Automation War Stories From ICM Controls


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Members of the I-Connect007 editorial team met with Andy Kadah, president of ICM Controls, and Kevin Jobsky, senior marketing manager, via teleconference on March 20, 2020. Originally, the purpose of our conversation was to discuss factory automation implementation details. Yet, we conducted the interview in the midst of a rapid-fire and wide-ranging onslaught of executive orders from the federal level on down to the local level meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

As we navigated the setup and capture of this interview, New York State-level mandates were being announced, shifting the target for the ICM Controls management team on an hour-by-hour basis. One can sense the can-do attitude and urgency to respond to these shifting requirements in the interview transcript. Although it was impossible not to intermingle the two topics—automation and responses to the COVID-19 outbreak—as a whole, this discussion sheds light on the qualitative changes that factory automation can bring to one’s business methods. We pick up the interview a few minutes in.

Nolan Johnson: Let me introduce you to Happy Holden, who is one of our consulting technical editors. He is an industry luminary and a pioneer of HDI manufacturing techniques. Happy spearheaded much of the industry, including a lot of techniques related to smart or automated factories. Happy, before this interview started, we talked about roll-your-own equipment.

Andy Kadah: It’s great to meet you. We’re crazy engineers here, who also happen to build what we design. We built all the production benches and a lot of our conveyor systems. We build all of our own test equipment, and we’re about to go on a little robotics binge because I have some ideas on how we can build some robotic test benches. You would be amused. This facility is an engineer’s toyshop. You can dream something up and have it in your hand in a very short period of time around here. We have the electrical hardware design capabilities and embedded software development, along with product design and the capability of 3D modeling the captive circuit board. We also have the contract manufacturing assembly equipment, in addition to the machine shop for building fixtures automation and benches, molding equipment, surface-mount equipment, and test equipment that’s all automated.

Happy Holden: One of the sets of blueprints I have is a build-it-yourself hoist handling system for panels that maintenance men can build out of one-inch tubular steel welded. You put it behind the line and load up your batches and hit the run switch, and it runs along the back, dipping the panels—plus, you can still dip by hand from the front, and it uses electromechanical timers.

To read this entire interview, which appeared in the April 2020 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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