Values Spotlight: How Our Panel Shop Deploys New Technology
At UCEC, our values are at the core of our business. We deliver quality custom control panels at a fair price because of our commitment to Old Values, New Technology and Skilled Craftsmen.
In today’s blog, we focus on our commitment to new technology.
We fulfill this commitment by staying informed about the latest trends and technology, adopting technology that will improve our efficiency, updating our current tools, and working with our clients and partners to discover new solutions to the challenges they face.
Researching the latest technology
Our leadership team subscribes to various trade and industry publications and our employees attend events and conferences to gain insight about what might be on the horizon.
“Part of the job of the Management Team here at UCEC is looking down the road for new technologies that might contribute to the success of the business,”says Zach Fothergill, UCEC Operations Support Manager. “Whether through saving resources (time, money, employee hours) or by gaining greater efficiencies, (quicker job completion times), it’s part of what we do.”
John Beattie, UCEC’s Operations Manager for Production, describes the exposure these events provide as invaluable. “Attending events and trade shows gives me insight into the new technologies that are coming. You don’t know what type of software or tech your customer is going to utilize. It’s good to be exposed to it now.”
When attending events, such as the Automation Fair, employees are “tasked with learning everything we can,” says Operations Support Manager Paula Zangari. “We need to see new and upcoming products and anything that helps us work or improve our processes.”
Because the next new technology we adopt might not always be on the shop floor. Recently, we deployed a new project management software that optimizes and streamlines team performance by assigning tasks and tracking progress. This increase in efficiency ultimately benefits our customers.
Sometimes, the new technology we discover is a departure from how things might have been traditionally approached in a control panel shop. Fothergill comments, “It can be an entirely different way of thinking about our business, but if that’s the way the industry is going, then we need to know about it.”
New Technology for Better Efficiency
This commitment to innovation has kept UCEC on the frontlines of adopting new technology. Our addition of a Steinhauer MC-80 marked the first such machine deployed in the Rocky Mountain Region.
Before UCEC got the MC-80, “Laying out by hand, drilling and cutting with a jigsaw could take a week,” Fothergill says. “Now we can design ahead of time and machine quickly. Panel users get their panels a week faster, which can make a big difference. And we save the files so for repeat jobs, there’s no additional design or layout time.”
Another piece of technology that has improved efficiency is the addition of a Schleuniger wire stripping and cutting machine in 2016. Made of three components, the new tech allows us to improve our wire consistency and greatly increase efficiency.
“Previously, an employee on my team would need to walk over to a wire spool and pull the wires they needed, then cut them to the same length. Finally, they would have to strip the ends of the wires to a desired length. This took a lot of time and energy because it’s common to need 200 identical pieces of wire for a job,” Massey explains.
“Now, with the Schleuniger machine, we load up a spool and input the wire gauge; how long we want our pieces; and whether or not we want the ends stripped. The machine feeds the wire in; cuts and strips it; and then places them neatly on a wire stacker.”
Updating technology and equipment
While we are constantly on the lookout for new technology that will improve our processes and efficiencies, we also examine which of our current tools can be improved by upgrading to a newer or more advanced model. For example, after extensive research we upgraded the stud welding machine to a new generation capacitor discharge (CD) stud welding power source controlled by a high-performance 32 bit microprocessor. The new stud welder makes our studs even stronger and more rigid.
We also upgraded our engraving software. This software is used to engrave the phenolic nameplates that we affix to the panel cabinets. Nameplate engraving is an example of technology that hasn’t changed for decades. But recent improvements in software led us to make the upgrade.
Working with the new software has enabled us to be more efficient in our engraving (we do a lot of it). We can also scan images into the software program, so we can engrave customer logos with a cool texture or shadow. By affixing a logo (the customer’s or ours, or both) we create a little bit more customization that echoes the panel itself: unique, handcrafted and entirely one-of-a-kind.
We are constantly evaluating upgrades to our current systems and processes, and only pursuing those that are cost effective and provide a better product for our customers.
Innovation through Collaboration
New tech tends to inspire even further innovation. Another way we work to fulfill our New Technology promise is by looking for opportunities with our partners and vendors to discover new and more efficient ways of doing things. One recent project has been exploring a virtual HMI with one of our vendor partners, CPI. The virtual HMI allows the technician control of all the HMI access points for the factory in one place without having to be tied to the door of a control cabinet.
Our Vice President of Business Operations, Evan Coulter, explains "We don’t get stuck in “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” We want to find new and better ways of helping our customers with safety and security firmly in hand. Technology is changing this “old school” business...and we’re right in the middle of it."