TRC-2019 Learning Zone 37:47

by Dan Roessler, Accruent

Robotics is changing the way manufacturers operate and support their plant environments, and the skillsets they need. Automated machinery and robots are replacing human-operated assembly lines to enable global competitiveness. With increasing automation, uniquely skilled workers are needed to handle maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) activities. In the past, MRO team members had discipline-based specialized skillsets. Now, it’s much more complex as systems are integrated with robots having six-pivot arms that are controlled by PLCs, interfaced to other electronic systems and powered by hydraulics. Highly automated plants require a combination of electric power, electronic communications and computing, hydraulics and mechanics. Each system speaks its own language, and they must talk and work together. It’s essential to keep plants producing maximum revenue at the lowest cost, which means robot-based equipment must be maintained, and if it goes down, it must be rapidly brought back online. The MRO technician now needs to know how to maintain and repair across disciplines, including mechanical engineering, computer engineering, and PLC controls. Factories have cross-trained experienced people who were grounded in distinct specialized skills, but those knowledgeable people are leaving, whether through retirement or being poached by other high-tech factories. This leaves a distinct skills gap that is difficult to navigate through now and is only going to get worse. Mechatronics helps close this gap. Mechatronics technicians have emerged more prevalently in the last few years. They are well-equipped to meet the challenges mentioned above and are being trained by schools now offering mechatronics degrees at both associate and bachelor levels. Mechatronics technicians can do ongoing multi-discipline maintenance, recognize spare parts needs, and rebuild equipment when necessary. 

Key topics will include:

  1. Skills summary of mechatronically trained resources.
  2. Systems/Tools for mechatronics success. 
  3. Where to find mechatronics technicians. 
  4. Benefits of adopting mechatronics.

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