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.
The Internet of Things is revolutionizing all areas of our lives. In manufacturing, Industry 4.0 is a revolution as transformative as the first industrial revolution that began 300 years ago. Advancements in manufacturing analytics are coming fast and furious. Not all manufacturing analytics are totally new however.
A quarter century ago, at the height of the silver halide dominance in imaging, systems engineers at Kodak had developed a process monitoring analytics system that was decades ahead of its time. This powerful toolset was one of the methods that enabled Kodak to manufacture high quality and consistently uniform chemicals, dyes, and emulsions in plants operating in five different continents. Using the analytical capability of their proprietary product, Kodak was able to find process malfunctions before they occurred, predict product response performance, summarize massive and complex data to an actionable data subset and as a result they could reduce the manufacture of off-specification product.
In less than a week, The J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge will be held in Rochester. We are getting a new venue and lots of other changes this year. It’s the 26th year that Chase has held the event in Rochester, but Rochester was not the original event. It began in NYC 40 years ago. The event is an amazing blend of exercise, fun, food, drink, camaraderie, fundraising for charity and networking. And the emphasis could be placed on the networking. The original founders had little idea what would happen after the event was established. Their inaugural event was set up long before running was popular and included less than 1000 runners.
About a year ago I visited the University of Rochester sports medicine group and met with a n orthopedist for a diagnosis of the pain in my right knee. I had tried weeks of my usual stretching and rolling without achieving any results. After an x-ray was taken the orthopedist sat me down and showed me the advanced arthritis in the knee and the bone on bone. He said I needed a total knee replacement and offered to schedule it. I asked if there were any alternatives. He offered to give me a cortisone injection which he said would delay the need for knee replacement by four or five months. I declined both of his offers and left the medical center determined to find alternatives.
I remember celebrating the first Earth Day back in 1970. As part of the celebration I ran a marathon in Central Park. It went six laps around the park. Marathoning wasn’t popular back then like it is today. There were only 200 participants and the entry fee was $2. There were other more popular attractions in Central Park that day. They included kite‐flying, skits, Frisbee throwing, band performances and chanting by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Back in the 70s when I graduated with an engineering degree, a large percentage of the new graduates went to work for manufacturing companies. A certain percentage went on for advanced degrees and ended up in research positions and academia, but much of the research was carried out by private companies building their own IP portfolios. The exception to this was civil, structural and architectural graduates who might end up working for private engineering and design firms.
Brick and mortar stores are in a steep decline. Every day we hear about another chain closing down dozens of retail outlets and at the same time malls are being shut down or repurposed. Shopping patterns are changing rapidly. We no longer go out to shop. We check out products, compare prices and do a one click purchase from our cell phones. And after we click we have an expectation that the item will be delivered to us in a day or two. It is not uncommon to get an email or text saying our item has been shipped less than an hour after we place the order.
I spent last week at the annual conference of the Control Systems Integrators Association (CSIA). Since it was founded almost 30 years ago, the CSIA has been the leading force in advancement of manufacturing automation in the United States and increasingly around the world. At last week’s conference, over 500 owners and C-level executives from more than 200 automation firms came together to learn, share and teach. They have discovered that “co-opetition” is one of the best ways to grow and improve themselves.