ARC 2012 forum addresses ways to transform the industry

Andy Chatha, ARC Advisory Group Founder and President, (pictured alongside) gave the leadoff keynote presentation at ARC’s 2012 World Industry Forum that was held recently in Florida.

This was followed by additional keynote presentations by Diane Chong from Boeing who spoke on transformative technologies and processes at that company; Ron Guido from Johnson & Johnson who spoke on J&J’s efforts to safeguard the supply chain against product counterfeiters; and Leo Christodoulou from the U.S. Department of Energy who spoke on developing and deploying new energy-saving technologies for industry.

Chatha began by listing what he considers to be industry-transforming processes or products:
• Natural gas fracking
• Wind turbines and solar farms
• Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner
• Electric cars
• Self-driving cars
• Military drones
• Smart phones and tablets
• Smart learning robots
• Self-health monitoring gadgets
• Nest self-learning thermostat

Chatha focused on the Nest self-learning thermostat, a product that (according to the company’s website) programs itself to save energy. (Nest image alongside courtesy www.nest.com.)

He believes that this commercial product can serve as an example of what we should be doing in our industrial automation industry.

According to Chatha, his picks for the top four transformative technologies — social technologies, mobile internet, cloud computing, and advanced analytics — do not apply at the industrial controls layer.

Instead, each provides opportunities for improvement at higher levels of the enterprise.

As social technologies become increasingly mature, they can provide people across an industrial organization with easy access to the information they need to do their jobs better and improve overall performance.

Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile Internet technology-based products provide people with access to the information they need from any location at any time.

According to Chatha, "We already have more devices connected to the Internet than there are people on this planet. It’s safe to say that the era of the Mobile Internet is here."

The emerging Internet of Things (IoT) will further extend mobile information access to a wide variety of smart industrial devices (sensors, machines, equipment, etc.) to help enable collaborative predictive maintenance and other highly effective asset management practices.

Chatha recommended that every company should implement a good mobile enterprise management platform.

Cloud computing-enabled virtualisation technology can offload much of the cost and the responsibility for providing server hardware and implementing and supporting virtualised applications from an industrial organization’s own typically under-staffed IT group, to a third-party provider.

These service providers typically utilise the most advanced technology for high availability and security (both physical and cyber).

According to Chatha, "A cloud is just another data center; you can think of your control room as a private cloud."

While many manufacturers are already doing mission-critical control in the field, it’s not likely that we’ll ever do mission-critical control in the cloud.

However, according to Chatha, cloud computing is perfectly acceptable for a wide range of other plant- and enterprise-level applications.

The graphic depicts the three-cloud architecture for manufacturing.

This graphic depicts the three-cloud architecture for manufacturing.

Last, but not least, Chatha discussed advanced analytics as a transformative technology.

"Analytics is my favourite," he said. "Now that it’s much faster and easier to use, you have to see it to believe it! I didn’t realise the full potential myself until we started using the technology ourselves to develop our new cloud-based analytics capability.

"Several of our larger supplier clients are already using this new capability, which we call MIRA (Manufacturing Intelligence & Rapid Analysis) to extract more value from ARC’s vast amount of market research data."

For manufacturers and other industrial organizations, today’s advanced and well-proven analytics technologies can provide the key that finally enables them to unlock actionable information from the "Big Data" they’ve been collecting all along in their plant historians and other data repositories.

Many industrial organizations already use advanced analytics to do performance monitoring, statistical process control, root cause analysis, and so on.

In closing, Chatha summarised that while each of these transformative technologies is powerful on its own, when you combine cloud computing with advanced analytics, a mobility platform and devices, and a collaborative social platform, you’ll have a much more powerful organization.

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