Efficient Plant January 2020 - 15

feature | robotics MRO

Do You Have a
Mechatronics Tech?

Andrew Ruse
Accruent

Maintaining today's
robotics and
automated systems
requires a skillset
offered by a new
type of technician.

THE RISE OF robotics is changing the way manufacturers operate,
how they support their plant environments, and the skillsets they need.
With fewer human-operated assembly lines, highly automated machinery and robots are increasingly the keys to keeping domestic manufacturing plants competitive in the global market.
In the past, an MRO team member with specialized knowledge in an
area such as conveyor-belt systems might be fully utilized handling work
orders for the repair and refurbishment of such systems. Now, however,
MRO jobs are more complex with conveyance systems integrated with
robots having six-axis arms controlled by PLCs, as well as interfaces into
numerous other electronic, hydraulic, and pneumatic systems.
As factories have phased-in automation, they've organically grown
the MRO skillsets by cross-training experienced people grounded in
distinct specializations such as electronics, instrumentation, mechanical,
or power systems. But those people, with their home-grown knowledge,
are leaving through retirement or being poached by other high-tech
factories. That leaves a distinct skills gap that is difficult to fill and is likely
to get worse. Mechatronics technicians can help.
"When I started out in my career at a GM factory, each technician had
a specific trade or set of skills: electrician, pipefitter, millwright, and so
on," said Wayne Ellington, Maintenance Supervisor at a major automo-

JANUARY 2020

tive company. "Today's multi-craft maintenance worker is much more
productive. You no longer need six different people to change out a piece
of rotating equipment."

MECHATRONICS DEFINED
Mechatronics is a new discipline that defines workers who have multiple
skills across multiple crafts. For those who resist the newly coined term,
other ways of describing the same phenomenon include advanced
integrated manufacturing, integrated systems technology, industrial
and electrical maintenance, or robotics and automation. Mechatronics encompasses most, if not all, of the following skillsets: mechanical,
electrical, pneumatics, motor control, hydraulics, programmable logic
control (PLC), robotics, high-speed communications, and maintenance
software.

SOURCING TECHS
Where do you find mechatronics technicians? Community colleges and
technical training centers across the country are tapping into this trend,
tailoring programs and turning out graduates with this hybrid skillset.
The workers they train are equipped to enter the workforce and meet the
challenges of maintaining today's plant floor. These mechatronics techs
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Efficient Plant January 2020

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