room on the gland plate.” And there is indeed 30 per cent more space for inserting cables. “That’s a huge advantage,” insists Lauer, because digitalisation is continuously increasing the number of components in the enclosure and thus also the number of cables that need to be routed inside via the gland plate.

30 per cent faster assembly thanks to tool-free installation of the handle system

He also takes a closer look at the interior wall of the compact enclosure. “There always used to be problems with the interior fit-out, because there weren’t enough options for fitting the depth stays. That has now changed,” he notes. Being able to install the rails at a variety of heights makes the process of designing the levels more flexible. Lauer points to a grey box on one of the trolleys. There are now only three cable harnesses left in it. “Once the box with the cables starts looking empty, I know we’re on the finishing straight,” he says.

There were no errors during testing, and the enclosures for the special-purpose machinery manufacturer were even ready half a day ahead of schedule. “You’re happy if, when you get to the end of the day, there’s no danger of failing to meet the delivery deadline and the quality is as it should be,” says a delighted Lauer.


Better Together: Co-Located Trade Shows for the manufacturing and engineering sector

Messe Frankfurt UK, Nineteen Group, and Rapid News Group are pleased to announce a 3-year partnership to collocate their UK manufacturing and engineering events.

The new collaboration will see Automechanika Birmingham, Design Engineering Expo, Engineering Expo, Manufacturing Expo, Med-Tech Innovation Expo, and TCT 3Sixty come together at the NEC Birmingham. The launch edition will take place for the first time from 8-9 June 2022.

Within this 3-year period all 6 events will take place alongside each other at the NEC in Birmingham creating a phenomenal offering for the manufacturing and engineering community from all vertical sectors. The partnership brings huge added value to attendees and exhibitors, with a visitor registering for one event gaining access across all shows, providing a united approach to encourage market innovation and trade.

Simon Albert, Managing Director at Messe Frankfurt UK who organise Automechanika the UK’s leading trade exhibition for the automotive aftermarket and supply chain sector comments: We have an exciting new proposition for the UK automotive supply chain and this partnership in June 2023 strengthens this opportunity further. These events naturally complement each other and by working together we can deliver the strongest platform for our customers to do business. Collocating gives the market the best possible reason to take time out of their busy schedules to visit for the duration of the shows.”

Ed Tranter, Event Director at Nineteen Group and behind the launch of the Manufacturing Expo, Engineering Expo and Design Engineering Expo explains: “Collaboration and continuous improvement is at the heart of manufacturing & engineering and the Nineteen Group. We are thrilled to be working closely with other organisations at the forefront of the sector.

As companies begin their recovery from a year of disruption, there has never been a more important time for our industry to pull together to help promote and encourage innovation and see our sectors grow. The shows provide the perfect platform for connections between suppliers and buyers with conference programmes to give a clear roadmap for a successful future. Collocating these 6 shows is an exciting opportunity and ultimately provides more value to the communities we serve. We are stronger together.”

Duncan Wood, Chief Executive at Rapid News Group, organisers of TCT 3Sixty, the event for 3D printing and additive intelligence and Med-Tech innovation Expo, the UK’s leading medical device design and manufacturing technology event adds: “The synergy between our group of shows delivers two clear benefits to the market and underpins the rationale for aligning our dates and access protocols. For the visitor the breadth of solutions under one roof at one time is unprecedented, time is precious, and these co-locations enable a prospective attendee to optimise their time out of the office. Equally the free flow of visitors across all the shows means that the return on investment for exhibitors is hugely enhanced versus each of us operating alone on different datelines. We are hugely excited to be working with a group of organisations who view the visitor experience and exhibitor ROI as importantly as we do, and we look forward to next June in anticipation.”

Hylec increases headcount, appoints Chris Shore as South Western Area Sales Manager

Hylec-APL, the specialist supplier of electrical components and enclosures, has appointed Chris Shore as South Western Area Sales Manager from July 1, 2021.  Chris joins an expanding team at Hylec as the company reports robust sales across its entire product portfolio. 

Shore is responsible for UK sales from Cornwall in the South-West across to Hampshire in the South, North and South Wales and up to Cheshire and the West Midlands.  He joins Ed Lightfoot, Northern Area Sales Manager and Jake Pitcher, Southern Area Sales Manager in the Hylec sales team headed by Sales Director Steve Robbins. 

Comments Shore: “I’m delighted to be joining Hylec at the beginning of this exciting period of growth. We are stocking high levels of product across our entire portfolio to assist customers during the present phase of high demand and to help offset production delays due to material shortages.  Across the next 12 – 18 months, we forecast strong sales as the industry emerges from the pandemic and I look forward to meeting with existing and new customers at contract manufacturers, OEMs, multi-nationals, lighting companies and designers.”

Shore joins following twenty years with a leading electronic components distributor, where his experience included worldwide purchasing and sales. 

ABB wins prestigious Red Dot Award for the product design of its new ultrasonic level transmitter

ABB’s LST200 ultrasonic level transmitter was awarded best in category for physical, as well as technical, design. The winning ABB transmitter is particularly notable for solving the surface condensation challenge often faced by plant owners, where a buildup of water has historically affected accuracy of essential plant readings. The LST200 uses new generation, active surface technology known as a “Lotus Effect” whereby surface condensate will fall off before it pools into larger droplets that could then cause problems, offering an efficient and cost-effective solution.

ABB team in Shanghai receiving the award

The Red Dot Award is a highly regarded international design prize which began in 1955. More than 15,000 admissions are submitted annually from over 70 countries around the world.

The Red Dot Awards jury said “This robust level gauge impresses with a simplicity that has been thought through down to the last detail. It presents itself as a proven means of ensuring efficiency and reliability.”

Jacques Mulbert, President of ABB’s Measurement & Analytics Division added: “To win a product design award of this magnitude is an honour. When developing the LST200 we focused on building in design and technical excellence throughout to create a product that features an intuitive user experience and powerful industrial capabilities with the overall aim of making measurement easy.”

LST200 for water applications

The smart ultrasonic level transmitter is used to measure distance between one object and another by establishing the time between emission and reception. It can be used in various industrial environments but has been designed especially for the water and wastewater treatment applications. Its design focuses on simple operation and reliability. It is modular which lends itself towards ease of installation, maintenance and upgrading. A built-in interference filter ensures that information obtained from the sensor can be used and analysed easily.

Innovative features include the adaptive intelligent algorithms based on long-term experience data and the inclusion of the ABB Ability™ Field Information Manager software for the PC which improves customer configuration efficiency.

Using an ultra-stable algorithm, the device can detect environmental changes including temperature, disturbance, measuring distance and signal strength. It then automatically compensates the variations to keep the device performing at its best.