An Open Discussion about the Future of Automation |

An Open Discussion about the Future of Automation

September 262012
Executive Roundtable at ISA Automation Week in Orlando, FL
September 26, 2012
By Bill Lydon, Editor
Executives from supplier and end-user companies, along with a leading industrial business analyst provided their insights into the future of automation and industry issues. Peter Martin, Ph.D., Vice President, Business Value Solutions at Invensys, assembled the panel and was an excellent moderator. Martin commented, “We are the future of industry, if we do our job, industry will thrive …” 
The panel featured:
  • Michael Caliel, CEO and President, Invensys Operations Management
  • Robert Novotny, Managing Consultant, Price Waterhouse Cooper
  • Wolfgang Morr, General Manager, NAMUR Leverkusen, Germany
  • Cliff Pedersen, Chief Information Officer, North West Upgrading, Inc.
  • Chet Mroz, President and CEO, Yokogawa Corporation of America
Each panel member commented on the key issues from their point of view.
Michael Caliel discussed what he termed as macro dynamic forces, starting with the changing nature of the workforce. Caliel believes the experience levels in the industry are at an all-time high and that presents a challenge as the aging workforce retires. Second, consumer technologies are impacting all of our lives and the impact it will have on automation and users. He noted that new users have a completely different relationship with technology - looking at technology as an appliance they simply use. Third, the world is linked, connected, and competitive on a global basis. Caliel said, “We are no longer competing with the enterprise down the street…”  The fourth is that the way control and automation is thought of at the enterprise level is shaping the future.
Wolfgang Morr noted that his perspective comes from experience as a typical user.  Morr said that with each technical innovation that evolves you have to ask one question, “Does it make our plants and processes safer, more reliable, and more efficient; does it improve quality?” “This is a very simple question but everything else is a consequence of the answer to this question.”  The processes are also changing and this will require new technology.
Chet Mroz provided his perspective as a leader of the American operations of a Japanese company. He started by quoting Albert Einstein, “I never think of the future, it comes soon enough.” Mroz suggested they are struggling with this issue because they are occurring so rapidly. He noted five trends. First, globalization - last year a Chinese company filed the most patents in the world and the United States was not even in the top 10 countries. Second, the convergence of technologies with more smart connected devices creating huge amounts of data that needs to be handled with new automation solutions. Third, as emerging markets grow there is a huge struggle for finding more and more natural resources. This requires automation to support plants, processes and mines in remote and environmentally hostile environments. Fourth, human performance and human capital management is transitioning from a “graying” workforce to a millennial generation. Finally, he discussed the huge demands in the safety, security, and environmental areas. He suggested that with proper automation and monitoring the BP disaster could quite possibily have been avoided.
Robert Novotny discussed one of the most important items is doing a daily profit and loss statement on a plant so we know whether we are making or losing money. We have the information but the decision around cost resides with the plant manager but not the people that make decisions. Also, data acquisition is still very expensive, particularly remote locations, and needs cost reductions. He noted that the mining industry is short of technical expertise of all types, citing geographic areas where companies don’t even have enough people qualified to drive trucks.
Cliff Pedersen started by stating automation needs to be about adding business value and should be the role of automation. He tells people working for him that if they are not working on something that generates value of ten times their salary, they won’t last. It is about collaboration, communication, and cooperation. Pedersen pleaded for no more technology wars referring to the multiple fieldbuses the industry has today and the emerging wireless standards.  “No more technology wars, since this does not add value,” said Pedersen. He also discussed his involvement with the OpenO&M initiative (focused on linking all systems) that is being demonstrated in the Automation Week showcase.
The question and answer session included a good discussion of industry issues. One issue that is becoming more obvious is that the silos in a company must cooperate to have efficiency and responsive manufacturing.
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