Most industrial automation challenges are motion problems at the core level. That's why many automation companies, including Schneider Electric, are consolidating their resources to help engineers better apply motion technology.

In Schneider's case, the company is launching a Motion Competency Center in Plymouth, Mich. The center, led by Berger Lahr, a Schneider company, brings together motion control experts from many disciplines - including application engineers, design engineers, and project managers - to provide complete motion control solutions. It also provides field sales support, technical and application support, training, engineering, and repair assistance.

The new facility will serve machine builders in automotive, electronic assembly, food and beverage production, and pharmaceutical industries. Target applications include packaging and forming, material handling and positioning, metal-working, and special purpose machinery.

According to Mike Hyslop, president of Berger Lahr and director of the center, “The Motion Competency Center is there to provide support from the design phase through start-up and commissioning. Machine builders no longer want to piecemeal together their solutions, worrying that their design will not operate efficiently. Our consolidation of services lets us take on that burden, offering specific solutions in one place.”

Schneider Electric has been in the software integration business since the introduction of its PL7 Pro programming language in 1994, a utility that lets users create motion profiles graphically within a PLC program.

Hyslop added that in segments such as packaging machinery, the percentage of OEM and manufacturing end users employing integrated solutions is on the rise. “We conducted a blind survey in 2005 that indicted that 54 percent of the engineers in these segments lean toward a common fieldbus connection for PLCs, servos, and VFDs, while 57 percent desire commonality between servos and VFDs. This leads us to believe that the number of machine builder OEMs that use integrated solutions will increase.”

Schneider Electric will work with its distributor network to offer value-added services that will extend over the life cycle of the solution (machine) itself. This will be supplemented by a network of authorized system integrators that will provide turn-key motion, drive, and PLC solutions.

This is the fourth such competency center Schneider Electric has opened. It also operates the Water Wastewater and Critical Power Competency Centers in Nashville and the Sensor Competency Center in Dayton, Ohio.