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.

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Trout Fishing and Automation: They Have More in Common Than You Think

The first thing one notices about trout fishing in western Pennsylvania on a clear April morning is the stunning, unnerving calm. The quiet that blankets the shores of the state’s waterways right around 5 a.m. is so still and peaceful it’s nearly sacred.

It’s a serenity that commands respect. It forces grown men to creep along its pathways like children sneaking downstairs on Christmas morning. If they talk, they only do so in a whisper. If they break the silence by snapping a twig, they twist up their faces in embarrassment and apologize profusely but quietly.

There’s a lot of art in fishing—especially fly-fishing—but there’s a fair amount of science involved too.

Knowing the best time of day and what bait to use can mean the difference between winning and losing.

While it might sound simplistic, that’s pretty much the way applying automation and technology to oil and gas operations works. The more data an operator collects on its surroundings and the better it knows the environment, the better chance it has of being successful.

Streaming Data

In the early morning, just after a light rain, as the sky clears and the sun comes out, drops of water collect on leaves and begin to pool. The weight of the water pulls the leaf down and a trickle of water spills out into the river. A small amount of water joins the flow and becomes part of one large stream.

The same goes for the information that unknowingly streams into our networks on a daily basis. Piece by piece, information is collected from offshore platforms and onshore oil wells and transmitted via microprocessor-controlled electronic devices called remote telemetry units. One stream means one thing and came from a specific place, making it usable when operators collect it and learn from it.

HMI/SCADA

Watching a river pass by is not unlike how operators learn about their processes through a SCADA system. Operators interact with the SCADA system by using a human machine interface (HMI), which can be something as simple as a computer screen that displays the SCADA interface.

Automation in Trout fishingThe data coming into the SCADA system can be as simple as a picture of a tank filling with an animation that represents a certain capacity. When the tank in the field is half full, an animation of the tank onscreen rises to 50%.

In addition to visual cues, the SCADA system also provides alarms that indicate if there’s a problem. There also is the “control” aspect, which refers to the operator’s ability to remotely operate the equipment.

Historical Data

What if every piece of information needed to catch every fish on the first cast could be captured?

Today’s powerful historian software does just that. It logs data continuously without fail, collecting thousands of pieces of data and locking them away. For oil and gas companies, this means being able to take years of data from their operations and capturing them into a robust, never-fail locker.

Once those data are captured, they can be analyzed for trends to make better decisions. These practices, while grossly oversimplified, are how companies use Big Data to make things better. Companies analyze years and years of operational data and search for commonalities and trends that will provide insight into how they can improve in some areas or discover deficiencies in others.

A Cybersecurity Strategy

What if fishing wasn’t just a hobby for you? What if your favorite fishing hole was actually the sole source of food for your family, and you needed to protect it at all costs? What if you could segment your part of the river from the rest of the world and cloak it in such a way that no one else could see it?

In the wake of high-profile attacks on big businesses, oil and gas companies across the country are getting serious about implementing a cybersecurity strategy. The Industrial Control System Cyber Emergency Response Team, or ICS-CERT, recommends a defense-in-depth approach involving specific countermeasures to create an aggregated security posture. It can help defend against cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities that affect an industrial control system.

That technology exists now, and oil and gas companies are using it to hide critical parts of their network. These cybersecurity solutions can sit on a network and cloak high-value assets, servers and endpoints to safeguard against cyber breaches.

Standard Operating Procedures

Standard operating procedures are beginning to change in a very real way. The practice of locking down standard operating procedures makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons.

First, it ensures all operators respond to specific situations in a certain predetermined way. Next, it captures the best practices of the best operators before they are lost to retirement. Finally, it ensures that the critical steps required to complete certain activities, some of which may be regulated by government agencies, are followed strictly and documented diligently.

While the variables involved with fishing are part of the game, for the oil and gas industry, technology has become quite adept at weeding out variability in such a way that it becomes a nonfactor. The technology exists today to predict outcomes with great certainty, forecast asset failure accurately and connect people with real-time data so they make informed decisions.

This post originally appeared online for Hart Energy’s E&P Magazine.

Top 15 Automation and Industrial Internet Stories in 2015

It’s that time of year again where we take a moment to reflect on the year that’s quickly coming to a close.

If you haven’t already, check out our Year in Review for 2015. We highlight some of the biggest changes we’ve experienced this year, as well as a photo gallery from just a few of our favorite moments from 2015.

But that’s not all that’s worth reflecting upon.

While you’re at it, check out the top 15 automation, Industrial Internet, cyber security, and technology articles from the start of 2015 all the way to the end.

What’s Your Industrial Internet Score?

This one’s for the competitive folks out there.

Thanks to the GE Automation “Industrial Internet Evaluator,” you can discover your own Industrial Internet score.

Not only will it score you on your knowledge, it can help you gauge your progress in the analytic adoption path of the Industrial Internet You can also compare your results to your peers when you complete the process.

Happy scoring.

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A Love Letter to Water

Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District confessed their love for clean water in the form of a video right in time for Valentine’s Day with the description: “A love like this is often hard to put into words. Water, please allow us to try. #LoveCleanWater”

The love letter starts with a simple declaration “you and I have ebbs and flows, ups and downs, and waves of affection,” and while it may sound silly at first, the sewer district makes some great points.

Without proper treatment, life would be a lot different. Clean water is a precious gift, and one that often gets taken for granted.

A Eulogy for Internet Explorer

Microsoft’s marketing chief announced  back in March that the company will be “laying our longtime pal to rest upon the forthcoming release of Windows 10, which will feature a browser with another name,” according to an article published in Newsweek.

Paul Meija pokes a little harmless fun at the browser and writes from the point of view of an old friend politely saying some last words at IE’s funeral.

It’s successor, Project Spartan, will be included with the official release of Windows 10. It is said to include page annotation, extension support, and the integration of Microsoft’s Cortana.
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Mobile Trends of 2015

What does “going online” or “browsing online” mean to you? Do you conjure up an image of accessing a PC or a laptop? Or do you see yourself pulling your smartphone out of your pocket to access the web?

According to an April  report done by Pew Research, that seems to be the reality these days. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all Americans now own a smartphone, up 35% from 2011.

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IoT Inside Grain Operations

Even in this age, when you think about grain operations, your first thought probably isn’t the Internet of Things or cloud-based systems. But according to an Automation World article published in June, that’s the reality for Riceland Foods grain facility in Jonesboro, AK.

Their system “is designed to provide continuous monitoring and actionable information to help operators proactively prevent problems by managing both grain and equipment conditions,” and combines TempuTech system with GE’s Equipment Insight for data collection and analysis.

The data transmission and analysis tools allow information to be accessed online, on site, remotely and by operators or company managers at all times.

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How to Avoid Becoming Extinct as Tech Changes

Howard Tullman uses the image of a modern Best Buy store to illustrate how technology is quickly on its way in and, on the other side, on its way out in the article published in the Chicago Tribune.

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Moving Towards the Industrial Internet

According to GE and Accenture Research, executives and leaders across industries are now beginning to see the importance of harnessing the Industrial Internet. Together, they released this infographic detailing the statistics and figures behind it:

Infographic

If a Dishwasher Can Talk– Why not an Operator Interface?

Vibhoosh Gupta, Product Management Leader at GE Automation, bought a new dishwasher back in June. But it wasn’t its dish cleaning power that took him by surprise– it was its ability to remotely monitor its status and report back to the manufacturer. A feature like this in a simple, home appliance can save many headaches for homeowners.

Imagine eliminating those frustrating, troubleshooting calls altogether. Gupta asked, if we can troubleshoot a common home appliance, why can’t we do this (better) for a plants or utilities?

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3 Ways the IoT Will Change Every Business

By now we’ve probably all heard how the Internet of Things will be a part of our lives one way or another in the next 3-5 years or so. Wearables, activity trackers, thermostats or even lights in your home that can be controlled with a smartphone are a step in that direction.

But with all the predictions out there about everyday life changing with the onset of the IoT, Bernard Marr of Forbes points out that it’s really going to change business “at a fundamental level.”

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Do We Need Our Own Cyber Security Protection Plan?

Data breaches at large entities like retail stores, banks, or government agencies have led many into cybersecurity solutions and programs. But does this mean we need our own, individual cyber security plan as an everyday citizen?

Priya Anand of The Wall Street Journal discussed the possibility in an article back in September.

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Big Oil Taps Big DataPipeline-Longwatch

Even the oil and gas sector has realized the benefits from big data and analytics.  of Fortune said in a recent article that the “plummeting” oil prices have forced energy companies to focus on increasing efficiency with technology.

Fehrenbacher said that sensors are a big part of that refocus– from smarter pumps to drilling systems, sensors in a digital oilfield are helping to produce loads of information.

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Cybersecurity Fears Prompt the Navy to Navigate by the Stars Again

In a time where technologies such as smart fridges, self-driving cars, and 3D printing are the norm, The United States Naval Academy is beginning to teach celestial navigation once again, according to the Capital Gazette.

The practice fell out of use about 20 years ago, thanks to advances in radio wave and GPS navigation. But it’s not nostalgia that’s making the Annapolis school teach the outdated navigation once again. It’s cybersecurity qualms.

The fear of cyber attacks has the Navy running back to the technique, using instruments to measure the angles between astronomical objects– stars, planets, asteroids.

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The Unsung Hero of Eliminating Unplanned Downtime: HMI/SCADA

Unsung hero (noun). One who does great deeds but receives little or no recognition for them.

While in the midst of a changing industry, data revolution, and shift to focusing on operational efficiency, it’s no surprise that something like the HMI/SCADA landscape could be overlooked as the driving force behind efficiency.

In fact, in a guest post for ISA Interchange this October, Matt Wells, general manager of Automation Software Solutions at GE Digital declared HMI/SCADA as the unsung hero of eliminating unplanned downtime.

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The Human-Centric Internet of Things

The Internet of Things.

Bloggers write about it, Gartner analysts research its future impact, and others discuss it over coffee with colleagues.

Whether it seems likely now or not, Gartner said that by 2020 there will be 25 billion connected things.

Many industry leaders have their concerns. But apprehension isn’t the only emotion tied to the Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, H. James WilsonBaiju Shah, and Brian Whipple of Harvard Business Review said back in November, that a more human-centric side of the IoT is beginning to gain popularity.

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How 3D Printing is Transforming Industry

Remember that scene in “Back to the Future Part II” where the future McFly family prepares dinner by “hydrating” a tiny, dense circle into an entire pizza? In mere minutes, they’re all happily devouring food from the future.

BTTF

This appliance might have seemed impossible back in 1989 when the film premiered, but thanks to today’s 3D printing technology, it’s becoming more of a reality.

In fact, an Automation World article from November detailed the future of 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, in the food industry. And yes, “printing” pizza is a possibility.

Enter Foodini, by Natural Machines– a 3D food printer that makes pizza, pasta, breads, and cookies. Does making ravioli from scratch sound daunting? The creators of Natural Machines suggest to simply load the dough and filling and let Foodini print the pasta for you.

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How 3D Printing is Transforming Industry

Remember that scene in “Back to the Future Part II” where the future McFly family prepares dinner by “hydrating” a tiny, dense circle into an entire pizza? In mere minutes, they’re all happily devouring food from the future.

BTTF

The hydrated pizza from “Back to the Future Part II”

This appliance might have seemed impossible back in 1989 when the film premiered, but thanks to today’s 3D printing technology, it’s becoming more of a reality.

In fact, a recent Automation World article detailed the future of 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, in the food industry. And yes, “printing” pizza is a possibility.

Enter Foodini, by Natural Machines— a 3D food printer that makes pizza, pasta, breads, and cookies. Does making ravioli from scratch sound daunting? The creators of Natural Machines suggest to simply load the dough and filling and let Foodini print the pasta for you.

“Foodini is the first 3D printer to print all types of real, fresh, nutritious foods, from savory to sweet,” according to the Natural Machines website. “It uses fresh, real ingredients, making the Foodini the first 3D food printer kitchen appliance to contribute to a healthy eating lifestyle.”

While Foodini isn’t available for purchase quite yet, co-founder Lynette Kucsma, envisions a time where every household will own their own 3D food printer, according to Automation World.

Industry experts even say that 3D printing will help food manufacturers, not harm. Laurence Gibbons of Food Manufacture said it will be a huge part of the food and beverage industry — reducing costs and production time. In fact, Gibbons suggests it could even be as valuable to food manufacturers as the Internet.

But 3D printing isn’t limited to the food industry– it’s anything but.

New Balance, the athletic wear brand, announced yesterday their newest running shoe model– one that incorporates a 3D-printed midsole.

Instead of the traditional foam at the bottom of a sneaker, this model will have a lighter, 3D-printed midsole. According to Fast Company, brands like Nike, Adidas, and New Balance have experimented with 3D printing for a few years now. Apparently, shoe companies are now competing to make a lighter shoe, one that can be produced quickly and they’re doing so with the help of 3D printing.

Photo courtesy Creative Tools

Photo courtesy Creative Tools

So if food, running sneakers, and even automobile parts are impacted, where else is 3D printing applicable?

According to Jesse Snyder of Alberta Oil Magazine, the oil and gas industry may be next. Snyder said Apollo-Clad’s laser cladding is a lot like 3D printing oilfield pipes and tools.

“Suspended in the air over the tube is the spray nozzle of a laser-cladding machine, which has been placing successive layers of tungsten carbide to build up three “stabilizer blades” in the center portion of the tool,” said Snyder.

Doug Hamre, the head of research and development at Apollo-Clad, a company that manufactures and repairs downhole tools and mining equipment, said it’s “exactly like 3D printing, but on a larger, industrial scale.”

David Greenfield of Automation World even said back in 2014 that “the ability to print using many different types of materials, and decreasing costs” could make 3D printing a game changer for the global automation market.

At the 2014 IHS Industrial Automation conference, senior principal analyst Alex Chausovksy said that industrial machinery production is an area to be most dramatically impacted by 3D printing technology.

“The increased ability for innovation in design means that companies armed with 3D printing technology can ‘work from function rather than fit,’ allowing changes to be made far more quickly than ever before,” said Greenfield.

According to Chausovksy, we are on the cusp of a new way to produce. However, he warns that another change it could bring to the manufacturing industry is “a restructuring of intellectual property rights.”

“Manufacturers will have to think about IP (intellectual property) in a different way. They may need to move from selling physical parts to selling CAD files for customers to print,” said Chausovksy in the Automation World article.

If this explosion of additive manufacturing or 3D printing can teach us anything, it’s that technology continues to transform industries of all sizes and compositions.

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