Editor’s Note: this story is part of an ongoing series of blog entries in which Motion Solutions partners discuss opportunities and challenges facing the automation industry.
Q: Motion Solutions: What are key emerging technologies likely to have the biggest impact on your customers and their customers?
Ed Johnson, THK: THK was an early adopter of artificial intelligence (AI), the industrial Internet of things (IIoT), and robotics. We anticipate increasing our focus on IoT technology amid the ongoing transition to 5G and expect increased orders from the makers of a variety of electrical components. With a view to staying ahead of the pack, THK is forging ahead with the commercialization of Omni edge. Omni edge is a new predictive application that brings together the THK sensing system⎯a technology for quantifying damage and lubrication status of linear motion guides⎯with edge computing to simplify the creation of IoT networks and safe and secure data gathering. The goal is to provide THK customers with data and services they can use to improve OEE and productivity.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges in motion control today, and what is your company doing to address them?
EJ: The first big challenge is keeping up with demand for linear motion products. Over the last few years, THK has invested $500 million in facilities, equipment, and automation to add to our capacity to produce product.
The second big challenge is connecting to the technology that is going to be adopted by the largest segment of the industry. What will be used to connect all the AI or IIoT networks and information? Many vendors have developed smart phone apps to enable users to maximize efficiency and uptime. Someone will develop a common, secure platform for managing all these interfaces that will be simple to use. THK will be working with OEMs to integrate linear component IoT technologies into their machines.
Q: What industry trends are you seeing that are likely to have the biggest impact on your business?
EJ: Automation and robotics are increasingly popular. Companies want components that can be used to enable automated systems to run faster and carry heavier loads in a smaller space, while requiring limited or no maintenance. The United States is the most innovative country in the world, and the new technologies and development happening in the United States provide unique opportunities to be involved leading-edge ideas and products. 3D printing, medical and surgical robotics, warehouse automation, autonomous vehicles, life sciences are only a few of new industries and technologies that are going to have greater impact in the futures of everyone, both as manufacturers and consumers.
Q: What are the synergies between THK and Motion Solutions that can benefit customers and their projects?
EJ: THK and Motion Solutions have worked together for many years to bring the expertise and services of our respective companies to bear on solving some of our customers’ toughest problems. The relationship was started in the late 1970s.
Motion Solutions has a very deep understanding of THK products and how they can be integrated into the mechanical portion of a total motion control solution. THK primarily does high-quality, precision mechanical components. Motion Solutions takes those components and marries them into a system solution that includes products THK doesn’t supply, such as motors, controls, drives, vision, etc
Q: Regarding the industry/technology, what keeps you up at night?
EJ: What keeps me up at night is working out ways that we can keep up with the speed at which technology is moving. This doesn’t only apply to THK, but to the United States’ position and competitiveness on a global scale. When you’ve been doing something for a long time⎯and doing it well⎯it can be challenging to be open to new ideas and changing technologies. If you are not keeping up, you are falling behind.
Another thing I think about is what effect the work we do and how we do it is going to have on our children and future generations. Leaving a place better than when we got there is important.
About the author
Ed Johnson is VP of sales for THK America.