Era of Empowerment for Automation Professionals

Era of Empowerment for Automation Professionals
Era of Empowerment for Automation Professionals
All of these new technologies from outside the traditional automation solutions, as well as the rapid expansion of the tools that can be applied to improve productivity, profitability, and competitiveness of manufacturers, means that the automation professional is going to be more important than ever in the next decade. Manufacturing companies should expect to see significant changes, which will be heavily driven by technology. Automation professionals are critical to successfully selecting and applying these technologies and guiding management to maximize their productivity. This role will continue and expand, as more companies look to make informed productive technological investments and implementation decisions to yield profitable results. The alternative is management making uninformed decisions, and that could be costly in a big way.

Control and Operations Will Get Easier

Software programming gurus have always been an inefficient way for users to create applications and get results. Hence why there will be more applications, that allow control and operations people to configure systems and deploy applications without using a programming language, which will be introduced. This is new to the industry, but hardly new to the world. Decades ago, the spreadsheet was the first big development that allowed users to directly create analysis and applications without requiring a programmer and resulted in dramatically improved productivity. More recently, Facebook has been a great example of people creating webpages without ever programming. More relevantly, PLC Ladder Logic was a significant productivity tool, which allowed people to directly create applications without computer programming. In manufacturing industries, there will be an acceleration of these kinds of easy-use software to create applications without programming, as they leverage IoT and other computer industry developments. At the forefront of these changes will be the integration of real time industrial automation & control, PLM, CAD, and simulation enabling visual design, virtual commissioning, and direct deployment without procedural programming.

The Users are Gaining the Power

There is growing understanding in the user community that industrial automation systems technology is lagging, which is limiting the ability to deliver functionality and value, compared to the computer industry, IoT, and consumer products. Exposure to a wide range of computer and consumer technologies has been driving the exploration of alternative solutions.

The influx of open standards-based hardware and software is shifting implementation of industrial automation system functions to users. A simple example is the application of virtualization in the factory, in order to lower total cost of ownership and improve performance. Users were ahead of industrial automation vendors in deploying this innovation in their operations and in some cases, vendors threatened to void their system warranties. Later, automation vendors embraced virtualization. A more pointed example is the use of Amazon Web Services (AWS) for plant historians.
Very important for the industry, we will see increasing numbers of younger people entering the industry. We have already seen the growth of an interesting and productive phenomenon. The collaboration of experienced industrial automation veterans, with younger professionals that understand the open IoT and computing industry technologies, have led to the creation of highly effective solutions.

This article is part of Bill Lydon’s Top Trends, his Automation & Control Trends Report for 2020-2021. Download the full report here

About The Author

Lydon brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to, plus more than 25 years of experience designing and applying technology in the automation and controls industry. Lydon started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and process control technology. In addition to working at various large companies (e.g., Sundstrand, Johnson Controls, and Wago), Lydon served a two-year stint as part of a five-person task group, where he designed controls, automation systems, and software for chiller and boiler plant optimization. He was also a product manager for a multimillion-dollar controls and automation product line and president of an industrial control software company.

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