Unleashing robotics power: How machine builders gain a competitive edge with software design tools

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According to Fortune Business Insights, the global industrial robotics market will grow from $16.78 billion in 2022 to $35.68 billion by 2029. (That’s an impressive CAGR of 11.4%). But for most machine builders, remaining competitive and benefitting from this business growth opportunity will require significant efforts. Setting up proper business alliances and reinventing design and engineering processes will be crucial. 

The OEM must innovate because their end users expect maximum ROI from machine investments. They must go beyond the technical requirements to enable efficient engineering and hardware and software standardization. In addition, rapid and accurate troubleshooting based on precise machine data, is required to assure superior levels of customer service.

Integrating software and services into their proposed machine solutions helps OEMs achieve such competitive advantage capabilities. The embedding of extended diagnostics and the ability to reuse software libraries and toolsets enables standardization and scalability in programming and boosts OEM efficiency and productivity.

A new generation of advanced software tools enables machine builders to support better entire-lifecycle machine operations. Predefined templates save engineering time. They supply complete pre-built programming object libraries. They can even provide an entire machine module to machine designers.

A robotic arm lifts one green plastic ball out of a bin full of many balls on a conveyor line in a factory.
Machine builders can help their customers by shortening machine solution lead times and designing more modular and scalable machines.

Achieve efficiencies with alliance-driven pre-built OEM libraries

Organizations that commit themselves to driving innovation often require outside help and expertise to implement the changes necessary to remain competitive. That’s where companies like Automotion help to fill the gap.

Automotion, a Schneider Electric Alliance Master Machine Integrator, supports OEMs by working in close partnership to co-create solutions, share knowledge, and add value by simplifying technological complexities. With facilities in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, the company serves OEMs locally and in areas where OEMs are exporting to their customers.

Automotion also staffs and operates a motion control and automation team to train OEMs on the business benefits of machine-related software and services. Through the Competence Center, OEMs are educated on the business benefits of digitization and work in close partnership with Automotion to close business. Automotion helps OEMs deliver tailored solutions and trains them to develop, integrate and implement the required technologies.

Automotion OEM clients achieve business transformation processes success thanks to several factors. One is a close alliance and collaboration with automation technology supplier Schneider Electric. As a leading global industrial automation and energy management solutions manufacturer, Schneider Electric offers an ever-evolving suite of high-reliability hardware and software and a resilient supply chain for fast delivery. Focusing on open software innovation makes it easier for Automotion and its client OEMs to integrate solutions quickly at the device, industrial edge, and software and analysis levels. With Automotion’s application and market expertise, machine builders can leverage the partnership to build high levels of end-user trust.

Most of the Automotion team of 30 people are hardware and software engineers and are new-generation robotics software experts. They help machine builders integrate the latest Schneider Electric robotics and motion control system solutions.

Our engineers possess high levels of expertise in optimizing software libraries related to machine control. A software library is a collection of code elements that can be reused to develop other software projects. Programming routines are one example. Using software libraries helps reduce the time spent developing new code and simplifies the programming process.

How software libraries translate to added value for machine builders


Why is software such a critical component of modern robotics solutions? It enables OEMs to capture, consolidate, and analyze data, allowing end users to make faster and more profitable decisions across all key phases (engineering design, commissioning, operations, maintenance) of their machine-driven operations.

Machine builders achieve cost savings, increased flexibility, and quality improvement while ensuring plant floor safety by deploying software tools, such as programming libraries, as part of their modern motion control and robotics solutions. These libraries add value in multiple ways:

Access to non-specialists

  • Many machine builders are challenged to evolve and optimize machine code while continuously delivering new machines. This results in machines with different software versions in the field. When a problem occurs and performance optimization or maintenance scheduling is required, it’s beneficial to update the machine to the latest software version. Maintaining backward-compatible software versions is always a challenge. It requires time and the right skills to execute correctly. At the same time, aggressive lead times and resource shortages place machine builders under high pressure.

    However, working with pre-built libraries of code removes this complexity. The simplicity of the process allows the OEMs to make any necessary software functionality changes as they support the end-users. Enabling additional non-programming staff members to process changes eliminates the total dependency on experts. Machine performance improvements can be designed and implemented quickly and efficiently.

Standardization

  • Automotion acquires software libraries from Schneider Electric, knowing they comply with IEC 61131-3. (That is the international standard for PLC programming languages). They then use the Schneider Electric provides libraries as a base. From there, they formulate dedicated library sets to address specific OEM needs. For example, OEMs must tackle challenges like building top-notch machines, integrating multiple technologies, and delivering high end-user service levels. The dedicated library set unburdens them from work unrelated to their core business. The OEMs no longer have to spend time building libraries on their own, which speeds up their time-to-market, and their machine solutions are scalable and easy to maintain over time.

Embedded diagnostics

  • The ability to build an object-oriented library structure around every industrial device (like a functioning robot, for example) represents just part of the value of software libraries. Modern libraries also embed a complete configuration and full diagnostics structure.

The diagnostics structure adds value throughout the multiple “data journey” steps. This includes generating machine performance data in libraries, storing that data to allow a technician to go back in time and view how the machine has been behaving, and analyzing that data to enable more efficient engineering, shorter commissioning time, more optimized machine cycles, and more effective troubleshooting.

Suppose a robot arm moves from point A to point B, and an error occurs. In that case, an alarm indicates what went wrong, identifies what the robot is waiting for, and explains how the issue can be resolved. This allows for much quicker operational diagnostics and fixes.

For more information

Pre-built programming libraries make it easy for engineers to drive machine quality consistency, integrate 3rd party products, and provide flexibility. This flexibility is needed to modify and validate design ideas quickly. Such libraries accelerate design/build speeds and help validate robotic performance and integration before ordering and installing hardware. This boosts quality and safety while making machine performance more accurately predictable.

At Automotion, our motion control and automation Competence Center provides our partner OEM engineers access to a complete set of libraries for managing robots, carriers, and motion flow strategies.

Learn more about how Automotion and Schneider Electric can support your robotics and motion control modernization projects through consulting, education, and digital solutions. Visit our website and the Schneider Electric robotics web page.

Automotion

Automotion has been actively supporting machine builders and system integrators for three decades in anticipating rapid advancements in technology. In today’s dynamic landscape, the pressure on machine builders to excel has never been greater. The era of ‘machine as a service’ and ‘software as a service’ offers limitless potential for automation. To bring these smart machines to life, we stand by our OEM customers throughout the machine’s entire lifecycle. From co-creation and providing essential tools to optimizing hardware packages, our commitment shines through in the design phase, system development, commissioning, and serviceability aspects, resulting in an optimized Total Cost of Ownership.

Schneider Electric Alliance Partner Program

Through the Schneider Electric Alliance Partner Program, we empower companies to develop new capabilities to better support the digital transformation of customers and work in partnership to strengthen business resiliency.

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