Pneumatic, electronic controls production aided by software

To help designers create control systems that mate electronics and pneumatics, Robitech Inc. (Wilmington, Mass.) introduced a modular method in 1981 that simplified electronic/pneumatic control interfaces, made them more flexible, cut downtime, and reduced their footprint by combining them on one rack.


To help designers create control systems that mate electronics and pneumatics, Robitech Inc. (Wilmington, Mass.) introduced a modular method in 1981 that simplified electronic/pneumatic control interfaces, made them more flexible, cut downtime, and reduced their footprint by combining them on one rack. Over the years, the company's clients multiplied, but its spread sheet-based production management, scheduling, tracking and inventory system couldn't handle all the orders, and recently grew so inefficient that Robitech had to seek outside assistance.

Though it offers a standard product line, Robitech's systems are tailored to meet customers' specific needs. These systems include components bought from outside suppliers, and assembled on racks manufactured in house. Previously, inventory was tracked with a spreadsheet, and ordering was done manually, which eventually created a scheduling nightmare. "We had parts coming in from many different vendors, so getting all of them here at the right time was tough," says Jeff Forest, Robitech's operations manager. "Also, many parts are common to a lot of our systems, so it was hard to know when a part came in which job it was for."

In addition, ordering wasn't coordinated to take advantage of discounts; delivered parts weren't matched with purchase orders to maintain required inventories; price quotes took hours to compile from previous paper-based orders; and management didn't know Robitech's daily status because none of the manufacturing data was integrated with the accounting system.

Because these problems threatened its growth, Robitech's management decided to implement a combined enterprise resource planning (ERP)-accounting system to track operations. The company reports that the software that best met its needs was a mid-market, Microsoft Windows-based system, Visual Manufacturing, from Lilly Software Associates (Hampton, N.H.).

Working from the same database, this software's modules handle estimating, finite scheduling, order entry, time keeping, job costing, MRP, purchasing, inventory, customer relationship management, e-business and financials. For example, an order entry in Visual Manufacturing is linked to materials forecasting and requisition functions, ensuring that raw materials arrive in time to meet production schedules.

Tracking with ERP

After installing the new software and entering all of its historical, paper-based data, Robitech began using Visual Manufacturing to generate immediate quotes from its database, and create electronic files for subsequent orders. These files are automatically forwarded to Robitech's engineering and sales departments, and then delivered to its manufacturing facility, where Visual Manufacturing's manufacturing resource planning (MRP) module automatically determines how much of each material is needed to fill the order.

Visual Manufacturing also lets Mr. Forest check the status of open orders; quickly identify overdue parts; and reconcile work orders and assigned materials, which eliminates former confusion about which materials go to which jobs.

Finally, since installing Visual Manufacturing, Robitech reports it has doubled production with a less than 10% increase in administrative staff. "Everyone is more efficient now that we can find information we need in seconds," concludes Mr. Forest. "And since manufacturing data flows right through to accounting, we know exactly what's going on with the business at any time."

For more information, visit , or visit , or visit .

Author Information

Jim Montague, news editor

No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn more about methods used to ensure that the integration between the safety system and the process control...
Adding industrial toughness and reliability to Ethernet eGuide
Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving
Virtualization advice: 4 ways splitting servers can help manufacturing; Efficient motion controls; Fill the brain drain; Learn from the HART Plant of the Year
Two sides to process safety: Combining human and technical factors in your program; Preparing HMI graphics for migrations; Mechatronics and safety; Engineers' Choice Awards
Detecting security breaches: Forensic invenstigations depend on knowing your networks inside and out; Wireless workers; Opening robotic control; Product exclusive: Robust encoders
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
News and comments from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
Anthony Baker is a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration.
Integrator Guide

Integrator Guide

Search the online Automation Integrator Guide

Create New Listing

Visit the System Integrators page to view past winners of Control Engineering's System Integrator of the Year Award and learn how to enter the competition. You will also find more information on system integrators and Control System Integrators Association.

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.