2023 industry wrap-up: The best of Technology Toolbox 
2023 industry wrap-up: The best of Technology Toolbox 
2023 industry wrap-up: The best of Technology Toolbox 
2023 industry wrap-up: The best of Technology Toolbox 
2023 industry wrap-up: The best of Technology Toolbox 

2023 industry wrap-up: The best of Technology Toolbox 

Dec. 29, 2023
In this year-end wrap-up, we share Sheila's most requested columns and the popular products she showcased.

Technology Toolbox is a monthly column that highlights new products and technologies designed to improve asset reliability, maintenance productivity, safety, and cost efficiency. In this column, Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, a professional writer specializing in industrial and technical topics, and founder of Additive Communications, reports on the latest innovations affecting the manufacturing sector. In this year-end wrap-up, we share Sheila's most requested columns and the popular products she showcased.

Materials handling is getting safer, more accurate, and more efficient

How products and materials are moved and controlled in manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics operations continues to improve. Robots, drones, and supporting software are getting more intelligent. Solutions are safer with greater environmental awareness and more efficient in their capabilities and performance.

The combination of Ware’s warehouse inventory automation software and its partner Skydio’s fully autonomous drones simplifies inventory data capture and reporting. Using drones to track inventory increases safety, accuracy, and efficiency. Leveraging AI-powered inventory reporting software that integrates to any warehouse management system (WMS) enables proactive control.

“The drones fly on a schedule defined in our software, Ware Cloud, which means warehouse operators can review inventory data provided for them, rather than having to cycle count manually themselves,” explains Ian Smith, CEO at Ware. “We're also providing more detailed insights—enabling operators to locate misplaced pallets faster and increase accuracy—saving businesses time and money compared to manual inventory tracking.”

Smart plants optimize human and robotic processes

Intelligent manufacturing and warehouse operations augment human talent with robots for process automation. When computer vision, machine learning, and artificial intelligence complement the personal touch, it improves production and intralogistics efficiency and bottom-line results. 

The HC30PL human-collaboration robot from Yaskawa Motoman safely enables collaborative fenceless palletizing operations. It natively supports hand-guiding to allow for easier programming, and it can be shifted between collaborative speed in Power and Force Limiting (PFL) mode and full speed in industrial mode as production needs change. 

“The base design of the robot is purpose-built to work directly with humans, including the ability to detect and react safely to collisions with sensors in all six axes,” explains Bill Edwards, senior manager of collaborative robotics at Yaskawa Motoman. It also features pinch-less manipulator geometry, rounded edges to reduce peak pressures, and a smooth surface to help reduce abrasions during contact and aid in cleaning. 

Approaching industrial safety from all angles

Prioritizing workforce safety and health is an industrial management essential. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety tools and systems are becoming more targeted, effective, and user friendly. The new innovations are paving the way for improved programs and outcomes. 

An innovation in PPE for hearing is the new MobiWAN from Mobilus Labs. It uses bone conduction to enable clear, two-way voice communication in noisy and windy industrial environments while full hearing protection is worn. Mobilus certified it for use in hazardous areas, and Chevron has been testing the technology. 

MobiWAN attaches to the back of a hard hat, rests against the worker’s head, and connects wirelessly to their smartphone or other device with Bluetooth functionality. When the worker takes a call, instead of hearing sound through their ears, MobiWAN sends the sound waves through the bones in their head and directly into their inner ear. When the worker speaks, vibrations come up through their jaw and skull to MobiWAN’s microphone and back out to the Bluetooth device.  

How advances in industrial motors and controls can boost the bottom line

Motor and drive providers are moving forward with new solutions for persistent challenges. Thinking out of the box, they are embracing business, technological, and environmental opportunities to help their customers improve operations and maintenance and boost the bottom line. 

New industrial drive designs improve deployment and control. The Armor PowerFlex drive from Rockwell Automation is a scalable, On-Machine motor control solution that helps reduce the challenges seen in cabinet-based solutions.

“Armor PowerFlex is not a repackaged drive, but rather a Smart, On-Machine product carefully designed to be an integral part of a complete automation solution,” explains Michael Harris, senior commercial project engineer at Rockwell Automation. “The compact design not only provides a rich feature set, like functional safety and security, for today’s demanding applications, but also saves our customers money by reducing cabling and installation costs with its local IO and power feed-thru with integral branch circuit protection.”

Condition monitoring at the source: Diagnose asset problems faster with portable tech

Condition monitoring technologies designed for use at or near critical assets keep improving. Robust portable tools and on-site devices reveal early warning signs of problems so corrective actions can be taken. Acoustic imagers, drone systems, mobile apps, analyzers, tablets, and oil monitoring tools are among the beneficial innovations.

The handheld Microlog Analyzer dBX, a new addition to SKF’s condition monitoring solution portfolio, adds speed and diagnostic power to the monitoring and maintenance of rotating machines. It collects measurement data with MPA-in-a-flash, SKF’s fastest vibration analysis method featuring Multi-Point Acquisition.

Sam Bainbridge, SKF’s director of technology delivery for North America, says the device supports a range of tasks, including impact tests, digital recording, modal analysis, multi-plane balancing, and cross channel phase. “Microlog Analyzer dBX is backwards compatible with SKF’s Microlog CMXA Series platform and adds new technology including a high-resolution, 10.1-inch touch screen that can display up to six measurement windows at the same time, and an embedded camera,” he adds.

Have you heard what’s new in industrial ultrasound?

Ultrasound technologies are proliferating in more and different applications. Whether detecting early signs of equipment failure or asset flaws, or refining measurement accuracy or cleaning effectiveness, ultrasound solutions are becoming increasingly indispensable.

Ultrasound technology is also found in multifunctional systems. The recently “reimagined” Ultraprobe 15,000 condition monitoring system from UE Systems analyzes plant equipment such as bearings, steam traps, and electrical systems for conditions such as degradation, leaks, and lubrication needs. The handheld all-in-one ultrasonic instrument facilitates condition inspection, data collection, and analysis.

Blair Fraser, VP of global business development at UE Systems, says of this release: “Our most advanced processor and next-generation camera meet Wi-Fi technology, transforming data collection and onboard analysis. After more than 10 years, it was time to redefine this instrument.”