Once Worthless, Sand is Going for $80 a Ton in West Texas
Frack-sand mines are popping up to serve shale drillers in the oil-rich Permian Basin of West Texas, Bloomberg News reports.
At least 10 mines have materialized in less than a year, and another 10 could be on the way as miners have seized on a desire among energy companies to cut costs as the price of oil slumped from 2014 to 2017.
“As drillers piled into the region, they began to wonder if they really needed to have sand shipped some 1,300 miles by rail from Wisconsin when they had this inferior, but serviceable, stuff lying all around them,” Bloomberg reported.
Drillers’ sudden willingness to use West Texas sand, which apparently has an odd, jelly bean shape, touched off a kind of gold rush among those willing to work atop hot dunes of sand. Starting pay can reach $19 an hour, Bloomberg reports.
“I’m in awe every day,” Monahans, Texas, Mayor David Cutbirth tells Bloomberg. “This stuff is worth something?”
Indeed. The amount of sand mined this year could yield about $2 billion.
Two Accenture researchers who examined how employees and machines work together found that companies that actively encourage human-AI collaboration enjoy “the most significant performance improvements” compared to firms that try to use automation to replace workers, according to a report in the Harvard Business Review.
James Wilson and Paul R. Daugherty of Accenture studied 1,500 companies and broke down the roles humans should play when it comes to AI into three parts: train machines to perform certain tasks; explain the outcome of those tasks to non-experts, particularly when they’re controversial; and sustain the safe, responsible use of machines, they wrote.
The authors highlighted an example of how wind turbine maintenance workers collaborate with GE’s predictive analytics software platform.
“Consider the way in which equipment maintenance is being improved with the use of “digital twins”—virtual models of physical equipment… Its Predix application, which uses machine-learning algorithms, can now predict when a specific part in an individual machine might fail.”
“With Predix, maintenance workers are alerted to potential problems before they become serious, and they have the needed information at their fingertips to make good decisions—ones that can sometimes save GE millions of dollars.”
The authors said companies in 12 industries that adopted human-AI collaboration initiatives improved performance in speed, cost savings, revenue and other measures.
As for those who didn’t: “Organizations that use machines merely to displace workers through automation will miss the full potential of AI. Such a strategy is misguided from the get-go,” they concluded.
For more, check out Wilson and Daugherty’s book: Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI.
If you’re new to the world of Industry 4.0, the acronyms can be a bit bewildering.
Even seasoned engineers can trip over a term or two if their primary focus isn’t on finding IoT solutions to achieve optimal KPIs routed by a SCADA system and displayed on an HMI for their CISO.
It is not a comprehensive list, but it should get you started as at least a quick-reference guide to memorize in your own personal PLC.
Terms to Know
AI Artificial Intelligence
APM Asset Performance Management
CISO Chief Information Security Officer
CPPS Cyber Physical Production System
HMI Human-Machine Interface
KPI Key Performance Indicator
IoT Internet of Things
IIot Industrial Internet of Things
IP Intellectual Property
IT Information Technology
M2M Machine to Machine (Interoperability)
MES Manufacturing Execution Systems
OEE Overall Equipment Effectiveness
OT Operational Technology
PLC Programmable Logic Controller
SaaS Software as a Service
SCADA Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition