Plug & Automate: Smart production processes

13/12/2021 | 2 min read
Phillip Pirafelner

The second live session of Greiner Assistec’s first virtual Innovation Day was called 'Plug & Automate: Smart production processes’ and was presented by Greiner Assistec Global Senior Expert Technology Integration, Philipp Pirafelner, and Andreas Enhuber, Project Lead Smart Robotics, at ESCAD Austria. They discussed how Greiner Assistec automates processes, where conventional automation is not beneficial.

“Automation usually takes a lot of time for implementation, and is mainly used where it can be really dedicated to a certain application,” said Philipp Pirafelner. “We wanted to change that. We want to be independent from utilization, product lifetime, changing product versions, etc. That's why we invented smart automation, an easy and flexible way of automating processes.

“Our vision is to increase flexibility in production by integrating our Adaptable Smart Automation Cell. It simplifies operation, improves production stability, and generates added value for our clients and us.”

Philipp Pirafelner then shared a video of a Smart Automation Cell in operation, working between standardized modules. These modules can be put together as needed for a certain application and the Cobot shown was operating a product-specific toolkit.


Smart automation

“So what does ‘smart’ mean to us?,” asked Philipp Pirafelner. “Products are getting more and more complex and come in different varieties. Different production technologies need to be combined together, and everything needs to be more flexible for planning, or if new product versions are coming up.

“Smart automation solves it all. It's about a standardized automation system based on different modules. Each module has some dedicated skills which can be put together to create a certain automation layout. It's adaptable to fit any kind of application. It's robust, but not only by having a long operating life, it is also an easy and flexible system which is simple to apply. With our toolkit, we make a product-specific fit to any application. We use our smart and standardized cells on different projects, and on different machines or workstations to increase efficiency, increase process stability and improve quality.

Smart =

S – standardization

M – modular

A – adaptable

R – robust

T – toolkit

“So what are the main components of the smart cell? On one hand, the standardized modules and on the other, the product-specific toolkit which can fit any application.”

Philipp Pirafelner then introduced the module which plays a central role in Greiner Assistec’s automation system, the Cobot Module UR10e.

The Cobot can run operations either collaboratively beside operators, or at high speeds in a safety area. It can handle a payload of 12.5 kilograms at the range of 1300 mm. It has the same footprint as a European pallet and can be easily moved on wheels. With a quick locking mechanism, it can be fitted to any workstation, machine or wherever it's needed, and it's ready for ‘plug and automate’.

Once we have a certain task to automate, we look in our module pool, and choose the right module with the dedicated skills.  For example, starting with the Cobot module, you can add any further modules as needed – and that's how we create a product specific layout.

Philipp Pirafelner, Greiner Assistec Global Senior Expert Technology Integration

Philipp Pirafelner then showed a variety of examples demonstrating flexibility and space-saving, before introducing Andreas Enhuber, Project Lead Smart Robotics, at Greiner Assistec’s partner ESCAD.

ESCAD and Cobots

Andreas Enhuber gave an overview of ESCAD and the Robur industrial service group, which it joined in 2020. The company provides support in different expert areas: basic and detailed engineering services for mechanical, electrical and automation engineering; universal collaborative robots; Intralogistics robots; trading with industrial electronics; plus providing maintenance and training.

In respect of robotics and intralogistics, ESCAD supports its customers through: system development and robot integration; classical Cobot automation, delivering non-standardized custom solutions from different use cases; Cobot modules – the fully standardized solution developed with Greiner Assistec; and additional prodicts from UR+ suppliers.

There are two different Cobot modules: the basic module, which Phillipp has aleady mentioned, where the robot is included; and an extended robot module which has a bigger footprint, and where the technology and toolkit can take more space.

Andreas Enhuber, Project Lead Smart Robotics at ESCAD Austria

He then went on to show a variety of examples, with conveyors, in-line and next to machines, before handing back to Philipp Pirafelner.

The success of Plug and Automate

“Smart automation is a flexible system which allows us to automate processes from a single step to complex process chains, from low runners to high runners. We can either automate different products on the same machine or use it for products which are running only for a short period, such as one or two years. It can be flexibly applied to different production machines, workstations, or wherever it's needed – so we are independent from utilization. And the implementation is fast, because if we have the modules available in our pool, we just pick it out and make a specific toolkit for it. So, implementation can be really fast. Smart automation is our choice if product specific automation is not beneficial.”

Philipp Pirafelner then gave some insights into Greiner Assistec’s roadmap and future plans.

“The idea was created and we began to define the concept of ‘plug and automate’ about two years ago. In 2019, we implemented our first cell in our plant in Lerești, Romania, and it was a great success, running two different products on one automation. On the one hand, we are processing semi-finished goods, and on the other hand, we are doing inline assembly.

“Our concept of plug and automate, worked from the beginning, and it's still working well, and that's why we are currently focusing on implementing more and more cells in our sites. By year-end, we will have five Cobot modules and several additional modules available. This year, we’ve also investigated new opportunities to identify new automation skills to be covered by standardized modules. Which brings me to our next step, to expand our module pool, so it’s a sort of continuous process, and our overall target is to have a variety of flexible modules available on all of our sites.

With plug and automate we can easily apply smart automation cells in production, interchangeable modules, delivering improved production stability, improved quality, and efficiency.It's not just an operation race, it's our everyday Smart Start.”


Full recordings of each live session from the first virtual Greiner Assistec Innovation Day are now available.

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