Subscribe to our free, weekly email newsletter!



Lenze Americas: Bringing mechatronics to materials handling

By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
July 02, 2012

If you’ve never heard of mechatronics, you’re not alone. Neither had I until I talked to Tom Jensen.

Jensen is a technology evangelist for Lenze Americas, a provider of controls, drives and software used to build automated materials handling systems. Evangelist is a job title that by definition involves spreading the Gospel. Jensen and I may not have had an altar call, but by the end of the conversation I was intrigued by the concept because I think it fits a theme about breaking down traditional silos that we’re increasingly seeing in the market.

So just what is mechatronics? “The simple definition is that it’s a blending of three disciplines of electrical, mechanical and software with a specific purpose of incorporating the software control of a mechanical device,” Jensen told me.

In traditional control design, Jensen explained, an OEM would have departments dedicated to electrical, mechanical and software design. Each of those departments, however, operated in their own silos. That could lead to inefficiencies.

Jensen uses a case packer to illustrate the point. The design process may begin with an elegant mechanical solution, but with little insight into the power consumption or the required controls. “The mechanical engineers come up with a very cool machine that requires servo motos,” says Jensen. “But, if they had handled the mechanics differently, they might not have needed servos. In the alternative, they may do something mechanically to get flexibility that could easily have been handled with software.”

In a mechatronics environment, a project manager with experience across all three disciplines can recognize the opportunities to take cost out of a system or to improve performance without adding cost. In many instances, the result will be incremental improvements with long term benefits. “In a manufacturing line, there’s not a lot of short-term improvement you can do in a factory,” says Jensen. “But, over time, you can get big opportunities.”

Needless to say, mechatronics is an approach embraced by Lenze, otherwise Jensen and I would not have been having that conversation. For the end user, he says, a mechantronics approach results in machines and systems that address operational needs while being easier to integrate and maintain. “If adopted properly, mechatronics will allow for better and smarter machines that reduce the complexity of mechanical systems,” he says.

I see it as part of a larger trend, that of everyone from the transportation planner to the designer of unit load packaging recognizing that what they do has an impact on what happens downstream and upstream of wherever they play. Those who can take a more holistic view of their role in the supply chain can produce solutions with much greater impact. 

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

Dallas-Fort Worth-based regional operation offers service and support for key logistics hub.

This complimentary white paper addresses areas of potential benefit to a grocery distributor considering an investment in automated case picking technology.

In 2015, a new era in shipment pricing will go into effect when major carriers implement dimensional ("dim") weight pricing for all ground packages regardless of their size. This complimentary white paper, "Dimensional Weight: Don't Let it Weigh You Down", can help you optimize your packaging operation to minimize the financial impacts of dimensional weight pricing.

Replacing older, less-efficient lift trucks at the right time can reduce your maintenance costs, improve your productivity and, most importantly, save money and maximize your return on investment. So how do you determine the right time to make a new, significant purchase? Download this complimentary white paper for guidance on how to determine the ideal time to replace lift trucks and how planned replacement can benefit your operation.

The prolonged operating hours of automated distribution operations leave limited time for maintenance. For tightly-scheduled fulfillment operations, unplanned downtime not only cuts into slim profit margins, it jeopardizes future business and customer loyalty. Download this complimentary white paper to learn five mission-critical benefits of implementing a resident maintenance program.

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. Contact Bob Trebilcock.


© Copyright 2013 Peerless Media LLC, a division of EH Publishing, Inc • 111 Speen Street, Ste 200, Framingham, MA 01701 USA