Seek answers in new ways

If my press release inbox is any indication, this fall promises lots of new choices for adding to a control engineer’s toolbox. It’s the midst of the fall trade show season, which means many opportunities to kick the tires on new products and quiz the makers of existing products about upgrade details.

10/01/2006


If my press release inbox is any indication, this fall promises lots of new choices for adding to a control engineer’s toolbox. It’s the midst of the fall trade show season, which means many opportunities to kick the tires on new products and quiz the makers of existing products about upgrade details.

A group of cutting-edge machine builders and system integrators did just that in August at Control Engineering’s Inside Machines One-to-One Event. In an intimate gathering in a hotel on the California coast, these engineers met one-on-one with suppliers to learn more than a magazine ad or Web site could provide.

Tommy Buie, engineering manager for Micro Technology Services Inc., says his company’s goal is to be the best supplier of security products, contract engineering and manufacturing machines. He, in turn, is looking for suppliers of sensors, drives, motion control and other products for whatever design project might walk in the door. “Most customers don’t help specify products,” he says. “They just want stuff to work economically, and be available.” He relies heavily on spec sheets to discover the products that will meet his customers’ needs, but went to the event to “find better tools or relationships that would help in specifying, sourcing, and getting parts.” He says he came away discovering HMI technology he didn’t know existed, and “even better: phone numbers and specific people to call when I need something else later.”

That need for discovery was echoed by Ralph Cope, president of Accudyne Systems: “We’re an engineering firm that allows customers to come to us to create the first of anything. Our machines are mechanically clever, with PLCs and tons of sensors. Tomorrow I might need an infrared temperature sensor or a PLC that goes between two motors. The goal is to stay abreast of the latest technology. Customers for the machines see it as magic; we know there’s science behind it.”

Cope’s team has a huge toolbox, but they often seek new answers. He appreciates when vendors relay knowledge about available technologies and their capabilities, so he can spread that information to employees. “We want to expand our toolbox understanding of what products can do,” he says. “We sell one-of-a-kind equipment, starting with a problem and a blank slate. When we’re finished, we’d rather not have callback and warrantee work.”

I’m sure that’s true for whatever project you’re working on today. So, no matter how busy you are, make the time to get out to a trade show or vendor presentation this season and discover something new. It just might be the solution to a problem you don’t even have yet.

renee.robbins@reedbusiness.com





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