Innovation and Technology at the Manufacturing Automation and Robotics Symposium

Posted on 2 Jun 2021 by Lois Mackenzie

The Manufacturing Automation and Robotics Symposium 2021 took place on 20th May and had a stellar line up of speakers. Over the next few days, we will be recapping the virtual event and bringing you the key takeaways to help you on your business on your own automation journey.

At the 2021 Manufacturing Automation and Robotics Symposium, discussion was broken down into several seminars, allowing discussion across many different areas of automation. One such discussion group, entitled ‘Innovation and Technology’, focused on panel-led discussion around the automation and robotics landscape, and how to take advantage of this evolving technology.

The panel was led by David Santos, Robotics and Automation Lead Engineer at Cobham, Simon Keogh, General Manager Factory Automation at Siemens, and Daniel Smalley, Business Manager Digitalisation also at Siemens.


CROP - cloud adoption Smart factory and industry 4.0 and connected production robots exchanging data with internet of things (IoT) with cloud computing technology - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
Image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The discussion was focused around three main points:

  1. Why is technology important?
  2. Technology alone is not the answer, it needs purpose.
  3. How can adaption of manufacturing technology be simplified?

Key Takeaways 

Talking about the importance of technology, guests and panellists highlighted the scarceness of labour, and the importance of advanced technology to help counteract this.

The value of long-term vision was stressed. A view ahead of the big things to be implemented in the company is valued, but firstly dealing with the smaller and seemingly less important issues must be prioritised. Without first implementing basic, efficient problem solving, the larger innovation will not be effective.

Another issue of importance stressed heavily during the discussion is the value of partnerships and ecosystems in order to effectively and accurately implement automation in the business. Daniel insisted that this really is “absolutely core” to what they do.

The inclusion of a skilled group of people, who are able to deploy the product is vital in working together to fix problems in the implementation of automation. This partnership is absolutely fundamental to aid strategy going forward.

These people who are deploying the automation systems must be continually updated in skills, Daniel stressed. They must possess an understanding of what is possible with the current products and be able to express what is to be gained from automation.

Design of the automation process was also broached. The process of trying to automate a manual process as similar to the original manual process as possible. Sometimes you need to keep the same design and the same process.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

The issue of legacy equipment was discussed in relationship to challenges that may be faced in implementing automation. David raised the issue that many production lines are up to 20 years old, therefore it is difficult to introduce new technologies into existing processes.

However, he drew light to the use of proof of concepts to counteract this problem.

In making automation implementation easier and more accessible, centres of excellence were discussed at length. Simon spoke highly of centres of excellence stating: “Regardless of how well engineering thinks it knows how the production line is, there’s always a whole load of hidden gems that just sit there waiting to trip up your well laid automation project.”

The multifaceted skill teams at centres for excellence have knowledge in all aspects and allow for flow of data between all disciplines.

It wasn’t surprising that the discussion panel on the evolving technology in automation was incredibly informative in not only the discipline itself, but in implementing, overcoming challenges and making it work for individual industries.

Other events from the Manufacturing Automation and Robotics Symposium include: How automation is changing the work place and Implementing and operating strategies for automation projects.