I spent all day today at Rockwell Automation in Milwaukee, Wis., getting a briefing on RFID from Joe Owen, Sujeet Chand, Andreas Somogyi, Vivek Bapat and Matt Bauer. They are pretty much Rockwell’s steering team for their RFID initiatives.Rockwell got out of the RFID business in 1999 after 15 years of producing chips, readers and associated peripherals. So why a briefing?
Because Rockwell has been being asked by their own customers to help them implement the Wal-Mart and Department of Defense RFID initiatives. So Rockwell decided to approach it as a consulting and systems integration type of business. They already knew a lot of the don’ts, which are often more important than the do’s, by virtue of their former tenure in the business, which allowed them to jump in at a fairly high level.
Basically, the importance of RFID is not the technology of radio frequency tagging. It is what the easy availability of automatic unit identification can do when it is backed up throughout the enterprise.
Yeah, sure, we’ve heard this all before. Last time it was RTPI and the ability to have a completely visible enterprise. The time before that…well, you get the picture.
But I think that Sujeet Chand, Rockwell’s Chief Technology Officer, put it very well. “The major change is not RFID, but the fact that we can Internet-enable RFID technology,” he said. “Using RFID as a tag, as a URL if you will, enables us to begin to hang lots of information on the tag in linked databases all over the world, like sticking cars onto a train. Every time the chip goes through a reader, another car is added to the train.”
The implications of this are staggering.
Is ISA still viable? I was asked that question multiple times last night at the Will-DuPage Section Table Top Show. The jury is still out on that one. The new Executive Director, Rob Renner, is making all the right noises, and some of the right moves. The remaining professional staff seems happier, revitalized and re-committed to the goal of maintaining ISA as the premier technical society for automation and control. The recently announced merger with OMAC (ratified by both organizations now) is another step in the right direction.
I talk a lot about institutional and organizational drag. ISA is full of drag. It is full of people with conflicting agendae. For years, the paid staff was operating on a completely different agenda from the stated mission of the organization: to serve the membership. The Old Presidents’ Club continues to control the Society from behind the curtain, and many of them have been retired so long that they are completely out of touch with what is needed. The recent changes in governance have reduced the influence of the individual member on the society actions, and concentrated authority and spending power in the hands of a very few individuals. MANY knowledgeable and competent volunteers have been driven away from the Society in the past ten years.
ISA says they are 30,000 members strong, but private estimates given to me by long-time ISA volunteers are closer to 20,000 worldwide. This is nearly criminal, considering that if you look at just InTech’s circulation, there are close to 70,000 people who get ISA’s magazine every month, most of them without bothering to become members. The best estimate I know of is that there are close to 200,000 potential members out there.
Will Rob Renner save ISA? Hell no. Not by himself. But if you are a believer in the history and mission of ISA, step up and give Rob a hand. God knows he needs it.
Regarding language standards, MTL’s Steve Yates writes from Lyon, France:
When I comment on spelling mistakes or bad grammar, the normal response I get is ” All that really matters is that you get your point across.” Total rubbish of course but is there any way to stop this rising trend? SMS “speak” is the latest thing that is contributing to the demise of proper English.
Well, you are certainly right, Steve. But it isn’t just English. France has been complaining for years about the pollution of the French language with anglicism. I’m sure the Japanese and Chinese language pundits aren’t happy about the loan words we’ve forced on them. An airplane pilot isn’t “anjin” in Japanese any more, he’s a “pirotu” (sound it out…) and people go to upper floors in buildings in an “erebata.”
The current ControlGlobal webpoll shows that there is a huge hole in automation professionals younger than about 30. Nobody is coming up to fill that hole, and the potential for stunning losses of institutional memory is unbelievably large. And most of the young people believe, as does one poll respondent, “Nobody stays in automation unless forced.”
Sure, this Chief Editor gig is fun. Sure I get to fly around and hobnob with bigwigs from vendor and end-user companies. But the reality is that I spend a lot of time proofreading. So it isn’t a surprise, or shouldn’t be, that I am driven nuts by seeing typos, grammar and spelling errors in my own magazine and website, and in anybody else’s for that matter. I was just on the Fermilab website…to do some research for my forthcoming editorial in April, “Can Cheap Flowmeters Be Good?” and there it was:
Fermilab Colloquium, 2/23: Tsunami’s: Detecting, Simulating and Chasing them – Emile A. Okal, Northwestern University
It couldn’t have gotten me more if the darn apostrophe was blinking. The red emphasis above is mine.
At Fermilab, there is one of the largest concentrations of smart people in North America, maybe even the largest (depending on whether you count MIT or not). That there would be such a stupid typo on their home page is distressing.
But language standards have been slipping for some time…some people attribute it to television, others to dumbing down schools, others to poor parenting skills in the “me” generation… I don’t know why, I only know that it is amazing how many people, otherwise educated well, and with high native intelligence, can’t spell, or write with correct grammar.
As Rich Merritt pointed out in his Control Report column in the March magazine (forthcoming), English is becoming the worldwide language for process automation, in part, because translating an already poorly-written manual in English into another language usually makes it doubly poorly written, and filled with potentially dangerous errors.
Whew. I feel better now.
More on crackers and RFID…I am not one bit less terrified by what Dale Peterson, our Secure Systems Insider columnist, and Security Guru from Digital Bond writes:
We also see many people use the passive RFID proximity cards to control physical access to the control center and other locations. It is relatively simple to recover the signal these cards generate. If you really wanted to clone a card you could just go to a local restaurant where employees eat lunch; have your equipment in a bag; and bring your bag close to the passive proximity card.
Certainly the cards are better than no access control, but I sense that most people overestimate the security these cards provide. Most of the vendors have higher security solutions that require a prox card and PIN, prox card and fingerprint, or use a smart card chip on the prox card. You may want to talk to one of these vendors.
And I am going to. I am attending a press briefing at Rockwell’s RFID lab on Monday, February 28, and I will be with child in anticipation of what they say.
Somehow, it seems to be extremely difficult to get people to pay attention to security. The script kiddies’ slogan, “Information just wanna be free!” only applies if you know how to steal it. And the price of that knowledge keeps going down.
Codebreaking: the sport of teens. Or is it?
I am slightly terrified by the implications of an article that appeared in the February 5th edition of Science News. The article, entitled “Outsmarting the Electronic Gatekeeper,” showed how easy it was for someone to reverse engineer the codes of the ExxonMobil SpeedPass and the “smartkeys” that many of the top automakers are providing their buyers with. ExxonMobil’s J. Donald Turk claims that “if you look at the kind of equipment and time needed by the researchers to break this, it’s not what would normally be considered an attractive theft opportunity.”
But wait. According to the crackers, Ari Juels of RSA and Aviel D. Rubin of Johns Hopkins University, this could be done by “an attacker with modest resources–just a few hundred dollars” of off the shelf equipment.
Script kiddies, yes. But when you look at the potential for profit engendered by possession of these code keys, for car thieves and gasoline thieves, and identity thieves in general, I have to wonder what ExxonMobil’s Mr. Turk is smoking.
Especially since a huge credit card data warehouse was just forced to admit that hundreds of thousands of consumers had their financial data swiped by an organized gang of identity thieves. Not a set of script kiddies at all.
It isn’t a very long stretch from there to the fact that both al Qaeda and the Irish Republican Army have members who are cryptographers and computer crackers, and both have a history of large scale “fundraising” activities, including, on the IRA’s part, the world’s largest bank heist.
So, what do you make that’s worth stealing?
I’m getting ready to go to National Manufacturing Week…which, as recently as 1998 or so, was a jumongous event, with five shows, concurrently running, and filling all of McCormick Place, not just the Lakeside Center. NMW has already announced that this will be the last year for McCormick. Next year, NMW will move to the Rosemount Convention Center, near O’Hare Airport.
This is quite a come-down, but NMW isn’t alone. ISA will not fill up Lakeside Center this fall, when the ISA Show comes to Chicago after a two year absence. In fact, it is quite likely that the ISA Show might not fill up Rosemount, or other medium sized venues.
What this is about is the demise of trade shows. As NMW and the ISA Show indicate, while the dinosaur continues to roar, and thwop around, the traditional trade show is deader than a box of rocks, even though it hasn’t quite penetrated to its wee tiny dinosaur brain.
At the same time, events like User Groups, and like the CONTROL AutomationXchange are proliferating wildly. It is instructive to note that the Rockwell Automation Fair was as large as the ISA Show, last year.
So, why do people go to User Groups? Why do vendors and end-users get together at AutomationXchange? It is about exchanges of value.
Here’s a little engineer humor for the weekend, from my friend Leon Jester:
What an Engineer really means…….
1. A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT APPROACHES ARE BEING TRIED
– We are still pissing in the wind.
2. EXTENSIVE REPORT IS BEING PREPARED ON A FRESH APPROACH TO THE PROBLEM
– We just hired three kids fresh out of college.
3. CLOSE PROJECT COORDINATION
– We know who to blame.
4. MAJOR TECHNOLOGICAL BREAKTHROUGH
– It works OK, but looks very hi-tech.
5. CUSTOMER SATISFACTION IS DELIVERED ASSURED
– We are so far behind schedule the customer is happy to get it delivered.
6. PRELIMINARY OPERATIONAL TESTS WERE INCONCLUSIVE
– The darn thing blew up when we threw the switch.
7. TEST RESULTS WERE EXTREMELY GRATIFYING
– We are so surprised that the stupid thing works.
8. THE ENTIRE CONCEPT WILL HAVE TO BE ABANDONED
– The only person who understood the thing quit.
9. IT IS IN THE PROCESS
– It is so wrapped up in red tape that the situation is about hopeless.
10. WE WILL LOOK INTO IT
– Forget it! We have enough problems for now.
11. PLEASE NOTE AND INITIAL
– Let’s spread the responsibility for the screw up.
12. GIVE US THE BENEFIT OF YOUR THINKING
– We’ll listen to what you have to say as long as it doesn’t interfere
with what we’ve already done.
13. GIVE US YOUR INTERPRETATION
– I can’t wait to hear this bull!
14. SEE ME or LET’S DISCUSS
– Come into my office, I’m lonely.
15. ALL NEW
– Parts not interchangeable with the previous design.
– Too damn heavy to lift!
– Lighter than RUGGED.
18. YEARS OF DEVELOPMENT
– One finally worked.
19. ENERGY SAVING
– Achieved when the power switch is off.
20. LOW MAINTENANCE
– Impossible to fix if broken.
Our pharmaceutical industry friends are all up in arms because Michael Moore has decided to focus on the drug manufacturing industry for his next magnum opus. Our sister magazine, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing’s Managing Editor, Paul Thomas, takes this subject on, a little tongue in cheek, here, at The Scruffy Guy Cometh. I had trouble stopping laughing.
I was thinking some more about Actio’s database, and what it could do. For example, integrating that kind of information with the alarm management system could produce something like this:
Alarm 20: Tank 34 Overflow
Material: H2SO4, requires special handling, click here for detailed info.
Plant Security has been notified
Plant Hazmat Team has been notified
Automatic shutdown sequence initiated for Tank 34.
Product flow re-routed to Tank 35.
Pretty cool, eh? How much would something like this save you?
There is a reason everybody treats MSDS requirements like pariahs. It costs money. It takes money directly from the profit line to deal with environmental and safety regulations, so companies generally do the least necessary to conform to the letter of the law, rather than the spirit.
But what if MSDS information could be used as a cost avoidance center? Or even, heaven forfend, what if MSDS information could be shown to be capable of providing enough process improvement to provide a positive contribution to the bottom line? That is, what if you could make money using the MSDS information you have to keep?
Actio’s MSDS database is ODBC and OPC compliant, so it is relatively easy to extract information from the MSDSVault and insert it into the Asset Management System, or the CMMS or the Alarm Management System.
Now think about what you can do to improve your MRO operation, or the ability of your first responders to resolve a plant shutdown more quickly with this data.
Consider the lowly MSDS. The Material Safety Data Sheet is treated like a pariah by almost every company in the USA, and its analogs are treated similarly around the world. In almost every company, some poor schlub or schlubs gets tagged with being responsible for keeping and updating the MSDS library, and usually, they get to do this on top of their other duties. So, often, the MSDSes get put in a pile in the corner of the poor schlub’s office, never actually to be used for anything but regulator candy. You know, for when the regulators from OSHA inspect the plant. The poor schlub bets that he or she will find time to deal with the paper before the next inspection. Sometimes he or she guesses wrong. Oops.
Now consider that there is a lot of very interesting information in an MSDS. That’s what happened a few years ago, when Russ McCann and Kal Kawar started a company called Actio. Actio took over a half-million MSDSes and digitized them, scanning them into a relational database with over 900 fields. Now, they had all that data from a whole lot of MSDSes, and it was in a form that could be used to do other things than simply keep a static record of what a company has on hand that is a hazardous chemical.
Now, how could they get companies to use the data they had? Kawar, a software expert, and McCann, an entrepreneur who had just sold a company to Adobe Systems, decided to bank on the then-emerging .ASP web technology, and created a product called MSDSVault, which provides online immediate access to a complete, always updated library of MSDS data that is specific to the individual user, facility, or company enterprise wide.
Then they created inventory tracking and regulatory reporting software to go along with it, also web-enabled, and a way of authoring new database entries as new MSDS are released or come into use at a company.
Now they are trying to get traction with a complete product lifecycle management environment called Gatekeeper, that makes it possible to use all this data.
Not bad for a start.
Now, what can they do for an encore?
So, what’s a chimera and what does it have to do with process automation? Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the Patent Office rejected a patent for a chimera: an animal that looks like one kind of animal and has the genes of another. This particular chimera was designed to be half human, half chimpanzee, and was intended to be rejected so as to set a precedent that you can’t patent something that is “too close to human.”
What this has to do with process automation is this. We can now make mice with human immune systems. We can make “geeps,” crosses between goats and sheep. We can now make biological computers, too. It is not even difficult to make the stretch between what we can do now, and what we could do in a very short time. One of those things would be to create chimps and other greater apes with near-human intelligence, and put them to work doing many tasks now done by human workers. One of the ones that comes to mind is “plant operator.”
What company, in today’s environment, would not jump at the opportunity to own its operators? After all, slavery is against the law…but only for us humans.
This is a very slippery slope that we are on, friends. Think of all the ramifications of this…carry it out to its logical endpoint…and enjoy the migraine.
Happy Valentine’s Day to the Process Automation Professionals out there. You do a difficult, arcane, and underrated job. You have been responsible for more productivity and more profit than any other workforce in world history, yet nobody knows your names. You made possible the lean, six-sigma, agile plant, yet nobody considers you on the high tech cutting edge. You have made it possible to seriously think of running a completely automated industrial plant in our lifetimes. Yet your salaries are capped while the executives you’ve enriched make off with millions. Let this be said, loud and proud. I’m an automation geek too, and I love it.
Move over, Jim Pinto! Move over, Dick Morley! The new poet laureate and prophet of Geek Pride has arrived. Meet Rajeev Bajaj, CEO of Silicon Valley startup SemiQuest, who has released a new CD of “geeksta rap.” His CD, “Geek Rhythms,” is sitting at about 2300 on the Amazon.com sales chart. Actually, that’s Doctor Rajeev Bajaj, who holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering.
“I made the calculator and computer, too,
’cause math is not something everybody can do…
I am an engineer.
Respect my mind.
So bow down when u see me downtown.”
Get “Geek Rhythms” at www.amazon.com.
Is Emerson going to jump on the growing bandwagon and offer complete asset optimization services as well as the software to do the deed? Pity the poor plant operators, assaulted from every side with offers to help them do their jobs, manage their assets, improve their productivity, and even run the plant remotely. Oh, darn, sorry about that job, there, Mr. Operator, but we don’t need operators any more. We just outsourced operating our control system to . After all, nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong, go wrong…
More on “drag factors.” Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina was mostly a victim of drag factors that she was unable to overcome. This is a very high profile example of what happens when you try to change a corporate culture. The first thing blogged yesterday, according to CBS Marketwatch, was “Ding Dong, the witch is dead!” The Silicon Valley message boards and blogs were full of this sort of relatively juvenile explosion of testosterone. But even if it had been Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard themselves trying to re-invent HP, it is likely that the drag factors at Hewlett-Packard would have defeated them too.
Drag in organizations is easy to see, but difficult to stop, because it is essentially a non-action. You can’t stop somebody from “not doing” something the way you can stop somebody in the act of doing. And all that has to be done is to “outwait” the change agent, like the Boys in Boyland outwaited the Babe.
In process automation, pay close attention to the plights of Invensys, Honeywell and Siemens, especially, as they struggle against drag factors in their own organizations and managements.
Until the research consultants that are pushing so hard for LEAN and realtime manufacturing figure out how to deal properly with organizational drag factors, and start helping their clients to deal with them, you can expect many more failures and ex-change agents than successes.
Regarding the Yokogawa vs. Activplant thread, Activplant Corporation vice president Robert Lendvai writes,
“Activplant has yet to contact Yokogawa about our concerns with the Vigilantplant name and the way in which they use it. As such, it would be not be appropriate for me to comment on the matter in a public forum such as your blog.”
I certainly can’t blame Bob. Hopefully, the two companies can now go off in private and figure out how to settle this without more public spectacle.
On “drag”, Richard Carey from Michelin North America writes:
I agree completely! Bravo! I am an engineer with 30+ years in the field, and run into drag factors every day. One of the worst is that the middle managers who approve / recommend projects have no idea what SCADA / HMI can do for them. Most are products of business school, and don’t know what I/O, SCADA, PLC, and other Acronyms mean. The machine is making reasonably good product right now, so what benefits will a costly modification get them? I can tell them: better quality, more up-time, better machine utilization, real time management info, etc. All I get in return are blank stares. They are thinking that there is no way a piece of software can give them that. Most have no experience with a system that really gave them that, so how does one go about educating these middle managers to show them (1) that the modification can really deliver, and (2) that it will be worth the time and expense of implementing? The manufacturers of SCADA and even HMI systems need to sell to these middle managers as well as the engineers who will choose which product. It does little good to just sell to the engineer, when he/she can not get the project funding approved.
And you are right, Richard! You have to have real forward thinking from upper management to force the “drag factors” to the wayside…and nobody wants to talk about shooting every tenth middle manager pour encourager les aultres as Napoleon put it. I’d sure like to hear from ARC what their real advice is to people who are in your position, rather than to the CEOs they usually talk to.
Have you seen Answers.com? If you haven’t go there now. I typed in “process automation” and got a term paper back on control and automation that included definitions and all kinda good stuff. This is certainly the future of search. It is what ControlGlobal.com was set up to provide in our little niche…deep, actionable content that people can use to do their jobs better. www.answers.com also provides a 1-click answer client…download it and then do an alt-click on ANY word in a text file, and it will look it up for you. Neat.
Yokogawa VigilantPlantÔ is the continuation and natural evolution of Yokogawa’s VigilanceÒ campaign, which is over two years old. VigilanceÒ is the registered trademark of Yokogawa Electric Corporation (filing date November 7, 2002, registration date December 2, 2003, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office). The design of the VigilantPlantÔ logo is derived from the design of the registered VigilanceÒ logo. It has no relationship to either VisualPlant (which is an abandoned trademark) or ActivPlantÔ (which, like VigilantPlantÔ, is awaiting registration).
No direct comment from ActivPlant…especially about exactly how trademarked their trademark is.
Jim Pinto’s eNews (current edition), http://www.jimpinto.com/enews/feb7-2
005.html, has a very interesting analysis of Yokogawa, and their intention to be “number one by 2010.” Jim is an opinionated, but knowledgeable observer, and he makes some excellent points.
I have yet to hear back from either Yokogawa or ActivPlant on the trademark issue. It would be a serious setback to Yokogawa to have to deal with a prolonged intellectual property issue as they try to penetrate the North American and Western European trade areas.
I don’t usually blog on weekends, but this one I have to do. Yesterday, I got, from a person I didn’t know, and from a hotmail address, the following:
“You’ve got to feel bad for the poor folks from Yokogawa. Not only have they struggled to build awareness for their company outside of Japan, but their latest attempt at developing a new brand will be very short lived. Apparently, their marketing folks in Japan have done a complete “rip-off” of manufacturing intelligence leader Activplant/VisualPlant wordmark and trademarked brands.The folks at Activplant have already received numerous calls from customers that attended this week’s ARC Forum for their reaction to Yokogawa’s outright theft of the Activplant/VisualPlant brand.In fact, key Activplant customer Toyota and their integration partner ACE Technologies could barely sit still as Yokogawa’s pint-sized CEO introduced the Vigilantplant brand at Wed’s press conference.
Take a look at www.visualplant.com to the unmistakeable similarity between visualplant and vigilantplant.
I don’t know who Terry Kowplan is, and repeated requests for he or she to identify him or herself properly were met with cute replies. Apparently, Kowplan works for Activplant or its marcomm organization, and is doing a bit of guerrilla marketing.
I looked at visualplant.com (which doesn’t exist anymore, the name having been changed to activplant) and there is definitely a similarity, even to the logo design.
What I object to here is the attempt to manipulate the press by sending out essentially anonymous diatribes that read like somebody long familiar with putting out press releases wrote it.
So, here are MY questions, folks.
Did Activplant contact Yokogawa directly before “Terry Kowplan” sent out his/her poison pen email? (According to a highly placed source at Yokogawa, they had not, but I want to hear directly from Activplant.)
Are the people from Toyota and ACE (they are on the ARC roster, and I saw them at the meeting in question) willing to stand up and tell us who they are? Why didn’t they bring this to Yokogawa’s attention right then?
Yokogawa has promised me a comment as soon as they figure out what they are going to say. This clearly came as a great shock to them, and it will be interesting to hear their response.
Here’s a question for all you system security folks out there. If we, as everybody is recommending, completely isolate the control system from everything else, and make everything go through a firewalled shadow server, what is that going to do to the new businesses people like Rockwell, Invensys, Honeywell and Emerson are trying to do in contract remote monitoring, repair, and asset management? As Rich Merritt asks, in his upcoming cover article (CONTROL, March 2005), “Besides, why would you need access to the Web to control a process?” So, vendors, it seems like letting you do remote monitoring, remote alarm management, remote calibration and remote asset management may put the process you are monitoring, managing, and calibrating into more peril than if you just let the operators do it like old times.
We’re coming to get you and we’re coming on strong! That’s the message Yokogawa CEO Isao Uchida delivered last night at the introduction of their new DCS concept, Vigilant Plant. Pointing out that this is Yokogawa’s 90th year in the controls industry, Uchida-san claimed large sales increases “outside Japan”: “20% sales increases outside Japan annually since 2000, so we are gaining market share. Some of the competitors in this room are not happy,” he said, “but competition is…competition.” Uchida-san declared his corporate intention to be number one by 2010.
Now, one can argue that combined with the sales decreases inside Japan, Yokogawa’s recent growth rate is really about 10%, which is in line with every other major automation vendor, and in fact, one of those “competitors in this room” did argue that with me over dinner later. But the fact remains that Uchida has definitely thrown down the gauntlet to Emerson and the rest of the Big Six.
He also said something else very interesting. He said, “Yokogawa takes full responsibility for these systems and products.” Does he really mean that? Is Yokogawa actually claiming system responsibility in general? If he is, this is a major step forward in vendor accountability, because, as we all know, vendors are always trying to duck responsibility for how their products are actually used, and whether they work to spec in YOUR process.
And finally, now there are three. Although serious questions still are being asked about the philosophy, it seems the majors are embracing the combined DCS-SIS philosophy. Yokogawa introduced something called ProSafeRS last night, which makes them the third major player to do so, and the second in a month. ABB, you will recall, introduced their combined DCS-SIS offering in early January.
But here’s the rub. Yokogawa’s system is not yet TUV certified (they say certification in March, for sure) and according to Chief Technology Officer Akira Nagashima, they only have beta test installations even in Japan.
So, even though there are three systems to choose from, are there really? Emerson is famously not shipping yet. It was a little unfair for Nagashima-san, last night, to respond to my question about exactly what differences existed between ProSafe and Emerson’s system by saying, “Well, Emerson isn’t shipping yet.” After all, neither is Yokogawa. And although ABB insists they have installations, and are in fact shipping product, their competitors continue to insist that the only installations ABB has are the beta test units at Dow Chemical, and they won’t ship production units before anybody else does.
And so it goes. Is it product innovation? Is it, as Ed Sederlund from Dow claims, a legitimate concept to combine DCS with SIS (after all, Dow’s former proprietary DCS system did it for years) or is it more vendor FUD? As users, we will only get to make that decision after we see product in the field.
Revolutions R Us! That’s what Andy Chatha, CEO of ARC Advisory Group preached yesterday at the ARC Forum. And the Chinese are coming! The Chinese are coming! So the time is right for a revolution in manufacturing. Finally we will all become those lean, realtime manufacturing companies the TLA (three letter acronym) consultants have been preaching about for the past 20 years.
One of the things that always bothers me about the analyst-speak and consultingese contingent is that they’ve been preaching the same things (hey, me too, because I’ve also been a consultant and an analyst in my shady past) for years, and it seems so obviously a no brainer to do these things, yet fewer than half of American companies (or European companies, for that matter) are using realtime key performance indicators and other techniques from “the factory of the future” to run their operations. It may be as low as 2%.
The people who present at these Forums are long on the advantages of doing these things, but, you know, they don’t ever talk about drag. Drag factors are what I believe is holding things up the most. Drag like institutional unwillingness to change, work rules, and so forth. Just once, I would like to hear a paper that was a balanced presentation of what should be done, and what is necessary to get what should be done done.
Welcome to a new month. Emerson is going to have a big splash announcement in early March…they’ve invited a whole bunch of press to Kennedy Space Center for the announcement. PlantWeb goes to Mars?
I’ve seen the first effects of Gene Yon (ex Foxboro big boss) at his new company, Adaptive Instruments Inc. (www.adaptiveinstruments.com). The Accutech product line has figured out that people don’t want to buy their sensors from one company, and then go to another company for wireless. Here at ARC, Accutech is showing a line of smart process sensors with integrated 900 MHz spread spectrum radio transmitters (conservatively, 1000 feet transmission in any weather) and a nifty host radio that will handle up to 15 nodes in a frequency hopping schema. Modbus output connects the host to DCSes.
I am also looking forward to meeting with Millennial Net. I hear they have mesh networks installed and working now…so I can start talking about real world applications the next time we bring you words about mesh networking as the coming attraction for industrial wireless.