This post contains a challenge for us all. I know that many companies, perhaps most, have a corporate responsibility leader and participates in some beneficial activities beyond the merely self-serving gifts. NI (formerly National Instruments) has had a vision for the advancement of engineering and public good for as long as I’ve known it. Current CEO Eric Starkloff is building on the legacy of co-founder and retired CEO Jim Truchard leading by example.
I received this “Note from NI” the other day. It is powerful enough that I thought I’d share. Perhaps we can all gain some insights and spur our innovative nature from these ideas.
Engineering Hope for a Better World
In 2020 we made our mission clear: empower engineers to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. And while we’ve always been quietly but diligently dedicated corporate citizens, we’re facing many challenges as a society, from climate change to racial and economic inequality. And the time to be bold is now. This is why we’ve launched Engineering Hope, our 2030 Corporate Impact Strategy.
Our aspirational 2030 impact goals and commitments outline how NI will put our company, people, and products to work to make a positive impact on society and our planet. Simply put, it outlines how we’ll drive the positive change we want to see in the world – engineering can, and should, play a pivotal role in addressing the biggest challenges we collectively face today. We designed our Impact Strategy to be iterative and to scale with our business and industry. Some are moonshot goals that will challenge us to think well beyond current paradigms. And all are informed by the priorities of our stakeholders, a thorough analysis of which issues are material to our business, and the realities we see in the marketplace. We’ll work diligently to achieve our goals by 2030 and will transparently report our progress each year. As our CEO Eric Starkloff says, “if we can send rockets into space, we can achieve Zero Waste.”
What We’ve Been Up To
We got to work right out of the gate in 2021. In the first quarter, we joined OpenRF to help tackle 5G ecosystem interoperability issues and partnered with MaxLinear to simplify validation of wideband power amplifiers. In alignment with our Engineering Hope 2030 Corporate Impact Strategy goals, we partnered with Project Lead the Way to increase access to STEM education, worked with the Texas Rocket Engineering Lab at the University of Texas to prepare students for future space flight, and collaborated with Code2College to help build equitable pathways to STEM careers. The mentoring and hands-on internship component of the program directly addresses systemic underrepresentation in STEM professions. A recent study that surveyed over 550 engineering and computer science students found a key driver of the gender pay gaps is associated with self-efficacy or a confidence gap. Researchers highlighted the importance of mentoring and internships to strengthen students’ self-assessments and provide stronger bridges to engineering jobs with higher pay. Programs like Code2College help students discover their potential and the limitless opportunities that exist in STEM fields.
Check out the links below for a few more details on what we worked on over the last few months:
- We joined OpenRF and will chair the OpenRF Compliance Working Group to address interoperability issues facing the 5G ecosystem.
- We worked with the Texas Rocket Engineering Lab at the University of Texas to prepare students for a new era of human spaceflight through hands-on projects in rocketry and aerospace.
- We partnered with MaxLinear to simplify the validation of wideband power amplifiers for 5G networks.
- We announced a 10-year strategy, Engineering Hope, aimed at advancing diversity, sustainability, and equity in engineering.
- We partnered with Project Lead the Way to increase access to STEM education in underrepresented and underserved students in Central Texas.
- We collaborated with Code2College on their work to develop a pipeline of diverse tech talent.
At NI, we believe Engineering Ambitiously and Engineering Hope go hand-in-hand. And our 2030 Corporate Impact Strategy goals reflect as much. Through our commitment to our Impact Strategy, we are putting our company, people, and products to work to positively impact our society and planet — a commitment we do not take lightly. We voluntarily set goals informed by the priorities of our stakeholders, that reflect the realities we see in the marketplace, and represent a thorough analysis of the issues material to our business.
We are dedicated to achieving our goals by 2030 and will transparently report our progress each year. Through our partnerships with suppliers, customers, governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations, we’ll harness the power of NI’s operations philanthropy to focus on three pillars of impact:
- Changing the faces of engineering. Building a diverse and inclusive workforce is the right thing to do for NI, our industry, and society. But the diversity of the engineering talent pipeline hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years. In fact, the global technology sector is projected to have a shortage of 4.3 million workers by 2030. Attracting more diverse people to our industry helps us keep up with this growth while providing more equitable access to high-paying jobs. We’ll work towards this vision by increasing our workforce diversity and supporting aspiring engineers through STEM education initiatives, expanded recruitment strategies, and talent acquisition and diversity leadership programs.
- Building an equitable and thriving society. Over time, inequalities in our systems and institutions decrease the well-being of our entire society. We envision a thriving society with fewer economic, racial, and gender inequalities and greater wellbeing and prosperity for all. Our work will begin within NI by cultivating an equitable and thriving workforce through total rewards redesigns, wellbeing programs, and ongoing employee engagement initiatives. We’ll also advance diversity within our own supply chain, and by changing the faces of engineering, we’ll increase access to higher-paying technology.
- Engineering a healthy planet. Healthy and biodiverse ecosystems are critical to human wellbeing. We envision a world where industries and governments work together to protect and repair ecosystems and stabilize our climate by mitigating rising temperatures. We’ll do our part to reach this vision by reducing the environmental impact of NI’s operations and products, and in doing so, reduce our footprint and help our customers do the same. Each year through 2030, we’ll discount or donate NI products to organizations developing green technology, will design 100% of our new buildings or remodels to LEED and WELL standards, reduce our footprint, and make circular design improvements in our product design, manufacturing, and packaging. And by 2030, we will achieve Zero Waste at NI-owned buildings.
I remember the first trip I made to Festo in Germany many years ago. I thought, this is “just” a pneumatics company. What could be interesting about this trip? Then I witnessed what their R&D engineers did with pneumatics. And saw that the company if far deeper than “just” pneumatics.
Even though we could not experience in the flesh, so to speak, this year’s press conference and demonstrations did not disappoint. The company discusses financial results, strategy, general information, an application – assembly of insulin injection pen, workforce issues, and the always delightful demonstration of pneumatic/electronic far-out thinking with this year being a bionic swift (bird).
Most companies I work with have an education and training component. Festo has a division that is dedicated to education from children to adults. Check out the Festo Didactic information below. Maybe you can purchase a bionic bird education kit for your local school’s science and technology program (see information below). I’m living in a new community, but I’m looking for local contacts to help out.
Financial years 2020/2021
Festo’s results were stable despite the pandemic. The Festo Group had to cope with a 7.5% decline in turnover in the 2020 financial year due to the pandemic. Turnover was 2.84 billion euros (previous year 3.07 billion euros). Overall, however, thanks to forward-looking cost-cutting measures and employment protection, the operating result in 2020 was slightly higher than in the previous year.
“This has enabled us to guide our workforce safely through the crisis year and to create a good basis for being ready for the global economy to pick up again. At the same time, it gives us the financial freedom to invest in our future now as well,” said the Chairman of the Management Board, Dipl.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Oliver Jung.
As in the previous year, the company’s R&D ratio was 8% of turnover.
For 2021, the company expects a catch-up year. “We started the year well, with strong growth in the first quarter. Nevertheless, the end of the pandemic cannot yet be estimated. We are therefore continuing our savings course. At the same time, we continue to invest in our growth and innovation strategy,” Jung affirmed.
Digitalisation and AI determine the product roadmap with smart and intelligent products as enablers for energy efficiency and sustainability in customer solutions.
Festo is focusing on the capability shift upgrading employees’ skills in the digital transformation.
The need for home schooling and virtual training (Digital Education) is growing rapidly in the pandemic. In the lockdown, Festo Didactic successfully launched its new digital learning platform, Festo LX, for technical education and provided a free homeschooling version for mechatronics courses in schools.
The LifeTech business segment with medical technology and laboratory automation is experiencing a real boom with growth rates of over 100%. Festo is continuously expanding its Technical Engineering Center for LifeTech in Boston, which opened in 2018 and is one of the world’s most important development locations for life science, in order to further develop this promising growth market.
Festo’s products make an important contribution to the fight against COVID 19. In particular, laboratory automation enables high throughput in COVID 19 tests. Automation is also key in vaccine development and production.
Sustainability needs automation and education
“As a company and society, we have to manage the balancing act in the pandemic of simultaneously finding ways out of the crisis and focusing our future activities on sustainability. Automation and technical education are a key to this. We also have a high social responsibility for sustainable development here,” said Jung. The goal is to gradually develop production in the direction of a circular economy.
“At Festo, we are convinced that pneumatics in particular offers massive advantages over electrics in many areas, and that no other technology can match it. We are currently developing this further in the direction of smart and digital pneumatics. There is still a lot of potential here,” confirmed Jung.
In 2020, Festo has also made great progress internally in climate protection and thus towards its climate target of saving at least 30% CO2 by 2025 (Scope 1 and 2).
Festo has the greatest leverage for climate protection with its customers, through the appropriate product selection of pneumatics and electrics (Scope 3). This is because around 90% of CO2 emissions are generated during product operation and only around 10% during production. Smart products and services, digitalization and AI are giving new impetus to energy efficiency on the way to CO2-neutral production.
As a family-owned company, Festo thinks and acts responsibly and with a long-term perspective. Festo stands for clear values, utmost quality and customer-oriented innovation. It has set standards in industrial automation technology and technical education ever since its establishment, thereby making a contribution to sustainable development of the environment, the economy and society.
Festo is advancing digitalisation in all its corporate divisions. Festo is leading its customers and employees into the digital future. To this end, the company is developing new future-oriented concepts founded on the triad of innovative and energy-efficient technologies, intuitive human-machine collaboration, and education and further training.
Productivity – Festo’s core competency
Innovation for the best possible productivity, a global presence and close, long-term partnerships with its customers are the hallmarks of Festo. In the 1950s, Festo became the first company in Europe to use compressed air as a drive medium in automation. The company now offers over 30,000 products and system solutions for pneumatic and electrical automation technology which, thanks to a large variety of modular systems, can be tailored to specific customer applications in many different factory and process automation industry segments.
Added value through digitalisation
Smart products, connectivity, the mining and interpretation of data, including via the cloud, and dashboards for visualisation, already offer added value for customers. Products like the energy efficiency module E2M, IO-Link-capable components, the CPX-IOT gateway or interfaces like OPC-UA contribute to this process. Another basic requirement for successful and consistent digitalisation is mechanical, electrical and intelligent connectivity through software solutions, enabling all customers to find their bearings quickly and intuitively.
Festo is promoting this with an open automation architecture and a large product portfolio made up of axes, motors and controllers. Standardised software tools are also being developed: configurators for smart engineering, the Festo Automation Suite for easy commissioning and the digital maintenance manager Smartenance for reliable operation. Digitalised pneumatics such as the Festo Motion Terminal VTEM makes pneumatics more flexible than ever before. The reason: apps define the function, the hardware remains the same.
In addition, data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence are shaping the agile product development of the future. Since 2018, the competence in the field of AI has been strongly expanded. The Festo AX (Festo Automation Experience) software platform is an AI-based software solution that allows production processes to be improved, e.g. with preventive maintenance of assets and machines, monitoring of quality in production or energy consumption.
With AI-based solutions for operations and maintenance processes, the overall equipment efficiency (OEE) of customers is to be improved.
Qualification in the digital transformation
As a leading provider of technical education and training, Festo Didactic is responding to current megatrends such as digitalisation and the energy transition. Because these trends are changing industry and production processes. Festo Didactic supports its customers with learning solutions and supports them to ensure the employability and productivity of employees and companies.
Festo Didactic offers a comprehensive range of learning solutions. Learners acquire technology knowledge and soft skills both in team-oriented and practical training on physical learning systems with industrial components, but also location- and time-independent through digital online learning opportunities. The new digital learning portal Festo Learning Experience (Festo LX) creates individual learning experiences for learners and teachers.
The fast way to a safe insulin pen
Syntegon’s assembly system for medical technology with the Festo automation platform
Diabetes is on the rise worldwide with around 10 million people being diagnosed with the disease every year. This pushes up the demand for insulin pens for self-injection. Syntegon’s Danish subsidiary has developed an automated system for assembling these pens using the Festo automation platform.
“I have a dream,” says Michael Andersen, Sales Director of Syntegon Technology Sandved in Denmark. “I have a dream of our machines doing on-the-fly format changes. That would be the culmination of our philosophy of flexibility and agility that we strive for in our company,” adds the automation expert.
Flexibility and agility
“By using the Festo automation platform, which includes the servo press kit, we are already very close to making this dream come true,” says Andersen. In fact, Festo’s servo press kit YJKP – a preconfigured modular system consisting of software, controllers and standard electrical drives – can be easily integrated in the plant and offers a high degree of flexibility thanks to the preinstalled software. This means that the modular press system with servo drive for electric pressing and joining up to 17 kN is ready for immediate use and, compared to similar solutions on the market, is both intuitively to parameterize and cost-effective.
“We have installed more than a 100 servo press kits in the automated assembly lines for insulin pens,” says Ulrik Keldke, Head of Syntegon’s engineering department in Sandved. The precisely adjustable pressing and joining forces ensure consistent quality and low reject rates. “What we particularly like about the Festo servo press kit is that it’s quick and easy to commission, and the machine operators don’t need to be trained to use it,” explains chief engineer Keldke.
Quality and safety
“Automating the assembly line is a prerequisite for meeting the requirements for the end product: the insulin pens must be safe and user-friendly,” says Andersen. The pens must not break when used by the patients, as that would put them at risk. The Servo Press Kit keeps the tension and pressure constant. “The glass of the syringes should never be subjected to irregular pressure as they would break,” Keldke says. The automated systems ensure that the insulin pens are always in order and can deliver the exact amount of insulin.
Depending on the machine type, Syntegon’s assembly lines produce up to 300 pens per minute. The degree of automation is scalable according to requirements and can also be adapted at a later date. The machine concepts are based either on a rotary table for low to medium outputs or on a linear transport system for high outputs. The system can be expanded with automatic feeders and stations to increase output and the degree of automation.
Consistency and reliability
Syntegon Technology, formerly Bosch Packaging Technology, sees itself as a provider of integrated solutions. The assembly line for insulin pens can be expanded into a complete line with other systems from the company. Pharmaceutical manufacturers can thus be provided with machines for all process steps, from filling, capping, assembly, testing, to labelling and packaging – preconfigured and from a single source.
The machine control system is based on electrical and pneumatic components and modules from the Festo automation platform. This ensures a consistency of supply since Festo products are available worldwide and offer open interfaces to higher-level controllers. The CPX-E-CEC module from Festo establishes the connection to the process control level, allowing it to be used with Profinet or, for other customers in Europe, with EtherCat. Especially for North American customers, however, the system could also be supplied with an Ethernet/IP module.
Bionic Swift: A Bionically Inspired Robotic Bird
So, the cool demonstration this year was the Bionic Swift. This year’s engineering innovation has been incorporated into the “Bionics4Education” program. Its target market is high school education and also industrial training.
It is one of the oldest dreams of mankind: flying like a bird. The lift and propulsion of birds have been ingeniously achieved by nature. Birds measure, control and regulate their movements continuously and completely autonomously. The inspiration for the development of the Bionic Swift educational kit came from the Bionic Learning Network, a research association with universities, institutes and development companies whose goal is to produce novel technology carriers through the application of bionics. In 2020, the BionicSwift was presented to the public for the first time. Festo Didactic wants to bring the world of bionics together with the education sector in order to promote working in interdisciplinary project teams as well as problem-oriented learning and creativity at schools.
The Bionic Swift is a robotic bird inspired by the bird world. Festo based its development on the natural model of the swallow. With the experimental set, scientific and technical correlations as well as the fascination of bird flight and the topics of lightweight construction, energy efficiency and aerodynamics can be impressively conveyed in STEAM lessons using a project-based approach.
The mechanisms of action of the flap of the wings can be explored in a playful way by students in class. Weighing less than 45 grams, the ultra-light flying object Bionic Swift shows particularly agile flight behaviour. Due to its extreme manoeuvrability, even tight turns can be realised. The Bionic Swift experimental set is recommended for up to three learners and from the age of 15.
The references to biology and technology that can be taught in STEAM lessons or at extracurricular learning venues are numerous and reach from the structure of tubular bones to wing take-off and landing to the basics of movements in the air. This allows teachers to teach technical learning content via a new, cross-curricular educational learning path. Accompanying teaching material, as well as the assembly manual, can be downloaded free of charge from our website.
I’ve been acquainted with Mike Nager for many years through business. We ran into each other a few years ago when he had switched from product management to leading the education team for an automation supplier.
He sent a copy of a book he’s just published for Kindle, The Smart Student’s Guide To Smart Manufacturing and Industry 4.0. It’s a subject I’m deeply interested in, so I checked it out.
I rate this book highly because the author accomplishes what he set out to do–“This book will introduce you to exciting career opportunities that smart manufacturing provides today.”
He continues, “Manufacturing output, which is essentially the amount of goods made in America, rises every year. The U.S. now produces more products than at any other time in history. Smart Manufacturing, also referred to as Industry 4.0, is starting to shake up the previous worldwide business model of off-shoring manufacturing operations to areas with low labor rates by making labor rates less relevant. You have an opportunity to join the industry as it reinvents itself.”
It reminds me of books given to me to read when I was in high school to entice me into an engineering career. It is understandably basic, but it is also inclusive. There is so much more to manufacturing and engineering than when I was making that decision. And Nager covers all the facets from highly educated process engineers to skilled technicians. And how to get there.
Half of the book is devoted to persuading students about the importance of manufacturing–both to the country’s defense and to the economic health of the area and country. Becoming an important part of manufacturing is not only a great career for the student, it also enables the student to be a contributing member of society. The remaining part discusses the wide variety of engineering and technical areas a student could choose from according to their interests and talents.
Nager covers technologies involved including hardware products and software concluding with a review of the so-called “soft skills” such as leadership that are essential to success no matter what the career path.
Get this book, order many. Pass them along to every junior high and high school student you know who could even remotely be interested in a manufacturing career.
Universal Robots becomes the first collaborative robot manufacturer to develop an educational offering that provides an Industry-recognized certificate. This enables the cobot leader to provide a comprehensive collaborative robot curriculum for students that now launches as part of the Universal Robots Program for Education.
As collaborative robots emerge as the fastest growing segment of industrial automation, cobot curriculum developed by an industrial leader is increasingly sought after in schools and manufacturing industries. “With the Education Program we’re addressing a tremendous need to provide cobot training as part of an integrated course,” says Joe Campbell, senior manager of applications development at Universal Robots (UR). “This hands-on learning initiative will be instrumental in addressing the skills gap and get state-of-the art cobots into classrooms, offering students instant employability and manufacturers access to an upskilled workforce.”
The Education Program provides a clearly defined pathway for students to master cobot programming and deployment as part of an Industry 4.0 career in robotics and advanced manufacturing. Schools can now purchase the ready-to-go package that includes the complete curriculum, a UR cobot arm, and the hardware and software required to build actual industrial applications.
Accelerates student access to cobots
The 32-hour course has been developed with assistance from Ritch Ramey, coordinator of RAMTEC, (The Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Education Collaborative) overseeing robotics training at the 24 Tri-Rivers career centers in Ohio, representing the largest, most comprehensive robotics education center in the nation. “Being able to offer a complete turnkey training program with an industry-recognized credential gives schools increased access to both private grants and government funding when bringing cobots into classrooms,” he says. “It will make all the difference in the acceleration of student access to a real industrial robot that is both safe to operate in a classroom and easy to use.”
Upon completion of the course work, a student receives 32 course credit hours and a Universal Robots industry-recognized certification. The course can be taught in high schools, dual-enrollment courses, and in colleges.
In addition to the formalized core curriculum, the Universal Robots Program for Education Package consists of:
- UR Cobot Unit (UR3e or UR5e)
- 24 course licenses
- Gripper Demo Kit
- UR Academy Hardware Set
- One conveyor assembly including conveyor, encoder, two sensors, and I/O simulation test box
- Ten 3D printed training elements for exercises
- One 3D printed dual TCP
- Six 3D printed workpieces
For institutions that already have cobots, a retro package is available with course curricula, classroom support hardware and software.
This news is a bit old dating from the end of September. Last year during “normal” times, there was a lull of a couple of months in news of upgrades and new things. This year during “not-so-normal” times, I’ve been flooded with releases, conversations, virtual events, and even some work.
This release discusses another virtual learning program. This week I reported on advances in the Honeywell Process training technology and program. In the days when I was traveling, I visited the Emerson training center for updates on its virtual training program. And there have been others—Bedrock Automation, Inductive Automation, and more. This release begins with the tease-line “Pre-pandemic reports had virtual learning growth approaching $330B in the next two years (obviously, that’ll increase).”
Indeed, I’m encouraged at the advances. I first saw computer-based education ideas when I attended a National School Boards Association conference in the mid-80s while an elected school board member. As a geek, I was less-than-impressed. Things have improved.
This release is from the IT side of the Manufacturing Connection—IT company Neotys has implemented an on-demand, virtual training program with IT company and training innovator OrasiLabs.
Performance tester revamps education, delivery with Orasi’s cloud-based learning platform
Orasi, a DevSecOps innovator accelerating software application delivery and adoption through automation, unveiled momentum details from its virtual training engagement with Neotys. With OrasiLabs, the train anyone, anywhere, anytime cloud-based hands-on learning platform by Orasi, Neotys implemented a flexible, scalable, hands-on virtual learning experience that empowered Neotys to increase revenue, and deliver training to teams, customers and partners, for its performance testing solutions.
When COVID-19 mandated Neotys to adopt a remote workforce culture, Neotys needed to swiftly augment its traditional, in-person training approach with a modern, virtual, on-demand model.
“Neotys’ global, mobile workforce demanded a more flexible, superior education experience than Zoom-style environments, which always seemed to fall short of the hands-on learning required,” said Bill Nicholson, VP of Customer Success in North America for Neotys. “Given the constant evolution of technologies we ask employees to know, use and train customers and partners on, Neotys needed a virtual training platform that made it easy for instructors to facilitate learning for anyone, from anywhere, at any time.”
“Given the shift to working remotely, and the pressing need for organizations to quickly educate employees, customers and partners on ever-changing technologies, virtual learning industry growth is on the rise,” said David Hand, VP for Orasi. “Demand is high for collaborative learning environments that speed retention and productivity, while reducing the inefficiency and cost of traditional teaching methods.”
OrasiLabs is an AWS cloud-native, comprehensive learning lab to train and collaborate with groups of any size, in any location, with minimal manual effort. It enables companies to deliver the highest quality content without wasting time configuring complex training environments. Employees achieve maximum knowledge retention and rapidly apply what they learn.
“OrasiLabs was quick and efficient to implement, as each student employee, customer or partner needed only a computer and Internet connection to participate,” said Nicholson. “Security was fast to establish, quality content was simple to provide, and the advanced over-the-shoulder teacher/student collaboration feature allowed students to immediately absorb information and foster ongoing communication.”
OrasiLabs revolutionized how Neotys manages training and development worldwide, expanding Neotys’ ability to bring and sell performance testing products to the market. Neotys has seen an increase in positive feedback for virtual training as compared to in-person training and a consistent rise in student ratings since it started using OrasiLabs. OrasiLabs saves time, reduces overhead costs and automates processes to simplify the delivery of application training, and provides an enhanced learning experience for everyone. Visit https://orasilabs.com/free-trial/ for a 14-day free trial.www.orasilabs.com.
Orasi is a DevSecOps innovator enabling the acceleration, security and adoption of software applications through automation. Working with world-class partners, Orasi provides solutions and services that offer full lifecycle support and integration to ensure confident delivery of transformative applications. Headquartered in Kennesaw, GA, Orasi works with hundreds of global brands, including Fortune 500 companies, in a variety of industries. Orasi has been recognized multiple times as a “Top Workplace” by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more information visit us at www.orasi.comor at Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Neotys is a leading innovator in load testing and performance testing for Web and Mobile applications. It has nearly 15 years of development investment into NeoLoad – the performance testing platform designed to accelerate Agile and DevOps processes. For more information about Neotys or NeoLoad, visit: neotys.com or contact [email protected].