TechHub: Automation Creates More & Better Jobs, Seegrid’s New Self-Driving Pallet Truck and More

JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF

Automation Creates More, Better-paying Jobs

Robots, artificial intelligence and other forms of automation are often feared due to their job-destroying potential when in fact they’re creating more, better-paying jobs.

The brick-and-mortar retail swoon has been accompanied by a less headline-grabbing e-commerce boom that has created more jobs in the U.S. than traditional stores have cut. Those jobs, in turn, pay better, because its workers are so much more productive, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Throughout history, automation commonly creates more, and better-paying, jobs than it destroys. The reason: Companies don’t use automation simply to produce the same thing more cheaply. Instead, they find ways to offer entirely new, improved products. As customers flock to these new offerings, companies have to hire more people.

In the Amazon facility’s packing area, computers tell workers precisely which size box to use. PHOTO: ADAM GLANZMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

James Bessen, an economist at Boston University School of Law, has found in numerous episodes when technology was supposed to annihilate jobs, the opposite occurred.

After the first automated tellers were installed in the 1970s, an executive at Wells, Fargo & Co. predicted ATMs would lead to fewer branches with even fewer staff. And indeed, the average branch used one-third fewer workers in 2004 than in 1988. But, Mr. Bessen found, ATMs made it much cheaper to operate a branch so banks opened more: Total branches rose 43% over that time.

There are still plenty of logistics that only humans can handle. When the new 1.2-million square foot Amazon warehouse opened in Fall River, Massachusetts, Amazon workers had trouble stowing long, narrow things like shovels and rolled-up rugs, which don’t stack very well. Their solution? Large cardboard tubes, typically used to form concrete pillars, were fashioned into rows and rows of improvised barrels, according to the Boston Globe.

“One thing we learned is to find the cheapest and easiest solution possible,” said Andrew Sweatman, the Fall River general manager.

City leaders rolled out the red carpet for Amazon with generous tax incentives and a prime location on Innovation Way. Its arrival was the single biggest job creation event anyone could remember.

“We had people with a skill set that was nontransferable,” says Jasiel F. Correia II, Fall River’s 25-year-old mayor and a first-generation child of immigrants from the former Portuguese territory of Cape Verde. “Where does a person who sewed textiles for 20 years go if they’re laid off? Places such as Amazon fill that gap,” he says. “They got a chance to work for a Fortune 500 company. This community doesn’t get those chances very often.”

Seegrid Rolls Out New Self-Driving Pallet Truck

Seegrid has rolled out a self-driving pallet truck the Pittsburgh-based robotics company said doesn’t need human intervention.

As the leader in connected self-driving vehicles for materials handling, they’ve recently expanded the company’s suite of automated solutions with the announcement of the GP8 Series 6 self-driving pallet truck.

SOURCE: Seegrid

Further enhancing the Seegrid Smart Platform, which combines flexible and reliable infrastructure-free vision guided vehicles with fleet management and enterprise intelligence data, the self-driving truck has fully automated material movement to execute hands-free load exchange from pick-up to drop-off, according to Seegrid.

In the automotive industry, self-driving vehicles are used for consistent delivery of parts to line. The self-driving pallet truck picks up and drops off palletized car parts without human interaction, increasing productivity amidst labor shortages for automakers. In e-commerce, it enables fully autonomous delivery of goods to keep up with fulfillment industry growth and demand.

Operating without wires, lasers, magnets, or tape, it allows manufacturers and distributors to change routes in-house, operate in manual mode, and effortless scale their fleet as they grow.

As part of the Seegrid Smart Platform, the Series 6 is aligned with Industry 4.0 and lean initiatives, helping companies transform into smart factories of the future.

Developing a Work Culture that Embraces its CMMS and Values Data Accuracy

First, establish new behaviors by creating a set of CMMS guiding principles.

Creating a culture that embraces CMMS and values data integrity begins with leaders changing their behavior. If they expect their organization to change, O&M leaders, including materials, procurement, and engineering functions, should jointly develop a set of CMMS guiding principles.

The development process creates ownership and alignment within the cross-functional group around new leadership behaviors. After completion and approval, leaders should post the CMMS principles, which will allow them to hold each other, as well as the organization, accountable. It will also enable the organization to begin adjusting to the new behaviors they observe. When leaders consistently behave differently, the organization will adapt and follow, according to Industry Week.

Guiding Principles

  • No work order, no work
  • 400-percent rule
    • 100% internal labor, 100% of materials, 100% of contractor cost documented on work order, 100% of the time
  • Completed field work documented
  • All equipment failures receive a Root Cause Analysis (RCA)
  • All spare parts have a stores item number
  • All lowest maintainable equipment is identified by unique number, title, hierarchy and criticality rank
  • Measure the process as well as end results
  • Weekly work order audits
  • Periodic communication
  • Periodically audit the CMMS

Developing a culture that embraces utilization of a CMMS and values data integrity starts with leadership vision and behavior.

Read More.

Pulling Needles out of Your Data Haystack

3 steps to act on data you’re already collecting. 

The Impossible is Now Possible

Industry 4.0 is moving fast and I’d like to let you in on a few very valuable developments about the data you’ve been collecting. It can now help you make better decisions. You can talk to your industrial data and it’s talking back to you, letting you know what’s working inside your operation and what’s not.

It’s exciting for me to see GrayMatter and our partners innovating by taking the data you’ve been collecting through sensors on industrial equipment and applying artificial intelligence and machine learning in the cloud so you can find insights on performance. Then you know exactly where to make improvements.

You need a system to sort through the haystack of data and pull needles out to focus your subject matter experts. That’s what we can do now.

It all starts by framing up the action strategy in three parts.

Step One: Set Your Goals

Start at the end and work backwards.

What return on investment do you want to see? You don’t need all the data you think you need. What information will help you solve the problems you want to solve? What’s the path to getting there? Having this roadmap first is critical, because otherwise a lot of time and money can be wasted.

Step Two: Start Creating Digital Twins

You hear the term digital twin, but what does it really mean?

Simply put, creating a digital twin is the process of merging physical and digital worlds.

The process takes a physical machine and uses technology to get all the information about past states, present states and predictions. That information creates a digital model that’s alive – taking in a stream of data – using that to adjust so the model is personalized to be a precise representation of the asset.

The software version is used for what used to be a physical inspection – requiring people to be right next to the machine. The virtual version can be done from anywhere and at any time, expanding the value of those inspections and allowing them to have more of a real-time impact. It creates a constant inspection that allows the operators to predict failures sooner.

Digital Twin Value

The digital model of a machine, built and run in a virtual environment used to be available only to the biggest companies with the largest budgets. But the Industrial Internet and an explosion in sensor technology have lowered the cost and broadened the access beyond the elite.

pulling needles out of data haystack

People are not only connected to people, they’re connected to every kind of device at home and now work. Manufacturers stand to win big from this. Factory floors are outfitted with tremendous amounts of sensors to collect data, but because that data has been locked up it hasn’t provided value.

The digital twin allows us to unlock that data and not just for one asset at a time. We can now model machines in groups – for example, a machine builder with thousands of machines installed across hundreds of customers – will now be able to operate best in class using digital twins.

There’s potential to unleash productivity and efficiencies like we’ve never seen before.

Step Three: Get Behavioral Information from Digital Twins

In order to move to more advanced use cases, such as adaptive diagnostics, condition-based maintenance or predictive failure, Industrial IoT systems need to know more than simply the current device state.

They need to know why. Knowing current device state only helps from a monitoring standpoint.  While important, it’s really just the beginning of what we can expect out of IIoT systems. If we know why an asset exhibits a certain state, we can determine what conditions lead to that state and take proactive steps to prevent future occurrences. 

This new layer of getting insight through behavioral information allows you to ask for more. You can search your data and get answers back right away. It’s like an instant messenger for operational technology.

Step Four – Get Digital Twins to Interact

Achieving this may mean digital twins built using multiple discrete machine learning algorithms potentially spread across multiple IoT platforms, not simply relying on one. Eventually, we should expect that digital twins will interact with one another in virtual space.

Leap Ahead

If you’re short on time, staffing or budget – GrayMatter can get you up and running to achieve value quickly. You know you need an Iot strategy in the near future, but may not know how to go about it. Rather than trying to design, source and build it yourself we can put the strategy in place in days or weeks.

You also don’t have to do everything at once, you can start with a limited selection of assets and scale up or down as you learn performance and asset behaviors.

Our strategy is a Salesforce version of a remote monitoring and diagnostics center that you can buy and implement incrementally.

GrayMatter’s Digital Twin Strategy

We use data, predictive capabilities and machine learning to identify your best and worst performers in each asset group. Your operators are automatically alerted to the worst performers, then they use an intuitive web interface, to turn the worst into the best.

Continuous improvement becomes expected, simplified, and routine. As your team builds new improvements or optimized settings, they can be scaled out, automatically, to every instance of a specific machine or piece of equipment.

You Don’t Need a Data Scientist

The complex algorithms that can leverage your data are pre-built so anyone can start creating the models and analytics to generate insights. One person no longer holds the keys to data, with this unique platform everyone gets a better understanding of your businesses processes, so you’re not focusing on the math to bring the insight, you’re focusing on creating better outcomes for your customers.

Think Big, Start Fast

You need to think big to truly transform your organization, but you also have to start acting on your data today.

We’re anxious to spread the word about how easy this is and to un-complicate it for you. Let me know if you’d like to discuss further.

– Jim Gillespie, GrayMatter CEO.

Click to download the case study to start acting on your data:

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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: Industrial cybersecurity, $1 billion fund for advanced manufacturing & mobilizing the plant floor

Market Analysis Report Evaluates Industrial Cyber Security

Cyber security has become a globally recognized issue of national security for industrial companies in light of increased attacks on water and power utilities.

Complex ransomware attacks are becoming more common among industrial companies, resulting in one of the top annual cyber conferences promoting it as a focus.

The RSA 2017 Conference started off with a group of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a planned water utility hack, demonstrating how much damage a hacker can do by shutting down valves, adjust chlorine levels and falsify readings.

industrial hacks RSA

The RSA 2017 Conference, which featured a live industrial utility hack demonstration.

ARC Advisory Group released a market analysis report that evaluates the current market, as well as a five year market and technology forecast, for industrial cyber security.

Even after a heavy push for protection in recent years, many industrial companies are still struggling to maintain plant security despite having implemented cyber security technologies for protection.

The report cites a lack of resources and lack of cyber security expertise as the key reasons for the insecurity, and that the IT companies the plants use lack a deep understanding of control systems for plant operation.

Industrial companies need to implement the expertise of operational technology professionals that can lock down exposed parts of the network.

Download the GrayMatter Cyber Security Guide for Operational Technology to get a comprehensive understanding of security in the OT world including top vulnerabilities.

The guide walks you through the first steps in knowing what’s on your network and has specific advice about the assessment process from our top cyber security consultants.

Download the Guide

Mobilizing the Plant Floor: Industry 4.0

As we get deeper into the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, plants are becoming digitized and integrated with the Internet of Things (IoT) for faster, better results.

Junot Systems, a specialist provider of integration solutions for industrial companies, released a case study detailing a real customer success story of mobilizing their plant floor for one of the world’s largest producers of printing inks and pigments.

The plant was facing problems such as lacking an audit trail to identify changes to material batches, loose user procedures for necessary validations, lack of mobility on the plant floor and unnecessary manual aspects of order processing.

By implementing NLINK®, Junot Systems’ quick install product suite and SAP certified interfaces, plant floor technicians were given the ability to process orders away from the HMI stations using mobile tablets with each step validated and logged for full traceability.

For a more in-depth look into the validation process in SAP that NLINK® provides, download the case study:

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$1 Billion Fund to Create Advanced U.S. Manufacturing Jobs

80-percent of U.S. manufacturers are facing a shortage of qualified applicants for skilled production jobs, with a decline in employment within computer and electronic manufacturing since 2007.

Apple CEO Tim Cook. Source: TechCrunch (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

There is an extreme need to close the skills gap within the manufacturing industry, which makes up nine-percent of the U.S. workforce.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced this week that the company has formed a $1 billion fund to promote advanced manufacturing jobs in the U.S., according to TechCrunch.

The first investments will be announced later this month, according to Cook, leaving the specific use for the funds a mystery for now.

 

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