Most of us use cloud services in our daily lives. Our email, music, financial software, and shopping are regularly becoming a browser experience or a data connected mobile app. This paradigm is now moving into for our automation platforms but what shape will it take as it pertains to Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
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.
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.
We all heard the news last week that Rockwell Automation has purchased Maverick Technologies. Rockwell is a leading manufacturer in North America (The Control/ARC List ranks them fourth). Maverick Technologies is one of the leading systems integrators in the United States, and according to the press release, with revenue approaching 100 million dollars and over 300 employees. (Control Engineering System Integrator Giants List for 2015 lists Maverick as the 5th largest SI in the USA with revenue of 68M).
As we are all well-aware, technology is moving at a lightning pace. It's often difficult to keep up with the newest features, capabilities and strategies. As system integrators, it's incumbent on us at Optimation to be current on all of these, let alone being expert practitioners of our full potential.
The Smart Factory, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), being “connected”... All these terms and topics are driving manufacturers to consider new and innovative ways to tie together their assets, and make their processes more safe, agile, and productive. The bottom line: realize greatly reduced costs and dramatically increase profits. You might consider this a mythical “Holy Grail,” but it's on everybody's to-do list and you better believe it's possible. Not only that, your competitor is doing it right now.
"If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail." That old saying sounds a lot like the scenario that many system integrators perpetuate, by focusing on the solutions of only one hardware provider or technology. Being good at something doesn't necessarily qualify you to apply that expertise to every problem that you encounter. And various industrial facilities use and are comfortable with different technologies. That’s why we are technology agnostic at Optimation, meaning that we find the right tool for the job at all times. We aren’t limited by an exclusive partnership with a specific provider.