TechHub: Industry Growth, Data Analytics for the C-Suite and More

Manufacturers preparing for Industry 4.0 and tech industry growth

A boom in the tech industry in Southeast Michigan is becoming inevitable — at least that’s what a leading technology and manufacturing association in the state is predicting.

Automation Alley, a nonprofit compiled of industry members seeking to transform Southeast Michigan into a leading technology and innovation region, released an industry report for 2017 surveying approximately 400 senior technology and manufacturing executives on Industry 4.0 and digitization of manufacturing within their companies, according to the Oakland Press, a Michigan news organization.

“We believe that there is a huge opportunity for the technology industry to grow, both in Oakland County and across Southeast Michigan,” said Automation Alley Executive Director Tom Kelly in the Oakland Press.

According to the report, technologies such as the cloud, big data analytics and cyber security are the top three categories invested in. Manufacturers are also planning to invest in autonomous robots in the region.

industry growth automation

Sterling Heights-based Lighthouse Molding was the first company accepted in the Automation Alley 7Cs program. Image: Oakland Press

Perhaps the most insightful findings in the report are the communication gaps highlighted between technology and manufacturing executives in the region, as well as the lack of company resources devoted towards technological advancements.

Ultimately, it’s determined that the local manufacturing industry is actually “ahead of the curve” for the adoption of Industry 4.0 technology, whereas national manufacturers are not.

Interested in joining the digital revolution of Industry 4.0? We can help — read more about our services and let us join you in the journey to becoming a digital operation.

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City of Pearland investing $160 million in new surface water treatment plant

As the population curve increases, so does the massive need for water and sewage infrastructure.

The City of Pearland, located in Texas near Houston, has a population of over 100,000 with a predicted population of 220,000 by 2050.

With a drastically increasing population, the city is in the design phases for a new surface water treatment plant, aiming to provide 20 million gallons of additional drinking water daily, according to Community Impact.

Currently the city’s only sources of surface water are the city of Houston and Clear Brook City.

Apart from drinking water, sewage and wastewater treatment is a large concern for the city. Gray Matter is aiding in an expansion of the Reflection Bay Water Reclamation Facility, which is projected to be completed by 2019.

industry growth Pearland

The development boom in Pearland has improved the quality of life, but put a strain on water and wastewater infrastructure. Image: Community Impact

By implementing GE Digital’s iFIX and upgrading the plant’s Historian software, the facility will be better secured, more connected and have data readily available.

iFix is an industrial automation system that can be implemented within HMI or SCADA systems, and uses advanced analytics to model high-flow scenarios within a water and wastewater system, allowing the plant to better prepare for weather-related issues.

Historian allows for storage and display of real-time analytics of big data, storing it in GE’s Predix cloud. This allows for higher productivity, a decrease in plant downtime and an increase in both machine visibility and reliability.

Faster Time to Value for Operational Technology (OT) Security

Our customers are telling us that the cyber headache is only growing in operational technology and when they look at the list of priorities it could take several years just to get their heads above water.

Armed with this knowledge, we developed a speed to operational technology protection cyber plan that you can put in place right now– without having to redesign your whole architecture.

The rapid digital assessment often takes a few hours to a day and micro-segmentation can often be done within a week.

Once you get the fast protection, you can start breathing and prioritize next steps. Faster security allows you to multiply the impact of your team, allowing them to make smarter decisions in less time.

Join two operational technology consultants from Gray Matter Systems, Steve Varmuza and Bill Weed, as they detail how to accelerate time to OT protection in our third installment of the cyber education series.

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Data Analytics in the C-Suite

Global executives who understand the value of advanced data analytics are currently using it to their advantage and implementing it as a core part of their business strategy, according to Forbes.

A new report from Forbes Insights highlights executives embedding analytics into all parts of their enterprise, aside from marketing and sales, to capitalize on the opportunities it creates.

Many large organizations still struggle with achieving the full potential of analytic capabilities, despite an increase in investment.

The survey was based on over 1,500 executives across various industries and geographic locations. The C-level executives’ companies had at least $500 million in annual revenues, with 21-percent having revenues more than $50 billion, according to the report.

Challenges, Quandaries, and our Annual Trip to Put-in-Bay

As an engineer at heart, I love solving problems.

I’ve been working at Gray Matter Systems ever since it got that name and I can tell you that one of the coolest feelings comes from solving the toughest problems. We’re talking about implementing cutting-edge solutions to overcome the big challenges — helping a customer doing important work, do so more efficiently with innovative technology.

Take Cincinnati’s Metropolitan Sewer District. The people working there are serious about technology, and serious about improving not only their process, but also the city’s public health and sustainable water reclamation.

Back in September, Cincinnati MSD formally announced how Gray Matter Systems would be helping to address the city’s wet-weather challenges and optimize wet-weather facilities, equipment and operations, and reduce overflow with the Proficy Software platform. There’s a press release you can read – check it out here.

“If we are to use the traditional approach – just build infrastructure – that’s a significant cost,” said James Parrott, executive director of Cincinnati MSD. “Not only would we incur the cost of constructing bigger pipes and storage tanks, but those assets have associated maintenance costs as well.  Wet weather operational optimization will complement our capital program, allowing us to accelerate water quality improvements and reduce costs with technology.”

The best part about this? Cincinnati MSD will be presenting at PIB 2015, our annual automation event, to share their insight about optimizing operations and reducing costs—which means you can learn even more from them, live, in-person. You’ll hear from our friend Melissa Gatterdam, Superintendent of Watershed Operations at Cincinnati and how the city is solving some pretty big challenges with technology.

And it’s so hard to believe that August is already days away and PIB 2015 is fast approaching. The solution-focused, three-day event is happening August 4-6 in Put-in-Bay, OH. It’s designed to inspire conversation, spotlight challenges, offer solutions, and showcase innovative technologies. If you haven’t signed up already, you should hurry, space is limited and going fast.

Our annual event includes success stories and presentations from a wide array of industries, not just water/wastewater, including manufacturing, food and beverage, and many more. It’s a chance for us to see each other after a long year of hard work. We share stories and get reacquainted. We meet new friends and swap stories.

But above all, we learn innovative and interesting ways to solve problems, both old and new.

Have I piqued your interest yet? The following are just some of the highlights at this year’s automation meeting.

Keynote: The Journey to One Common Unified Platform Under Proficy Enterpriseproficycircle2

For nearly 20 years, almost as long as we’ve been around, Gray Matter Systems has implemented solutions from the Proficy Suite to solve data-driven solutions.

And while it’s true that each facet independently works to solve some of the toughest challenges today’s industry – what if you could leverage the power of the entire Proficy suite on one unified platform with a single, consistent user experience?

Well, that’s Proficy Enterprise. The seamless experience will be detailed during the keynote presentation by Jeremiah Stone at PIB this year.

Jeremiah, Energy Management’s Chief Technology Officer for Software at GE, will deliver a can’t-miss keynote — a roadmap for what’s next in Proficy.

Plant Floor to SAP Integration: The JMC Steel Group ExperienceJMClogo

Have you ever gone looking for a product your computer said you had, only to find it was actually never there to begin with?

Since manufacturing companies today have enterprise systems that track critical, operational information, it’s so important that the systems in place communicate seamlessly and in real-time.

If they don’t— how do you know which system’s data is accurate? Enter Junot Systems, dedicated to enabling companies to run their business on one set of data, one version of the truth.

And this session is really more a two-for-the-price-of-one: You’ll also hear from Bill Kempert, the Director of Manufacturing at JMC Steel Group, discuss challenges they faced and the plan put into action to accomplish their SAP integration project.

Introducing the Brilliant FactoryGE-IP-PIB

Ward Bowman, Principal Software Architect for GE’s Brilliant Factory, will take you through the brand-new endeavor by GE.

By using the latest technologies to consistently, and in real-time optimize operations, the Brilliant Factory provides a toolkit of solutions.

Whether it’s a sensor that collects a certain data or a control system to change the machine to adapt in real-time, the Predix platform-powered Brilliant Factory can accomplish it and Bowman will outline how it will change the industry.

What’s New in Proficy Historian 6.0 and Proficy Historian Analysis

Built specifically for process data acquisition, Proficy Historian delivers meaningful context to large amounts of raw data—across all operations.

This session details valuable information about what’s new in Historian 6.0, such as high availability through distributed computing, interactive configuration management, and much more.

If you want to stay up-to-date on Proficy Historian 6.0, or learn more about Proficy Historian Analysis, you definitely don’t want to miss this session with Scott Duhaime, Product Managemet of GE Intelligent Platforms.

And as I previously mentioned, these are just a couple of the sessions we’re covering at PIB 2015. There are 28 total, covering all kinds of topics from process control to big data and analytics to the changing face of the factory.

Join us for a great learning experience and a good time. Learn more.

Get Your Head in the Clouds

Most municipal water/wastewater treatments utilities, regardless of their size, rely on sophisticated control and monitoring systems.

Contemporary science and regulatory compliance compel utilities to install systems that can control and record process events and provide reports to regulatory agencies in a timely and accurate manner.

Even the smallest of utilities faces complex process control and reporting challenges.

Long gone are the days of “sticks and clipboards”.

For many years now, the solution to these challenges has involved the deployment of local Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Systems (SCADA) of varying complexity.

It has been the responsibility of the utility, often with the aid of a consulting engineer, to design, source, and maintain these systems.

This has meant the utility needs to have well trained technical staff on hand or strong relationships with control systems integrators that can manage and maintain these systems.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Water utilities want to treat water, plain and simple.

But along the way, they find themselves fiddling around with databases, networks, graphics engines, alarming systems, reporting mechanisms, and the list goes on and on.[/su_pullquote]It is not uncommon for a utility to deploy a SCADA, only to watch it degrade over time due to a lack of maintenance, or an aversion to swallowing the somewhat expensive pill of remaining current and abreast of evolving technologies.

It seems that this is a long walk from the core mission of the utility, which is to professionally and reliably treat water/wastewater for the public and/or industrial customers.

These utilities find themselves having to be experts — or at least knowledgeable —  about software, networks, cyber security, and a host of other disciplines that are essential to their process, but are not their core competency.

Water utilities want to treat water, plain and simple.

They have undergone intense training and certification in order to operate their plants and treat water.

But along the way, they find themselves fiddling around with databases, networks, graphics engines, alarming systems, reporting mechanisms, and the list goes on and on.

And then, to make matters worse, a popular operating system is made obsolete out-of-the-blue and becomes unsupported. It happens more often than not and the cycle begins anew.

Anyone with an online bank account can tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Most of us are already relying on cloud technology to handle our most sensitive and confidential information, access to our entire life really.

When our financial institutions do an upgrade to their system, the user isn’t involved in the slightest.  Databases are backed up, patches are installed, new versions of software platforms are deployed, browser and mobile device support is kept current, and our account access remains unaffected while our account balances remain accurate to the 100th of a penny.

So why can’t your SCADA system function like your online banking?

Why can’t you just “subscribe” to a service that provides SCADA, data logging, report generation, work process management, predictive maintenance, and even real-time interfaces to GIS, CMMS, LIMS, and any database driven backend systems?

The answer is, you can!

Application hosting services of all kinds are emerging in every area of commercial and industrial computing.  It is now possible, and practical for utilities to consider unburdening themselves from being IT organizations, and move to service based computing models that offer many technical and commercial advantages.

Some of the technical and operational advantages are obvious – you won’t have to continue to maintain a complex system and can focus on your main objective of treating water.

Other technical advantages include the easy mobilization of your workforce via browser and device support for application interfaces.

Software platform upgrades, operating system upgrades, and application migrations are the responsibility of the hosting service and will always remain current.

Among the many commercial advantages, SCADA and associated systems would no longer require capital funding, they could be funded out of operating budgets instead, like many of the services you already employ there would be a periodic service fee.

Your maintenance budget for these kinds of systems would fall to zero, allowing you to invest more in the maintenance of your process equipment.

Furthermore, these cloud-based systems could further reduce your maintenance outlay if predictive/condition based maintenance applications and principles were applied to your hosted account.

There are many ways to skin this particular cat, but it does appear to be the current trend and future of municipal utility management.

The path to evolving to these kinds of hosted solutions will depend greatly on the underlying deployed infrastructure in the form of PLC’s, RTU’s, and network architecture, but it is possible, practical, affordable, and perpetually current.

Want to carry on the conversation? Interested in how we can help?

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