Getting employees to follow the rules, even rules that keep them safe, is difficult. For some segments of the population this seems impossible. Everyone knows, for example, that talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous, and against the law in most states. But a large percentage of the population continue to talk on a handheld phone while driving anyway. This is even more true of texting and driving. And accidents and deaths continue.
At Optimation we’ve been engaged in many renewable energy projects over the past few decades. Early on much of the focus was the production of ethanol as an alternate fuel. Most of the early production was from corn. Many states, like New York, mandated that commercial gasoline be blended with ten percent ethanol. There were some unintended consequences of these original plants. The large demand for corn, to convert to ethanol, caused disruptions in the food supply. There were also unanticipated maintenance issues for many using ethanol blended gas to power lawn mowers and other small engines.
I am a registered member of the Sons of the American Revolution. Two of my ancestors were enlisted as privates in the Pennsylvania Militia and fought in the Revolutionary War under General Washington. Before enlisting in the army, they were farmers. This was true of most others who fought with them. At the time of the revolution, America was primarily an agricultural society. Farms and farmers were the primary producers of wealth for the colonies. Manufactured goods were imported from England and paid for with the currency gained from the sale of farmed commodities.
I live in an underground house on a dirt road, three miles from pavement. A quarter mile down my road is a cemetery. About a hundred individuals are buried there, including soldiers who died in the civil war, and a woman named Thankful Reminton. The abstract of deed for my property shows that two hundred years ago Thankful owned the property I own now. Thankful died in 1889 at the age of 88. She lived the last 35 years of her life as a widow and raised ten daughters and a son, many who predeceased her. She lived in an era that was different from ours and we may wonder how they were able to do what they did with so few of the modern inventions and current technology.
Robots, and the dream of intelligent working robots have been with us for a very long time. As early as 1495, Leonardo da Vinci designed the first humanoid robot. It was designed to sit up, wave its arms, and move its head via a flexible neck. There were hundreds of other robots designed over the next five hundred years. In 2003 NASA used twin robots as Mars rovers. Robots were used in industry for activities like welding and painting automobiles. But until recently most robots were fairly simple, single application, machines. But it is only because of rapid advances in artificial intelligence that robots are advancing to the potential uses we now visualize. If robots can learn, improve and “think” in ways similar to humans, they can take on a whole new set of challenges. And, as part of this evolution, robots are also taking on uncannily human-like appearances. The future of robots now appears unlimited. A robot recently advanced one step closer to human status, when it was granted citizenship to Saudi Arabia.
Gas Technologies LLC. located in Walloon Lake, MI. has an NGL production facility set up in North Dakota and they are producing NGLs. Present production is at the rate of 600 mscfd. They anticipate a ramp-up of this rate by year-end and will shortly set up an adjacent Mini-GTL plant at the North Dakota site. Their goal is to change the world of gas flaring by making a huge reduction in the amount of gas flared.
The first week in October was designated as National Manufacturing Week in the United States. President Trump made a proclamation, as President Obama did before him. Friday of National Manufacturing Week is proclaimed Manufacturing Day. Manufacturing Week and Manufacturing Day are a celebration of modern manufacturing to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. In Rochester, we held some activities planned to help with this celebration. The Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association held an open house for high school students featuring displays and sessions showing them the opportunities that are available in manufacturing and encouraging them take the math and science classes needed to be eligible for these professions. Optimation participated in this event which was held at Eastman Business Park. Over 300 high school students participated.
Fifty years ago, manufacturing in the US was strong and manufacturing jobs accounted for over 25 percent of total employment. In addition to the jobs for production operators on the factory floor, major US manufacturing companies had large research divisions and engineering departments, internal construction divisions and maintenance departments. They were self-sufficient and outsourced very little. Self-performance was one of the tools they used to develop proprietary products, support quality of these products, meet schedules on aggressive time to market for these products and make certain they could manufacture in sufficient quantities to meet market demand.
We’ve seen and heard all of the horror stories and experiences happening in Houston. The only impact we have felt personally is that the price of gas has jumped 35 cents a gallon at the local gas stations, the result of the shutdown of refineries in Houston. While this is the only immediately obvious change, there must be more, many more, coming. Other changes will take longer to see and longer for the rest of the country to feel. Many estimates say that Harvey has caused over a hundred billion dollars in damage. Much of it is homes and infrastructure, but much is also in manufacturing. Houston is a large center for US manufacturing.
As early as 2001, after 9/11, there was a major focus on developing cyber security to prevent attacks on infrastructure such as water plants, power plants, dams and critical manufacturing facilities. At Optimation we began to look at networks, connections to the internet and vulnerabilities. Since that time, the world is becoming increasingly connected. There is huge power in this connectivity. The power that comes from the Industrial Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, (IIoT) is based on connectivity. At the same time as more connectivity provides more power, the manufacturing industry along with all users of connected systems are facing increased risk from cyber-attacks. The only perfect protection from cyber-attacks is total isolation. But isolation is not an option, so more sophisticated alternatives are necessary. Each increased level of connectivity provides increased risk along with increased operational power.