The People Behind Industrial Automation

Behind every successful automated machine are some brilliant minds that have put their creativity and hard work together to deliver the best solutions for manufacturing challenges. These are the people who have revolutionized industries and reimagined manufacturing processes by improving efficiency and safety, reducing costs, and boosting productivity. They might not be in the limelight like celebrities or star athletes, but they continue to significantly contribute towards building a better world for us all. Let’s take a close look at the people who dedicate their careers to the uniquely innovative sector of industrial automation.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic."

✔️ Let’s first cover the basics. 

Industrial Automation: This is the use of modern technologies such as software, programming, and robotics, to control machinery and processes which automate specific functions. These functions are primarily centered on manufacturing, quality control, and material handling processes. 

Automated Machine: As consumers, most of the products we use and rely on every day are manufactured somewhere in the world on some kind of machine. There are many different types of machines, from semi to fully automated, and can have a range of requirements and interactions. Because most manufacturing processes are not one-size-fits-all, they often need specialized and custom machines that are unique to their needs. 

Automated Machine Building Companies: These organizations have a dedication to designing and building machines for manufacturing processes. They typically have expertise in a variety of applications and skills that are required to understand what a manufacturing project needs, then develop and provide a solution through an automated system that fits their requirements. 

The People Behind Industrial Automation

Specifically, those behind the entire process of industrial automation projects and the creation of designing and building an automated machine. At this level of advanced technology, the business structure of an automated machine company may appear like any other, but the innerworkings are like the fine-tuned machines they build, with the added ability to learn and adapt each day. With so much talk about technology and automation, everyone holds an important role to make it all possible. Every person throughout the process is committed to working together to move from conceptual designs on paper to a complete turn-key system that is ready for production.

    These are the people that provide support to solve even the most difficult challenges. It’s more than just robots and lights (although they make for some really cool pictures), it’s the entire team that pushes the industry standard, bringing machines to life every day.

The People Behind Industrial Automation

Instead of opening the door to the same old thing, there is always a new challenge to conquer. The constant evolution of products and technology demands insight into new and exciting ideas, and rarely is the door to a new day opened for the same task. Every person on the automation team is constantly learning not only to better their skillset, but to equip systems with the best pieces of technology available. Custom machine building companies rise up to manufacturing challenges with the experience and flexibility to produce results.

A glimpse into the thought that goes into addressing the needs of a project:

“There are always multiple ways to solve a problem. Creating simple, robust designs often presents a bigger challenge than a more complex mechanism because it is boiled down to its essential components. A complex design might be quicker to design but is often more costly and less robust. I try to look at how to remove items from a design, rather than add to it. The challenge is balancing time, cost, and ease of fabrication and construction.”

How to best tackle a project:

“My dad has a saying I frequently reference: ‘How do you eat an Elephant? One bite at a time.’ I typically approach projects by taking a big picture approach first and have a general idea of how most of the machine is going together then start biting off small manageable sections.”

Meet the Team

The industrial automation & automated machine building field is made up of a diverse group of people with a wide range of skills and experience. From the applications engineers who provide the initial machine concepts to the technicians who maintain and operate them and everyone in between, each person plays an important role in the lifecycle of a machine, and like all companies, each department serves an essential purpose.

  1. Applications engineering – To start the process, the team must understand the project requirements to create a detailed machine concept while working with a customer and the internal team. The applications engineering team pulls from best practices and know-how, and combines them with the latest products and technology to create the starting point of each project.  
  2. Project management – The project management team takes the design from the applications engineering and uses it as a basis to kick-off the project. A project kick-off meeting presents the internal departments with the ideas and thought process behind the project and connects the entire team with the customer, sharing their needs, goals, and project timeline.
  3. Electrical and mechanical engineering – A typical automated machine project includes Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Controls Engineering and Programming to hammer out the details and turn the concept into a functioning system. The engineering teams work with the customers along the way to make sure the machine they are designing will meet the requirements and expectations of the end user. From the machine base, custom stations, safety equipment, robotics, cameras, tooling, and every nut and bolt in between, the engineers are responsible for.
  4. Electrical assembly and machine build – Once the engineering and design of the project is approved, builders and electricians can get to work fabricating the parts and assembling the machine. This is the step in the process when the machine comes to life and goes from a 3D design to a physical system. The shop team consists of a multitude of specialists and skilled craftsmen from welders to machinists, electricians to machine builders. The entire team works in a highly collaborative environment to manufacture, wire, construct, and build the equipment.
  5. Debug and testing team – Once the equipment is built and connected to power and utilities, at least one person from every department assists with testing, debugging and troubleshooting, machine runoff, and mock production. Rigorous testing and quality assurance ensures the machine operates to specification and is ready for customer approval. This is the last essential step before the machine is delivered and installed at its destination and ready for manufacturing production.

Who Wins with Industrial Automation and the Use of Automated Machines?

The short answer – everyone. There are many different ways to automate manufacturing processes that can provide unique benefits to the customer, their employees, the environment, and even the economy. Every machine can be tailored to fit the specific needs of a particular industry. This could be due to in general, though, the overall implementation of automated machines opens the door to an entire world of competitive manufacturing. 

When producing a large number of products, especially if they are unique or complex, industrial automation can be a huge help. By automating various processes throughout the production line, output can be significantly boosted while also reducing costs. In many cases, automated systems can complete tasks that are unsafe or physically demanding for operators to complete, providing manufacturing companies with the ability to upskill their workforce. This gives companies the opportunity to invest in their employees by broadening their skill base so they can be utilized more efficiently elsewhere. This also leaves the manufacturer time and energy to focus on their core business.

Getting Started with Automated Machines at SDC

The level of sophistication and experience that is required to design and build a machine cannot often be found in-house at a manufacturing company, which is why partnering with a custom machine builder with expertise in industrial automation is becoming the norm. Manufacturers are choosing to dedicate their efforts to improving their products and processes and working with a partner to help them with the design and build of the custom automated machines and systems they need.

Industrial automation and custom machine technology has come a long way in the past few decades. From robots to drones, artificial intelligence to machine learning, the creative minds behind these new technologies have enabled us to do more with less effort. Companies like Steven Douglas Corp (SDC) have dedicated their time and effort to moving the industrial automation industry forward. For over 25 years SDC’s team has been able to successfully create innovative solutions and also lay the foundation of efficiency that can help manufacturers produce more, with less. SDC create lasting partnerships with manufacturers to through reliable automated machines. Their dedication to customer service, innovation and teamwork sets them apart from the competition and keeps their customers coming back year after year. If you have a manufacturing process, you would like a partner to help you automate, contact the professionals at SDC to learn how they can help design, build, and implement industrial automated solutions.