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Mobiles Devices will Hit the Factory FloorJust this month (September 10-12) I attended the annual Automation Control Products (ACP) conference. The primary objective of Thindustrial13 was the unveiling and introduction of the new ACP mobile technology software called RELEVANCE. You can almost be there by watching the videos of Matt Crandell, ACP CEO, demonstrating Relevance in real-time mode and seeing a demo (web link below).
I presented the keynote: "Mobile Devices will hit the Factory Floor" to an audience that was mostly experienced factory and process controls people. Many had already used ACP ThinManager for a few years and there was a visible sense of excitement from these usually hard-nosed plant-engineer types.
Relevance has clear and immediate benefits and advantages. This is what the software provides: Applications (content) delivered to factory people with relevance to their location, skill-set and the events occurring around them.
The old paradigm is fixed, tethered operator stations with way too much data and too little relevant information. This is fast becoming obsolete.
"Relevance" delivers mobile devices, with specific information related to physical location in the factory, specifically related to the function of the person viewing the information. For example, real-time display of related information when the engineer is near the location; service flags for the packaging line showing what needs to be serviced; information related to which service people are available to perform the service.
Here's the kicker that makes this exciting for factory people: They are fed up with walking over to large central displays to find out what's happening and what's needed. They simply view a mobile device that provides specific information related to their own function and location. Nothing like this is available from any of the current automation majors.
There are key trends that are quickly emerging in the factory. In my keynote speech, I presented graphics that clearly illustrate digital technology shifts: The steady decline of tethered PCs and the rapid rise of mobile devices; wired to wireless connectivity; client-server to cloud-based computing; the industrial Internet.
Fundamental changes are occurring right now: Change in use (mobile, relevant information everywhere), and in scale (huge numbers of mobile devices are available at low cost). It's an industrial evolution that's quickly becoming a revolution.
A rapid paradigm shift is occurring in the factory. Other entrenched HMI software businesses are staying afloat primarily by trying to maintain their steadily declining installed base. Alarm-bells are ringing for their sales channels.
Fast-growing ACP, based in Alpharetta, GA., is the first to market with a complete mobile computing solution which fills the needs of factory users - the new mobile technology called "Relevance".
New book: History of Wonderware & TriconexThis new book is the "true story of how Triconex and Wonderware changed the world". If you know several of the founders of those companies, as I did, it drags you in. This - and the enthusiasm of the author, Gary Wilkinson the training manager at Triconex Since 1995.
This is a collection of timelines, anecdotes and photos about two iconic companies that were founded in Orange county, California, just a couple of hours drive from where I live. If you are familiar with the founders and employees, many of whom are still my friends, you cannot help opening the book. And then it drags you in, to look at the pictures and read about people who were intimately involved.
The book starts with the founding of Triconex in 1983, with technology that relates to fail-safe industrial computers. Just about that time, the Bhopal, India chemical spill and the Russian Chernobyl nuclear accident brought industrial safety into focus and two or three rival startups were formed offering triple modular redundancy (TMR). Growth was still relatively slow in those pre-dot.com days. It was five years before Triconex got to a couple-million dollars, and almost a decade before it raised capital and then went public. In 1995, it was acquired for $ 90 million by Siebe, which later became Invensys.
Many growth companies are born when the founder is fired. This is where the stories of Triconex and Wonderware are linked.
Dennis Morin was a software guy at Triconex who was fired during a re-organization in 1986. He was a classic ideas man, brimming with enthusiasm. Microsoft Windows was just coming on the scene and he saw a wonderful opportunity. He conceived Wonderware InTouch, human-machine-interface (HMI) for the industrial environment.
Wonderware was born with bold advertising in the staid ISA magazine: "It's not Underware!" (with pictures of bras and panties); on the next page: "It's Wonderware!" This was the bold and brash Dennis Morin.
The company took over the boring annual ISA shows with gigantic booths and Hollywood style parties. It grew fast enough and big enough to go public in July 1993. By 1995 it was $ 55 million and still growing.
By now Dennis Morin, the quintessential entrepreneur, was ready to retire to the beautiful Rock House home he built for himself in Laguna Beach. Roy Slavin, formerly with Siemens in Alpharetta Georgia, came in as CEO. But the two did not get on at all and Dennis exited, causing Wonderware stock to take a big dive. The company was sold to Siebe (Invensys) in 1998 for a heady price - $375 million.
Sadly, my friend Dennis Morin died on Dec. 31, 2012. He will be missed by many.
Let me continue the Wonderware story: With the central brains and planning dominated by Invensys and Foxboro in Massachusetts, the company languished under a succession of middle-managers.
The strong Distributor companies, many with nondescript names, had taken on the Wonderware name in their regions - Wonderware Midwest, Pacwest, NorCal, etc. and they continued to thrive, representing Wonderware's major assets. Today they are very dependent on dis-proportionately large Wonderware revenues. But, with minimal new development investment, the software is getting pretty old and overly dependent on renewals.
Invensys (hence Wonderware) has now been acquired by Schneider, the large France-based company with no real software experience. Wonderware employees, as well as the Distributor channels, are anxiously waiting to see what Schneider will do. But, the acquisition is still undergoing final due-diligence and they will all just have to wait. Schneider is not known for its software success; will they keep Wonderware? Or sell it off?
The true and amazing history of Triconex and Wonderware
Manufacturing FuturesSome three decades ago, when American automakers felt threatened by Japanese competition, they had a vision of beating their rivals with "lights out" manufacturing - highly automated factories with robots building cars on their own. While this was still a dream, it was imagined that workweeks would be reduced and people would have much more leisure time.
But competitive globalization had not been taken into account. Today, reduced headcount and increased leisure are not options; remaining employees are working harder than ever.
As Yogi Berra said, "It's deja vu all over again." Many of the new production methods in the next manufacturing revolution will require fewer people working in factories; some lights-out manufacturing is now possible.
Manufacturing will still need people, if not so many in the factory itself. Automated machines need people to design, program and service them. But, that takes skills and training.
As manufacturing transforms into a high-tech workplace, the new generation of process and automation engineers and technicians will be completely different than the factory workers of yesteryear. Old-fashioned ideas about training and seniority will quickly become obsolete. Fast-growing skills shortages generate high demand for engineers and technicians. Tech power will trump everything else.
Today's young people are smart, and even brash. They want to work; but unlike their parents, they don't want work to be their lives. If they can be attracted, they are the ones who will be the automation engineers and technicians of tomorrow.
Future workplaces - the equivalent of factories - will be bright and stimulating places where people enjoy working and jobs are challenging and rewarding. Knowledge workers don’t need time cards, defined working hours or bosses. The word "boss" is a relic of old-time, clock-punching factory-work.
The continuing manufacturing drive will be to make more with less - pack more information and knowledge into less matter, using less energy while making more effective products. Jobs will keep moving from manipulating matter to playing with information and ideas. Priorities will continue to shift.
A report from the McKinsey Global Institute, "Manufacturing the Future: The Next Era of Global Growth and Innovation", presents a clear view of how manufacturing contributes to the global economy today and how it will evolve over the coming decade. Read it (link below).
Tools of FuturismMore than a decade ago, I sold the company I founded and retired. Someone told me - provided you have your health (I am blessed) "retirement" is defined as "doing what you like to do".
I've always been a technology buff and decided to become a technology futurist. My future related writings had already paved the way for more writings and speeches on automation technology and I pursue these with enthusiasm.
Futurism began in the early 20th century with a series of essays by H.G. Wells, which he called "Anticipations". After him were the many popular Science Fiction writers like Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury, with a mix of futurism and fiction.
Gadgets are not futurism. Technology is not the sole driver of change. What's important is how technology is used in other activities: social, political, cultural, economic.
While it's impossible to know the future, it is indeed possible to measure trends and make projections. The goal is to project and anticipate changes, recognizing all the factors which might bring about paradigm shifts.
If you're interested, I've provided some futurist weblinks below. To quote Yogi Berra again, "Prediction is very hard, especially when it's about the future."
I've been a "technology futurist" now for well over a decade and am a founding member of US-based Association of Professional Futurists. Beyond just the US, I've been invited to speak all over the world - Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Chile, the UK, Europe. You'll find a list of my recent speaking engagements via the web link below.
If you'd like me to speak on tech-futures for any event you're involved with, please get in e-touch.
Reflections on India - 2013It's been about 5 years since I visited India and it was mostly with family. This time, my trip started with family visits to Bangalore and Pune, followed by a tour of North India which I had never seen. I was seeing all of India now - as an Indian and also as an American.
In the last eNews, you read a summary of my wonderful India bucket-list trip. Here are some of my post-trip reflections.
India is a country of contrasts which stresses all of your senses: prosperity coexists with poverty; palaces with slums; abundance and scarcity; splendor and squalor; fragrance and stench; purity and filth; noise and tranquility; cacophony and calmness; harmony and harshness.
In the early morning, birds start cooing outside. Then calls for prayer commence, not from just one mosque, but several simultaneously. Street vendors start calling out with their wares and the traffic noise starts. In the evening, loud music and speakers compete for attention. I'm told that you soon get used to it - and even like it.
The street where I had lived in Bangalore, once a quiet, tree-lined avenue, was now engulfed by dense crowds, loud noise and continuously streaming traffic constantly beeping for attention.
The people in India are remarkably friendly and gentle. Even in the jostling of crowds, they are respectful of others; there is no pushing or shoving, no pickpocketing.
You cannot walk on the pavements because they are mostly torn up and strewn with cow dung or garbage everywhere. Walking on the road seems hazardous, with traffic streaming within inches.
Traffic is complicated by "holy cows", walking casually on busy streets, grazing on garbage. If you don't watch out, you may step in "holy shit". We saw cows asleep in the middle of the street. Here's something I didn't know: apparently the cows sleep there because the whoosh of traffic keeps flies away.
The pleasant smells of vadas and savory snacks being fried right on the pavement commingled with the pervasive stench of urine. Next to my old home was a wall with the stenciled words, "Do not urine here" - and a man was urinating right next to the sign.
I realized my changed perceptions - I was now seeing my hometown with foreign eyes. My family doesn't really see this. They shelter themselves, blocking out the noise and smells. Perhaps the harsh outside draws them closer together, making family and friendship bonds strong. My brother lives in a nice condo and simply drives past without really seeing. My sisters (who are nuns) live in a high-walled convent and travel anywhere in the inexpensive, omnipresent auto-ricks - there are 10,000 of those in Bangalore alone.
It seems to me that India has one major problem - uncontrolled over-population. As fast as the beautiful new airports and fancy condos get built, population encroaches and garbage overwhelms.
I remember Bangalore's population at less than a million. Five years ago it was about 5 million; it's now approaching 10 million. India's population is now 1.25 billion and will overtake China's 1.35 billion much sooner than expected.
But, the best brains in India are working on these problems. Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of software giant Infosys is now heading the Government of India's technology committee. His 2009 book, "Imagining India" calls for reform and innovation in all sectors of public life. He comes up with ideas that can transcend political agendas and build India's future.
Here's my view from my Indian American perspective. Both India and America were once British colonies. But America largely marginalized the existing tribal peoples and started over with immigrants, with an eclectic culture. India went into colonialism with an advanced and rich heritage, but also with centuries of baggage: class problems; corruption; ingrained culture that provided cohesiveness, but accepted problems. Acceptance is part cultural and part religious. It remains at the core of India's current dilemmas.
Point to consider: In America, we have it so good that we keep nitpicking. In India, they know the bad things and keep emphasizing the good.
My 2013 India visit will still take me months to digest - emotionally and philosophically!
eFeedbackDick Caro [RCaro@CMC.us] the field bus and industrial networking guru comments on the acquisition of Invensys by Schneider:
"Schneider bought it. Their first moves were to restore the Modicon brand name. They could have merged the division with Telemechanique, their French PLC acquisition; but they did not. They could also have merged the division with their successful North American electrical company, Square-D, but they did not.
"I hope that Schneider continues to recognize the brand name equity they purchased with Foxboro, Wonderware, and Triconex. Each of these companies has their own product niche and needs a chance to function free from the narrow-minded financially restrictive management under Invensys. I hope they do."
"The last century has been a condition of 'radical abundance' relative to all former periods. By all rights, there should be no economic scarcity today. Yet, somehow scarcity remains.
"Given the last 200 years of scarcity despite all productivity advancements, we might do well to consider the world's population growth and the basic premise of Malthus' thesis on Population.
"Does Mr. Drexler address this in his book? Does he clearly articulate why we have not eliminated economic scarcity even though we have already been living in an extended period of radical abundance? If he does not, then he avoids a fundamental issue which would prevent technology from producing the benefits he would suggest."
"The big argument from my friends, most with college age kids, is that college is the 'experience'. Heck, the experience is like summer camp with some studies mixed in (at most colleges, not all) and costs a fortune.
"Degrees have become a dime a dozen and don't get jobs. Young people would be better off going into internships in fields they are interested in, and then see if a degree is worth it. Look at all the highly successful people, not college graduates, in industry. The guy that designed the Powertec drives was self taught in electrical engineering, and never got a degree.
"The Internet could save my retirement in 16 years!"
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