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: 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

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Digital Efficiency

The age of the industrial Internet is upon us, which means water and wastewater utilities are now taking advantage of newer technologies that are changing the landscape of our sector. With a few pieces of software, utilities can now optimize their operational performance, enhance asset reliability and accurately monitor their systems.

Some of the brightest minds on the planet are developing software for the next-generation of Industrial Internet technologies, and the potential advantages for the industry are nearly unlimited. These products allow for more intelligent management of assets by harvesting and processing massive amounts of data to produce actionable information.

The rate and complexity of this technological development can be both exciting and unnerving, even it may be unclear how everything fits together or what to do with all the available information.

So how does one even begin to incorporate it all?

Adapting to the technology can be tricky, but the first step is mentally preparing for this fundamental shift in your operational philosophy.

Getting started can be the hardest part, but it’s also the most important step in protecting your operation from unplanned downtime that can directly impact the bottom line; when optimized, these technological changes could save your organization millions of dollars.

It’s better to start with smaller changes, especially for your employees – this allows them to gradually get comfortable with new processes before adopting more advanced technologies.

Most importantly, a well-formulated plan will help your organization transform from a reactive and unpredictable operator into an efficient, intelligent and highly-profitable one where data is now your best business partner.

A Modern Utility’s Guide to Digital Efficiency

Free Event, hosted by the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, the City of Akron, and the Akron Global Water Alliance
Up to 7 CEUs Available
Nov. 12 – Cincinnati Nov. 18 – Akron

Monitor Your Assets

To kick off your journey, let’s begin with basic monitoring of your most critical assets.

This is done by equipping critical machinery with sensors and control networks that read and manage the actions of that specific piece of equipment. By collecting and simplifying the data produced, an operation starts to form a solid foundation that determines how all the separate parts of the system are supposed to function as a complete unit.

While experienced personnel might believe they are very good at catching and solving problems before they become much worse, data is much more accurate and more reliable – it never takes a vacation or sick day. In other words, data is the key to all the dirty little secrets your machines keep from you.

As the industrial process unfolds, the installed sensors pick up information about the speed of each stcomputer-components-1192101ep, the volume of liquids, the internal temperature of a pipe, and where a leak may be letting air or water into the system.

The sensors and controls are doing the heavy lifting for you, which eliminates any doubt about what is happening within the machines. Once the data is harvested and funneled to one location, engineers can now watch and focus primarily on the data from an entire operation; they can access the information in a central office or remotely.

One way to access the system data is through an online Human Machine Interface/ Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (HMI/SCADA) system at the point of control. This technology allows operators to view all systems in the process from one location, giving them greater access to real-time information and allowing them to make more informed decisions.

The other way to evaluate the data is through the cloud, which allows access from an established control center, but it also enables engineers to examine real-time data from a wireless Internet connection; this could be within the control center or out in the field. Now, any data being collected on the sensors can be analyzed at a central location, and controllers can remotely manage their assets.

Mobilize Your Workforce

Let’s take monitoring a step, or many miles, further. Using mobile applications, engineers have front line access at their fingertips from anywhere they can connect to the web.

Engineers can log in using apps on their iPad, pull up data for all systems under their watch, and monitor real-time information. Insightful and actionable information is always at the ready, so informed decisions can be made without delay, which helps avoid disastrous results and reduce unexpected

Regular maintenance and upkeep will still be required, but the technology definitely helps keep small surprises from becoming major disruptions. Think about the cost avoidance from preventing a water line break: those costs alone makes it well worth it to know ahead of time when things might be starting to break down.

Fixing problems based on data and generally catching problems before they become catastrophic is beneficial on its own, but it still requires constant attention; even manual control leaves a lot of room for error. If that worries you, then you’re ready for some advanced analytics to take you to the next level of protection.

Diagnose Your Pain Points

When analytics come into play, the benefits of intelligent data come into focus – this is when your organization begins to learn the answer to “why?

By deploying an effective analytics strategy, you can begin to understand the data at a deeper level.

Even if history wasn’t your favorite school subject, you’ll learn to love it now because your data history holds the key to preventing major disruptions and optimizing your systems in the future. Instead of physically mobilizing the maintenance team, trained personnel can check the history of the data to discover the root of the problem. Once identified, the team will be able to write a new analytic to give warnings next time a similar data trend

Predictive software works in a few ways. Some systems use cluster analysis or similarity-based modeling. Others use Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) loops to save millions of dollars in unneeded equipment wear-and-tear that can result from large-scale process variability. These systems identify normal equipment behavior as they predict future behavior. This level of intelligence takes numerous variables into account, so these highly-complex relationships (with the data that accurately predicts future states) are based on any particular variation in one or more inputs.

Here’s how it all happens.

Imagine you’re the only person who drives a given road every day to work – there’s no traffic, no lights, no turns.

This is how a machine would work if no other factors came into play, but it’s never that simple. As the area around your commute gets developed, you start to encounter stop signs, crosswalks, construction that blocks a lane or two, and (usually when you’re running late) you get stuck behind a garbage truck. Even though every day your drive is different than the last, you gradually learn from experience, so you’ll know how to react to each future interruption for a safer commute.

This is essentially what happens with advanced analytic modeling. New input variation – new equipment, new materials, new processes, temperature and seasonal changes, and so on – has an effect on the function of each dependent system. Engineers can trust that a certain fluctuation of one input will have a standard reaction in a system down the line.

For example, a drilling operation in a harsh environment with volatile weather patterns would have an established analytic model that determines what the proper internal temperature of a machine should be, compared to the outside temperature. This allows for variation in “proper” internal temperature and makes it easy to distinguish when any deviation is acceptable or if it requires further examination.

The frozen winter months in Michigan will keep internal temperatures on the low side, but it’s a different scenario when everything starts to thaw: you will know how strong the correlating rise in machine temperature is supposed to be, or if the deviation is too extreme and signifies a real threat to the system’s stability.

Learn from History

They say those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, so why limit how much history you can reference?learn-1241297-1279x1933

Water and Waterwater treatment both produce a massive amount of data that is eternally useful; limiting your amount of data only limits your ability to make informed decisions. Industrial Big Data gives you the freedom to mobilize much more information than previously possible.

With the right applications, you will be able to gather data from more sources over a greater duration of time than ever before. You can compare all this data to your real-time activities to make quicker, more informed decisions than ever imagined.

In addition to the emerging technology, cloud-based applications are a major factor with Industrial Big Data because massively scalable storage environments can collect from (and disperse to) variable locations give you the flexibility to work on more data and do it faster.

For example, solutions built on Hadoop®, can handle large data sets by clustering large numbers of low-cost commodity computers together to act as a single storage entity. Historian software allows for economical storage while maintaining rapid access speeds. These solutions scale vertically, for any velocity, as well as horizontally, for any volume and variety.

Optimize Your Operation

Now that your operation is working smarter and leaner, and you’ve built your trust in predictive analytics, you’ll be ready to move further down the efficiency continuum. More sophisticated software analytics won’t only catch problems before they happen, but they also allow you to standardize your process across all parts of the operation to optimize performance and value. Electronic instructions are provided to operators to ensure that the best methods of work are followed every time at every place, regardless of experience or training.stability-1-1240118

The most modern predictive analytics software available now allows you to move from self-defined analytics to a stage where machines learn on their own and constantly write their own analytic rules. You could call it artificial intelligence, but it’s a very realistic shift from unplanned to planned downtime, which could potentially save your company millions of dollars. Predictive-analytic software reduces maintenance costs and improves asset lifetimes to a greater degree than human monitoring could ever do.

Yes, we will still require human interaction and maintenance, but some things simply can’t be done manually. Advanced software can adapt to variations much faster than humans, where the system sends signals to automated controllers that keep everything running in optimal balance.

The point of control goes from the HMI/SCADA system (or iPad app), and becomes starts to become embedded into the controls hardware itself. The information runs in a closed-loop system that greatly reduces the human element, requiring manual interference only when a major issue arises.

Now Dive In!

When all layers of software are incorporated into your maintenance and oversight strategy, you have reached your destination: you are a lean, mean, data-using machine. By taking each step one at a time and steadily marching towards the goal of automation, your oil and gas facility will be at peak performance in no time. Without having to worry about managing emergencies or wasting money on unnecessary procedures, think how much better your job will be at a safer, efficient and more cost-effective operation.

About the Author

AlanHAlan is the Vice President of Water/Wastewater at Gray Matter Systems. Alan has over 20 years experience working in water/wastewater and is an expert is water distribution information technologies. Alan is a frequent speaker at industry events around the country.

This content appeared originally as part of “Damned If We Don’t!: Ideas for Accelerating Change Around Water” and is being reproduced with the permission of its author, Alan Hinchman.

ICYMI: Automation News Roundup, Week Ending March 20

An Alliance for the Internet of Things

Dave Greenfield of Automation World discussed the alliance made by the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) and the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) last week in an article. 

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Specifically, Greenfield points out that standardization for devices and systems is imperative in a time where the Internet of Things is such a popular topic- a buzzword, at times.

Basically, the IIC will begin to share its use cases and more requirements, while the OIC  vows to deliver necessary functions in an “IoT communications framework” for their project, IoTivity.

“This liaison was developed as a result of both consortiums’ desire for interoperability in the industrial IoT,” said Richard Soley, executive director, Industrial Internet Consortium to Automation World, “By sharing use cases with the OIC, we will identify new scenarios that will ultimately result in systematic interoperability between devices.”

A Eulogy for Internet Explorer

Microsoft’s marketing chief announced on Monday 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.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

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.

Still, Meija reminds us to remember our tired, old friend, Internet Explorer:

“Yes, the future is uncertain. But let’s raise a virtual lighter for our beloved Internet Explorer, a blue beacon of discovery, forever available in the unnatural midnight light of a computer screen. Farewell, old friend,” wrote Meija.

Cyber Security in Your Company

Some employees are guilty of more than just not replacing the water jug.

CIO reported that some employees accidentally compromise their company’s cyber security without even knowing it.

“Don’t think this is an uncommon occurrence. It is so common that, in a recent survey commissioned by Sungard Availability Services*, leaving laptops and mobile phones in vulnerable places was the #1 problem area noted by respondents,” reported CIO. 

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

What you can do:

  • Encrypt the laptop’s hard drive
  • Enforce strong passwords
  • Freeze the employee’s account (this would be the “reactive” option)
  • Place tracking software on laptops/devices
  • Forbid employees to store data on laptops – instead, store on the server
  • Regularly educate employees on cyber security

How Food Waste can be Valuable- A Video

GE  Water and Technologies hosted a video of Bill Griffiths, National Recycling Manager, Viridor explaining  how anaerobic digestion can turn food waste into two separate products and thus, reduces landfill waste.

Watch the video here:

Big Data, I’ll be Brief

Gil Press for Forbes published a “very short” history of Big Data two years ago that is still relevant today while looking at the roots of the trend.

The first entry in the timeline reaches all the way back to 1944.  A Wesleyan University librarian, Fremont Rider, predicts the future when he estimated that American libraries will double in size.

Rider wrote in The Scholar and the Future of the Research Library, that the Yale Library in 2040 will have “approximately 200,000,000 volumes, which will occupy over 6,000 miles of shelves… [requiring] a cataloging staff of over six thousand persons,” according to Press.

Press catalogs 1996 as the year that digital storage becomes the most cost-effective solution for storing data as opposed to just paper.

He leads the reader through decades of information detailing how big data will become the norm all the way up to recent years.

GE “Jumps Into the Fray” of the IIoT

CNBC highlighted GE’s dedication to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in both a recent article and video.

“The concept is simple: making industrial machines smarter, through the adoption of sensors, software and big data analytics. As consumers become increasingly reliant on the information provided by mobile devices and smart technology, IIoT seeks to do the same for business by streamlining operations and making them more efficient,” said CNBC‘s report.

CNBC also said that Accenture reports an economical impact- that IIoT expenditures could reach $500 billion by 2020, and could even add $15 trillion to global growth by 2030.

“We started with this idea that the world of software and machines was really coming together, and we felt that software was going to transform industrial machines,” said Bill Ruh, vice president of the GE Software Center in the CNBC story.

The video on CNBC: 



Media we link to:

“Alliance to Foster Internet of Things Interoperability” – Automation World

“A Eulogy for Internet Explorer” – Newsweek 

“How Employees Accidentally Compromise Their Company’s Cyber Security” – CIO 

“Anaerobic Digestion Turns Food Waste into Valuable Products” – GE 

“A Very Short History of Big Data” – Forbes

“GE jumps into the fray of industrial Internet” – CNBC 


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