Universal Robots Takes ActiNav Next-Gen Machine Loading on Tour

I guess we have entered the post-pandemic era. Universal Robots is taking its latest technology on tour this summer. By the time I got to this news item, the first date was passed. If you are close to one of these areas, check out this cool technology.

Automating machine loading traditionally means integrating conveyors, bowl feeders, custom trays, shaker tables or various other components and processes. These approaches can lead to a range of obstacles and challenges, including complex programming and setup, poorly-utilized manpower, inefficient machine utilization and decreased output.

ActiNav changes all that, combining intelligent vision and sensor software with the autonomous motion control of Universal Robots’ world-leading cobots in one seamless Application Kit that solves the random bin picking challenge in machine tending applications. To give manufacturers an opportunity to experience ActiNav hands-on, Universal Robots and its partners are now hosting live demos, inviting attendees to bring their parts to be picked, experiencing how easy it is to set up a sophisticated machine loading system.

“We want manufacturers to experience in person the “wow factor” as they see ActiNav effortlessly pick their randomized parts and place them correctly in a designated place,” says Bryan Bird, Regional Sales Director for Universal Robots’ North America division. “We look forward to working with our partners in providing this unique experience.”

The ActiNav Tour dates are hosted by Universal Robots partners and systems integrators on the following dates and locations:

FPE Automation: July 13, Elk Grove Village, IL

Southwestern PTS: July 22, Coppell, TX

NEFF Wisconsin: August 3, Mequon, WI

CIMTEC: August 5, Charlotte, NC

Shaltz: August 10, Flint, MI

In addition to meeting ActiNav on tour, manufacturers can now leverage an expanded network of ActiNav Solution Providers (ASPs), a vetted and carefully selected group of systems integrators across the U.S. to deploy the next-generation machine loading solution. Joining the ASP network are:

Muratec, Charlotte, NC, PCC Robotics, Germantown, WI, Computech Manufacturing Company, Washington, MI, and PrecisionForm Inc., Lititz, PA.

Bird explains that UR’s selection process focused on integrators with expertise in both vision and robotics, that deliver superior value, and on time/on budget projects for customers.

Dan Carney, General Manager at Wisconsin-based PCC Robotics, is looking forward to sharing the benefits of Actinav with manufacturers in his region. “As a systems integrator we find parts staging to be a key component of nearly every application,” he says. “We have reviewed a number of bin picking offerings and ActiNav is simply in a different class.”

NI Expands Global Network to Serve Small Businesses

NI has always served smaller businesses—most of whom do work for big businesses or projects solving interesting engineering problems. This month I received an announcement of NI’s partner network focusing on small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). We must remember that the true engines for economic growth come from startups and smaller businesses doing innovative things.

NI announced the expansion of its global distribution channels within the NI Partner Network, a strategic move to support its omnichannel strategy dedicated to serving small-to-medium business (SMB) customers to help them do what they do best — innovate. 

NI is focused on providing value and choice to its SMB customers, strategically connecting them to partners and resources on ni.com to provide a positive, efficient experience. Shifting to a multi-channel approach in this way leverages established, well-known distributors and ni.com to meet customers’ buying needs. 

“We know our customers, especially those in the SMB space, need simple and efficient ways to buy so their time is spent on moving their business forward,” said Josh Mueller, GM of the Portfolio Business Unit at NI. “That’s why we’re taking important steps to serve our customers in ways that help them the most, including new avenues to purchasing NI products and solutions.”

NI is also committed to purchasing more from small and diverse businesses. As outlined in its 2030 Corporate Impact Strategy, Engineering Hope, NI has put forth a goal stating that by 2030, 16% of NI suppliers will be small or diverse businesses. Diverse and equitable procurement has a positive ripple effect throughout entire communities and NI is taking steps, such as increasing access to its global distribution program, to cultivate opportunities for small or diverse business suppliers. 

To show appreciation for its SMB customers and community, NI is celebrating Small Business Month in a big way, from providing access to best-in-class test tools and technology at a discount, to sharing customer success stories.

During the month of May, members of the SMB community can look forward to:

  • Customer stories and the “Secrets of Small Business” video series featuring SMB CEOs and their perspectives on overcoming some of the greatest engineering challenges of today.
  • Limited-time promotions on tools, software and solutions designed to help SMB customers advance their engineering initiatives, including LabVIEW, FlexLogger™ software and CompactDAQ.
  • Webinars about NI software and solutions to help SMBs address quality in validation designs and flexibility in engineering.

“Connecting our customers to the right technologies and services helps them accelerate their pace of innovation and better serve their organizations and end customers,” said Jim Ramsey, vice president of the Global Partner program at NI. “We’re excited to celebrate Small Business Month for this reason — to help equip more engineers with the tools and technologies they need to take on their next big opportunity.” 

Learn more about NI’s expanded global distribution network and how it’s celebrating the SMB community this month. 

Industry Conferences

The latest Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast featured Sangram Vajre, co-founder and chief evangelist of startup company Terminus. That company specializes in B2B marketing.

Vajre talked about several things the company’s founders did at startup.

They wrote a book. They autographed 1,000 copies and sent to executives at prospective clients. Instant credibility.

They put together a conference. Many industry influencers were invited to speak. Terminus had a booth. Competitors were also invited to have a booth. The conference was not branded for Terminus, rather Flip My Funnel. There was no keynote from Terminus promoting the company. It was an “Industry Conference.”

Made me pause and think about our market, or industry. Perhaps the closest we have to and industry conference is ARC Industry Forum. Except that it is really about ARC and its clients. Many companies (almost all?) run conference for its customers and prospects. A couple of magazines run conferences. They are mostly centered on advertisers. Speakers are either conference sponsors or a customer of a sponsor. That doesn’t mean in any of those cases the speakers will simply give sales pitches. But it’s not the same as having independent influencers as speakers. Maybe we just don’t have enough of us?

I would do an independent industry conference, but there is only one of me.

Back to Vajre. He developed the PEAK methodology. From the show notes:

  • P – Picture of Success: The image of the collective win that rallies the community
  • E – Extreme Focus: Identifying the one thing your business focuses on
  • A – Authenticity: Being true to your word, revealing your motives and demonstrating that youcan be trusted by your employees and customers
  • K – Kindness: Caring for your team and community and keeping your customers in focus insuch a way that everyone on your team sees and feels how they contribute to the win

Book Review: Build Your Own Business

Blog Review Start from Zero

The other day, I received a review copy of Start From Zero: Build Your Own Business, Experience True Freedom by Dane Maxwell.

A further subtitle could be become a millionaire while working only 2-3 hours a day.

Or, become a millionaire by joining his site.

Three basic components of his book include—writing effective ad/marketing copy, make the calls, buy his system. (Not to be cynical. All God’s children need to earn an income somehow.)

Much of the first half or so include ideas I first picked up in the 1980s from Napoleon Hill, Denis Waitley, and Brian Tracy. Then he, a little later, added ideas on neuroplasticity—the finding that you can change and grow your brain through reading and experiences.

His outline of ideas are:

  • The Three Rocks
  • What you don’t need
  • What you do need
  • 4 Brains
  • 7 Skills
  • 15 Examples (people who have done the work and succeeded)
  • 4 Growth Levels

If you are younger and just beginning, this book offers many tried and proven tips. Read it and take a few ideas and put them into practice.

If you are older and have been studying building businesses, most likely you’ll find little new—unless you find motivation from examples from life.

I picked up at least one new idea—questions to ask while doing some market research. Sort of looking for those delicious morel mushrooms in the spring that pop up unexpectedly, ideas are there for the finding.

In the book, he mentions that as people grow in business, the move from reading 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss to Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio. This book is sort of a 4 Hour Work Week. Once you get moving, you’ll grow more by reading Principles and other such books.

Google Ad Shakedown

Google Ad Shakedown

Google and Other Misdemeanors

I have noticed that over the past few months, the number of people coming to my site via search engines, principally Google, has dropped by something like 40%. Curious, last weekend I took a little time and searched on about a dozen keywords that would be used in the industry.

Media sites just don’t come up in the searches. But what does come up are a ton of ads. The bulk of the rest of the links are suppliers. This is a big change over this time period.

Then I came across a tweet from Jason Fried, founder and CEO of Basecamp. He noticed that when he searched for his company, Basecamp, he came up number 4. The first three were ads from competitors who had worked the words base camp into their URLs or name in some ingenious way. And they had purchased the adwords that placed their ad above the real organic result. He explains all this in a podcast on Rework.

Back to my observation. I appeared seldom, except for my own domain name, and I never saw the major trade journals in the industry. Even ones named IIoT in a search of IIoT. Automation got three hits a couple of pages back on the keyword automation. But it should have had a bunch.

But suppliers are the most prone to buy adwords from Google.

If you think that searches are not biased and show you the most relevant to you, then you are years behind times.

I have noticed a similar effect in Facebook. Of course, its ad strategy came from Google in the person of Sheryl Sandberg. I did marketing for a small retail startup coffee house in Sidney, Ohio. Being local, I went to Facebook. I also spent a few dollars a month on ads.

When I ended the ad campaign, I was pestered with several notices per day about boosting a post for only $10, then for only $5. And our reach started dropping. Suddenly not everyone saw all the posts. The algorithm ensured that. When you’re in a small town with only about 1,000 person reach, you get pretty quick feedback.

Once upon a time, I mostly trusted Google search results. I use it for research constantly. Now, I’m not so sure about where to go for better results. Everyone is in such a rush to maximize ad dollars that they manipulate anything, including us, in the quest for eyes on ads.

Sending Information to The Manufacturing Connection

Sending Information to The Manufacturing Connection

I receive enough feedback to believe that this is a well read blog in the industry. Not bad for what may be the only independent blog in the industry. Others I read are good (I continue to point readers to Jim Cahill’s Emerson Automation Experts as the model for doing it correctly) but they are company blogs. Nothing wrong with that. Just a different take. And I know of one that is a business in itself selling programs to companies and offering a different venue for company thought leaders.

Not only is the blog well read by engineers, managers, and executives, many marketing and public relations people come across this place, too. So, I get lots of pitches. In the IT industry, marketing has a category called influencers. Influencer marketing people know how to feed us information. Since everyone else in the controls and automation market similar to me is a publication, they tend to pitch me as if I were still at a magazine. Hint: I left that industry six years ago so that I could be my own person and be digital only. And, while I sincerely appreciate my sponsors and run ads for them, the business model has not been to make a majority of income from those. That is my financial foundation. Over the years, I’ve traded my expertise and knowledge of industrial businesses for custom research, analysis, and consulting.

With that as a background, the following is a general note for all the marketing and press relations people who stumble across my writing. I love you all, and I appreciate the work you do. I’m just a little different (well, a lot different).

I write a blog. There is no editorial calendar or “special issue” designed to attract advertisers. I’m interested in things I can think about. And I write everything–no contributed articles. It may be news, a tech trend, a significant new product or perhaps acquisition, and the like. It may come from press release or interview or something I see on the web. As the “connection” part of my blog name (have it because I could get the domain name, of course) implies, my interest is connecting—things, people, companies, ideas.

So, just feed me. If your CTO or someone in that office has something to say, ping me. I’ll take a look at a press release. If I can glean something out of the ordinary, I’ll use it to riff on. Otherwise, I am hungry to learn what is happening in the industry.

Supposing I have read a release. If I were still in the magazine business, we would have taken it verbatim, posted it on the Web, and then inserted it in the print magazine. The sales person would send a note to the marketing person notifying them that we were covering ABB, and by the way, want to buy an ad. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just a different business model. And one that is increasingly tough to sustain.

For me, this tidbit of a press release leaves me hungry to know more. I’d love a little more detail. I’m sure there must be an Internet of Things angle. Then rather than just calling out the product name, I’d love to know something of the hardware connections throughout the system. I’d love to know more about the analytics—is there ML involved that builds on the accumulating date for example?

I like to teach people considering a project something about what is involved in researching, designing, and implementing a system. Many times I have fielded inquiries from executives with just that question. And then, I would have a value-add and the company would show real expertise. I realize that this means more work for the marketing and PR teams. I sympathize. However, setting up a 30-minute interview would pay off for you, me, and the thousands of readers who stop by here.

Thanks for listening.