Automation True Believers Gather in Orlando |

Automation True Believers Gather in Orlando

March 122012
Automation True Believers Gather in Orlando
16th Annual ARC World Industry Forum February 6-9, 2012 - Orlando, Florida
March 2012
By Bill Lydon, Editor
The annual ARC World Industry Forum brings together a wide range of innovative industrial automation users, industry associations, suppliers, system integrators, and thought leaders to learn and share ideas. These are the true believers who understand the impact that automation has on sustaining manufacturing competitiveness. More than 660 participants, representing 254 different companies, attended the forum, including 83 owner-operator companies. I have attended most of these forums and agree with many others that it is the major industrial automation forum in North America that addresses best practices and introduces new ideas. This year’s theme was, “Transforming Industry through New Processes and Technologies.” In addition to keynotes, the forum had five tracks, each with their own sessions, including Petrochemical, Process, Power, CPG/Food, Life Sciences, and Automotive/Aerospace. The conference attendees essentially are an ecosystem of knowledgeable resources that learn from each other and leverage each other’s experiences. The day before the general forum, a number of workshops focused on control system lifecycle management, cyber security, Fiatech, advancing innovative practices, and virtual production. The OMAC organization and OPC Foundation also had half day sessions at the end of the conference.
U.S. Manufacturing
U.S. manufacturing is still important and represents 11% of GDP, while employing 12 million people - sixty percent being engineers and scientists. Manufacturing also consumes approximately 30% of all energy in the United States. Automation can make companies more efficient and increase competitiveness by improving productivity, lowering production cost, and improving energy efficiency. 
Transformational Topics
Considering the overall conference presentations and my discussions with users, I think these are the transformational topics explored at the ARC forum along with associated success stories. I call these transformational trends because they are changing manufacturing thinking, goals and methods.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) has been defined as the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from its conception, through design and manufacture, to service and disposal.   This has spawned a set of software products that provide manufacturing companies with an integrated process from “art to part.” The integrated design and simulation of products, machines, processes, and automation designs is creating great efficiencies.   Boeing’s presentation on the development and manufacturing deployment of the new 787 clearly illustrated the value of this technology.
Remote Operations
The ability to confidently do remote operations and utilize experts to remotely troubleshoot and assist operations people around the world provides a significantly more responsive way to solve problems. 
Energy Optimization
This concept goes beyond simply shutting things off to saving energy by actively using automation to optimize energy efficiency in plants and processes.
It was repeated many times by users in sessions that standards make all this automation work. Industry is learning that standards are crucial for integrated systems to be efficient. The session on OPC UA is a good example, which highlighted the collaboration between various organizations to provide open architecture linkage from supply chain to industrial automation. More on OPC UA: Suppliers Embrace OPC UA
Conference Keynotes Highlights
These are comments that I believe are important to ponder from keynotes at the ARC Forum.
John Berra, a 43 year veteran of the process automation business who ran Emerson Process Management and is a well-known innovator in the industry, provided insights into leadership. He gave an example of an innovative customer who is building a world class ethylene and downstream facility - simultaneously building 10 new plants. Berra commented, “When you’re faced with a project like that, most people would decide to go with the most conservative approach possible.” In the early days of Foundation Fieldbus, this customer decided to go with the best technology available, focusing on the goal of being competitive for many years by implementing the best plant and automation design. They installed over 10,000 field instruments connected through 2,500 Foundation Fieldbus segments with all process information communication over fiber optics. Every regulatory control loop was done in the field devices not in the control room. Berra emphasized, “Innovation is a way to win.” This particular customer built these plants in 27 months, estimating that by using these technologies and asset management, they saved $90 million in startup costs. Operationally, total plant maintenance costs are 30% lower than conventional plants. 
John Berra has a great way of communicating ideas; these are quotes to think about:
“Our responsibility as automation professionals, whether we are suppliers, end users and contractors, is to recognize that innovation in automation is really important and a strong competitive differentiation factor for all of us.”
“Innovations start with leadership, recognizing it is not just kind of a yoga thing, it’s a way to win.” He further explained it is a way to differentiate your company and make it competitive on a global scale.
Boeing’s Dianne Chong, Vice President Assembly, Factory, and Support Technology, discussed the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner design and production that was accomplished with the collaboration of 22,000 worldwide supplier partners. Using a collaborative design and build process, the airplane uses 20 percent less fuel than today's similarly sized airplanes while flying at the speed of today's fastest wide bodies - up to Mach 0.85 (approximately 761 miles per hour/ 1041 kilometers per hour).   In a roundtable discussion, Chong emphasized that technical people in many situations want to do things themselves but they have found ways to encourage them to reach out and collaborate.   John Berra added that the culture of collaboration and innovation starts with leadership at all levels of an organization.
People Development
People development was discussed and this continues to be an ongoing industry dialog.   All the keynote speakers agreed in the need to continually focus on developing people.   Not surprisingly, Siemens in Germany has strong programs with 10,000 apprenticeships per year in addition to technical, and management development programs. Helmuth Ludwig, Ph.D. and CEO of Siemens Industry Sector in North America, also emphasized that there needs to be a balance in developing both management talent and deep subject matter experts.
Thoughts & Observations
Now more than ever corporate management needs to understand the value of funding automation projects. In many cases taking on these projects requires a “leap of faith” by management that does not fully understand the technology. Automation professionals have an obligation to educate management so they can develop the confidence to make these investments. A big challenge automation people have is communicating in terms that non-technical business people can understand.
Management needs to proactively embrace the idea that new technology and processes may be needed now to compete rather than waiting until they are losing competitively and forced to rethink strategy.
This takes planning. There are no quick fixes, as the late management guru Peter Drucker once noted, “The search for the one quick fix is a universal human failing.”
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