The Model Citizen | Part 3 of The Problem Child series

Jul 22nd, 2021 / vpizzinato

The Model Citizen

By: Peng-Sang Cau | VP, LS Emerging Markets and Symphoni™

“Can we develop a standard, efficient, and cost-effective automated assembly technology that reduces risks for both equipment builders and end users?”

Throughout my career, one series of questions has needled me more than almost any other. Can we develop a standard, efficient, and cost-effective automated assembly technology that reduces risks for both equipment builders and end users? Can we develop a scalable platform that helps manufacturers increase their factory capacity utilization, reduce operating expenses, optimize productions, get their product to market faster, and improve their bottom lines?

For decades, manufacturers said no. So did I.

The assembly process has been the untamable “problem child” in pre-engineered automation equipment for over 40 years. Why is the problem so intractable? Learn about the background in the first part of this blog series.

We thought you can’t have both speed and flexibility when automating the assembly process, and that the high variation in components, materials, and processes renders the quest to tame assembly automation with standard solutions impossible. We believed that custom designing and building one-of-a kind automated assembly equipment was the only answer. Meanwhile, automation processes, such as cutting, molding, carton loading, and gluing, all grew up. I spent a huge part of my career in this mindset.

Like so many others, I simply avoided the problem child. And then the problem child came knocking on my door with a challenge I couldn’t refuse.

Challenge Accepted!

An agricultural science and technology company faced a dilemma. How do you automate the process of cutting and separating sugarcane seeds, without destroying the seeds? It sounds simple and straightforward—until you take account of the relentlessly variable impact of weather on such a product.

In 2009, after millions of dollars spent and multiple failures over several years, this multinational agribusiness turned to an automation company for which I was the CEO. Despite having no experience in the agricultural sector, we saw an opportunity and set to work. In three years, we developed not only with a workable solution for the client that provided speed, precision, and flexibility, but the seed of an idea that would become our Symphoni technology.

After that, it was time to scale up our idea and set our sights on the whole automated assembly equipment market. We now had 20+ years of experience in custom designing and building assembly equipment such as continuous motions, indexing motion and pallets, and robots. Coupled with years of developing and building high speed processing equipment, we started to revolutionize the industry with Symphoni. By 2018, the “problem child” was tamed, and we sold multiple machines in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. That’s when I contacted one of the world’s largest automation companies, ATS Automation Tooling Systems. I knew that ATS, with its innovative culture, global strength, and products like SuperTrak CONVEYANCE™ and Illuminate™, was the right partner to nurture this technology to become reliable and stable. It was time for the problem child to become a model citizen.

The Thirst for Change!

Symphoni is for manufacturers who see that the world has changed, and who want to invest in a scalable technology that is flexible, fast and precise. It’s for those who want a single machine to assemble multiple products or product variations. Unlike traditional equipment that is custom built for a specific product SKU where production depends on the sale of that product, a Symphoni machine can run 24/7 by changing the touch tooling. This is no different than investing in molding, packaging or a CNC mill and lathe machine.

Because Symphoni consists of configurable modular building blocks, customers can start with Sonata (a single Symphoni module) to be used during product development or market test when production is low (5-150 PPM). As market demands grow and production picks up, the Sonata cell can remain with the R&D department or integrated as one of the modules in the fully automated production equipment (30-1000 PPM).

Does Symphoni solve every problem with assembly automation? Of course not. Just as we turned one problem child around and sent him off to be a pillar of society, we find more lying in the rough. There will always be alternatives for automated assembly production requiring less than 30 PPM, and there will always be a need for custom automated assembly solutions with high processes for which a Symphoni solution doesn’t work. That’s why we continue to innovate.

However, for vertical or horizontal assembly processes of components that fit in your hand, where manufacturers want to invest in digital, scalable, configurable equipment, Symphoni is the model citizen that could change everything. Through ATS, Symphoni will:

  • Maximize output per CAPEX dollar
  • Maximize output per square meter of floor space
  • Maximize machine utilization
  • Minimize lead time on new machines
  • Minimize time to market on new products
  • Minimize validation time and expenses

Want to learn more?