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Who's at the core of industrial automation sourcing process?

22 Jun 2015  | William Ng

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The field of manufacturing and industrial automation is enthusiastic about the promise of advanced machine-to-machine networking, smart factories and Industry 4.0. Working professionals such as design, project and process engineers are all excited as well, but getting to these benefits is no walk in the park.

Still, a recent Design News-exclusive study proves that engineering professionals are at the very forefront of this push into the future and making direct financial, performance and value impact on their organisations by being personally involved or final decision-makers on automation solution and component choices.

Among engineering professionals who are directly responsible for specifying or purchasing decisions, more than three-quarters are identifying solution types and making brand and vendor recommendations, while more than half are evaluating products and determining new and emerging solutions to adopt. Just about every six in 10 engineers are directing the final decisions on products and technologies in their automation designs and selecting brands and vendors.

These results came from 530 Design News community members who subscribe to our monthly print magazine or range of e-newsletters and responded to our survey. Exploration and Insights LLC helped execute the survey, and Gazelle Global, an independent research firm, tabulated the survey data.

Among our respondents, 59 per cent said they are responsible for system design engineering as well as engineering and project management. Forty-eight per cent said their primary or secondary job function is to design for in-plant use. The respondents are also multi-disciplinary, with mechanical engineering, electrical/electronic engineering, manufacturing engineering, controls engineering and electromechanical engineering among the most ticked boxes in Design News' query on their formal backgrounds.

They also proved to be serving a breadth of end-use markets. Those most identified were packaging, assembly and conveying, automotive/transportation, machine tools, and robotic systems. They were tailed immediately by aerospace/defence, medical/healthcare, and food and beverage processing.

Perhaps not surprising, the majority of them are specifying, approving and purchasing machine sensors and I/O devices. Plus, there was a fairly even distribution across the sourcing of motors, HMIs, controllers, drives, cylinders, encoders, safety equipment and vision systems. More than one-third are also involved with industrial automation software and networking technologies in the midst of our factory automation renaissance.

As should be expected, system engineers are predominantly using standard off-shelf solutions when applicable. Nearly half of the Design News respondents, too, are working with automation vendors to design custom solutions when they're needed, followed by more than one-third of engineering professionals who are collaborating with system integrators.

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