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Customised workstations and assembly lines for smart factories

18 May 2018

Managing Director of Minitec, Gary Livingstone recognises that the increasing demands of industry which requires competitive yet “made to measure” fit for purpose products can put strains on a manufacturing organisation which is not prepared to or able to adopt a flexible approach to providing customers with what they want.

What sort of manufacturers/suppliers are out there?

Many industries today are populated with three kinds of supplier/manufacturer designing and producing the infrastructures that are required:

“Supplier A provides off the shelf standard products – what you see is what you get; no deviation from the spec is possible. Then there is, at the other end of the scale, supplier B who will provide you with a purpose built, customised solution with no expense spared neither in terms of componentry and material or design considerations. Perfect if this is what you are looking for but you just be prepared to have fairly deep pockets as very often such solutions will come at a price.

Then of course there is that innovative, imaginative supplier who recognises the need for customisation to meet individual needs yet can provide this from a platform of basic standard products and components.

“There is no doubt that at MiniTec we have worked long and hard to develop our position and reputation in this third category.”

Sustainability is important

“We also notice an increasing need and appetite for efficient, ergonomically designed workstations and assembly lines which are robust, safe to use and will last a lifetime. Many of the products that we build to a customer’s specific design will not necessarily remain in the same position or configuration on the shop floor that they were originally designed for. Operations expand and contract and requirements change so it is also important that we can provide customers with sustainable and re-usable products. Imagine that the aluminium profile business is not dissimilar to industrial meccano – it consists of basic lengths and shapes of profiles used for framework construction fastened together in a way.

Many systems available on the market use specialist fastening systems which, once fastened and locked in place, are not so easy to dismantle and re-use. On the one hand, and this is certainly a view often held in the past, you must try and lock in the customer to your particular brand and design to prevent him from moving away to another brand. This protectionist view is no longer so popular and in fact many manufacturers like MiniTec apply the opposite view to create a much more positive benefit for the customer. The use of standard off the shelf fastening systems which require only a standard Allen key to lock the profile lengths together means that we can justifiably offer customers a flexible system that can be re-used time and time again in different configurations if required, without the need for a complete rebuild from scratch every time.”

Intuitive software support is a must

MiniTec systems and components are not complex, yet the design requirements of many customers are often limitless. MiniTec have designed and make available on its website an intuitive iCAD design package which allows the customer to put together their own design and the software will select the optimum components.

Assembly facility

It is also the case that many customers nowadays do not have the internal resource to put together their design requirements and certainly not carry out assembly of the line or workstation in situ and so it has become essential for companies like MiniTec to offer this facility as well.

Truly, the art of simplicity

“There is no doubt in my mind,” concludes Gary “that the “survival of the fittest” nowadays means that we must combine flexibility with standardisation to provide the best engineered solutions for our customers in the industry at the most competitive costs possible and offer durable and sustainable products. By keeping the concept simple, we believe that we can achieve this.”

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