My top 4 takeaways from ATX West

ATX West, one of the Nation’s largest annual automation technology trade shows has a lot to take in. I’ve been fortunate to attend the conference multiple times and participate in the expo portion of the event and this year I had the opportunity to speak at the conference (more on that in a bit!).

One of the things I like most about this event is the amount of new and innovative technology that is on display. But this also means that due to the sheer size of the show, it’s easy to have that feeling that you didn’t quite get the chance to see it all.

I won’t tell you that I saw it all, but I will say that I made a solid effort at getting a well-rounded overview of what was on display.

After talking to people walking the show floor, visiting numerous vendors and interacting with conference attendees, I have put together my top 4 biggest takeaways from the show.

Takeaway #1: Labor or labor shortage was a large topic of discussion. 

Studies show that the gap between labour demand and skills availability is growing. A closer tie between people and technology will help us fill the growing need for workers and continue to drive the development of more collaborative technologies and not just collaborative robots.

About 50% of the presentations within the Smart Manufacturing summit touched on technology filling the current labor shortage. If you missed my session, which goes into detail on how collaborative technology plays a vital role in filling the labour shortage gap, stay tuned for our upcoming webinar on emerging collaborative technologies and the increasing need for connectivity.

Takeaway #2: The softer side of robotics on display.

More than collaborative, a number of new products were on display that work to make the touch of a robot more gentle or compliant for delicate moves.  ATI’s LCC is an example of companies working to make the traditional industrial robot operate more like the human hand.

Another example, I saw was in the West Pack show section, were solutions focused on soft foods like the Fanucs’ new DR3i robot for soft fruit handling.  Increased compliance is driving new applications of industrial robotics that were typically reserved for the human hand.

Takeaway #3: Market demands are challenging today’s manufacturing.

Today’s consumers demand customized products, immediately. To meet these demands, manufacturers must be able to adapt their processes to allow for high-mix, low-volume production.

These applications have historically been challenging to automation, however, at ATX I saw many new products that are helping to re-imagine industrial automation by offering new, more flexible ways to automate.

Flexible picking, highly capable vision, and flexible platforms are allowing automated solutions into the manufacturing facility where we may not have seen them been before.

This case study is an example of how one company was able to introduce smart conveyance technology into their automation to update their processes, reduce their footprint and increase their OEE.

Takeaway #4: Automation is becoming more accessible and easier to use.

Gone are the days when you needed an engineering degree and many years of in-depth programming experience to be able to implement basic automation.

Many products I saw were highlighting new interfaces that require “no programming” or all in one packages to ease integration.  Automation product providers are pushing hard to make their technology more accessible to the market.

More than that, services such as Vention’s Machine Builder, provide immediate online access to a comprehensive library of public automation designs and allows inexperienced users to receive fast concept validation.

Now that we’re back and in the midst of a Canadian winter, I’m already thinking of warmer days ahead as we start to plan for our next big show in June at Automatica.  But I’m curious, what were your biggest takeaways from ATX West? Leave me a comment below!

What is Smart Conveyance?

Simply put, smart conveyance drives productivity.

Consumers demand immediacy and in order to keep up with such demands, manufacturers must rethink their production processes. Automation cells no longer can be looked upon to produce one standardized batch or product, instead, they need to be flexible and re-deployable to create shorter cycles. For manufacturers to remain competitive, engineers are being tasked with rethinking their current processes and developing ways to not only produce more, but produce more in smaller amounts of space.

To really understand the benefits of smart conveyance and how it’s helping manufacturers achieve their goals; it’s essential to look at the limitations of traditional conveyance.

Traditional conveyors – be it roller, belt, dial, etc. – are generally synchronous, meaning each shuttle (or dial position) move together, in the same way, over and over again. There is no flexibility, every step in the process has only one option and process time is dependent on your longest station. These kinds of systems can be effective for manufacturing operations that have lower volumes or simple operations, but the problems come when you have complex processes that require greater productivity as traditional conveyance typically has longer cycle times, isn’t as flexible and can actually require a greater investment in equipment. These limitations are in contrast to the needs of modern manufacturing.

So how can you enable higher performance automation that is fast and fits into the floor space that you have available? And how can you clearly identify ROI? To answer this question we must first fully understand the limitations of traditional conveyance.

Let’s start with an example looking at a traditional conveyor:

If there are two stations, one with a cycle time of one second, the other with a cycle time of two seconds. With traditional conveyance, the shuttles will move into the stations synchronously causing the cycle time to be that of the time of the slowest station plus the time to retract stopper cylinders, locate tooling, and then index between stations.

To save cycle time, you can add a buffer station. This will allow the shuttle to index into station 2 faster because it doesn’t have to wait for locate tooling and stopper cylinders to retract, and the distance can be shorter. While this may reduce cycle time slightly because you are now adding in buffer stations, the overall footprint of your cell has increased.

Another option is to change the process from 1 up to 2 up. This means that you will be working on two parts instead of one part at a time. To implement this, you need to double up each station, and you will likely also want to include buffer shuttles. The challenge here, as you can see, is that the system has again increased in size, and because you are adding duplicate stations, it is increasing in cost.

By nature, any technology that is considered smart, must have a certain degree of inherent intelligence and capability. It must also allow the user to take advantage of such functionalities without having an advanced engineering background. Smart technologies and products also enable Industry 4.0 because they provide a means to be modular, reconfigurable, and more robust by offering integrated functionality that is tested and ready to use.

Smart Conveyance provides value by incorporating a number of features into one platform, allowing a higher level of performance and productivity than that of traditional conveyance. Generally, it is powered by linear motor technology using a moving magnet shuttle system. This means that your system is a servo, so you have independent control of all the shuttles; it’s fast and precise; and it’s incredibly flexible in terms of scalability and process flows.

Let’s look at an example of smart conveyance:

To achieve the fastest and most productive cycle time, we can use a similar system design as in our traditional conveyance example. But now, we don’t need to duplicate the 1 sec station because we now have asynchronous control of the shuttle. The flow will go from 1 up to 2up. We also no longer need the buffer space because we can take advantage of the speed and precision of Smart Conveyance. There is no locate tooling or stopper cylinders. The shuttle in station 1 moves to station 2b and 2a alternately. We now have a smaller footprint because we were able to remove a station, have decreased our cycle time and are ultimately more productive.

While smart conveyance may not be right for everyone (check out our checklist if you’re not sure if it’s right for you!), it helps modern manufacturers achieve greater productivity with a smaller footprint. The SuperTrak CONVEYANCE™ family of platforms is a leader in smart conveyance. It acts as the stable foundation for many of the world’s fortune 500 companies. With hundreds of deployments across the globe for a wide range of applications, not only is it innovative, but it’s also trusted. To learn more about smart conveyance and manufacturing productivity, contact the SuperTrak Team.

Case Study: How One Company Achieved End-to-End Flexibility and Digital Control

How one engineering company obtained the end-to-end flexibility and digital control they needed by switching their intelligent conveyance platform.

End to end flexibility using SuperTrakSpeed, flexibility, control – elements most engineers working in automation strive to achieve but don’t always obtain the first time around.  

This was the case with  Transformix Engineering when we started working with them. Transformix is best known for their platform. This platform consists of a series of plug-and-play modules that offer standard, multi-purpose, and reconfigurable assets. 

When launching the newest iteration of their platform, Transformix undertook a top-to-bottom reassessment of their platform’s architecture. They wanted to make sure they had the best technology to support their initiative. 


“Intelligent conveyance is essential to the end-to-end flexibility and digital control we offer,” explained Peng-Sang Cau, Transformix’s CEO. “But our original conveyor selection was based more on expedience and not on a thorough investigation of alternatives.” 


Their Challenge: 

The conveyance platform being used with the initial cell presented challenges with high settling times, over-heating, and required frequent preventative maintenance. A company whose culture is deeply rooted in creativity, inventiveness, and boldness, Transformix sought to develop a technology that would redefine automated assembly. Knowing that choosing the right smart conveyance platform would be essential to achieving the end-to-end flexibility and digital control they soughtTransformix began to seek alternative conveyance platforms. 


SuperTrak Case Study Download


Download the full case study to see how we worked together to find the correct smart conveyance platform helped Transformix overcome their challenges and launch a groundbreaking technology that eliminates non-value-added losses and yields high-performance systems.





Facing a similar challenge? Get in touch with us and let’s explore your options together.  



Not everyone can say that they’re one of the World’s Greatest!

We’re not ones to brag, but when SuperTrak™ Conveyance is named one of The World’s Greatest, it is hard not to!

Recently, the crew from the national television show, The World’s Greatest, visited ATS Automation’s corporate head office in Cambridge, Ontario to film and learn more about the SuperTrak™ Conveyance platform. The show, which features top companies, places and products across the globe, spent the day interviewing and filming key members of the team to see for themselves how SuperTrak Conveyance is elevating how manufacturers develop and build their processes.

Over the past few decades, automation in manufacturing has been transforming factory floors and altering the way products are brought to market. SuperTrak Conveyance is the foundation of many fortune 500 companies because of its flexibility and industry leading features.

Now in its third generation, SuperTrak Conveyance platforms are fundamentally changing the way automation cells are designed in order to make them smaller and more efficient. You can read our case study to see how one company gained back 44% of their floor space! As today’s market continues to evolve, manufacturers are being tasked with doing more with less. More throughput, less space. More flexibility, less machines. More automation, less capital. In order to help customers face these challenges in the best possible way, we need the best technology. SuperTrak Conveyance and its combination of features, including industry leading speed and precision, is helping manufacturers achieve more productivity in less square footage more so than any other product on the market. (We said it was hard not to brag!)

What makes SuperTrak Conveyance one of The World’s Greatest is ATS’s pride, passion and persistence in innovation. The SuperTrak Conveyance platform is continually evolving in new and exciting ways which allows manufacturers to reimagine their production processes in ways never before possible.

Want to learn more about why ATS’s SuperTrak Conveyance is one of the World’s Greatest?

Watch the full episode here!

Case Study: Reducing Floorspace by 44%

How one manufacturing company gained back floor space and increased throughput.


You know that in today’s manufacturing space you need to be flexible enough to adapt quickly. You need to efficiently adapt to changing market demands. Likely, you’ve already tried to figure out how to effectively expand your production lines as demand has increased and faced some challenges with maximizing revenue per square foot.


We worked with one customer with a challenge just like this – a leading manufacturer of medical devices in North America. An influx in product demand prompted the organization to evaluate their current processes. They wanted to explore how they could increase their production without increasing their physical space. This company found that their traditional manufacturing cells could no longer accommodate their production needs. However, the challenge the customer faced was finding the necessary space to add processes that maintain their line rates of 60 PPM.


So, this customer made the decision to invest in new automation. They needed something that was flexible enough to accommodate changing process demands and would yield a better ROI than their current system.


Working with the SuperTrak™ Conveyance team, we built a platform that could act as the foundation of their processes. Together we created a process that not only met their production requirements but also eliminated several redundant pieces of equipment, increasing production while reducing floor space.


Reducing Floorspace


Major Takeaways: 

  • Overall floor space was reduced by 44% when the SuperTrak™ platform was used as the foundation 
  • OEE increased by 5%

Are you facing a similar challenge? Download the full case study to learn more about how we solved this customer’s challenge.

SuperTrak Case Study Download


Ready to increase your output and reduce your floor space? Contact the SuperTrak team today!