Industrial Automation – It Doesn’t Have To…

Industrial Automation - It Doesn't Have To... Be Wasteful

July 27, 2021 elliTek, Inc. Season 2 Episode 15
Industrial Automation – It Doesn’t Have To…
Industrial Automation - It Doesn't Have To... Be Wasteful
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Join us as we talk about some new ways to generate money, real money while saving the earth.  We're talking about green initiatives, aka Green Manufacturing, and how your manufacturing facility can benefit from sustainability efforts.

During the show, we dig into the benefits of green initiatives in manufacturing.  We discuss how manufacturers can reduce waste - with real-world, actionable ideas.

Stay with us as we discuss what elliTek's technology partners are doing to help reduce waste.  We hope you find these innovations as super-impressive as we do!

elliTek's mission is one of empowerment. Whether you're a local customer or across the planet, we are here to help. 

Reach out to us with any questions or future topics!

If you don't want to click on those links, pick up the phone to call us at (865) 409-1555 ext. 804.

Industrial Automation - It Doesn’t Have to be Wasteful

Brandon: Hello everyone, this is Brandon Ellis with Industrial Automation - It Doesn’t Have to… And today we’ve been building upon topics that started with labor shortages, we talked about automation solutions to overcome those shortages... we even got into an alternate viewpoint of the ROI calculation post-COVID. Today we’re going to be talking about some new ways to generate money, real money while saving the earth. So, join us. 


Hello everybody, and welcome to Industrial Automation - It Doesn't Have to... In case you’re new, I'm Brandon Ellis and I'm your host and also the owner of elliTek. As we jump into today's episode, I just want to ask you to hit that follow button and subscribe button, depending on the platform that you’re listening on. And if you’re listening on Apple Podcasts and you enjoy what you hear today, please go to the show page, scroll to the bottom and leave the podcast a five-star rating and review. Now that we've got the marketing out of the way, I want to say thanks for tuning in. So, let's get started with today's episode. 


Hey everybody, welcome back and hello to our producer and marketing manager: the one and the only Miss Beth Elliott. Hey Beth.


Beth: Hey Brandon, how are you doing today? 


Brandon: Doing great. It's a Friday, as you pointed out in the past, so we're just taking her easy and letting the week roll down, looking forward to a good warm July weekend. 


Beth: Yes, it will be a toasty. Do you have any plans this weekend?


Brandon: I think I'm going to have to actually break down to work in the yard. 


Beth: You’re gonna have to mow the hay. 


Brandon: That’s right. I’ve been holding out for a cool July day, and it just hasn't happened. 


Beth: I wonder when that would happen, yeah. Well, Sunday might be cool, I don’t know.


Brandon: Right, that’s true. Actually, this is the time of year for me that… Because we heat with wood. For the winter.


Beth: This time of year? Oh, you got to get prepared.


Brandon: I’ve got to prepare. So, we have a neighbor who is doing some clearing in his land, and he had some trees that had to be taken down, and they’re oak trees. So, I volunteered for myself and the help of my beautiful wife, to... we're going to go grab those logs and get them up to our property and there'll be chainsaws and splitting and stacking. 


Beth: Some chopping. Yeah. That’s some good physical exercise.


Brandon: Yeah, if the heat doesn't get us. Maybe I’ll set up a slip n slide and we’ll take a slide in between each log. But yeah, we have to get that ready, so it'll be seasoning now for not this winter but the next winner. You know, it’s kind of an interesting segway in today’s topic, because some would say heating with wood as an alternative to electric heat is green.


Beth: I think so. 


Brandon: So, for us it's less expensive. 


Beth: It is, yeah. 


Brandon: But it is a lot of work. So why don't you walk us into today's topic. 


Beth: Yes. So today we’re talking about green initiatives, also known as green manufacturing and how your manufacturing facility can benefit from sustainable efforts. So, today's title is Industrial Automation - It Doesn't Have to be... Wasteful. 


Brandon: Wasteful, that’s right. So, waste means a lot of different things but, specifically, green initiative. Now, we’ve talked in past podcasts about how this was certainly a topic about a decade or a decade and a half ago I recall. And we've seen your wonderful post on LinkedIn where the title on the graphic is anti-air. And so, replacing things, like replacing pneumatics and things of that nature... we’re going to walk through some of those things, but that's a green initiative. But it's also a money-saving initiative. so let me just quickly give my two cents on green initiative. So, it's no secret there's back and forth, yin and yang on global warming and its effects long-term, short-term... things of that nature, you know. We're really not getting into that portion of it, but what we're saying, though, is: changes made today, on the whole, will benefit generations to come, the next generation, and generations after that, and that's always a good thing. But also, what are the benefits that we can see in the short-term, the near-term? Now, here's the thing: if you're googling this, and I know my nieces and nephews will google and fact-check their Uncle, a lot, green initiative is a big deal, but this isn't about... there's plenty of companies out there that can claim green initiatives and they're really just investing in a solar farm or a wind farm or something like that somewhere else and they're still pumping out all the stuff. We're not talking about that. That's a bit of a controversial green initiative…


Beth: The climate credits.


Brandon: Yes, with climate credits and things of that nature which, basically, if we're being totally honest, is we're going to pay somebody money so that they look the other way while we pollute the Earth. So that's not what we're talking about, we’re not talking about ways of doing that. But what we are talking about is ways that manufacturers in industrial automation can do those things that are green, have a green initiative as far as energy savings and reduced landfilled fill age, but also save money. So, the short-term benefits with the long-term green benefits that come to help the generations to come, such as my nieces and nephews. 


Beth: I think it's a no-brainer


Brandon: It makes a lot of sense. I want you to walk us through the general definition of... you’re the researcher, the wikipedia-er, of green manufacturing.


Beth: Just the overview of it, so green manufacturing and, you know, why should you care, you know, even love Mother Earth, but why should you care? It's a value that you can get your business behind, but also buyers from larger businesses want sustainable products and services and partners... They want to partner with those folks. Buyers are also looking to source locally to reduce the transportation cost. 


Brandon: Well, not just transportation costs but transportation effects on the environment. So, again, there’s the money side of it but there's also the green side of it, and then, like you said, it is a bit of a purpose-driven value for companies to get behind that I think employees today... I think in the United States, certainly, as a whole, but if you look outside of the United States into other countries, now in Asia specifically with Japan and South Korea, there have been longtime initiatives to do things that are more green, green initiatives. It’s more in the fabric, I think, I don't want to distract from us here in the US, but I think it's more into their normal thinking than it has been in the United States in the past. I think, honestly, with the younger generation, and younger being 40 and below, 30 and below for sure, that it's more woven into their culture than it perhaps was with my generation and certainly with my father's generation, grandfather’s generation; they have plenty of things to worry about, it was something they were aware of. I remember conversations with even my grandfather, talking about things... You know that we’ve got to watch out about this, watch out about that, especially when it came to pollutants and things of that nature. But when they were my age, they…


Beth: Well, they had other things to deal with. 


Brandon: They’ve gotten us to where we are today, and now we want to take that and leave it in a better place than we found it. And to me, personally, I feel like that's biblical as well for us to do. 


So what are some of the benefits of the green initiatives in manufacturing? 


Beth: Tax credits.


Brandon: Tax credits. So, it’s always good when the government gives you something back


Beth: Absolutely. I’m tired of giving them all of my money.


Brandon: Well, in this year 2021, there's been all kinds, and that’s all I’ll say, there's been all kinds of media attention on the term tax credits, so let's just be done with that 


Beth:  Yeah, but, if you invest in solar farms and wind farms…


Brandon: Wind farms, yeah.


Beth: and geothermal heating, it will pay off in the long run.


Brandon: You know, one of the other things that, of course, reduces costs is more energy-efficient things, so geothermal heating, for example, is more energy-efficient.


Beth: It costs a lot to begin with, we looked at that for our house.


Brandon: It’s a big investment. You should consider heating with wood. 


Beth: We did. Well, we were... 


Brandon: Yeah?


Beth: ...for years.


Brandon: Oh, you did.


Beth: Absolutely.


Brandon: Well, I will say this: My father… I learned this from my father and mother growing up because my job was to keep the wood box full.


Beth: Yes.


Brandon: And when my older brother, of course, left, went to college and flew the nest for real and then I went to college and went out on my own, but I and my brother were always the wood-splitters and that kind of stuff. And then after I was gone my dad finally bought a log splitter.      


Beth: That’s so...


Brandon: And all it’s easy stuff and he says like “well you don’t expect me to do this, do you?” But, nevertheless, it is all hard work. But we here… I know that here, in elliTek, a lot of our customers we’ve seen doing this… it’s kind of no-brainer stuff. So, energy-efficient lighting, for example. So, lightning is important in the manufacturing world for a couple of reasons, number one: You need to see.  


Beth: Absolutely.


Brandon: And especially if you’re doing an intricate type of assembly, or inspections and things of that nature, it really comes down to more of an ergonomic thing if the lightning is poor because it can create eyestrain and things of that nature and cause trouble that way, and also mis-inspections and quality issues and things of that nature. So, there was a time where we’d put really bright HID high-intensity discharge type lights in every warehouse and just really pounding the light. Well, that's not energy efficient. It's bright, but it’s not necessarily efficient. So, the LED lighting... and I'll just tell you we did LED through a lot of our facility, in certain places, and it costs a lot compared to a fluorescent tube or…


Beth: It lasts longer, though, doesn’t it?


Brandon: It does, so you have to look at that. So, there's the ROI, but the ROI stretched out.


Beth: You’re not gonna realize that in less than a year.


Brandon: But what you can do, so as far as investment you are also benefiting with, is you can also, for the same or, really, less wattage or less energy cost, you're getting more light than you were with the fluorescent. So, LED technology has gotten really bright. I don't know if you've seen an LED flashlight nowadays, but you can buy some of those little mini flashlights that will absolutely blind you, and it's running off a little battery, you know. So that's the ultra-bright LED technology and then with the lenses. But the other thing is what I call fancy lighting, or light guides, which is really a fancy skylight. So, we had those in our facility, in our shop portion of our facility, I think we’ve got four or five of them. We have a drop ceiling in our facility, but it sits beneath a clear span building, so we've got to be able to get the sunshine in for these... you know, it's not open to the top, so we've got to funnel in or pump in the sunshine, as they say. And so, a Light Guide is a mirrored-type tube that we have a bubble-type, like a dome, installed on top, we’ve got multiple domes for each one, and then it kind of guides that light, that’s why we call it a light guide, down to a part of the drop ceiling. Well then, that ceiling is a type of lens, in our case it’s a Fresnel type lens, so it magnifies it even more. And honestly, during the day, we could have the lights off, now, not for tedious work, but we could have the lights off and you're not going to trip over anything. 


Beth: As long as the sun’s out.


Brandon: As long as the sun’s out. And you can also tell when a cloud goes in front of the sun because it gets darker inside. Because I've been in, especially on the weekend, just been in the warehouse area where I’ve just stopped in and was doing something and realized I didn't turn the light on.


Beth: Because it’s so bright.


Brandon: I can see perfectly well. And so those types of things, certainly, that's energy savings, as far as not having to have as many lights. Or you can put work lights at the point where you need them... Plants are doing that kind of stuff. We also talked about in the previous podcast about audits, energy audits. 


Beth: We didn't mention water the last time.


Brandon: Right. So, we talked about electric... but you can also do that with water and that really falls under your general utilities. But these utilities will do these audits because guess what, 


Beth: It saves them money. 


Brandon: It saves them money. Because they have to meet the demand, and if they’re not able to meet it, then they're expected to meet it, because you're paying them for a service, and as utilities suppliers they're expected to perform up to a certain level. So, you can file a grievance if you turned on your water and it had no water pressure. If you're in manufacturing and you rely upon water in your process and there's no water pressure, then that is a really bad thing. Or, of course, if you turn on the light switch and the light doesn't come on, or the machine doesn't power. So, they want to work with companies too… really, it's a chance for them to tune in their system, so to speak, tune their capacities and set their systems up so that they can always meet your... because they don’t want to over-capacitize their system either. Because that’s cost. So basically, it’s like… I don’t know, let’s just use water as an example. Maybe you put in an 8-inch main water line 


Beth: That’s a pretty small water line. 


Brandon: That’s a small water line. So, all of a sudden, your plant does a big expansion and they’re like we don't have the pressure that we need, and we don't have the flow that we need. Does that mean you go in and put a 48-inch viaduct into the plant? No, now you got this huge expense and maybe they only needed to jump up to a 12 or 14-inch line, you know, that kind of thing. So, this helps them gauge what they need to do to supply, and not overspend, but not be able to find themselves in a capacity issue again. And that's beneficial to the plant. So, in doing that they will give credits in that way, they'll do this for free, find these cost savings, but they also will give credits. There's credit programs right now, even for residential, for doing solar... if you add solar to your system. Because the solar systems actually, and wind as well, and even, like you said, the geothermal and that kind of thing, you can get credits from utility, because in some cases you're actually creating the energy that's put back on, what we call, putting it back on the line, which is regenerating back to them. So, they refer to that as buying that energy back, but what it really means to you is less dollar bills, less pennies on your bill. That's real money. Absence of spending is creation of money. 


Beth: That's right. Say that again, so it kind of goes through the head. 


Brandon: Absence of spending is generation of money. So that's really where this green initiative can be a benefit. It’s the Grand Slam. Because you're benefiting the generations to come, you're benefiting the planet, but you're also benefiting, because you're saving energy, which is realizing a savings, which should mean you've had that budgeted. Now, you know, we're assuming everybody's a profitable company and budgeted correctly, managed correctly, so now all of a sudden, I've got a surplus on some budgets, so I can reallocate that to other departments, including manufacturing. 


Beth: Yeah! 


Brandon: So that, again, is a huge thing, I think, that our society and my generation has not taught our children as effectively. When you have a deficit, it doesn't necessarily mean you need to take more money from people, it also can mean you need to spend less. 


Beth: Tighten that wallet. 


Brandon: You need to be on a budget. Dave Ramsey would be happy with that statement. You need to exercise a budget. And so, absence of spending is generation of wealth, and that's what we want to talk about. How can we do that? We talked about energy audits, but what's the number one? 


Beth: Scrap.


Brandon: To reduce scrap. Scrap is costly because you’ve got to handle it. 


Beth: If you have scrap... It's just waste. 


Brandon: If you don't think that you have to handle scrap, I want you to go home and uninstall every toilet that you have in the house and see what it looks like at the end of the week. You have to manage your scrap, and so scrap is expensive, you have to manage it, and if you don't, it piles up and you don't want that. 


Beth: I don't know about that metaphor. 


Brandon: Well, you got to get rid of it. Scrap rhymes with the word and if you take the first letter off it rhymes with another word. 


Beth: OK. So, what are a couple of ways manufacturers can reduce their scrap? 


Brandon: The first thing about reducing your scrap is finding out how much scrap you're creating, and that in itself can be an energy savings because... I actually had a customer, some years ago, that was generating scrap in a material that was a byproduct of their process. And it wasn't like a toxic material or anything like that, but it was a rubber-based compound and so it wouldn't break down, at least for a long, long, long time, and you don't want to burn it because rubber is based upon petroleum, like you don't want to burn a tire to get that black smoke and that kind of stuff, because that is not good for the environment. And so, how do you get rid of it? You can't burn it, you don't want to really bury it, so the first thing they started to do was decide how much are they creating, and where and in what processes were they creating scrap. Because, before that, it was literally somebody who just kind of came by with a tow truck, well not a tow truck, but one of the little tugs that have a bucket on the back and they're just literally going line to line and just dumping the scrap bins into this tote and then taking it out to the dumpster and dumping it in there... and it was headed to the landfill. There are certain levels of scrap that it's permissible… you know, you can’t get it all. And you do have an ROI that has to be considered if it's going to cost you $100,000 to keep from putting a gallon of paper into the landfill. It’s probably not justifiable but if you can take a few steps, especially if you're not creating a gallon bucket or a pound of paper scrap or something like that, if you realize that you're generating hundreds of thousands of pounds then now, all of a sudden, we need to take a look at this, especially if we can get someone to buy it. One man's junk is another…


Beth: another man’s treasure, yeah.


Brandon: You have to generate enough junk for it to be another man's treasure. 


Beth: That's right. 


Brandon: You know, I remember as a young teenager, as a young man, not even teenager, probably a preteen, I grew up in the country and my buddy and I… We had our bicycles, and we weren't allowed to drive on the main highway, but anything else was allowed. So, we would pedal and pedal and pedal for, probably, 30-45 minutes trip each way, uphill both ways in the snow... No, we had bicycles. There were some hills, but we would be going along looking for bottles, that's back when Coca-Cola's came, bottles that you could return for deposit, and at the time you could get a quarter for most of them. So, we would pick up all these bottles on this 30-minute jaunt, a lot of people threw their trash out then, so for us it was a good endeavor. And we would take it to the local grocery store, turn them in, they would give us quarters, and we would jump straight over to Super Mario Brothers and Pac-Man and Miss Pac-Man and Galaga and we would fire ‘em away, Donkey Kong, you know. So, 30 minutes to get there and collect everything, 45 minutes, probably 10 minutes to blow the dough, and 45 minutes back home, and that was our day. But being able to generate, if there were enough bottles... even the 10 minutes or 15 minutes was enough to blow those quarters and give them right back to the store, but that was our entertainment. And if it was for one bottle one game, we wouldn’t have done it, that's exactly right. So, knowing first what kind of scrap you are yielding is that. So, we ended up working with them on was a weigh scale system that tied in with their upstairs ERP systems, actually database system, so we just had somewhere to stick the stuff so they could see their historic data, we added a front-end gooey that allowed them to say: it's coming from this portion of the plant or that portion of plant, this area, that area… The reason they wanted to know that was because they did manage, they pulled their scrap and managed it from different areas of the manufacturing floor which meant it was a different grade or type of product. 


Beth: OK.


Brandon: So now they had grading, they had weights, we added poundage to that so they could add that all together and feel like “okay, we have collected this much of this kind of thing” and now they had data to take out to say to other companies “can you use this?” And the other company said, “yes we'll use it and we’ll give you, you know, 10 cents a pound or 5 cents a pound” or something like that, and they had enough poundage that it made sense to build the system that I just described because it kind of paid for itself. There was an ROI there. And it's not going to the landfill, so now there’s other companies using it now, it's their treasure, and they're using it to repurpose it, they’re recycling it. 


Beth: That’s fabulous.


Brandon: Yeah. There was another company that came up with a way to convert garbage automatically through this automated system. Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to work on this, but a good friend of mine actually did a lot of the controls on it. He was telling me about this thing, and it is actually not for the for the US, it was a place where you know landfills were scarce and overfilled anyway, and so it would create this material then that could be recycled and they were making all kinds of products from it, so they would remold it back in (it was all sanitized of course), and they would remove all the metals and that kind of stuff that are already up for recycling, you know, we recycle aluminum and steel... We've been doing that for ages. So, this machine would pull that scrap out and then everything else... It would do this process where it created this material that could be compressed and not a lot of energy was going into it, but they were making park benches and picnic tables for parks and rec areas and things of that nature.


Beth: I love that, that’s innovation right there.


Brandon: It’s a fantastic machine, and that’s been more than a decade ago, and I remember it… every time I get to see him, I go like “tell me about that machine again” and all the stuff he got to do on it. And it was a good thing that he is proud of, he's proud to tell me about it but he's proud of it because of what it did for the planet. So those kinds of things though, it still yields to something now that you can recycle or use and so you're helping the planet, but, like I said in my scenario, they were selling it. Now, they're not making a huge profit, but they're making something. 


Beth: And it's not going in the landfill, and somebody else’s benefit of it. 


Brandon: And someone else's benefit of it. It falls under what you said when you said it’s a no-brainer. So, that’s reduction of scrap. Knowing what you're generating, knowing how much you're generating, and then, in their case, they were able to kind of grade it, because some of it once it got into a certain portion of the process where it wasn't usable. So that part had to be pulled out, and as a result of them doing that, they can make more money for it, because they could just hand it on to the recycler and they’re like “yeah, we're not going to give you much for it because we have to go through and figure out what you’ve got”. Well, they could already know if the operator, the person bringing it in, would just say “well, this is coming from this zone or part of the plant”. By doing that classification, which was a really small step in their job, because they already knew where it came from and it was just information transfer at that point, as opposed to if they just dumped it all together, they would have to try to figure out and that's an expensive way of doing it. By doing this one step they just said “okay, classify that here” and they kept all the different sections separate until it was time to put them together. So that acquitted to more value for the end-user, and they actually got a few more pennies a pound or something like that. But still, it’s like a tax credit.


Beth: It is, it is. So, how can manufacturers reduce waste? 


Brandon: Well, again, I think you first have to look at your process. If your process involves machining, machining aluminum or things of that nature, or steel or metal if you're not collecting the chips and that kind of stuff and doing that in such a way that you can sell those back, and I'm sure that most people listening to this are already doing that. But reducing waste... we talked about different types of waste. So, waste in materials, as far as going to the landfill is one thing, but waste going into the air, just being wasted in terms of energy waste... In previous podcasts, we talked about anti-air. 


Beth: Yeah, I love that term. 


Brandon: We were talking about how you can replace pneumatics with electrics. We work with a lot of companies that we represent to innovate, we turnkey that and pull it all together to help our customers to be able to do that and empower them to do that. But you know, one thing I didn't talk about... Well, first of all, air is a gas, but we treat it as a fluid. So, when we're talking about that type of automation, we refer to it as fluid power. 


Beth: OK. 


Brandon: So, air is considered a fluid, so is liquid. So, a liquid that we would use is hydraulic.


Beth: Oh, that’s messy.


Brandon: Oil. Sticky, messy, drippy, oily. 


Beth: How can that be good for the environment? 


Brandon: Well, we’ll get to that in a minute, but why would we use it? So why even use it? It’s messy, icky, and that kind of stuff. So, with air you can get some heavy presses, a lot of times we would do a pressing operation, or something where we need to push hard on or something... We can do that with air to a point, but air has something that’s called (because it’s a gas) compressibility, which means that there's also fluctuations in the pressure in the PSI, we talked about that because of leaks... It's an expensive thing, to compress air, but also that compression... if there are leaks in the system, the pressure that you're getting straight out of the compressor, compared to the compressor you’ve got at the end of the line, way down the other side of the plant...


Beth: different. 


Brandon: different. Because you have lost air along the way. So, there's that. But now what I am talking about is not fluctuations in the PSI or plant air pressure, but compressibility of air, which means the physics of how we can compress air. If we have a pneumatic cylinder, there's a piston. We’re pushing air in one side, that piston is being pushed as the pressure increases on one side and is also allowed to exhaust on the other, it will move forward or move backward, based upon which side of the cylinder, which end, we pump the air into. We get to a point where that pressure builds in the cylinder... if it's pressing against something it may still have room that it can move, as far as applying force, we get to the point where it begins to kind of compress on itself. So that’s compressibility of air. It becomes more like, you know, a little marshmallow-y. Now, we are talking marshmallow-y on a high, high level, not like squeezing a marshmallow, but when you're applying, you know, hundreds of pounds of force on something. 


Beth: Oh, okay. 


Brandon: So, to try to get to the ton level, as far as applying tonnage versus pounds, air has a hard time getting there. Oil, on the other hand, does not have that compressibility, because it is a fluid, a true fluid, so we use hydraulics for that. That's why you see hydraulics on tractors and excavators and all this heavy equipment. But we also see them in the manufacturing floor use them a lot when we're doing especially heavy pressing. There's also presses that can be flywheel-based or gravity-based or even inertial base presses when you get really, really high. Think about spinning a large flywheel that's really heavy, and we use energy to spin it up and then we clutch it in and out. That's even higher, you know. This is more talking about if we're doing a press, especially if you want to do a semi-controlled pressing of something. So, we have these hydraulics, maybe we’re informing metal, maybe we're bending metal, maybe we're just pressing one part into the other, that kind of thing, high forces in the form of tons or kilonewtons if you're on the metric system. So how would we do that? That's why we use hydraulics over air, but, as you pointed out, it tends to leak, drip, and that kind of stuff. 


Beth: So, what’s the alternative? 


Brandon: Well, why do we need that alternative? Because… Why not just… you can put cat litter down, kitty litter down, and absorb it down... It’s oil. 


Beth: Yeah.


Brandon: It’s a petroleum-based mineral oil... it’s what hydraulic fluid is. You're not going to... when you have a leak or when you got to unhook a line and all the stuff leaks out, you're not just going to take that out back and dump it in the yard, or down the storm drain, you know? 


Beth: Well, maybe back in the 70’s 


Brandon: Maybe, maybe. If you're doing that today, you’re breaking the law. They will come and get you, at least in this United States, if they find out the source.


Beth: It has to get recycled somewhere, so you’ve got the transportation costs to take into the recycling place, and then the recycling place has to spend energy to recycle it into whatever it needs to go into... 


Brandon: Yeah, so you’ve just got all these handling costs, just really stood up by the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA.


It’s hydraulic... it’s oil, it’s not necessarily the best for the planet, and so we have to deal with that. So, what is the alternative? Well, for us specifically, the partners we work with, Yaskawa Motion and Drives, Yaskawa Electric, and also Tolomatic… we talked about Tolomatic’s ball screw and belt driven actuators specifically to replace air, but to replace hydraulics, today we can do that with a ball screw, not a belt, we wouldn't use a belt, it's too much tonnage for a belt. When we are talking about really high press type requirements, we can go with a ball screw, but we can also graduate to things that are called roller screws and things of that nature. These are specifically designed to be able to really mechanically emphasize and transfer torque to linear motion. That's what's happening when you push in that hydraulic... You got a hydraulic power unit, that power is a compressor, basically, that's compressing the hydraulics and so when it goes into that cylinder, man, it really can push. Well, electrically, a motor is basically an energy converter that converts electrical energy into mechanical, so, in this case, rotation. A roller screw is a type of design that allows us to really create and transfer mechanical advantage, so when we create that mechanical energy, we can amplify it through gearboxes but also to roller screws, so it won't back drive as easily and things of that nature. Tolomatic does that. We can get up into like the 40-50 kilonewton range, I don’t know what the conversion is to tonnage, but I know that they do easily the 30 and above kilonewtons in force, so that's a lot of force. So, we can use it for that, and now we're in electric, we've gotten rid of the need for all this spillage and all the handling and seepage and things that come to the EPA concerns, and when we're not running, there's minimal energy. The hydraulic unit is always running, just like an air compressor. 


Beth: Oh, OK. Wow!


Brandon: So, there’s an increase in electrical energy being used as well. And that's how hydraulics work. Now, somebody challenged me. When I said anti-air, ball screws, belt-driven, things we always used to go to, and still do, to replace actuators... But someone said “Yeah... sometimes you can't get away from air” and I said, “When would that be?” and they said “Well, you know, it's difficult to go as fast, and especially at a reasonable force, to go as fast as an air cylinder with electric. Because if you do belts you can go faster but you can't sustain the force, with ball screws you can create force, but you can't go as fast, and ball screws honestly don't like impacts as much, the ball bearings don't like the jarring. So, how can you handle that?” And I said, “Well, we used to, traditionally, have to say that you're right, but we have LinMot.” 


Beth: Yeah, LinMot! 


Brandon: LinMot is a linear motor, and linear motors will give you the speed, the accelerations and the forces, but at a superb level of accuracy compared to the compressibility of air. Yeah, it's a little more, but if that's what you need, there is an ROI because you're getting away from air, and by getting away from air you’re realizing wealth by reducing spending because we don't have that waste of air. 


Beth: Yeah, that’s fantastic. 


Brandon: It is a linear motor, so there's an air gap. We've talked a little bit about that in past podcasts. Yaskawa also has a very very large… They handle large-capacity linear motors, their Sigma Trac product. So, we rely on both of those, based upon the application. So, if we need to do high torques or really high accelerations or high payloads, that's where Yaskawa would come into play with their Sigma Trac, which is a larger product. Then, for the smaller size type capacity of actions that we need to process, that’s where LinMot fits in very well. In fact, we can control LinMot with the Yaskawa controller, so we can do both. So, it’s interesting, because we have a lot of options, but the emphasis is that linear motor technology gives us an opportunity to not say “Well, we can do it, all except for this.” We can get there on anything electrically, pretty much, and even hydraulically, with the products that we represent. And a lot of our listeners, machine builders, system integrators work with every day. 


Beth: So yeah, another term: anti-hydraulics. 


Brandon: Yeah, we did anti-air so now anti-hydraulics, and the reason we have to be anti-hydraulics is because they're anti-green, how about that? We talked about a couple of our partners, let's talk about some other stuff. 


Beth: Yeah. Some of ellitTek’s other technology partners. Datalogic is developing tools that… I think this is cool, they're developing tools and mobile devices with anti-microbial surfaces that repel germs and bacteria. 


Brandon: Well, that’s a needed thing. 


Beth: It is! These days, it may be good for health care but anywhere, I think. 


Brandon: Well, actually they were saying in the news this morning that this Delta variant of Covid is apparently making a kickback, especially among some of those that, I don't know whether they are vaccinated or not vaccinated or maybe the vaccine didn't work or whatever, or if it's marketing media, I don't know, who knows the truth nowadays? But the fact is: it's still going to be flu season again, it's still going to be cold season, and still going to be…


Beth: There’s always going to be something around. 


Brandon: Nobody's got a cure for that stomach virus, and things of that nature. So being cleaner... I think, if anything, what this pandemic shined the spotlight on in this United States is:  Guys: we need to wash our hands more. We need to be cleaner. So, this certainly is not something we're going to complain about. 


Beth: With FANUC and the Hanwha Robots... They use less energy by optimizing the manufacturing processes, and they produce less waste because there's less waste, because there's fewer human errors. 


Brandon: We’ve talked about scrap, generation of scrap, so knowing how much you’re doing but also then putting it into play. The emphasis today, today right now, a snapshot in time, is creation of labor. So, it's not so much about human errors, there's no human to make errors, and so we need animation robots for a different reason, but that's also a benefit on top of that, because of what we were talking about, the other thing, that company that did the evaluation of the scrap and how much they were producing. I think the way it was put to me was after they've done it for a month, when they reviewed the numbers, it was from management standpoint, they were shocked at the amount of scrap that they were producing because scrap means your raw materials are going unused, and you pay for all 100% of your raw materials. So, they began to see where these scrap sources were. So, they began to also say “Yeah well, it's great that we're able to resell this stuff but that's not our marketing plan, that's not a sales strategy, that's not a growth initiative. We really need to start finding the sources of these scrap generation points and start reducing them.” So that comes down to one of the four reasons to automate which is quality, the quality consistency, so if you can get away from quality issues or quality issue means there's a defect on the product which means that you cannot sell it, so now you created a scrap piece and so through reduction of scrap creation, Robots certainly help us to do that. 


Beth: And we’ve talked about LinMots, linear motors, but I think there's more to that isn’t there? Longevity? Don’t they last a long time? 


Brandon: They last a long time, yeah. 


Beth: So, they’re not gonna be thrown in the landfill anytime soon. 


Brandon: That’s true. A ball screw, just like a belt-driven module, and air cylinders... They wear out. Linear motors tend to last a really long time, if you look at the number of cycles, it's well into the millions. So, you're right, I mean when an air cylinder dies there's rebuild kits and things of that nature, same thing with ball screws and belt-driven, you replace belts. But in most companies today it's not feasible to repair them... so where do they go? If you can get more cycles within the lifetime, which certainly you can do that with the linear motor, and the LinMot design lends itself to that... Then yeah, you're reducing waste right there. 


Beth: And then Nidec... Their products are compact and light and now they've developed... We don't do electric vehicle cars, but they’ve developed an EV traction motor system, E-Axle, that works as an electric vehicles’ heart. I thought that was kind of cool. 


Brandon: So that’s Nidec-Shimpo, which is the gearbox manufacturing…


Beth, Oh, it’s just Nidec now.


Brandon. Oh, is it? Well, Nidec. Nidec has a couple different divisions, but this specific one is their transmission and gearbox division, which is who we partner with. So again, there's other divisions, Nidec is a big company. And while we don't sell EV electric vehicles, a lot of our customers make them, so we work a lot with a lot of the automotives, they are creating and building these really innovative... 


Beth: So, this may be a good option for them. Their electric vehicle heart.


Brandon: That's right. Shawn, go out there and sell some Nidec. As you're going through... These are partners and there's plenty of others. A lot of manufacturers are moving in this direction. There's also Red Lion Controls.


Beth: Yes, their products are designed to improve productivity, reduce waste and save time and money and resources... Including reducing power consumption, and they also do energy monitoring. 


Brandon: We use them for energy monitoring systems, that's right. We work with a lot of customers to do that, then our IIoTA comes into play with those as well. So, being able to grab… you know, IoT means more than just what is my machine's uptime, downtime, what's my process, bottlenecks, and stuff like that. Those are important, especially to manufacturing engineers, production engineers, but on the long energy usage is (and I think we talked about this on a past podcast) when you start figuring out what's on the recipe list to make this part, you need... I used to say you can, but now not only can you, but you should start looking at how many teaspoons of energy go into your product. And we talked on the past podcast about a situation where we did an energy... With our IIoTA we were part of an energy monitoring system and so they monitored some processes and, of course, we don't build the devices that monitor that energy, Red Lion has some devices that can monitor things and that kind of stuff, but there's a lot of transducers and stuff that can come in to play to do that. So how much energy am I using, in terms of amps, voltage, watts, that kind of stuff, but also air, flow, water, those kinds of things... And we start putting all that together and they realize that they had a part that was using a heated... It was at a stage of the process that required some intense heating of the part, and they were making that part during their first shift which was during the peak electric rate utility time. And they realized if they just shifted that part manufacturing (because it was a one shift deal that they made that thing, they only needed one shift to make it), if they could shift that to the third shift and take whatever they're doing at the same time in the third shift and move that to the first shift, which did not require as much power, that they saw a huge (in the form of ten to fifteen, maybe twenty percent, I can't remember, but substantial) savings across the year because they were using the power when it was cheaper, which was on third shift. So, unless you know that, you can't benefit from it. Red Lion has some means of doing that that we use a lot of. 


Beth: And then, Smartshift Robotics with their tool changers. They have tool changers and robot bases; they can increase the flexibility for easy and quick changeovers to reduce downtime. 


Brandon: Reduce downtime. And also, especially with our collaborative product, with the Hanwha collaborative and the collaboratives with the others that we represent, the ability to, some processes, especially if they're what we call service parts, which means you only make them as needed, so for those of us who don't drive the latest year vehicle. So, if we need parts for a vehicle and it's a few years old, or in my case more than a few years old, to be able to go down and get that on an after-market basis or even if it's the OEM part or l get it from the dealer, those are referred to a service parts. They're not in full production, they're built on an as-needed basis on a lower deal. So, a lot of times, having to keep people on their moving around is a lot of cross-training, because the machines are different, so a lot of those systems are a menial type task. So, to be able to place a part in and pull a finished part out in this automated process, it really has to be someone standing in front of a machine. So, those are some really easy, low-hanging fruit opportunities to automate, especially with the collaborative system. The request has always been: Wouldn’t it be great to be able to take this collaborative robot... And for four hours we need it running this part on this older piece of equipment, and then, just like a person, once you ran a thousand pieces of that, jump over to this machine and run five hundred of this part, and then jump over to this machine and finish your shift with three hundred pieces of this part. 


Beth: Well, it seems easy enough, but it isn’t, is it? 


Brandon: Well, humans can decide “OK, on this process I have to reach on this bucket here, and with this process, I have to reach on the shelf”. And you can program that into a robot, but robots have to be secured in such a way that we have what's called a datum point. So, it’s always going to reach to the same place relative to itself. Well, if it's not mounted in the same spot that it was before, even though you ran this program instead of another program for this machine, those points are off. So now all of a sudden, you’re ¼-inch off of dropping the part in.


Beth: That’s wastin’. 


Brandon: Now, you gotta get maintenance down there to reteach the points and that kind of stuff. So, this is a dovetail, a really accurate and a fairly innovative product, that's why we are excited about it, the Smartshift Robotics products, and glad to be partnered with them. But it gives us a dovetails type, which is fairly precise, I would say very precise, means of mounting this robot and easy removal... 


Beth: OK


Brandon: Without voiding warranties, because we've had some customers that are having to drill, and do what's called pinning, and to pin the part so that it always moves into the same place, and it has to be unbolted and re-bolted, this is an unlock and un-slide. This allows people to be able to use a collaborative robot in multiple places, where they would normally move a person around. It simply unhooks it from the bottom, slide it off, move it to the new process, slide it back on, lock it back into place, call the new program and it's up and running, because we've established that datum point that’s common for each program. 


Beth: Oh, nice!


Brandon: So, there's labor. We help with our labor shortage on that, but also there's downtime reduction, there's all kinds of things, and all of it is purely mechanical, so you're not having to void warranties.


Beth: And we mentioned Tolomatic earlier, but I didn't have them on this list.


Brandon: Oh, on the secondary list? Well, we spent quite a lot of time talking about Tolomatic with the roller screw technology and things of that nature. 


Beth: So, we’ll go quickly to Yaskawa


Brandon: We talked a little bit about them, but I want to emphasize some of the things that they do. You have talked earlier about things being built to last... The quality of Yaskawa with their servo motors and even their variable frequency drives, products, things of that nature, robots, the whole nine yards, their quality is at the upper, upper echelon. So, there's no question you can get some longevity off the product. But they do some things that are really cool as well, so one of those things is regeneration, what we call regeneration, especially in servo but even in VFDs, with a motor. I said earlier, a motor is a conversion of electrical energy to mechanical energy. Well, anytime we're putting electricity in and creating mechanical, that's what we're doing, we’re burning electricity as our fuel and we're turning it into mechanical power. And that's what we're doing when we're accelerating a motor, but when we're decelerating a motor, especially if it's a vertical application where you have to slow down and go against gravity. Now, the mechanical, the inertia, and this is physics fault, Sir Isaac Newton kind of stuff, the inertia of the system has a tendency to back drive the motor to try to... So, we’re inputting mechanical energy which will result in a motor becoming a generator at that point, so now we're generating energy. So, in past systems, what we would do is what we call a shunt circuit, so we would shunt that, basically a transistor would kick it over so that extra current that's being generated would flow through just a resistor, and that resistor’s just going to ground. Which means that the resistor heats up and so all that excess energy is being dissipated as strictly heat, which is 100% wasteful, unless you're cold because it can get quite warm. So, what Yaskawa has done in both their VFD product and also their servo product, is found ways, innovative ways, to reclaim that energy and regenerate it back onto the line, which is exactly what you're doing with the wind generation, or solar generation once you transfer it back to AC… That kind of stuff. So that energy goes back onto the line which means it's going to be put back into the electrical grid or the electrical system to be used, and not just burned up as heat. 


Beth: That’s innovative. I’ll tell you what: all of the technology partners here are innovative, it's amazing. I love it, I love the direction that they're going, yeah. 


Brandon: Certainly, it’s something that we can be passionate about uniformly is that we want to be good caretakers of this planet.


Beth: Absolutely, yes.


Brandon: That's why we were created to be here, and that's what we need to continue to do, and so we can still be good stewards of what we do in our jobs, and with our companies, and still also ring true to that. There's also benefits, as far as absence of spending equals wealth, but then there's also tax credits and then there's also, on an international level, such as the European Union, we were talking about Japan and Asia, how it was kind of built into their culture, but now we're seeing a lot from the EU that says: “We are requiring our importers, suppliers, to be doing, showing, an initiative, to follow these green initiatives.” And so, it's becoming more of a global move, as opposed to just something a country's doing or a state or a city or something like that. It's now more of a global initiative, and so these are some of the ways that, I think, manufacturers can benefit, both in the near-term, especially facing some of the things that are right in front of us... Kind of, like I said, my grandfather and his generation faced, so labor shortages and things of that nature. But we can now reclassify those budgets through this absence of spending and reclaim it in the form of automation and even labor and take care of the Earth at the same time. Hey, this was a great topic today Beth.


Beth: It was. I liked it. This was fun. Thank you, Brandon.


Brandon: Guys, I want to thank you for listening with us, for sticking with us, it’s been a great season, the seasons not over yet. 


Beth: No, not yet. I think we have some good stuff ahead. We’ll have to tease that later. I appreciate everybody listening and hanging in with us, and the people that have left us reviews, I do appreciate that, that's fabulous, thank you, guys.


Brandon: So, remember; make sure you give us a five-star rating if you're on the Apple Podcasts, make sure you subscribe, give us a like, and certainly leave us some comments, we appreciate all that, that helps to promote what we're trying to do here. Our mission, of course, is to empower. We talked a lot about our successes, and we want to share that knowledge, so that's the goal. So, that said, we are on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


Beth: Yes, all of those links are in the show notes. 


Brandon: That’s right. Our website, of course, is


Beth: And if they want to get us a call: (865) 409-1555.


Brandon: That's right, that's perfect. So, thank you very much, Beth, for your wonderful research. 


Beth: Well, thank you Brandon for your unique insights and perspectives as always. 


Brandon: Alright. Hey guys, we want to wish you a fantastic... However, many days until our next podcast, but I'm going to say two weeks because a lot of our folks download on the day we release, so it's Tuesday if you're doing that, and thank you again for all your support and... Beth, have a great weekend. 


Beth: You as well and see you guys later.