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40+ years of Mitsubishi Electric automation systems

27/04/2022 11:43:54
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ImagesClick Image for 300dpi jpg file40+ years of Mitsubishi Electric automation systems40+ years of Mitsubishi Electric automation systems40+ years of Mitsubishi Electric automation systems

“From what we thought was good in the 80’s through to drives that now have opinions of their own!”

Roger Payne, Divisional Manager and Wayne Turtill, Product Manager at Mitsubishi Electric - Automation Systems Division UK discuss:

The first FR-E series general purpose inverter drives were introduced by Mitsubishi Electric in 1981 with the aim of providing, among other things, energy saving, ease of use and endurance. Wayne – “The fact that some of those drives are still out there doing their job is all you need to know about the ‘endurance’ aspect. We ran a competition a couple of years back to find the oldest piece of our factory automation equipment in operation. We had to stop after a while as it was slightly embarrassing – there was so much old hardware still in use. The amount of energy they must have saved by turning motors more efficiently than direct drive solutions ever since they were installed, means the cost and environmental benefits are off the scale.”

Roger – “It’s a double-edged sword commercially. Not only do the products seemingly last ‘forever’, but we also take it upon ourselves as an organisation to make sure our next generation products are backwards compatible. The benefits are felt by the end users and the system integrators alike, as reliability becomes paramount when you can also deliver technical innovation, ease of use and integration into legacy systems. We enjoy a very loyal customer base, especially from those of us who can remember the 1980’s – it’s a good job that we also focus on innovation too, so the younger generations of customers and engineers also have a strong reason to use our products to create new solutions, with the confidence we will be giving the same support in years to come.”

So, what has changed since the ‘dawn of digital drives’? To save you looking it up, here’s some context: 1981 was a pivotal year for proliferation during the commercial digital age with the IBM PC, Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX81 all hitting the shelves. While the first generation of mobile phones was being introduced in Sweden and Norway. In popular culture it would be a full four years until Marty McFly’s DeLorean travelled back to the future in cinemas. Many aspects of what was then rightly regarded as Sci-Fi are now a reality. Mitsubishi Electric’s own brand of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Maisart, is a good example. It features on the latest FR-E800 series variable speed drives, enabling individual units to provide operational and maintenance teams with real-time predictive maintenance advice on themselves.

Wayne – “We also got a lot of what makes a good drive right early on. If you take a ‘digital inverter’ from 1987 – the first ten parameters are the same now as they were then. A lot of companies force product obsolesce by purposefully changing formats and software platforms, particularly in consumer devices. But as Roger points out, businesses that invest in long term assets and backwards compatibility in an industrial B2B context are extremely important, which is why this approach is one of our companies’ guiding principles. Factories don’t often get built from a clean sheet of paper, so it is more common for us to help provide evolution in machine design and upgrade paths for production lines and process facilities.”

Roger – “Networking and communication are constantly evolving, which is why investment has gone into Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN), Edge computing and the previously mentioned AI. When our devices communicate across large facilities in near real-time and a 30-year-old press machine with its tooling can also be integrated with a new line of robots - that no longer require physical safety barriers, then its clear flexible solutions are being delivered to the end user. Add-in big data being handled efficiently to optimise production, which is being coordinated by PLCs where demand is driven directly from online orders, then we know we are also servicing future requirements now. The installed base is also huge, having been in the business since the start we’ve shipped over 25 million units globally.

“We also invest in our people, it can sound a bit hackneyed as it is so often repeated, especially by companies that don’t exactly walk-the-walk when it comes to training and individual support. We have a reputation for strong staff loyalty, and a very high level of technical competency throughout the organisation. There are also partner distributors and integrators that have offered Mitsubishi Electric factory automation products and solutions continuously since the 80’s, which proves a point when it comes to the longevity of our staff and commercial relationships.”

“It is difficult to predict exactly what the next 40 years will hold, but focus on the Environment, Digitisation and Intelligence will underpin a lot of what we do. Again, Mitsubishi Electric is already investing in what we believe is critical path technology and the sustainable production methods that will mean our products are the right choice.”  

Image Captions:

Image 1: With its inverters, Mitsubishi Electric provides evolution in machine design as well as upgrade paths for production lines and process facilities.
[Source: Mitsubishi Electric Europe B.V.]

Image 2: Roger Payne, Divisional Manager at Mitsubishi Electric - Automation Systems Division UK
[Source: Mitsubishi Electric Europe B.V.]

Image 3: Wayne Turtill, Product Manager at Mitsubishi Electric - Automation Systems Division UK
[Source: Mitsubishi Electric Europe B.V.]

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Note to Editor: if you would like the text in another language please contact Kiki Anderson at DMA Europa –

About Mitsubishi Electric

With more than 100 years of experience in providing reliable, high-quality products, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (TOKYO: 6503) is a recognized world leader in the manufacture, marketing and sales of electrical and electronic equipment used in information processing and communications, space development and satellite communications, consumer electronics, industrial technology, energy, transportation and building equipment. Mitsubishi Electric enriches society with technology in the spirit of its “Changes for the Better.” The company recorded a revenue of 4,476.7 billion yen (U.S.$ 36.7 billion*) in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2022.

Mitsubishi Electric Europe, Industrial Automation – UK Branch is located in Hatfield, United Kingdom. It is a part of the European Factory Automation Business Group based in Ratingen, Germany which in turn is part of Mitsubishi Electric Europe B.V., a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Japan.

The role of Industrial Automation – UK Branch is to manage sales, service and support across its network of local branches and distributors throughout the United Kingdom.

*U.S. dollar amounts are translated from yen at the rate of ¥221=U.S.$1, the approximate rate on the Tokyo Foreign Exchange Market on March 31, 2022.

Further Information:
LinkedIn: Mitsubishi Electric - Automation Systems UK

Editor Contact

DMA Europa Ltd. : Kiki Anderson
Tel: +44 (0) 1905 917477 Fax:

Company Contact

Mitsubishi Electric Europe B.V. Automation Systems Division : Victoria Dringer - Marketing Assistant
Tel: +44 (0) 1707 288769 Fax: +44 (0) 1707 278695

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