TechHub: Digital Transformation in Steel, the Industrial Technology Future & Pittsburgh Tech 50

Gerdau Saves Millions Annually, Accelerates Their Digital Transformation

$4.5 million in annual savings with a complete ROI in only 8 months.

Gerdau has enjoyed a long reputation as a process innovator in the steel industry for more than a century.

For a company with more than 35,000 people across 13 countries, the goal of a 20% reduction in maintenance cost was significant. It would not be easy to accomplish, but accomplishing the reduction was critical to the company’s profitability.

When an asset fails, the company loses an average of $12 thousand per hour in downtime.

The transformation Gerdau needed would take them into uncharted territory for many in the steel industry: the digital realm of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Dreaming big pays off

Download the case study to view the roadmap for digital transformation in the steel industry:

Download the Case Study

The Industrial Technology Future

Open software platforms are an increasingly popular trend within the industrial technology sector that is highlighting the important relationship between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT).

For GE Digital, Predix is the nexus where app engines, digital twins, machine learning and asset performance management meet, said AutomationWorld after a meeting at GE Digital headquarters in San Ramon, Calif.

“Platforms are where tech is going,” said Gytis Barzdukas, head of product management for Predix at GE Digital. “Like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet have their platforms in the consumer space, we want to do the same thing in industrial space. That’s why Predix is an open platform with regulated participation. Predix has been developed as a common data layer into which third-party supplier products can plug into.”

Although the focus in the past on Predix has focused on its cloud-based operations, but Barzdukas was quick to point that Predix can run operate at the edge, in the cloud or in hybrid applications.

cloud platform

A diagram of the GE intelligent platform Predix. Image: AutomationWorld

Addressing cybersecurity concerns around the transmission and storage of such data in the cloud, Barzdukas said Predix currently uses public key encryption and is moving toward inclusion of private key capabilities for users who want it. Predix’s public key encryption security operates in addition to the security provided by Amazon Web Services on which Predix’s cloud functions run. Barzdukas added that Predix will also soon be running on Microsoft Azure.

Pittsburgh Tech 50

The Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Tech 50 finalists were announced, recognizing the most successful and innovative companies in the Pittsburgh area.

Companies range from health IT, life sciences, manufacturing, consumer products, consulting services and more, and are broken up into the following categories:

  • CEO of the Year
  • Solution Provider of the Year, Consulting and IT Services
  • Culture Leader of the Year
  • Innovator of the Year, Consumer Products
  • Solution Provider of the Year, Innovative Technology

GrayMatter is a finalist for Solution Provider of the Year, Innovative Technology, with CEO Jim Gillespie a finalist for CEO of the Year.

The award ceremony will be Thursday, October 12 at the Wyndham Grand Hotel.

TechHub: Digital Transformation in Chicago, Transform 2017 Keynote Kristi Woolsey & Ransomware in Industrial Networks

Chicago: The New Silicon Valley

Chicago’s technology community has been booming in the last five years.

A new KPMG report lists Chicago as a hopeful candidate to be the next international hub for innovation due to its talent and infrastructure, according to Inc. Magazine.

The city fosters a developing startup ecosystem, which raised more than $1.7 billion in funding in 2016, and ranks among the best in the country for growth of tech jobs.

Whereas Silicon Valley has shifted away from innovation to a lifestyle, landing tech leaders like the Snapchat CEO on the front page of a major fashion magazine, Chicago fosters a culture of no-nonsense leaders based on the value of hard work and dedication, according to Inc.

digital

The rooftops at Wrigley Field. Source: CNNMoney

The digital revolution is making more millionaires than ever, pooling together the most brilliant minds on the plant to cultivate an innovative mindset that focuses on creating value.

Join GrayMatter and GE Digital for an interactive session on digital transformations in Chicago on Wednesday, June 21.

Designed for you to learn and share your thoughts, there will be a chance to network with peers and watch the Cubs play the Padres at the exclusive rooftop suites at Wrigley Field.

Nate Arnold, VP of Manufacturing Digital Technology of GE Digital and GrayMatter CEO Jim Gillespie will reveal specific insights on the best paths to success in digital manufacturing and reveal what’s gone wrong in past cases.

Space is limited, so be sure to reserve your spot today.

Reserve My Spot

Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces of 2017 AnnouncedInc. Best Workplaces of 2017 GrayMatter

Inc. Magazine recently announced the 2017 best workplaces in their annual list, featuring GrayMatter.

Inc. recognizes the top companies to work for, asking thousands of employees about the places they work. For GrayMatter, transforming operations and empowering people includes our own people.

Transform 2017: MAYA’s Kristi Woolsey as Keynote Speaker

GrayMatter is proud to announce that Transform 2017, the annual GrayMatter conference in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, will feature MAYA Design’s Kristi Woolsey as a prominent keynote speaker this year.

Transform 2017 Kristi Woolsey

Kristi Woolsey, MAYA Design

Woolsey is a dynamic speaker with a long track record of providing insightful presentations that put today’s initiatives into a future context.

Most of her talks revolve around behavioral strategy, the technique of influencing employees and customers towards desired behaviors including greater loyalty, innovation, collaboration, and productivity. These talks and workshops challenge business leaders, HR, IT, and CRE professionals to create lasting branded experiences that increase employee and customer engagement, driving improved business outcomes.

GE Digital’s Sr. Service Director Paul Casto will also present as a keynote speaker. Presenting the power of brand new applications that can be leveraged in the cloud to provide extremely fast, easy to access information about all your assets, he will help cut through the chaos and decipher your digital priorities and first steps.

Transform 2017 is a three day conference in Put-in-Bay, OH, from August 1 – 3.  Professionals in all verticals who are passionate about operational technology and transforming into digital, industrial operations should plan to attend.

View our full agenda and register before June 9 to get the early bird special.

View Agenda

Industrial Networks at Risk of Ransomware Attacks

In recent weeks the news has been filled with reports of the newest malware, WannaCry ransomware, which has infected more than 200,000 systems worldwide.

An alert was published by the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team, a division of Homeland Security, which advised operations to update security software, create backups, train employees and configure access controls to block unauthorized access to sensitive systems.

Industrial environments are particularly susceptible to these types of attacks for several reasons, including the improper segmentation of IT and OT networks, unpatched Windows machines and the presence of SMB on devices hosting HMIs, engineering workstations, historians and other systems, according to Security Week.

Phil Neray, VP of Industrial Cybersecurity at CyberX, believes that patching the vulnerability is not easy in the case of ICS.

“It’s worth noting that many of the SCADA applications embedded in our electrical grid and manufacturing plants were developed years ago and are tethered to older versions of Windows — so the fix isn’t going to be easy,” Neray said.

 

 

TechHub: Industry Growth, Data Analytics for the C-Suite and More

Manufacturers preparing for Industry 4.0 and tech industry growth

A boom in the tech industry in Southeast Michigan is becoming inevitable — at least that’s what a leading technology and manufacturing association in the state is predicting.

Automation Alley, a nonprofit compiled of industry members seeking to transform Southeast Michigan into a leading technology and innovation region, released an industry report for 2017 surveying approximately 400 senior technology and manufacturing executives on Industry 4.0 and digitization of manufacturing within their companies, according to the Oakland Press, a Michigan news organization.

“We believe that there is a huge opportunity for the technology industry to grow, both in Oakland County and across Southeast Michigan,” said Automation Alley Executive Director Tom Kelly in the Oakland Press.

According to the report, technologies such as the cloud, big data analytics and cyber security are the top three categories invested in. Manufacturers are also planning to invest in autonomous robots in the region.

industry growth automation

Sterling Heights-based Lighthouse Molding was the first company accepted in the Automation Alley 7Cs program. Image: Oakland Press

Perhaps the most insightful findings in the report are the communication gaps highlighted between technology and manufacturing executives in the region, as well as the lack of company resources devoted towards technological advancements.

Ultimately, it’s determined that the local manufacturing industry is actually “ahead of the curve” for the adoption of Industry 4.0 technology, whereas national manufacturers are not.

Interested in joining the digital revolution of Industry 4.0? We can help — read more about our services and let us join you in the journey to becoming a digital operation.

Begin Your Journey

City of Pearland investing $160 million in new surface water treatment plant

As the population curve increases, so does the massive need for water and sewage infrastructure.

The City of Pearland, located in Texas near Houston, has a population of over 100,000 with a predicted population of 220,000 by 2050.

With a drastically increasing population, the city is in the design phases for a new surface water treatment plant, aiming to provide 20 million gallons of additional drinking water daily, according to Community Impact.

Currently the city’s only sources of surface water are the city of Houston and Clear Brook City.

Apart from drinking water, sewage and wastewater treatment is a large concern for the city. Gray Matter is aiding in an expansion of the Reflection Bay Water Reclamation Facility, which is projected to be completed by 2019.

industry growth Pearland

The development boom in Pearland has improved the quality of life, but put a strain on water and wastewater infrastructure. Image: Community Impact

By implementing GE Digital’s iFIX and upgrading the plant’s Historian software, the facility will be better secured, more connected and have data readily available.

iFix is an industrial automation system that can be implemented within HMI or SCADA systems, and uses advanced analytics to model high-flow scenarios within a water and wastewater system, allowing the plant to better prepare for weather-related issues.

Historian allows for storage and display of real-time analytics of big data, storing it in GE’s Predix cloud. This allows for higher productivity, a decrease in plant downtime and an increase in both machine visibility and reliability.

Faster Time to Value for Operational Technology (OT) Security

Our customers are telling us that the cyber headache is only growing in operational technology and when they look at the list of priorities it could take several years just to get their heads above water.

Armed with this knowledge, we developed a speed to operational technology protection cyber plan that you can put in place right now– without having to redesign your whole architecture.

The rapid digital assessment often takes a few hours to a day and micro-segmentation can often be done within a week.

Once you get the fast protection, you can start breathing and prioritize next steps. Faster security allows you to multiply the impact of your team, allowing them to make smarter decisions in less time.

Join two operational technology consultants from Gray Matter Systems, Steve Varmuza and Bill Weed, as they detail how to accelerate time to OT protection in our third installment of the cyber education series.

Reserve My Spot

Data Analytics in the C-Suite

Global executives who understand the value of advanced data analytics are currently using it to their advantage and implementing it as a core part of their business strategy, according to Forbes.

A new report from Forbes Insights highlights executives embedding analytics into all parts of their enterprise, aside from marketing and sales, to capitalize on the opportunities it creates.

Many large organizations still struggle with achieving the full potential of analytic capabilities, despite an increase in investment.

The survey was based on over 1,500 executives across various industries and geographic locations. The C-level executives’ companies had at least $500 million in annual revenues, with 21-percent having revenues more than $50 billion, according to the report.

The Road Map You Need Before a SCADA Upgrade

Imagine agreeing to a road trip with a driver who refuses to use directions.

No GPS, no folded-up paper map, and certainly no stops to ask for directions, just an open road stretching out into a giant question mark.

“I’ll wing it,” the driver might say. “We can figure it out as we go along.”

Chances are, you’re not going on this one.

You wouldn’t agree to an aimless road trip, and you wouldn’t trust your surgeon to improvise an operation. You wouldn’t want your operators on the plant floor to just wing it.

So why risk a SCADA upgrade by skipping the system assessment?

SCADA upgrades are nothing new—nearly every company or organization has been through some kind of system upgrade. Whether it’s as simple as updating the operating system on a PC or as involved as a full-fledged SCADA upgrade project, we’ve all experienced it.

Once an organization overcomes the hesitations that typically surround facilitating a SCADA upgrade, situations that we previously outlined in the white paper, “3 Destructive Myths that Kill SCADA Upgrades,” it’s time to get down to business.

Let’s think realistically here. Depending on the size and scope of the existing system, an upgrade can be fairly complex. In fact, some can include over 70,000 points and 13 independent legacy nodes, all of which will be combined into one seamless system.

Of course, sometimes the most common challenges surround the systems that don’t seem all that complex—small to medium systems, or situations that have 8,000 points or less.

A project of this scale takes a lot of planning. It takes a game plan, or a road map into your system. The most critical part of preparation comes down to performing a system assessment.

The System Assessment As Your Road Map 

More often than not, organizations will run through an assessment for virtually any sort of process modification. For some reason, when some organizations discuss the assessment as a first step toward a successful upgrade, it’s viewed as an extravagant step.fingers-map

But most of us would hardly label our GPS navigation for long road trips as extravagant.

It might sound simplistic, but that’s what the system assessment is able to provide– important, thorough insight into the system. It’s worth it in the end to not skip this step.

And the assessment isn’t just a visit. It results in a physical document that outlines the system in detail. The deliverable gives you an accurate, clear picture of the work that will go into actually performing the upgrade. It’s your own, personalized route to completing a successful upgrade.

So what should be documented when going through the system assessment? Here’s what you can expect.

Architecture

Begin the process by noting the number of SCADA-related computers, servers and clients, computers, computer physical locations, and IP addresses.

Process Hardware

It’s important to record the hardware brand and model, the number of devices, locations of devices, and communication media and protocols.

This can be challenging, especially if operators are using older protocols. It’s possible that the companies who provided the protocols are no longer viable options. In this situation, it’s going to be critical to look for new ways to communication with new hardware.

This can quickly turn into a situation where some careful investigation and brainstorming will be needed to overcome the challenge. But that’s why you’re facilitating the system assessment.

PC Hardware

Next, be sure to note the type of PC and how much RAM, hard-drive size, or free space is available. You’ll also want to know if the internal cards will work on the new architecture. If not, it might be the time to see what else is available.

Document what supplementary equipment, such as barcode scanners, is included. It’s critical to know what’s in place that the organization frequently relies on.

And don’t forget to note the PC software—the operation system version, the Microsoft Office version, and installed components that work with the operation system.

SCADA

Of course, it’s important to note the SCADA version, along with any patches or service packs that are currently in place.

After noting the basics about the SCADA, take a deeper look into the tag database, or how many tags are currently in the system. An export of the database is preferred here. It allows you to not only look further into the number of tags, but the types of tags that are being communicated with.

Additionally, document the driver versions and complete an export of those configurations. Depending on the system, those drivers may no longer be viable. Now may be the time to make wholesale changes to the drivers. If so, it’s ultra-important to know the configurations that are going to be replaced and the effect it will have on the tag database.

Historical Data

Once the knowledge surrounding the SCADA system is mapped out, it’s time to outline the details of the stored, historical data that’s being collected. System Assessment

The organization might start the process by asking: How many points are being collected? Where are they being stored? How much data currently exists?

And does that data need to be migrated to a newer system, or can it be held, maintained and accessed on an as-needed basis? Or maybe it’s important to simply hang onto the data, but not necessarily to have immediate access to run operations.

Pay special attention to reporting. It’s a term that everybody seems to understand, but it’s not always the easiest concept to define. It’s certainly not always black and white.

Reporting can be so intimidating that it’s thought of as a black hole, because there’s just so much to it.

There’s the format of how data is presented, how the data is laid out, the specific time and date of when data was retrieved, and the location where it usually comes from.

Even the most qualified, knowledgeable operators might be unfamiliar with where an actual value is coming from—not just from the SCADA, but from within the PLC.

So while you’re knee-deep in assessment, building your road map, why not spend the time to take a more thorough look into reporting. You might be able to better understand where the data is coming from.

Does a system assessment make sense as your first action into a successful SCADA upgrade? We can be a part of your next system assessment in your ongoing journey to maintaining an effective, profitable system.

In the meantime, download the Gray Matter Systems white paper, “Why the System Assessment is Critical to a Successful SCADA Upgrade,” to learn even more about completing a system assessment.

Contact GrayMatter

Get in touch with us!