Articles Written by Jim Pinto for Automation.com

Who is Jim Pinto?

Jim Pinto is the founder (formerly President & CEO) of Action Instruments. He is a well-known industrial automation commentator, and analyst and consultant. More Info...

New Pricing Paradigms

Prices for automation products are traditionally based on manufactured cost with target gross and net profit margin multipliers which are rapidly shrinking because of fierce global competition. New pricing paradigms are needed.
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Industrial Networks - Plethora of Choices

Companies have lots of choices for installing and using industrial networks. They have to choose not only what’s available today, but also be aware of emerging standards. It’s important to have a strategy going forward.
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Winning in business

Winning is the lifeblood of any society. People who work in successful businesses are happier, more motivated and achieve yet more success. Here are some ideas to help you win in your business.
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Wanted: Partnerships to develop energy alternatives

The development of energy alternatives is a big, new market with major opportunities for automation companies, an inflection point that could bring burgeoning growth for leaders and innovators who are willing to develop partnership and take bold new steps. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Business growth barriers & plateaus for Automation suppliers

There are several obstacles/plateaus/barriers to growth which are important to understand. Recognition of these growth patterns allows companies to plan for survival beyond the initial entrepreneurial stages towards the next levels of growth and success. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

2008 Pinto’s Pointers – Technologies & Markets

Because of its fragmentation, low volumes and conservative customer base, industrial automation is relatively slow to change. In the broad automation markets, there are pockets of technology and market growth that deserve special review. Here are Jim Pinto’s pointers and prognostications regarding the top automation technology and market trends that will gain traction in the coming year. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

The flip-side of Techno-productivity

Technology has changed the dynamics of how we communicate, live and even think. It's made our lives easier in many ways. But it's also causing deeper problems, causing stress and anxiety for many people, new disabilities and new realms of social misbehavior. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Manufacturing strategies in the global environment

Over the past decade, many companies have adopted new strategies for manufacturing, which has taken competitiveness on to new planes. A whole array of initiatives have been introduced, collectively labeled "new wave manufacturing." Read full article by Jim Pinto.

The Industrial Wireless Wars

This article is the best summary anyone can find anywhere on the important subject of Industrial Wireless. Most companies in the automation industry recognize Wireless as a new "inflection point" which will generate significant growth and market share for the industry leaders. The Wireless Wars are really marketing ploys to gain market-share through the differentiation of standards that support the majors’ market strategies. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Collaboration Strategies fuel Growth & Success

With continued, accelerating change, companies can achieve significantly more through collaboration. This means the sharing of business information rapidly and effectively with suppliers and customers – and perhaps even suppliers’ suppliers and customers’ customers. Collaboration brings major benefits for all the companies involved. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

ISA - New Growth Through International Automation

Over the past few years, ISA appeared to be steadily declining. Now, with strong management, enlightened volunteer leadership and new focus on international automation, the society appears to be headed for significant growth and success. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

The Keys to Successful Innovation

Innovation stems from a culture that encourages and breeds consistent business value improvements. In the new, fast-moving global environment Innovation is the key to generating growth and success. It includes the shifts that improve all products, services and support mechanisms – infrastructure, manufacturing and production, marketing & sales channels, and delivery logistics. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Engineer - re-engineer yourself!

U.S. leadership is at risk in the global economy when engineering follows manufacturing in going offshore. Engineers must re-engineer themselves to revitalize their own careers and generate renewed success. Companies must now generate winning strategies beyond narrow technical advantages. Broad leadership vision and teamwork have become important. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Employee Compensation Styles

In the age of knowledge work, outsourcing and global competition, many companies still have employee compensation systems rooted in the past. In today's business environments, pay must be performance based. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

A short history of Automation growth

Trace the roots of all significant automation business segments and you’ll find key people and innovations. Industrial instrumentation and controls has always been a hotbed of new products – improved sensors, amplifiers, displays, recorders, control elements, valves, actuators and other widgets and gismos. But the markets are relatively small, specialized and fragmented, and it’s rare that any significant volume results directly from individual products. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Infosys - Global growth with a conscience

Infosys is one of the largest software companies in the world. Jim Pinto visited the corporate headquarters in Bangalore, India in February 2007. Here is Jim's report which describes this significant company and its strikingly different corporate culture. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Investing in human capital, people assets

Today's competitive global market environment brings steadily increasing pressure to improve return on investment (ROI). Many companies are focused on management of capital assets – maximizing utilization and minimizing downtime with a minimum of upkeep and maintenance. However, in the push for improvement, an organization’s biggest investment and its primary assets are its human capital. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

2007 Technology – Pinto’s Picks

After several years of stagnation, the industrial automation market is growing again. During the coming year, several new products and technologies will begin to emerge. Here are my top picks for automation technologies that will make a difference in 2007. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Automation Knowledge & Innovation

Products are becoming commodities in the fast-moving new global business environment. To succeed, automation businesses need a competitive differentiator – a proprietary edge which can only be developed through innovation, knowledge and experience. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Industrial Ethernet for Automation Networks

Today automation products must have Ethernet connectivity. The real question is whether to connect directly via Internet protocol, or indirectly via one of the entrenched industrial networks. Ethernet alone does not guarantee that two devices can talk to each other. There must be compatibility at the application layers. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

OPC – the standard that makes other standards interoperable

Standards are intrinsically difficult to implement and adopt. In the industrial automation business, OPC is a unifying standard that allows true interoperability. It needs more end-user support and involvement. End-users want standards because, more than anything else, they provide interoperability and reduce dependence on any specific supplier. For this very reason, suppliers only pretend to support standards, when, in reality, the ones they really promote are those that give them a distinct proprietary advantage. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Honeywell Culture Drives for Leadership

With annual revenue of about $30B and current market-cap of about $ 32B, Honeywell is arguably the largest US-based automation company. The company operates with four segments: Aerospace, Automation & Control Solutions, Specialty Materials, and Transportation Systems. Here’s an updated view of the corporate culture. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

The Invensys/Foxboro Culture – Took a lickin’ & kept on tickin’

Just six years ago Invensys was one of the top industrial companies, with annual revenues of about $ 14B and comparable market-cap. But, after several unwise acquisitions the stock declined drastically and many of the best-performing companies in the group were sold off to stay financially afloat. Here’s a review of how the corporate culture not only survived, but thrived. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

ISA - The Melting Iceberg Continues to Melt

The Instrumentation & Systems Automation Society (ISA) is at a crossroads. The current leadership considers that the society is making good progress. But many members are concerned that not enough is being done to generate growth and success in the new global business environment. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

MTL Has Crossed $100M With Independent Growth & Success

Measurement Technology Limited is part of The MTL Instrument Group plc, recognized throughout the process control industry as the world leader in Intrinsic Safety products. Growing beyond its niche, MTL is successfully developing a strong position as an automation hardware infrastructure provider. It is now a multi- national group of companies with its headquarters and main manufacturing in Luton, Bedfordshire, UK. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Matrikon - A Successful Solutions Provider Approaching $100m

Matrikon is one of the largest independent industrial automation systems integrators in North America. The company has already broken some of the barriers that limit the size of systems integrators: dependency on a couple of key founders; inability to grow beyond narrow, local markets; capital for global expansion. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

National Instruments – Culture of Growth & Success

National Instruments achieved about $ 600 million in annual revenue in 2005, and looks well set to exceed $ 1 billion within the next few years. The company is exceptional in that it has thrived for three decades after startup, with an adaptive people-orientated culture and the founder is still in charge. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

ABB Corporate Culture – Winners Shaped by History

Already an automation leader, ABB made a series of bold acquisitions in the 1990's. In mid-2002, the company was in serious trouble. However, quick, decisive action succeeded in reversing most of the problems. Read this review of the culture of a new, stronger and more focused ABB – one of the automation industry's most dramatic turnarounds. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

The Emerson Difference

Emerson has been in business for 115 years. Now with 115,000 employees, the company is one of the world's leading manufacturing companies with operations around the globe. Emerson Process Management is a leader in process control and automation. Emerson is an achievement-oriented culture, which seems to attract some of the best people in the industry. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Schneider Electric – Aggressive French Giant

Schneider Electric calls itself “the world’s power and control specialist”. Through its well-known controller brands – Merlin Gerin, Square D and Telemecanique – the company serves the residential, building, industry and energy and infrastructure markets. All operating numbers show significant growth and their strategy of selective acquisitions continues. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Automation Systems Cyber Security

Many of today's control systems use the same PC hardware, operating system and communications as corporate office and administrative networks. So automation systems security is an urgent issue, perhaps even a critical one. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Price/Margin/Volume Mindset Inhibits Growth

The industrial automation business traditionally markets higher priced products in low volume, inhibiting a broader range of applications because of high prices. The fear is that the only way to approach higher volume is by reducing margins. In my opinion, this is simply a “mindset”, a “thinking inside the box” problem.  Read full article by Jim Pinto.

The World is Flat

Technology has changed the shape of the world. Cheap and abundant communications and broadband connectivity have made it easy for knowledge work to be done from anywhere in the world. This has created a "flat" global political, economic, and cultural playing field. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Antique Governance Plagues Cash-fat ISA

In the changing business environment of this new century, most membership based technical societies are steadily declining. The Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society (ISA) is just one example. There are several strategic reasons for this decline. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Networks Everywhere - The Global Brain

I'll bet you think networks are a relatively recent "invention," something that has to do only with computers. Well, it turns out networks have always been around; even before we humans came on the scene. And it’s enlightening to think of networks this way. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

The Decline of Large Automation Exhibitions

Large, central automation exhibitions used to be major events a couple of decades ago, attracting hundreds of thousands of attendees from all over the world. Today exhibitions are steadily declining because there are more effective ways to disseminate information and provide opportunities for customer and supplier networking. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Managing Enterprise Performance with Web Services

Web delivery of business and manufacturing process data enhances collaboration between multi-location plants. The facilities that yield the best performance can share results across the enterprise – learning about what works, and what doesn’t. Enterprise performance management using key performance indicators is becoming reality. Read full article

Cheaper, Better, Faster – The Productivity Race

Productivity has now become a global race. It’s a fierce, head-to-head competition between regions and nations for the single reason that it is the source of the wealth, the key to improvements in living standards. The fundamental purpose of automation is to improve productivity – generate increased output with reduced costs. The intrinsic value of each and every piece of automation equipment is its ability to provide increased productivity for the user. Those who can make things cheaper, faster, better – win! Read full article

Energy – The Bottomless Well

For two centuries of industrial history the technologies used to find, extract, or capture energy from the environment have improved much faster than the estimates of supply has receded. New energy sources have always been developed to meet burgeoning demand. It is this– the belief in human ingenuity and progress – that generates the concept of “the bottomless well”. Read full article

Practical Robots for the Home

With all the recent advances in robotics, one wonders when practical robots will be available for home use, with price and performance that withstands the astute judgment of that discriminating devil’s advocate – the housewife. It’s a significant technical challenge for automation engineers. Read full article

Solutions for the China Challenge

My previous article (Automation.com, January 2005) was about “The China Challenge” – that China is grabbing significant manufacturing market share and is already moving strongly into high-tech. Here we’ll discuss ways and means for America to maintain its leadership against China and other emerging global competitors. Read full article

Global Manufacturing – The China Challenge

In today’s global environment whoever manufactures products better, cheaper and faster, wins. Every country in the world is competing. In consumer products, China is grabbing a lot of the prizes. And they’re moving strongly into high-tech. IBM's PC business is now Chinese. Will some of the automation majors become Chinese also? Read full article

The Future of Industrial Automation

Since the turn of the century, the global recession has affected most businesses, including industrial automation. After four years of the new millennium, here are my views on the directions in which the automation industry is moving. Read full article

The M2M (Machine-to-Machine) Revolution

The convergence of smart devices with the Internet is creating a new inflection point. Huge opportunities are developing from the convergence of device networking, wireless sensors, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, and the Internet. Companies that fail to exploit this next wave of the digital revolution will simply obsolete themselves. Read full article

The Problems of Scarcity & Abundance

Automation has already had a big impact on productivity. Indeed, most of the so-called “jobless recovery” has been caused by the increased effectiveness of automation, which reduces headcount. Off shore outsourcing is responsible for just 15% of recent job losses. The dynamics of scarcity and abundance have affected our industry. So now what? Look for the next scarcity. Read full article

Total Concept Engineering – Executive Leadership

Engineers recognize that leadership involves many, many things beyond just technical details. Perhaps they feel that they should stick with what they know rather than branch off into the grey goop of people interface. But, especially in engineering companies, engineers who advance to executive leadership can make a big difference. Read full article

The Art of Engineering Leadership

If you’re an engineering techie, whether you’re a senior engineer or raw recruit, whether you’re an instrument technician or maintenance mechanic, you can enhance your job, your results – and your pay – by acquiring some leadership skills. Read full article

Investing in Engineering Startups

Many technology startups are founded by engineers. But, they seem to quickly run out of steam if there is no management team – including marketing, sales and finance. Investors look for a good balance of innovation, planning, drive and experience. Read full article

Using Global Resources to Succeed

In today’s global business environment, products must be developed quickly and inexpensively, and manufactured at the lowest cost. Where the products are developed is irrelevant – productivity is the key. The companies that can utilize global resources effectively will generate growth and success! Read full article

Automation Systems Integration – the realm of specialists

Automation systems integrators serve big markets – but few of them to seem to grow beyond about $10 million in annual sales. This is because of their inability to "scale up" in markets that are fragmented, have specialized requirements and are geographically spread out. Read full article

The Coming Oil Crisis - Energy Alternatives

The world is running out of oil and the shortages will only get worse. Technology leadership is needed to develop practical energy alternatives. Automation.companies have the knowledge and experience to get involved in this new and burgeoning market. Read full article

RFID – a significant technology with far-reaching implications

Invented in 1969, but only now becoming commercially and technologically viable, RFID technology is growing by leaps and bounds. RFID tags will soon be built into everything, allowing each individual item to be tracked and traced. The implications are startling. Read full article

Internet Insecurity – Spam & Viruses

For several years the growth of the Internet seemed unlimited, an almost free resource that provided vast benefits. But that expansion is now being choked, and security is threatened by the twin plagues of spam and viruses. Read full article

Buying & Selling Time

Time is a resource that everyone values – we all have the same 24 hours every day. By delivering convenience (saving time) the new, connected economy yields significant improvements. Companies that can offer those improvements generate growth and success. You know the old saying, “Time is Money”. Read full article

Tomorrow’s Automation Leaders

In the industrial automation business, you can count the $ 1+billion companies on your fingers. Then count the companies between $ 100 million to $ 1 billion; you won’t get more than just a couple. All the others who seem to be in that range are simply divisions of larger conglomerates. So, who are the leaders of tomorrow? Read full article

Near-term Nanotechnology

Business Week recently named Nanotechnology one of the "Ten Technologies That Will Change Our Lives". The commercial interest in nanotechnology is being driven by visions of a stream of new nanotech commercial products and applications that will lead to a new industrial revolution – a revolution in which almost every industry is likely to be affected. Read full article

Robotics Technology Trends

When it comes to robots, reality still lags science fiction. But, just because robots have not lived up to their promise in past decades does not mean that they will not arrive sooner or later. Indeed, the confluence of several advanced technologies is bringing the age of robotics ever nearer – smaller, cheaper, more practical and cost-effective. Read full article

Wireless Sensor Networks

Smart, networked sensors will soon be all around us, collectively processing vast amounts of previously unrecorded data to help run factories, optimize farming, monitor the weather and even watch for earthquakes. Many people (including me) think that wireless sensor networks can become as important as the Internet. Just as the Internet allows access to digital information anywhere, sensor networks will provide remote interaction with the physical world. Read more...

Industrial Automation Inflection Points

During a decline, good companies should be looking for revenue growth through significant new technologies that can change the rules of the game. New products that provide an order of magnitude improvement in performance or cost-effectiveness generate an inflection point. Read more...

The Copyright & Patent Wars

Copyright law, originally written to protect books and maps, has been constantly revised and stretched. Today there is no standard way to ensure that the owner gets paid when their work is bought, or used. And in industrial automation, it’s a whole, different ballgame. Read more...

The Cheap Revolution

The price of electronic memory and computer storage and will continue fall over the next several years. This will cause a significant revolution in the way many things are done. Your company can find growth through a cheap revolution.  Read on to find out how

Distributed & Grid Computing

You probably know that your desktop computer (like most others) is only utilized about 5%; the CPU stays idle most of the time. Distributed computing uses this idle time and links many machines together to perform mammoth tasks that previously only super-computers could do.  Read more...

Distributors in the driver's seat --
Product manufacturers become disintermediated

In today's competitive business environment, large manufacturers are becoming non-competitive against local systems integrators and strong distributors who team up to offer a broad lineup of products and services. So, the tables are being turned – product manufacturers are becoming disintermediated. Read More...

Intelligent Robots Will Be Everywhere

The world of HAL and Data, of sentient machines, is fast approaching. Indeed, in some ways it has already arrived as humanlike machines increasingly take on the work of humans. As processing power increases exponentially, and as MEMS technology brings smaller and smarter sensors and actuators, robots are the breeding ground for future-generation products with new, varied and exciting applications. Read More...

Nanotech & Self-organizing Systems

At Caltech over 40 years ago (Dec, 1959), Richard Feynman gave a talk that started the ball rolling on the science of creating molecular devices that could compute, assemble and replicate themselves. Nanotechnology (known as the manipulating of matter at the atomic scale) is the next big revolution, an "inflection point" which will change almost everything! Read More...

Competing in a Global Environment

Along with the broader recession in an uncertain economy, industrial automation has declined considerably in the past couple of years, bringing mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, consolidations in its wake. Only the most naive expect mythical market resurgence, a return to "the good old days". What can we do to stay competitive? Read More...

In a Declining Economy, What's a Good Automation Techie To Do?

In a poor economy, don't simply sit back and wait for the axe to fall. Be pro-active – use your personal strengths, plus new ideas and tools, to find new opportunities for continued growth and success. Read More...

The Pervasive Internet and Its Effect on Industrial Automation

Within a few years, billions of Internet-enabled microprocessors will provide digital intelligence and connectivity for almost every commercial and industrial product and appliance, extending the Internet into most aspects of our lives – this is the concept of the pervasive Internet. Read More...

Products vs. Services

For manufacturers of industrial controls products, the essence of business is providing productivity improvements for their customers. So then, should product manufacturers be service providers also? Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Old Dead-Ends, New Directions

Industrial automation market decline is beyond the recent across-the-board decline in financial markets. To understand the decline, let's review several important strategic factors that have changed over the past decade. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Never, Never be the Lowest Bidder!

When business is tough, some people feel that price-cutting may be the best way to generate business. But, that is a loser's game, especially in the industrial automation business, which has a high level of applications knowledge and specialization Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Go Global, Think Local

Markets today are global. Most major companies recognize that to survive, they must have a global presence. How do companies accomplish "global"? Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Relationship Management

The Internet has brought major changes to the way business is being done. Old-style intermediaries are being replaced and relationship management is the key to success. The best industrial automation sales channels are not merely intermediaries – they are "infomediaries". Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Intelligent Connected Appliances

With steady reductions in the price of processing power and memory, intelligence will continue to penetrate and populate virtually every product. Advances in wireless technology will allow low-cost, high-speed connections for hand-held devices, as well conventional appliances (washing-machines, refrigerators, etc.) to the Internet. So in the next few years almost everything will become an intelligent, connected "appliance". Read full article by Jim Pinto.

The 3 Technology Laws

In the industrial automation business, we should expect that virtually all industrial I/O products and processes would have significantly expanded embedded intelligence and connectivity. Apply 3 technology laws to see how simple applications will extend automation methods from factory and process controls to a much broader range of applications. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Dichotomy of Open Standards

In the industrial automation business, everyone agrees that standards would make a life a lot easier – everything would work together. End-users continue to ask for interoperability as a means to achieve vendor independence. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Fully Automated Factories - Futuristic or Today's Reality?

Automated factories and processes are too expensive to be rebuilt for every design change – so they have to be highly configurable and flexible. To successfully reconfigure an entire production line or process requires direct access to most of its control elements—switches, valves, motors and drives—down to a fine level of detail. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

Open-Systems Confusion

For several years now, there has been a significant amount of confusion over industrial networks and the fieldbus "standard." Users and vendors alike have recognized the inexorable trend toward industrial networking - simplify wiring, reduce cabling costs, improved flexibility, easy system expansion or modification, increased fault-tolerance, local and remote communications ability, maintenance and operating diagnostics - the list of benefits is clear. Read full article by Jim Pinto.

New Growth in Old Markets

Take a look into the future of factory automation as described by Jim Pinto, a well known industry "luminary". This is Jim's first of many articles to be contributed exclusively to our online community. Thanks Jim! Read full article by Jim Pinto.