Who Will Set Future Industrial Automation Standards? | Automation.com

Who Will Set Future Industrial Automation Standards?

Who Will Set Future Industrial Automation Standards?

By Bill Lydon, Editor, Automation.com

Technology has made the transition inevitable. The ability to enhance industrial and process automation efficiency, through the application of real-time enterprise computing, cloud applications, and IoT devices, has never been more clear. Those industrial and process automation suppliers that embrace these shifts in technology and system architecture will be winners. But those suppliers should expect new challenges in the new environment. There are likely to be a number of new suppliers in this environment with unbundled new architectures, analogous to the what was seen in the advent of the computer industry with PCs and open software. This complicates investment decisions for industrial and process automation system users – while the transitions can be challenging, too long of a delay could make you noncompetitive with the other manufacturers in your industry.  But why do you have to face this future alone? Such a future would logically seem to demand cooperation between industrial automation organizations and suppliers with enterprise computing and the new IoT industry.  

 

The Wild Card for Industrial Automation –  The Computer & IoT Industry

While such investments can be a gamble, the cards are laying in the automation industry’s favor. A flood of new technology and open source application tools are lowering cost and improving ease of use, while accelerating the adoption of IoT in industrial automation. This is enabling a burgeoning community in enterprise computing to perform industrial and process automation middleware software functions more effectively.   Cloud computing from names like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, etc. are providing platforms that are more efficient means to accomplish historians, analytics, and advanced optimization. Further, the IoT devices that already exist, for a range of non-industrial applications, in many cases satisfy the same environmental and performance requirements needed in industrial and process automation.

 

Why Are Traditional Vendors Resistant to Change?

While such investments can be a gamble, the cards are laying in the automation industry’s favor. A flood of new technology and open source application tools are lowering cost and improving ease of use, while accelerating the adoption of IoT in industrial automation. This is enabling a burgeoning community in enterprise computing to perform industrial and process automation middleware software functions more effectively.   Cloud computing from names like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, etc. are providing platforms that are more efficient means to accomplish historians, analytics, and advanced optimization. Further, the IoT devices that already exist, for a range of non-industrial applications, in many cases satisfy the same environmental and performance requirements needed in industrial and process automation.

Is established industrial automation supplier negative reaction to change analogous to the resistance of mainframe and minicomputer companies to change that led to the PC revolution with new more responsive new suppliers?

In the book, Innovation: The Attacker's Advantage, by Richard N. Foster covering the history of industry change, the key conclusion discusses two types of companies: Attackers try to make money by changing the order of things and Defenders protect their existing cash flows extracted from customers.  In today’s automation industry, these Defenders are some of the established industrial automation suppliers that are not buying into the technology industry open systems that have led to great advances.

The last industrial automation fundamental technological changes were the PLC, DCS, and open industrial networks.

 

A Clear Path Forward?

It would seem that the way forward for the industry is clear. Open source multivendor interoperability - including peer to peer seamless integration between multivendor controllers in a single application platform – are accelerating the industrial automation industry. If the industrial automation vendors don’t work together to make this happen, the computer and IoT community will.  Plain and simple.

Automation Controllers & Word Processors – Embrace the Technological Shift or Die  

The influx of new technologies has made industrial automation revolution inevitable. The Industry 4.0 vision of ‘flexible, make-to-order manufacturing’ is just one example of what is being achieved leveraging these technologies. The competition is already building. Manufacturers in developed countries are increasingly faced with competitors, from other parts the world, who are embracing Industrie 4.0 and other new architectures, and reaping the fruits.  

Low labor cost is no longer the key competitive factor rather new automation devices and architectures.

Yet this is where there is opportunity for the traditional suppliers. These rapid advances have created not only value, but also an ‘IIoT Wild West’, which could see an increase in industrial supplier infighting to displace traditional automation and control suppliers. If industrial and process automation organizations come together, they can set the standards that allow for mutual growth and enhanced productivity for all. Whatever they do, IoT solutions will continue to proliferate for sensing, control, and computing in edge devices. These devices can increasingly be seen in highways, medical, smart cities and other applications that meet requirements for a wide range of industrial applications.  With the rise of enterprise computing, and increasing absorption of middleware industrial software functions, the external IoT standards could become the de facto industrial automation standards. With or without the input of traditional vendors.

 

Does IT/OT convergence create new systems model that achieve superior results?

What do you think?  Let me know your thoughts: [email protected]

 

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