Motion Control Roundtable 2009

Canadian motion control leaders discuss economic forces, technology trends and the eventual market rebound.

Comments Off on Motion Control Roundtable 2009 August 8, 2009

It’s not an easy time to be a Canadian machine builder. With two of the big three North American automakers in bankruptcy coupled with a worldwide decline in natural resource demand, today’s economic realities make one wonder when, and if, the manufacturing sector in Canada will return to historical norms.

To get a perspective on the state of the industry, Design Engineering spoke with leading figures in Canadian motion control to get their take on market forces, technology trends and the ways they’re helping customers regroup in anticipation of an eventual market rebound.

DE: With declines in automotive and other Canadian mainstay industries, what secondary and/or non-traditional sectors do you see your customers exploring?

Joe Ottenhof, Regional Manager Canada, Beckhoff Automation: The economic downturn has hit many of our automotive customers very hard, particularly in the automotive parts business. Starting some time ago (18-24 months), we have seen a shift in focus to higher value, more inherently stable markets. This shift is seen particularly in alternative energy (wind power, solar power) as well as medical/pharmaceutical.

Goran Tesanovic, P.Eng., M.Sc., Manager, Motion Control Business, Siemens Canada, Automation and Drive Technologies: Our general automation customers are following the government stimulus programs by focusing more on infrastructure sectors like water/waste water, and projects in green and renewable energy sectors. Our customers who are predominantly machine builders, are focusing more on making their machines faster as well as more cost-efficient, energy efficient and environmentally friendly. They achieve it in two ways: either by applying high-end motion control systems or by making machines much simpler with fewer components.

Steve Glover, Integrated Architecture Marketing, Rockwell Automation Canada: What we are finding is that there are a group of customers who are starting to pursue manufacturers in Europe and Asia, but that’s a tougher market to break into because you’ve opened yourself up to the global competition.

Other OEM customers are pursuing the retrofit business instead of a new equipment build. A lot of manufacturers are in run-until-fail mode, but if they have antiquated systems, that can present a serious amount of risk. So some of the OEMs are revisiting that 15 year old equipment to make sure their customers have a plan to move forward with staged upgrades. Lastly, manufacturers in the consumer products area, like food/bev and pharmaceuticals, are continuing to spend. The traditional automotive machine builders are taking what they’ve learned from those applications and diversifying into these new areas.