ECN Industry Round-Table (Christian's Response)

June 14, 2012

Question: What do you feel is the most important enabling technology for the next-generation smart factory?

We see four key attributes of the next-generation smart factory: full integration of production processes, adaptability to changing product mixes, safe operations and efficient use of resources. The most important enabling technologies are those that help achieve these goals.

Advanced networking technologies such as fieldbuses (CANopen, DeviceNet) or industrial Ethernet (Ethernet/IP, ProfiNet, Powerlink) are a key element in the push for integration and adaptability since these networks can be extended or re-configured much more quickly than traditional hard-wired systems. Ethernet-based systems also have the advantage of enabling integration of automation production facilities with enterprise-level systems.

FRABA makes and sells sensors for motion control systems and we strive to ensure that they support the objectives of integration, adaptability, safety and efficiency. In particular, we provide a wide range of interface options that enable our sensors to connect seamlessly to most networking systems. In addition, we make extensive use of embedded ASICs and microprocessors in our sensors so that they can be quickly configured to meet application requirements by changing firmware. The combined intelligence of networks and devices makes it easier to accomplish secondary goals such as increased safety and the more efficient use of energy and other resources.

The emergence of more economical and adaptable motion control technologies has led to exciting developments beyond the traditional factory floor. Motion control technologies are showing up in non-factory environments such as construction equipment, airport baggage handling systems and renewable energy.

In this new world, survival depends on being innovative, agile and responsive. Globalization is a reality, so that successful companies, even those of modest size, need to have an international presence. At FRABA, we have active operations on three continents, each with product development, manufacturing and sales capabilities. This means that we can develop intimate knowledge of local requirements while taking advantage of international R&D and manufacturing resources as even the most advanced technologies still require a solid market understanding and effective technical support.

Christian Fell, FRABA Inc., June 14, 2012

Christian Fell