Partner of the Month - Banner Engineering!

IRIS Factory Automation got the privilege to sit down with Banner Engineering's Sales Manager, Mark Butenhoff, to discuss Banner Engineering's latest innovations, industry trends, and his definition of Industry 4.0. IRIS is proud to Partner with Banner Engineering. Take a look below to read the full interview! 

Who is Banner Engineering?

Banner is a leader in industrial automation products for the global market. Banner is a privately held North American company based out of Indianapolis, specializing in sensors, safety products, lighting and indication touch buttons as well as machine vision and industrial wireless products. There is a broad portfolio of products that Banner Engineering covers from all industries. Specifically, IRIS Factory Automation has worked with Banner Engineering for lighting indication and safety. We use Banner's lighting and indication to show how full the pallet is, and safety scanners for our RPZ-10 collaborative robot. 

What is Banner Engineering doing differently than the rest of the market currently?

Specifically, in lighting indicators, Banner has done a lot of innovative things that are different from the rest of the automation world. Our products are completely customizable, we call it “going pro,” (our way of saying it’s customizable for a lot of applications) for several different applications. We are able to take an indicator light, tower light, or touch button and customize it to that particular application allowing a lot of flexibility and options. For example, the user can create specific animations or customize the colors to maintain brand standards to make the aesthetics really pop. 

What are the most interesting applications in lighting?

A really unique application example I've seen of lighting indication was for a truck dock application, (this happens the same lighting that IRIS Factory Automation uses on our RPZ-10 cobot palletizer arm). This type of lighting is a weatherproof, washdown-rated light that is also very intense. We’ve paired that with a radar sensor to measure distance, and mount that outside of a truck dock so that when backing into the dock, the sensor will detect the back of the truck, and the bar will change colors from green, to yellow, to red as the truck backs into the loading dock. This was a really cool application that is very unique, because typically you just have a traffic light, but this way they are able to sequentially slow down as they are backing in.

How is Banner Engineering doing safety differently?

Machine safety is a staple category for factory operations, meaning that we must keep operators out of harm's way and prevent workplace injuries as an important requirement. Banner has been doing machine safety for over 40 years. Some of the newer innovations that Banner is doing is implementing Industry 4.0 (IOT) factors into its safety by collecting data and displaying it within the safety device to display information that's useful to the operator or production supervisor, maintenance, as another way to provide a visual indication and data information as well as providing general machine safeguarding. 

One example is on our light curtains.  For example, our indicator light shows the status of the light curtain (whether blocked, cleared, or misalignment) the light will go from red to green based on the alignment status. Now, ISD is more complex because it involves programmable safety controllers with an E-Stop button that brings that information back to the safety controller. We can get in-depth information from this, such as the exact separation distance between the actuator and interlock itself, so that if you’re having vibration or door sag over time, you are able to detect where that’s coming from without maintenance going around checking each door. You can even see if the door is getting out of alignment with a warning indicator. It also really helps with setup and commissioning of the product, because we can daisy chain in series with up to 32 devices within a single chain. The lighted E-Stop buttons with an illuminated base are a really popular, and really cool way to draw attention to the system button that has been pressed. A huge complaint in any environment where there is an E-Stop button, is that someone hits the e stop buttons and nobody knows which one was hit, because sometimes there are 10-12 systems on a single line.  With Banner’s illuminated buttons, the whole base flashes red allowing the operators to clear the system faster. This maximizes the number of IO you have, minimizes the amount of input modules you might need, expansion modules, reduces cost and labor for wiring, and general annoyances of where the problem is occurring. 

How have you seen safety change over the years?

It’s changed a lot in just being able to get more diagnostic information back and making the products more user friendly, but the general idea of safety has always been the same, protecting the user from potential danger. A lot of products are still pretty basic, they are there to tell you when a door has been opened or closed, but we have been able to get a lot more diagnostic information back from those products. We’ve seen safety area scanners where we can cover a large area with a single sensing point on a 2D Plane, (IRIS uses them on the RPZ-10 cobot palletizer) to protect operators without having to have hard guarding. These 2D-scanners allow for a lot of flexibility in programming and setup.  They’ve got different ways to set up the warning and protective fields where you can do a simple teach-in procedure and it looks and sees whatever obstacles are in the way and draws around them, or you can manually manipulate them yourself so that it is customizable and flexible for lots of different reasons. Having multiple warning zones based on sensing distance, and the robot speed slowing down when you sense a person getting closer to the robot, that technology wasn’t around 40 years ago when we first started developing safety light curtains and more basic sensing devices. Lots of new stuff is coming and we’re able to make everything more efficient by using those technologies. 

What is your definition of Industry 4.0?

Well now that question is always a bit hard to define and I'm not sure if anyone has a good grasp of exactly what that is!  It’s really about getting data off machines or equipment, pulling it back so that you can aggregate that data and consume it in some way that's logical and visualized, so you can plan things before it’s too late. This allows the user to plan ahead and not have those bad scenarios. We’ve seen a trend of predictive maintenance rather than preventative maintenance where you just had a routine of going around every month, but with industry 4.0 we’re able to collect data in real time and trend that over time to create a schedule on how and when it should be maintained in the future. 

What’s your favorite thing about working at Banner Engineering?

My favorite thing is being able to see such a broad array of different industries and types of manufacturing facilities. We get to see so many different things that we use every day, and in some way shape or form Banner manufactures it. Whether it's from the initial stamping of automotive parts, to packing, shipping and logistics, we’re involved in the process of getting the product built from the ground up to deliver it to the consumer. It’s outstanding to see the way things are built and be a part of that process. There is never a dull moment, you’re always keeping yourself up to date on the newest things going on, and understand how to apply a lot of different products and applications. 

One of the really nice things about Banner is that we're growing quickly, but relatively small, which is

 good compared to competitors, because we are able to develop things quickly. One way we do this is through customer feedback by having product marketing managers and product developers go out within the field and research what’s working and what’s not. This is an advantage of being a small company, always able to improve and be involved. 

If you are interested in learning more about Banner and IRIS Factory Automation, visit their website here:

Written by: Makenna Considine

Edited by: Karl Koenigsberger

Interview with: Mark Butenhoff

IRIS Factory Automation, 

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