Future factory – a moderator’s impression!

01/02/2016

Read-out was asked to moderate the automation stream at the National Manufacturing & Supplies conference held last week outside Dublin. (26th January 2016). In their wisdom the organisers selected “Future Factory!” as a title for this half day seminar and there were 11 speakers organised to speak on their particular subjects for about 15 minutes each. This was replicated in the the over a dozen different seminars held on this one day.

q#MSC16

Long queues lasted well into the morning to enter the event!

We were a little sceptical that this would work but with the help of the organisers and the discipline of the speakers the time targets were achieved. Another target achieved was the number of attendees at the event as well as those who attended this particular seminar.
In all between exhibitors, speakers and visitors well over 3000 packed the venue. Probably far more than the organisers had anticipated and hopefully a potent sign that the economy is again on the upturn. Indeed it was so successful that it was trending (#MSC16) on twitter for most of the day.

Seminar
But back to our seminar. If you google the term Future Factory you get back 207million links, yet it is difficult to find a simple definition as to what it means. The term automation similarly is a very difficult term to define though the term in Irish “uathoibriú” perhaps is a bit clearer literally meaning “self-working.”

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Good attendance at the Seminar

Background
The world of automation has changed to an extrordinary degree and yet in other ways it remains the same. The areas where it has experienced least change is in the areas of sensing – a thermometer is a thermometer – and final control – a valve is a valve. Where it has changed almost to the point of unrecognisability is in that bit in the middle, what one does with the signal from the sensor to activate the final control element.

From single parameter dedicated Indicator/Controller/Recorders in the sixties which transmitted either pnuematically (3-15psi) or electrically (4-20mA). Gradually (relatively speaking) most instruments became electronic, smaller in size and multifunctional. The means of communication changed too and fieldbus communication became more common to intercact with computors which themselves were developing at breaknech speed. Then transmission via wireless became more common and finally the internet and the ability to control a process from the computer that we call the intelligent phone. There are problems with these latter, internet/cellphone, of course. One is that the reach of the internet is focussed at present on areas of high population. Another is the danger of infiltration of systems by hostile or mischivous strangers. The importance of security protocols is one that has only recently been apparent to Automation professionals.

• Many of the presentations are available on-line here. The password is manufac2016

The Presentations
Maria Archer of Ericsson spoke on the enabling and facilitating IoT in the manufacturing industry. Diving straight into topic she drew on her experience of big data, e-commerce, media, cyber security, IOT and connected devices.

The second speaker was Cormac Garvey of Hal Software who addressed Supply Chain prototyping. The Supply Chain ecosystem is incredibly complex, usually requiring significant integration of each suppliers’ standards and processes to the manufacturer’s. Cormac will introduce the concept of supply chain prototyping, where easy-to-use, standards-based technology is used to wireframe out the entire supply chain ecosystem prior to integration, thus significantly reducing cost, time and risk on the project. This wireframe can then be used as a model for future integration projects.

Two speakers from the Tralee Institute of Technology, Dr. Pat Doody and Dr. Daniel Riordan spoke on RFID, IoT, Sensor & Process Automation for Industry 4.0. They explained how IMaR’s (Intelligent Mechatronics and RFID) expertise is delivering for their industrial partners and is available to those aiming to become a part of Industry 4.0.

Smart Manufacturing – the power of actionable data was the topic addressed by Mark Higgins of Fast Technology. He shared his understanding of the acute issues companies face on their journey to Business Excellence and how leveraging IT solutions can elevate the business to a new point on that journey.

Assistant Professor (Mechanical & Manuf. Eng) at TCD, Dr Garret O’Donnell,   explained how one of the most significant initiatives in the last 2 years has been the concept of the 4th industrial revolution promoted by the National Academy for Science and Engineering in Germany- ACATECH, known as Industrie 4.0. (Industrie 4.0 was first used as a term in Germany in 2011).

Another speaker from Fast Technologies, Joe Gallaher, addressed the area of Robotics and how Collaborative Robots are the “Game Changer” in the modern manufacturing facility.

Dr. Hassan Kaghazchi of the University of Limerick and Profibus spoke on PROFINET and Industrie 4.0. Industrial communications systems play a major role in today’s manufacturing systems. The ability to provide connectivity, handle large amount of data, uptime, open standards, safety, and security are the major deciding factors. This presentation shows how PROFINET fits into Industrial Internet of Things (Industrie 4.0).

White Andreetto

Maurice Buckley CEO NSAI

The CEO of NSAI, the Irish National Standards Authority, Maurice Buckley explained how standards and the National Standards Authority of Ireland can help Irish businesses take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution and become more prepared to reap the rewards digitisation can bring.

The next two speakers stressed the impact of low forecast accuracy on the bottom line and how this coulbe be addressed. Jaap Piersma a consultant with SAS UK & Ireland explained that low forecast accuracies on the business performance is high in industry but with the right tools, the right approach and experienced resources you can achieve very significant result and benefits for your business. Following him Dave Clarke, Chief Data Scientist at Asystec, who mantains the company strategy for big data analytics service development for customers. He showed how are incredible business opportunities possible by harnessing the massive data sets generated in the machine to machine and person to machine hyper connected IoT world.

The final speaker David Goodstein, Connected Living Project Director, GSMA, described new form factor mobile SIMs which are robust, remotely manageable which are an essential enabler for applications and services in the connected world.

All in all a very interesting event and useful to attendees. Papers are being collected and should be available shortly on-line.

It is hoped to do it all again next year on 24th January 2017- #MSC17.

See you there.

@NationalMSC #MSC16 #PAuto #IoT


Man or machine? Is HAL taking over?

04/08/2015
As we enter the golden age of robotics, the fear that robots will take human jobs has slowly spread. Jobs such as assembly, farming and surgery are already being delegated to robots. Here, Darren Halford of European Automation considers if our jobs are really at risk.

epa245This speed of technological change has led Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzwell, to estimate that robots will, “reach human levels of intelligence by 2029”.

For many, the idea of artificial intelligence surpassing human intellect is a daunting thought. Whilst certainly not the first example of evil artificial intelligence in pop culture, HAL the homicidal computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey is a prime example of the recurring ‘robot uprising’ theme we see depicted in film and literature.

However, even in the far-flung worlds of science fiction, robots have proven to be predominately helpful – just as they have in manufacturing. From traditional six-axis, SCARA and Cartesian robots to Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) robots generally create jobs; increasing the overall number of positions available.

One of the automation trends for 2015, AGVs are mobile robots that navigate independently using magnets, lasers, vision and geoguidence and are used commonly in industrial settings to transport materials and goods in a factory or warehouse. AGVs can increase efficiency, ultimately reducing costs and, because of this, their market is growing at a rapid pace.

Unlike automated guided vehicles, more complex, manufacturing robots are usually confined to operating inside cages known as robotic work cells. These physical barriers protect human workers from potential accidents and the sheer power and speed of malfunctioning robotics. If you’ve ever seen a robot at a trade show try to return to zero without back up in the event of power cut, you will know exactly what I mean.

Despite this restriction, advances in programming mean that some robots can now operate, without enclosures, alongside humans on the factory floor. This integration revolutionises the job roles of both robot and human workers. This increases the productivity of menial tasks and frees human workers to focus on jobs that are more sophisticated.

Although still in its early stages, this man-machine collaboration is a huge step towards humans and robots working harmoniously together.

Robot trends
Cell free robotics was a theme at this year’s Hannover Messe, which also featured ABB’s wonderfully cool YuMi, a two-armed collaborative assembly assistant that can see and feel its way around an application. It has soft, padded arms that allow it to interact safely with its human counterparts.

There is no denying that some very menial labour will be replaced with technology. In fact, Deloitte and the University of Oxford predict that robots could ultimately replace ten million unskilled workers.

However, throughout history, technology has created thousands of new jobs while eliminating old ones. Consider the first half of the twentieth century, where a large percentage of working Londoners were limited to work in manufacturing and heavy industry.

Whilst some might argue that IT and communications led to a decline in heavy industry, others would say it freed workers to ‘break the habit’ and pursue a wide range of vocations outside of the factory. This, in turn, established London as the cosmopolitan metropolis and services hub that it is today.

The first robots might have been installed in factories in the 1960s, but we are only now truly entering the golden age of robotics. It will open doors to new industries and generate new roles requiring creativity, judgment, empathy and a thirst for innovation – human skills which robots can’t yet replicate. So it’s not time to worry about HAL and his compatriots just yet; your job is safe.