Smart Machines & Factories
SMC helps save weeks in production time
Published:  09 April, 2020

Reducing production lead times to successfully compete in a global marketplace is a challenge for many UK manufacturers. As a world market leader in pneumatic components and control systems, SMC says it has pioneered the very latest wireless technology to help its customers achieve a competitive advantage – amongst the beneficiaries a world-leading manufacturer of print finishing equipment.

The customer’s challenge was how to significantly reduce production lead time to match that of its competitors, without compromising quality and the ability to tailor every machine to individual customer specifications.

SMC achieved this thanks to its EX600 Integrated (I/O) Serial Interface that simplifies the whole production system, from component ordering to machine assembly and testing. Which has delivered a dramatic increase in production throughput and turnover.

The customer achieved this increased productivity thanks to SMC’s two-stage approach. Originally the machine build process began with a complex ordering system, with every item checked for quantity and quality on delivery. The components were assembled as kits for each machine and from these, individual manifolds were assembled and mounted onto backplates.

Stage One: EX260 reduces valve wiring and assembly time

SMC replaced the individually-wired SY series valves with its new EX260 EtherCAT valve manifold system. Delivered fully-assembled and tested, they immediately reduced labour time across all production areas, significantly reducing assembly time and wiring of the backplates.

Commissioning time was also cut as fault diagnosis and correction was simple on the EtherCAT system. Confirmation and data logging of machine settings for documentation is also easily done.

Following the adoption of the EX260 system, the customer recorded a considerable labour saving across the whole machine production process – from ordering to commissioning – and, over an eight-month period the production time gained was equivalent to a whole extra month.

Craig Hibbert, business development manager for SMC who worked closely with the customer on the project commented, “Using the EX260 EtherCAT network node removed the time-consuming individual wiring aspect of each machine. To retain the bespoke programming aspect of the machine, our new SY assembled manifold can be programmed from a menu selection of ‘standard’ options for individual customers’ requirements. This new software capability greatly reduced programming time as well.”

Stage Two: EX600 allows removal of switch and sensor wiring

The second phase of development was for SMC to look at incorporating other digital I/O systems onto the valve island, with the aim of simplifying and further reducing build time. This would help the customer remain at the forefront of a competitive arena and maximise international sales.

SMC engineers successfully achieved their aim by removing the wiring requirements for switches, the ITV and proximity sensors which are tailored for each machine build. This gain was made possible by adopting the EX600 EtherCAT wireless valve manifold with the addition of I/O blocks – eliminating the labour time usually required to route wiring back through junction boxes to a main control panel. In common with the EX260, the EX600 also allows easier fault diagnosis and correction along with straightforward logging of all machine settings.

“The EX600 handles the wide variety of complex machine parameters and bespoke I/O settings,” continued Craig Hibbert. The customer is enjoying an average 40 hour saving on production time since moving to our wireless EtherCAT systems, and on the most complex of machines this can be as much as a 50-hour reduction.”

The swift return on investment in SMC’s digital valve manifold systems has been significant and allowed this customer to remain competitive in a dynamic global market – thanks to SMC’s innovation.

For further information on SMC, the EX260 and EX600 wireless systems and how they can cut costs in your business, go to