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: GE Looks to Become IIoT Leader, Industrial Job Growth in US & Industrial Cyber Security

GE Relocates To Boston, Looks to Become an IIOT Leader Amid Transformation

General Electric, the largest US industrial company, is going through a transformation. The company has a new CEO at the helm, relocated headquarters to Boston and most importantly is trying to position itself as a manufacturing leader in the digital era, according to Industry Week.

“If we go back in time, say in 2011 to 2012, when as a business, we were facing challenges, Jeff (Immelt, former CEO) realized that unless we leverage software and analytics, true productivity would not be gained,” said Mark Bernardo, GE’s VP of Professional Services, at the company’s temporary new headquarters in Boston on August 30.

Since then, GE has made several strategic business moves to leverage its core competencies: spun off its financial services unit, GE Capital; acquired French company Alstom’s power and grid business; launched GE Digital to bring various software groups such as engineering, product development, and IT under one umbrella, and opened its cloud-based software platform for the Industrial Internet, Predix, to outside developers.

Despite GE’s goal to cut $2B by the end of 2018, “there is no change in long-term strategy as it relates to digital,” said Jeff Erhardt, GE’s VP of Intelligent Systems.

Erhardt said that machine learning, artificial intelligence along with domain expertise will help boost GE’s digital future. And Predix, its own IOT platform, will play a central role in managing complex data. The platform currently has 100 apps – from MRI machines to turbines to jet engines – created by developers, including many from outside, who mine complex industrial data to make the machines perform more safely and efficiently.

GE’s former CEO Jeff Immelt at Minds + Machines 2016 in San Francisco.

Join GrayMatter in October at Minds + Machines, GE’s premier Industrial Internet event dedicated to software, innovation, and the most powerful digital industrial outcomes.

Minds + Machines will bring together the best and the brightest of the technology world, including GE customers, developers, partners, industrial thought leaders and technology innovators.

Learn More

What’s Driving Job Growth in Industrial America?

Manufacturing and mining jobs are up this year after having fallen in 2016, in which 100,000 jobs were lost, according to the New York Times.

Rising commodity prices has resulted in a jump in hiring within the mining sector. After plunging in late 2014 and throughout 2015, energy prices have somewhat recovered. That has helped stabilize employment in the oil industry. Meanwhile, surging prices for metals like gold and copper are spurring activity in the mining industry.

The US dollar dropping throughout 2017 has also played a major role in manufacturing success. As major exporters who are dependent on overseas customers for a big part of their sales, manufacturers often find themselves at the mercy of the dollar.

When the dollar surged in 2016, American-made equipment was effectively more expensive for foreign buyers. This year’s drop, on the other hand, is a boon for manufacturers as well as for big American companies who draw a big portion of their sales from overseas, like Caterpillar and McDonald’s.

Software-defined Industrial Networks Deliver Cyber Security Breakthroughs

Finding a cost-effective cyber security plan for industrial control systems remains a pain point.

Cyber security is often cited as the leading barrier to growth of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

ARC Advisory Group published a report suggesting two solutions of promising software-defined networking (SDN) technologies, which can improve cyber security in both new and existing industrial control systems.

One: Network Management Through SDN Protocol OpenFlow

OpenFlow is a single protocol that replaces existing routing and access protocols embedded in Ethernet switches, allowing the entire network of switches to be managed from a central SDN controller.

This has typically been used in large enterprise networks, such as Google, and in large data centers to improve performance.

Ukraine power grid

Kiev, Ukraine, was one of the victims hurt the most in multiple malware attacks on the Ukrainian power grid at the end of 2016 and entering into 2017.

This is also applicable to a much smaller industrial network, or part of an industrial network.

Engineers report that the largest advantage of their SDN network is the ability to lock down the substation network and immediately become aware of any unexpected packets entering. This improves the overall security of networks within electric power substations, which have increasingly become high value targets for cyber warfare internationally.

Two: Host Identity Protocol

Host Identity Protocol (HIP) creates and manages a secure identity-based overlay network that serves the automation components while cloaking them from general visibility.

The fundamental idea is to decouple the IP address from packet forwarding rules, instead authorizing and delivering network services based on provable cryptographic identities.

It also delivers a new Host Identity Namespace that is compatible with existing IP and DNS Namespaces, enabling global IP mobility. It allows organizations to overcome IP addressing issues and move an IP resource within and between physical, virtual or cloud networks without having to change the IP or overlay network policies.

Using HIP in place of IP addresses as identity, it allows a secure identity to be established among sets of devices and the IP address continue to serve its purpose as a locator only.

ARC Recommendations

ARC ends the report with recommendations that manufacturers and utilities should develop use cases leading to broader plans for how SDN could improve cyber security, mobility support and remote access services for existing plants, familiarize themselves with the roadmaps of their network infrastructure suppliers to apply to their own use cases, as well as carefully evaluate the current and evolving technologies and their potential impact on cyber security and performance.

 

Contact GrayMatter

Get in touch with us!