IMTS emphasizes the importance of information

After four years, the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) returned to McCormick Place in Chicago. The largest trade show in North America was sidelined in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but came back in September without skipping a beat. The show took all four halls at McCormick with an emphasis on automation, robotics, additive manufacturing, cybersecurity, heavy machinery and much more.

There were several undercurrents running through the show such as the need for workers, growing demand for robotics and automation and reshoring’s impact on manufacturing. A key topic throughout the event, which impacts these other undercurrents in some way, is information.

The rise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0 and the Smart Factory have put a greater emphasis on information and how it impacts a facility’s operation. There are so many data touchpoints being collected that it can become overwhelming at times.

Gathering all this information is only part of the picture, however. The next – and most important – step is utilizing the data to make the right decision.

“We have more data than we need,” said Darcy MacClaren, senior vice president of digital supply chain sales for SAP. “There’s nothing new there. The core difference is bringing it together and developing intelligent solutions.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can help in that regard, she said.

“We need to gather all this data to collect and develop patterns so the system can learn and put that together.”

International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2022 returned to McCormick Place in Chicago after a 4-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2022 returned to McCormick Place in Chicago after a 4-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

Improving machines and workers in manufacturing

It’s more than about making machines better, though. If Industry 4.0 is about making machines better and smarter, the future Industrial Revolution, Industry 5.0, will swing the pendulum in the other direction and emphasize bettering the worker. AI and ML will play a key role in that development.

Messages highlighted at IMTS included:

Improving worker optimization on the factory floor with AI. Worker efficiency and performance can be improved by using AI and learning where and how workers can be used the best. Chris Kuntz, VP of marketing for Augmentir, described it as “original equipment effectiveness (OEE) for people.”

Automation and AI myths. Jerry Foster, CFO at Plex Systems, believes AI and automation can be effective tools in manufacturing. However, common myths such as too much data not being a bad thing, the need for data scientists and misconceptions about cloud security are keeping manufacturers for utilizing automation and AI to their full potential.

Improving robot sensors and implementation. Tom Knauer, global industry manager of factory automation with Balluff, believes the goals suppliers are focused on are reducing total manufacturing and supply chain cost, scrap rates and improving quality, asset utilization and machine availability while reducing unplanned downtime and small stops. To achieve these goals, Knauer recommended focusing on three main strategies: Efficiency, flexibility and visibility.

Five steps to robot implementation success. Mark Cianciosa, regional automation manager at Acieta, highlighted five ways to make robot implementation success: Company-wide support, define what makes a success, define what makes a failure, preparing a budget and timeline and gather information about a facility’s operations.

Protect the digital manufacturing supply chain. Companies are only as strong as the weakest link in their supply chain, and many small and medium-sized manufacturers don’t even have their own information technology (IT) departments. According to Laura Elan, senior director of cybersecurity with MxD, as organizations digitize and become more interconnected, they must be constantly vigilant with not only their own security practices but also with those of their suppliers.

Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology,

See additional coverage from IMTS linked below.