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Who's who in smart robotics: Festo goes head to head with SMC

Posted: 21 May 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Festo Didati? SMC? robotics? factory automation? programmable logic controller?

Looking back 10 years or so into the past, there were quite a number of manufacturers of programmable control systems (PLCs), directional control valves, actuators, air-line equipment and all other contraptions needed to make a smooth, high yielding factory assembly line. Now, there are only a few factory automation companies, led by the two giants left standing: Festo Didati GmbH & Co. KG (Denkendorf, Germany) and SMC Corp. (Tokyo, Japan).

For years SMC led Festo with higher volumes due to lower pricing. However, now Festo claims to be catching up by outperforming SMC with "smarter" robotics, programmable logic controllers and associated assembly line gear, which Festo claims will revolutionise factories by allowing them to constantly reconfigure with the latest gadgetry plus upgrade the factory workforce from semi-skilled operators to highly-skilled mechatronics and information technology (IT) experts.

Daniel Boese

Festo's CEO and GM points out how its industrial automation equipment is smarter than its rivals. (Source: Festo)

"The difference between SMC and Festo is like the difference between black and white," said Daniel Boese, CEO and GM at Festo. "SMC has a good price and reasonable quality even at massive volumes, but we are changing the equation by offering smarter components, at admittedly a slightly higher price, but which can reconfigure to solve today's complex manufacturing problems better and be upgraded and expanded without obsoleting existing equipment."

Another reason Festo is catching up to SMC, according to Boese, is that PLC sales in the U.S. are shifting from being distributor-based (where price is king) to direct-from-manufacturer based, allowing Festo to explain the advantages of buying their smarter factory-automation and robotic controllers, namely that they can easily expand when volumes ramp up as well as be easily upgraded when new software and more efficient techniques are discovered.

Festo also claims to offer a symbiosis of smarter automation systems along with the education needed to operate their smart equipment at peak efficiency and upgradability, what it calls didactic training and learning systems that turn ordinary machine operators into innovative mechatronic-IT experts.

Festo's mobile robot for industrial automation

Festo's mobile robot for industrial automation in a lab where operators are being taught how to use such smart devices. (Source: Festo)

"We make our systems very flexible, so that when new technologies come along our systems can quickly adapt," Boese noted.

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