Conair Group put a digital spotlight on five products that would have been featured at NPE2021, if the trade show had not been canceled due to the pandemic.
"Every three years since 1963 we've looked forward to putting on a big show at NPE. I'm sorry we can't do that this year. I assure you we'd have plenty to show you and we'll do our best to make up for it," Sam Rajkovich, Conair's vice president of sales and marketing, said in a May 11 online presentation.
If there was an NPE2021, Conair's booth theme would have been control, Rajkovich said, just before company engineers and experts presented the latest developments in an hourlong event.
The company's first announcement is that Conair is immediately introducing a common control platform and user interface that will be applied to all equipment that relies on programmable logic controller (PLC)-based controls.
The goal is to make it easier for employees to learn how to operate different kinds of auxiliary equipment, according to Conair Group Engineering Director Matt Shope. The new control platform features a consistent user experience regardless of the machinery involved.
With a common control platform, Shope said, Conair can implement new features and new hardware and future-proof communications across all of its products with minimal risk to the customer.
The new control platform and human-machine interface (HMI) already are part of the SmartFLX-brand material handling control, truck-fill line-proofing system, blenders and temperature-control units. Dryers are scheduled to be released in the third quarter of 2021, followed by chillers and other equipment, Shope said.
"We were getting a lot of feedback from our customers that employee turnover was a major issue and the training required to get employees up to speed on new equipment was really hampering them," Shope said. "Managing the changing control technologies was a challenge for everyone, including Conair, and moving to a common platform minimizes the risk and effort required."
Conair engineers worked on the common control project for two years, interviewing customers, sales representatives and service technicians about the HMI design and hardware and then making prototypes.
An industrial design firm helped Conair create a new controls architecture from the ground up, Shope added.