27 January 2022
Article written by Sergiusz Sonnenfeld
What do you think of when you hear the word “automation”? Charlie Chaplin’s silent film comedy “Modern Times”? The great Ford T series launched in 1910? George Orwell’s science fiction or maybe Amazon’s connected warehouses?
These different representations in our collective imagination give us a (sometimes misleading) idea of what automation is. As Test and Automation Engineering Manager at LACROIX, I work on automation-related tasks every day.
For an industrial company like us, automation is characterized by all the techniques and processes that make it possible to automate repetitive actions with low added value on our production lines.
As you can see, the primary goal of automation is to improve our industrial performance, while freeing up time for our operators so that they can focus on more interesting and complex tasks. So, drudgery is reduced or even eliminated in some manual operations.
Obviously, the concept of competitiveness comes into play in this equation. The more competitive our production equipment is, the more attractive we will be to our customers. Increasing productivity and our ability to produce in large volumes is therefore key.
With digitalization, automation is one of the key pillars of our Smart Industry strategy, which we have been deploying in our production plants for several years.
To meet the growing demands of our customers in terms of volume, precision and cost, we have set up a unit dedicated to automation. A new position has been created to coordinate these activities, the Group Automation Manager (my current job).
For over a year now, a cross-functional team distributed across the four countries where our production plants are located (France, Germany, Poland and Tunisia) has been experimenting with new processes day after day.
Organisation in this way enables us to increase our expertise in automation by creating an expert network comprising 10 people who are in constant contact with each other to discuss ongoing projects. Standardizing our automation processes is also an important aspect of our approach. Our customers, whether from the industrial, automotive, home automation or avionics sectors, must have access to the same production standards. Of course, we take the specificities of each plant into account.
These are automated movement devices that enable objects to be manipulated. Operating in a closed environment, robots, whether fixed or mobile, are programmable and automatically controlled. Able to multitask, they offer numerous industrial applications and optimize cycle times and job productivity.
These are collaborative robots that can be adapted to perform several handling activities in a single day. Equipped with safety sensors, they can work safely with operators. There is a difference between cohabitation and collaboration:
In addition to the robots and cobots present in our factories, we can also find AGVs for automated equipment transport and automated logistics systems (the automated store Exotec, for example).
On our side, we work with reputable suppliers such as Fanuc, Mitsubishi, MIR and Omron to deploy automation projects with the support of organisations such as We Network. Our robots and cobots respond to different use cases: handling, placement, soldering, screwing, assembly, integration, transport, etc.
500 reels per day
Free loading by the operator
Cycle time: 20 seconds
300 jobs per week
50 km travelled per week
20,000 screws per week
Working in co-proximity with operators
Structure measuring ~500 m2
6,720 containers stored on 21 levels
Cycle time 8 seconds
25 product references
Home automation market
5 processes in one unit
48 products per hour
2 testers and 1 screwing station
3 stations embedded in a system
150 products per hour
5 seconds per soldering point
4 product references
Home automation market
Today, we systematically offer our customers projects that include automation. We are only at the beginning of automation and our ambition is high…
Passionate about new technologies, Sergiusz has worked for more than 20 years in LACROIX’s Electronics Activity at the Polish production plant located in Kwidzyn. He has held many positions, starting as a repair technician in the technical department. Today, he is both the Test Engineering & Automation Manager and Group Automation Manager