FAQs About the Evolution of Automation



Date Created: 20/01/2020

Category: Evolution of Automation

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  1. Tell me a little bit about your company and what it offers the industry?

Repete is an independently-owned, global automation solutions provider with a focus on animal nutrition, agri-business, and food process manufacturing.  Our corporate offices are located in Sussex, Wisconsin.  We have operation centers in North America and Asia, and offices in Mexico and Thailand.  Our business and customers are also supported by application engineering resources throughout the Americas and Asia. Repete has developed a partner-based infrastructure consisting of software providers, design-build partners, electrical contractors, equipment manufacturers, and panel shops to deliver turnkey solutions and quality results worldwide. We operate in 36 countries.

We provide control system solutions, business integration at the enterprise level, turnkey solutions ranging from electrical installations to mill solutions with design/build and reference design partners.  Our experienced, industry-savvy application engineers help identify opportunities and recommend solutions to make mills safer and more productive.

  1. How has your company’s approach to what we call “automation” changed over the years?

FISMA and commercial risk mitigation requirements, labor scarcity, and requirements for ever-increasing efficiency have driven the need for a higher level of automation.  These drivers have caused Repete to innovate new automation technologies and processes to produce a new, “autonomous” or “lights-out” class of automation solution.  This new class of system is highly-available (with less downtime), recoverable (maintains automatic operation and record-keeping) when confronted with a process or device faults, and provides coordination and traceability between equipment, processes and work areas.

  1. How do you feel automation’s place in the industry has changed over the years?

Automation has evolved from machine-specific, or process-specific control to a plant-wide, or even a business ecosystem model.  Foremost, today’s automation protects human, feed, and equipment safety.  True full-mill automation is an intelligent platform that allocates work, scheduling to process areas based on production priorities, equipment optimization, safety and tracking requirements, and manufacturing dependencies.  True automation supports broader business automation by executing production, and reports results through seamless integration with ERP.  Today’s automation will provide key data to support flexible, ad hoc reporting, business metrics, and benchmarking between process areas, and even plants.

  1. What were things like before these systems were common in the industry?

Unfortunately, these systems are not common in the industry.  Many feed mills are not fully automated, and certainly not optimized.  Many plants lack the “connective tissue” of routing between process areas that is required to support full traceability.  “Islands of automation” from different controllers in different process areas mean that work cannot be automatically scheduled, coordinated, optimized, and reported.  That reduces the efficiency of the mill and introduces risk.  Improperly mixed feed, rework, and even safety concerns can result when islands of automation exist or a system is not properly designed, defined, and tested.  These risks are shared by large and small enterprises alike.

  1. Any new offerings or products you don’t feel like people know about?

Yes, we have evolved from a control system provider to a solutions provider.  Repete participates in many automation projects each year, ranging from single independent feed mills to multi-site projects involving enterprise-level business system integration.  We know what works in a given process scenario, and what equipment and companies in the industry produce a good result for our customers.  So, as an independent company, we can help our customers by introducing them to the right companies and solutions for their application.  We have the freedom and independence to provide a control system solution without the pressure of also selling a piece of equipment from a line card.  Instead, we have independent reference design partners that will produce a great result for each individual application.

  1. What do people often get wrong when they think about what your company can offer?

One common mistake people make is to establish a design and then approach us about automating the mill or process area.  Generally, very few successful products are produced today where automation is not considered early in the design.  By talking to us early and considering the impact of automation as part of the design criteria, we can help produce a smarter plant design for our customers.  Automation considerations in design can impact construction costs, labor costs (the gift that keeps on giving), efficiency, and food safety.  We can provide advice on which equipment is compatible with automation, verify compatibility, and remove risk early in your planning process.

The second most common mistake is the perception that a feed manufacturer needs to be a certain size to benefit from the solutions we offer.  We have solutions that fit businesses of many sizes and in many sectors of the animal nutrition business.

  1. Where do you see systems like your company’s going in the future?

We believe that successful technology companies will need to maintain a continuous commitment to investment and innovation.  Those of us who make that commitment and can invest will continue to produce a new generation of intelligent and agile automation solutions.  Intelligence refers to the ability of a system to analyze a vast amount of production data and learn and adapt as it goes along.  This will allow systems to autonomously improve the performance of machines, processes, and plants as part of a smart manufacturing ecosystem.   Agility refers to a system that can adapt to a changing environment, whether that means easily changing the process by adding equipment or devices or by publishing data to support or produce a metric to solve a unique problem.

 

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Download the free Repete Guide to Feed Mill Automation now.

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