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.

TechHub: Ransomware Wreaking Global Havoc, Real-Time Asset Condition & Water Innovations

The Industrial Ransomware Wreaking Global Havoc

The recent global crisis of ransomware attacks on infrastructures and private businesses have left cyber experts and government authorities scrambling to double their efforts.

Computer systems were infected worldwide in June 2017 with a massive cyber attack similar to a recent assault that affected tens of thousands of machines internationally, causing critical infrastructures to take a major hit.

After recovering from a string of attacks that left thousands without power six months ago in December 2016, the citizens of Ukraine were faced with an even worse offense.

A.T.M.s stopped working, workers were forced to manually monitor radiation at the old, toxic Chernobyl nuclear plant due to computer failures and industrial employees worldwide were scrambling to respond to massive hacks.

“At the Chernobyl plant, the computers affected by the attack collected data on radiation levels and were not connected to industrial systems at the site, where, although all reactors have been decommissioned, huge volumes of radioactive waste remain. Operators said radiation monitoring was being done manually,” according to the New York Times.

The entirely new ransomware infected the systems of Ukraine’s power companies, metro services, airports and government ministries such as Kiev’s central post office.

The outbreak was the latest and most sophisticated in a series of attacks, using dozens of hacking tools, according to the NY Times.

The malware also had an impact internationally, causing system shutdowns of:

  • Danish shipping and transport company Moller-Maersk, resulting in an inability to process orders and its 76 terminals around the world became very congested.
  • Russian steel and oil firms Evraz and Rosneft.
  • French construction materials company Saint-Gobain.
  • Pharmaceuticals company Merck.
  • An Australian factory for chocolate giant Cadbury, resulting in halted production.
ransomware

Special Agent Keith Mularski, Unit Chief of the FBI Cyber Initiative & Resource Fusion Unit.

To continue the discussion on cyber espionage and industrial cyber security, join us at Transform 2017, our annual conference in Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

Special Agent Keith Mularski, Unit Chief of the FBI Cyber Initiative & Resource Fusion Unit heads the Cyber Initiative for the FBI and was part of an effort to declassify cyber threats and pass them on to industry.

Keith will walk through case studies of cyber incidents at US Steel, Alcoa and Westinghouse, revealing how the government communicated and worked together with industry to fight cyber crime.

Learn More About Transform 2017

Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut: Learn the True, Real-Time Condition of an Asset

Cars have data and analytics for when parts should be replaced, so why can’t your utility?

It can.

Like owning a car, the idea is similar for asset management. In a water treatment plant, pumps often come with a “best-by” sticker; a generic six-month date is stamped onto it, creating a time-based system for maintenance, regardless of usage.

ransomware

The date becomes the driving factor for servicing rather than following data.

But there is a better way to capture condition of assets consistently, accurately and efficiently.

The solution lies in combining two systems already in place and leveraging the findings to save time and money, drastically increasing uptime.

Download the white paper to learn how to leverage digital data to effectively and accurately forecast maintenance of assets.

Download the White Paper

Water Innovation Pact Signed to Promote Smart Water Networks

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) and Smart Water Networks Forum (SWAN) recently formed a pact to jointly promote the development of best industry practices for sustainable smart water networks.

Smart water networks detect system leaks and manage energy through incorporating technology, according to Water Technology, an online water news publication.

“Supporting innovation is essential to the water sector, and to further development of intelligent water systems,” WEF executive director Eileen O’Neill said.

In the wake of technological advancements in the water sector, the combination of the groups’ focus on smart wastewater network management and integrated intelligent water practices will provide new skill sets and knowledge, allowing for workforce advancement.

ransomware

Co-innovated smart drinking fountain by GrayMatter & DC Water.

The partnership seeks to determine common barriers of implementing intelligent water practices, technology trends and new solutions.

GrayMatter and DC Water have recently had success through a partnership of their own by co-innovating a smart sensor drinking fountain.

A drinking fountain that monitors water quality and flow in real time – giving users more confidence in the water they are drinking and saving money spent on maintenance and testing. The groundbreaking project addresses lead levels – one of the most pressing issues in water.

“This project redefines public water consumption, putting people and clean water first,” Jim Gillespie, GrayMatter CEO.

The new tech fountains have sensors that use real-time data and analytics to monitor both water quality and flow levels, sending that information to the cloud and back, alerting when water quality measurements begin to deteriorate.

The co-innovation project is just the beginning of many ways private sector innovation and independent operations are joining forces to make water operations more efficient, at a lower cost. The fountains are set to be used in public places this fall, including schools.

Learn more about the GrayMatter and DC Water water innovation project at Transform 2017:

  Learn More About Transform 2017

 

TechHub: The Internet of Energy, Digital Solutions in Water & Brilliant Manufacturing

The Internet of Energy: Big Data & Electrons

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an industry-wide term for connected and smart devices within a network of connectivity that allows them to collect and exchange data.

A new and not-so-understood concept, being dubbed the “internet of power” by Forbes, is applying the use of big data, machine learning and IoT technology to replace the one-way, current model of energy delivery.

GE Power, that supplies 30-percent of the world’s electricity, has been developing this opportunity in an effort to revolutionize the electricity industry.

“The electricity industry is still following a one-hundred-year-old model which our founder, Edison, helped to proliferate,” said Chief Digital Officer at GE Power Ganesh Bell in Forbes.

Bell believes that can change, and that the answer is to take advantage of the current grid-based generation and delivery mechanism, increasing it with the flow of data.

This will take that linear model and move it to a networked model; taking every electron, associating it with a data bit, and optimizing it.

Creating this new system of “smart” energy distribution will pave the way for innovative structures in the future such as a reliable network of energy for charging stations, aiding society in the move away from fossil fuels.

This adoption of IoT technology will transform the power industry to a $1.3 trillion field within the next 10 years, according to Forbes.

Join us in Chicago on April 10th for Digital Day to learn more about the digital, industrial transformation and connect with top thought leaders from companies like Johnson & Johnson, Gray Matter, GE and more.

Register for Digital Day

Brilliant Factory in Grove City Puts New Life in Old Engines



The engine remanufacturing plant in Grove City, PA, has been operating for 5 years, occupies 440,000-square feet and employs more than 400 people.

The facility has made a huge transformation from being a food packaging plant into being one of GE’s first seven high-tech “brilliant” factories.

Gray Matter, through a partnership with GE, has helped implement advanced technology such as sensors that allow workers to measure and see real-time data at a glance. This improves reliability, has reduced downtime by 10 to 20-percent and boosts productivity.

The Grove City plant refurbishes diesel engines, taking old engines and give them life again.

This used to require works to manually tighten bolts in a repetitive motion by hand, using machines weighing in at 40-pounds on 41,000-pound engines, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 

This new technology allowed them to have an automated way to uniformly tighten the bolts in a sequence, preventing possible injury to the workers and creating a standard for all of the bolts.

It also gives plant managers the ability to call up data on a tablet or smart phone rather than touring plant operations on foot, allowing them to address problems sooner and supervise workers remotely.

Join Gray Matter on April 18th for our Toronto Seminar and learn more about digital innovations in manufacturing, water and energy.

Connect with leaders from companies such as GE Digital, CyberX, Eramosa and more for a full day of discussion, followed by an optional Blue Jays v. Red Sox game.

Register Now

Partnering Digital Solutions & IIoT Technology to Benefit Water


The ultimate goal for water and wastewater utilities is to always be safer in order to protect the communities they serve.

GE Water put out on social this week a piece written by Steve Davis, a business development leader at GE Power, Water & Process Technologies.

It discusses the problems of the world of water and how the solutions lie within industry partnerships.

According to Davis, there is no single company in the water industry that can provide connectivity, platform, software and analytics all in one.

A quote from Gray Matter VP of Water in Water Innovations: Creating a Better Living.

The solutions to these problems are exist, however are still in their infancy and fragmented.

By uniting experts within the industry, a combined commercial effort is created through a mutually beneficial relationship.

By connecting top industry thought leaders, the partnerships cultivate into innovative ideas that can excel the industry and pace of the digital revolution. It simplifies data integration, and takes away the once overwhelming feeling for customers by interconnecting platforms.

New technologies are giving people hope that they can achieve better standards of living, and Gray Matter is helping to lead the way in the water evolution.

Download our white paper Water Innovations Create Better Living to read real customer success stories of increased efficiency and profits through innovative technology.

Download the White Paper

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.

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