Robots and Co-bots and IoT devices, Oh My!
Brian Broyles is obviously smart. He builds robots. And Co-bots. And robots with IoT devices.
The North Posey and Indiana State University grad took his credentials in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and went to work for an automotive glass company in Evansville. Working 60 to 80 hours per week became the norm for Brians’ coveted skills. After 12 years of demanding work, Broyles knew what he had to do.
With limited savings in hand, Brian moved in with family, using his savings to survive while in startup mode. Next, he found an affordable office for his new business, Midwest Motion, at Innovation Pointe; a business incubator in downtown Evansville. Broyles progressively built his company supplying robotics and PLC programming services to others.
After five years at Innovation Pointe, Midwest Motion outgrew its startup space and moved to a larger industrial space in town. As the business grew in reputation, Broyles realized he needed back office help to assist with quoting, billing, payroll and regulatory compliance. With competent office support, he saw the opportunity to double the business and once again sought out bigger space. Two years ago, Broyles purchased the former Karges Factory and properties. Midwest Motion occupies 40,000 sf building on-site with plenty of room for future growth.
With nine employees currently, Midwest Motion continues to work in all things automation. Building from his former career, the company continues to grow its services in the glass industry, but also serves a range of manufacturing industries reliant on customized automation and robotics. In addition to robotics, Midwest Motion specializes in machine vision systems; where robotics and IoT intersect. As well as inspection systems using very high-resolution Cameras.
As an example, Midwest Motion built a robot that can pick and place a large piece of glass along an assembly line but is also equipped with a camera and sensors to inspect the glass. Location accuracy for this system is within a small percentage of a millimeter and system can detect any blemishes or foreign material picked up on the assembly line. Midwest has an advantage over competitors in developing the first large format vision systems, outperforming their smaller area views.
Companies engaged in lean practices have reached out to Midwest Motion to assist with implementing poka-yoke into their processes. A poka-yoke is any mechanism in a lean manufacturing process that helps an equipment operator avoid (yokeru) mistakes (poka). Its purpose is to eliminate product defects by preventing, correcting, or drawing attention to human errors as they occur. Automating a process is one thing – adding sensors and IoT analytics takes it to another level of safety, process improvement, and quality control. Midwest Motion is very sensitive to possible faults in the system, and develops software and hardware to easily handle those faults with minimum downtime.
With two critical projects deployed for customers this year, next year Brian could see the operation doubling if the customers are satisfied. And even doubling the following year as well. To scale up for growth, Broyles has sought out a partnership with Ivy Tech college to bring on interns. When he hired in the past and it didn't work out, it wasn't due to lack of appropriate technical talent, but a failure to demonstrate the thinking and problem-solving skills needed for customized robotics work.
Like most small businesses where the owner is the subject matter expert, it is difficult to juggle sales with operations. Working capital is also a challenge in scale up stage.
While robotics for automation has existed for decades, adding IoT into the mix has changed the game for the industry. Brian Broyles gets that and has positioned Midwest Motion as a leader in this convergence of technologies.