Issue May Jun 15
Konnexio is revolutionizing the world of machine automation with a first-of-its-kind technology that accommodates product changes more easily and can be reused for future product variances. “Instead of building one large, rigid machine we have been focusing on making each process its own machine and linking them together,” President Konrad Konnerth says. “It’s a paradigm shift in how people think, but it’s important.”
Konnerth founded the London, Ontario-based company in 2003 with a goal to develop automation machines that could easily change with the needs of North American manufacturers. Prior to starting Konnexio, Konnerth worked as the director for engineering for a German machine company’s plant in Canada that manufactured high-speed, rigid machines.
“We used to build machines that were high-speed assembly machines with one-second cycle times,” he explains. “These were very good, rigid, durable machines, but the problem is that they are rigid and you can’t change them over. Most manufacturers don’t have the volume to justify that machine and the biggest drawback is when you have a product change in two to five years because the machine was difficult to change over.”
After more than 27 years of experience in manufacturing, Konnerth discovered an untapped market and developed a technology that will change the industry. Konnexio designs and builds machines for automated assembly and test processes for automotive, consumer goods and medical device industries. “Our greatest desire is that our customers enjoy the experience of working with us on their machine-building project, accomplishing their automation goals and receiving the best return on investment possible,” Konnerth says.
A Niche Market
Konnexio’s adapto is a unique and innovative assembly automation and testing machine system comprised of modular smart cells. The smart cells can be employed individually as standalone assembly and testing machines able to perform multiple operations or may further be linked together to create a highly complex assembly line performing any number of assembly and testing functions.
“If you think of a large machine that is designed and developed specifically for one product, once you build that machine that’s the way it is,” Konnerth says. “What we have been doing is building a machine by looking at each individual process and bringing them together in one system. If something changes we can reconfigure these cells making it much easier to change and adapt to product upgrades.”
The main motion within Konnexio’s adapto system is servo-driven, meaning everything is programmable and can easily be changed, Konnerth explains. “This is a concept that no one else provides worldwide,” he notes. “It is innovative and somewhat new, so we need to educate people on how it works. We are still doing that and it is our biggest challenge and task.”
Manufacturing an adapto system is specific to each customer and starts with project casting and outlining preliminary steps. Once the order is received, Konnexio begins engineering each cell followed by developing control panels. The system also includes a number of pre-developed components. “We have a standard base machine concept and use that to build custom applications,” Konnerth explains. “We build on the reliability and the success rate of our pre-engineered subsystems.”
Cells are built individually and specific to each customer’s tooling requirements and then brought together as a complete line. Quality control measures are taken to ensure a high-quality, high-performance machine is delivered to its customers. Konnexio performs in-house testing that can last one day to one week – depending on how long the customer wants to test the machine.
Once the machine is approved, it is then disassembled, shipped to the customer and reassembled on the customer’s floor. Another major benefit to the adapto system is quick delivery times because – as opposed to the large, rigid machines that have to be built in a linear fashion – Konnexio’s individual cells can be built parallel to each other.
Konnexio keeps inventory of its standard base components so it can react quickly and build a new cell in an emergency. “We can react quickly and that’s the beauty of this system,” Konnerth says. “It’s a standardized system, so we can reuse components.”
The key differentiator of the adapto system comes into play after it is built and when the customer has a product change or new component that needs to be implemented in the line. “In the past, we had to go onsite to work on the machine to try and accommodate the change by installing new tooling, rewiring it and get it running again,” Konnerth explains. “That could take one to six weeks on the customer’s floor during which our customers cannot run production.”
That drawn-out process is no longer necessary because Konnexio can build a new cell in-house then ship it to the customer and swap out the old cell with the new one in a day or two. “It’s a tremendous time saving and increase in productivity,” Konnerth notes.
Moving forward, Konnerth’s dream is to build automation machinery that has 80 percent standard components and 20 percent custom components. Konnexio plans to continue developing more systems and subcomponents as it grows. “We want to achieve 80 percent standard components with only a few parts that are custom to help us bring down delivery time and improve the quality of our machines,” he adds. “These are the types of things we are working on and will develop overtime.”