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Automating and Advancing

For the final episode of Season 3 of “Road Trippin’ with Steve,” Steve and the crew visited FANUC America in Rochester Hills, Mich., and were awed by automation, robotics and advanced technology on a massive scale.
Aug 16, 2023

Buckle up, humanoids! The robots are joining the road trip! In Season 3, Episode 3 of “Road Trippin’ with Steve” of the all-new IMTS+ original series, I FINALLY visited the leader in all things robotics and automation: FANUC. It held the bar high.  

First, let’s address that elephant (or giant yellow robot arm?) in the room. Yes, this was indeed my first visit to FANUC. Alas, it was past time I checked out what I think of as the Kleenex of robots and automation. Its name means robot to many people, just as Kleenex means tissue to many people.   

The first surprise at FANUC wasn’t a surprise per se, more like a realization that the way I imagined it wasn’t a fantasy. FANUC is ginormous. Their footprint in Rochester Hills/Auburn Hills, which encompasses more than one million square feet of manufacturing, is mammoth, and there are plans to double it in the not-so-distant future. The entry hall to the facility is beautiful. The showroom is massive. The catalogue of equipment is extensive. If you need an automation solution, FANUC has it! 

I was also impressed by the company’s commitment to customer education. They teach customer courses onsite for many of their products. Customers learn how to use its custom equipment direct from the manufacturer. It’s a classroom and a shop floor in one! 

FANUC is also making major strides in education and training for novice operators. Jessica Juhasz, an engineering manager, showed us an advanced cobot that is unbelievably accessible. Using an iPad teach pendant, she demonstrated how to program the cobot by simply dragging and dropping various icons. Technology like this will make it far easier to get students engaged in hands-on learning quickly!  

Before heading out, I peeked into the onsite warehouse, and it was beyond cool. Think Costco, except instead of paper towels and chicken nuggets, it is just robots. Rows and rows and rows and tiers and tiers and tiers of robots of every size and specialty you can think of — all in yellow.  

My warehouse tour was led by none other than John Tuohy, executive director of global accounts of FANUC. He pointed out that when a customer order comes in, the robot is picked off the shelf and fitted with whatever end-of-arm tooling or other specific solution the customer needs. The custom robot then goes to a testing area where it is evaluated while performing the exact task the customer needs. They don’t pack it or ship it until it works just right. 

Ultimately, my visit to FANUC confirmed what I knew but hadn’t been able to see in person yet: FANUC IS robotics. I left with my very own wish list of equipment (one of each, please) and a feeling that the future of automation is in very good (robot) hands.  

Learn more about the Motor City’s industry giants by watching all three episodes in Season 3 of “Road Trippin’ with Steve,” an IMTS+ series, at IMTS.com/RTWS. In the first episode Steve tours Stellantis’ Detroit Assembly Complex-Jefferson and in the second episode Steve tours LIFT

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Author
Stephen LaMarca
Technology Analyst
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