Industrial Engineering Lab Equipment
Largest online collection of industrial engineering lab equipment from many different reputable producers. Here we cover training systems for teaching Mechatronics, PLC, Robotics, Process control etc. Hands-on training systems for Industry 4.0 and Flexible Manufacturing Training Systems.
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Learn more about Industrial Engineering Lab Equipment
In this section you can learn more about industry automation, why we should teach it and the best practices. You will also learn about industrial engineering lab equipment: what they are, different categories, their benefits, who uses them, challenges and trends. You will also learn the best practices for search, evaluation and acquisition for plc, robotics, mechatronics training tools, systems and equipment.
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What is Industrial Automation?
Definition: Industrial automation is the coordinated use of control systems, such as machines and robots, alongside information technologies for managing processes and machinery within an industry to achieve optimized outcomes such as higher productivity and lower cost.
While mechanization can be described as the use of powered machinery as a tool for humans to increase productivity when doing repetitive tasks, automation is when the machine is doing the repetitive task which is based upon logical programming done by humans.
Automation technology can be as basic as an on-off control, all the way to include thousands of variables and high-level algorithms based on input measurements and output control signals.
Industrial automation has accelerated significantly with the growth of digitalization and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), triggered by cheaper and more accurate sensor technology which is networked with increasingly more powerful computing systems.
Why should we teach Industrial Automation?
Industrial Automation is being adopted across all major industries because of its clear advantages in helping companies improve their competitiveness.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Industrial Automation
- Lower Operating Costs: automating industrial processes decreases the costs associated with human operators, such as salary, healthcare, holidays, pension, bonuses etc. Maintenance costs for machinery is negligible in comparison to the savings.
- Higher Productivity: in comparison to a human operator a robot can work 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, which increases company productivity.
- Higher Output Quality: human errors are eliminated through automation which increases the quality output, especially those product quality variations associated to fatigue.
- Higher Safety: robots can take over any tasks in hazardous environments, previously executed by human operators.
- Higher Information Accuracy: when data is collected automatically it is both cheaper and more accurate which improves the quality of decision making.
- Improved Speed to Market: when production is automated and flexible it improves speed to market of new products, as compared to when parts of production is outsourced.
- Switching costs: the only disadvantages of industrial automation are (a) the capital expenditure costs, and (b) the costs associated to upskilling the workforce.
Industrial Automation Skills-gap
Many manufacturers are positive to industrial automation and the associated opportunities for optimization. However, the adoption of new technologies requires a different skillset from the human operators, and this requires a training-, reskilling-, and upskilling-effort of magnitude.
A Deloitte study estimated that 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will be created in the USA between 2018-2028, but only half of them will be filled because of the burgeoning skills gap and lack of qualified talent.
In Europe, a Cedefop report highlights that 43% of adult employees have recently experienced changes in the technologies they use at work and 47% saw changes in their working methods or practices. About one in five considers it very likely that several of their skills will become outdated in the next five years.
Even to an untrained eye it becomes clear that accelerating technology is changing the way of work, and possessing relevant skills is the key for employees to maintain competitive. New entrants to the job market are increasingly expected to bring skills to the workplace, rather than getting trained at work.
Wages in Industrial Automation
Studies show that the lower end of manufacturing jobs, such as an assembler, pay more than retail or service jobs. However, these are the jobs which are more likely to disappear with industrial automation.
The type of jobs in industrial automation is Automation Product Manager, Automation Project Manager, Industrial Automation Sales Engineer, Automation Controls Engineer, Automation Application Engineer, Field Systems Engineer, PLC Programmer, Automation Technician.
What about the wages? For example, the average automation engineer yearly salary in the USA is $90,411 and in Germany its € 80,967 with average bonus of € 3,101. These estimates are based on salary survey data collected from employers, employees, and job advertisements.
As we can see, industrial automation provides significant advantages for companies and societies which is a clear signal that this is a mega trend which is here to stay. We can also see that there is a clear skills-gap to be met, and the candidates with the right types of training and hard skills, will be rewarded with well-paid wages. Those are the reasons we should train, reskill, and upskill students and employees for Industrial Automation. The main questions are (1) what the best practices, and (2) which tools to use.
Best practices for teaching Industrial Automation
The best practices for teaching Industrial Automation covers the chosen didactic methodology, learning environment, tools and equipment. Below a few recurring points which most industrial automation educators tend to agree with.
- Group work: students work in groups where they can learn from each other.
- Cross discipline teams: preference is to mix learners from different backgrounds such as IT, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, and management etc.
- Real case: learners work on a real case of automation in a model factory with various stages or workstations which represents different steps in the value chain.
- Realistic scenario: learners should get hands-on experiences with industrial grade tools and systems for process control such as software, hardware, machinery, robotics etc.
The best in class learning environments for Industrial Automation are called Learning Factories and they are most often setup in a higher education institution or a research center. Below you can find the definition of a learning factory by Eberhard Abele, Joachim Metternich, et al.
A learning factory in a narrow sense is a learning environment specified by:
- Processes that are authentic, include multiple stations, and comprise technical, as well as organizational aspects,
- a setting that is changeable and resembles a real value chain,
- a physical product being manufactured, and
- a didactic concept that comprises formal, informal, and non-formal learning, enabled by own actions of the trainees in an on-site learning approach.
This book presents the state of the art of learning factories. It is addressed both to researchers in production related areas, as well as managers and engineers in industry who are searching for an effective way to train their employees.
It’s the best handbook available, you can buy it here.
Also, there is an International Association for Learning Factories (IALF) gathering members from all continents worldwide. IALF members meets at a conference once a year to discuss various topics in Learning Factories, such as:
- Virtual and Augmented Reality
- Energy & Resource Efficiency & Materials and Bioeconomy
- Work-based learning
- Human Robot Collaboration
- AI for Manufacturing Systems / Artificial Intelligence in production processes
- Digital assistance systems for manual and semi-automatic assembly
- 5G in learning factories
- Cross Learning Factory Product Production System (CLFPPS)
- Learning in the Digital Transformation
- Agility in Production Systems
What is Industrial Engineering Lab Equipment?
Industrial Engineering Lab Equipment refers to technical training systems used by educators and trainers to teach skills of Industrial Automation, most often for manufacturing industry, but also for other industries such as Process industry, Oil & Gas, Food Processing, Pharmaceuticals etc.
This didactic equipment is normally installed into training centers or classrooms, and consists of both hardware, software and content which is used to teach skills necessary for design, implementation and management of Industrial Automation systems and processes.
What types of Industrial Engineering Lab Equipment exists?
There are various types of industrial engineering lab equipment used in education and training, the choice of which combinations to use depends on which topics the educator wants to address, such as: PLC training rigs, robotics lab equipment, mechatronics training systems, flexible manufacturing systems, automatic storage and retrieval systems, industry 4.0 training systems, a few of them covered below.
Also, a small note; all of these training systems build upon combinations of mechanical systems, hydraulic systems, pneumatic systems, electrical systems, electronic devices, and computers. Training equipment for each of these sub-topics also exists separately.
PLC training tools
PLC is short for programmable logic controller, which is an industrial digital computer, adapted to the harsh environment of manufacturing. A PLC automatically collects inputs from sensors and directs necessary outputs. PLCs are produced by Siemens, Schneider Electric, Allen Bradley, ABB, Bosch Rexroth and many more, while the specific training systems are produced by system integrators, various of them listed here on Edquip.
Robotics Lab Equipment
Industrial robotics lab equipment for schools and are used for teaching industrial robotics and automation in technical vocational education and training. These robotics lab equipment often include a robotic arm from a producer such as ABB, Denso, Universal Robots, Yaskawa, Fanuc, Kuka, Fruitcore or similar. The arm can be a Cobot, a Scara, a 5 or 6 axis robot, and is sometimes guarded by a protective enclosure with safety doors to be suitable in an educational setting.
Mechatronics Training Equipment
Mechatronics training equipment come in many shapes and sizes, but always include some combination of software, electronic, mechanical and control systems. With the rapid implementation of industrial automation systems in almost all industries Mechatronics has become one of the fastest growing technical education areas, highly rewarding for students’ career progressions.
Flexible Manufacturing System
A flexible manufacturing system is an advanced mechatronics system specifically built to simulate an assembly or production process. It would typically have various stations in which a product would get further refined. These are often perfect systems for teamwork and group assignments.
Benefits of using Industrial Engineering Lab Equipment
Using industrial engineering lab equipment and providing students with a hands-on training experience has many benefits,
- Content retainment: course materials stick longer with learners when subjects are thought in a hands-on manner, rather than just theoretically.
- Increased engagement: students are more engaged and willing to learn when they get ownership of their own skills attainment.
- Critical thinking: hand-on training systems foster critical thinking because students need to reach a desired outcome rather than memorizing information.
- Real world experience: when hands-on materials are used an instructor with real world experience guiding the students will give them insights into what they will experience on the job.
- Workplace Safety: less accidents in the future workplace due to previous proper training with equipment and machines etc.
Who uses Industrial Engineering Lab Equipment?
There are various types of institutions who use technical training systems for Industrial Automation.
- Technical High Schools: some technical vocational career paths at high school level are aimed at industrial automation technicians, and in these schools there are often technical training systems installed.
- Colleges & Polytechnics: in North America, the community colleges are not only offering associate or bachelor’s degrees, but also allow for learners to upskill through hands-on courses which result in certificates and diplomas. Also, polytechnic institutions do a lot of technology and experiential learning and often equip their learning facilities with technical training systems.
- Universities: many universities offer bachelors, master’s degrees, and PhDs in industrial automation. Often their training laboratories are setup with industrial automation training systems, and they also have an additional layer of research added on top.
- Corporate Training Centers: these are often setup to effectively train employees. These training centers are most common in the durable goods manufacturing industry (automotive, aerospace, rail etc.) and the processing industry (oil & gas, chemical & pharmaceutical, food & drink etc.).
- Learning Factories: a learning factory is built up by realistic stages in a production process, which include different stages in the refining of a physical product.
Challenges with Industrial Engineering Lab Equipment
There are some challenges with industrial engineering lab equipment during the different life cycle stages.
Search and Exploration: typical problems for educational institutions are significant time investments on searching for appropriate products, worldwide there are >250 producers of technical training systems, imagine the time spent going through each product line. Also, it is extremely hard to find independent proof of didactic impact and actual learning outcomes.
Acquisition: a common problem during the acquisition process is cost transparency, since technical training systems are most often produced to order, they have different prices depending on different parameters, such as customer country, expected incoterms, expected support in commissioning, installment, and training, required warranty and after sales support.
Ownership: spare part availability and after sales service from the producer or manufacturer is a common issue, always ask yourself, how long is the product warranty and what happens if you need spare parts after expiration? Another thing to consider is who in our training center is trained to teach with this equipment? What are the implications if that person leaves? Can the producer or their distributor re-train other people?
Disposal: A question which is often unanswered at the acquisition stage is how long will we need this system and what will we do when the product reaches the end of its life cycle? Some institutions resell the equipment on the second-hand market, others donate it to a local school, but most often they end up collecting dust in a basement somewhere.
Trends in Industrial Engineering Lab Equipment
Traditionally industrial engineering lab equipment used to be a combination of hardware, software and content. The trends regarding these types of training systems are the same as across other categories of technical vocational training, namely increased digital delivery.
There are currently three main trends:
- Computer simulations and digital twins
- VR and AR technology
- Remote access to physical labs and training equipment
The most well recognized benefits of digital delivery are cost savings in various forms, since software simulations have a much lower marginal cost than physical training systems. Convenience for students studying “whenever & wherever” is also often mentioned as a reason to include digital delivery in various parts of the learning process.
However, there are also various concerns about digital delivery of technical training. A common objection is that while the technology might be good for initiating the learners to the field, it cannot replicate the real hands-on experience which can be achieved with physical training systems.
Are you interested in the digitalization of TVET and Engineering Education? Follow our LinkedIn company page for Edquip to get notified when we publish a deep-dive blog post about this sometime during 2021.
How to search, evaluate and buy Industrial Engineering Lab Equipment?
The easiest way to search and evaluate technical training systems for Industrial Automation is to use the Edquip website.
SEARCH & FIND: you can go through the relevant category page of Industrial Automation and filter your search to narrow down the products and you can study each product listing by itself.
COMPARE: you can add any 2-5 interesting technical training systems to the comparison page where you can easily see and compare different underlying parameters.
REQUEST: you can anonymously request customized quotations straight from the producers of the products in your comparison. For the producer to give you an accurate quotation they need some information from you which we collect through two forms, but do not worry – we will not share your personal details until you decided that you want to proceed with a purchase.
REVIEW: if you have experience of using a specific piece of training equipment, then make sure to give back to the community by submitting a product review to help your fellow educators in their decision process of which equipment to use.
We also have an in-depth blog post on the best practices for searching, comparing, evaluating training systems, which might be good to read if you want to dig deeper into this subject.