Over the past few years, as cost and pricing pressures have continued to make life difficult for manufacturers, it has become increasingly apparent that automation and Industry 4.0 are the best long-term bets for businesses that want to streamline production.
“Industry 4.0 really is the answer. It allows the monitoring of production lines, bottlenecks, condition monitoring and potential energy savings to improve the line efficiency and reduce costs,” Peter Sammut, Rexroth business unit manager (automation and electrification) told Food & Beverage Industry News. “Automation also allows manufacturers to be flexible and agile… to produce different products in smaller batches and bring them to market faster.”
On top of that, any process that needs repeatability with quality and/or traceability verification will benefit from automation. “Industry 4.0 is just an extension of that process. It’s using real-time with shorter, more efficient response cycles to the deviations. It’s just preventative maintenance at the next level. Any industry that needs repeatability with quality can benefit from automation,” Brendan Walsh Rexroth business unit manager (linear technology and assembly technology) explained.
Broadly, Rexroth’s offerings within this space fall into two categories – linear motion technology, and electric drives and controls. Both have applications in the food and beverage manufacturing sector.
Linear motion technology is used in primary packaging (putting end products in boxes), secondary packaging (placing the containers into either shipping boxes or pallets), and the conveyors used as transport between those points. Electric drives and controls, on the other hand, are used by the machine builders (OEMs and the special purpose machine builders). They help these people build machinery that is more flexible and modular and has faster set-up and changeover times.
Automation without technology bias
According to Walsh, an important aspect of Rexroth’s approach to automation is the fact that the company can offer a complete solution, which includes mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic machine components; as well as sensors, Industry 4.0-enabling products and even high-end ERP software (in conjunction with parent company Bosch).
“We’re one of the few companies that has everything in the whole range,” said Walsh.
Rexroth manufactures products based on an open architecture system allowing integration to third-party products. Therefore, the company has wider scope to provide the customer the best solution for a given application. “For example, the IoT gateway accommodates many different PLC manufacturers and communicates to them with ease,” said Sammut.
The breadth of its offerings means that Rexroth is not biased towards one technology. “We offer hydraulics, electric drives and controls and linear technology. We’re going to offer the best possible solution to the customer,” said Sammut.
In contrast, many other suppliers focus on one area and therefore tend to push that solution even if it may not be the most suitable for a given application.