Jim Pinto

Jim Pinto

Jim Pinto’s latest newsletter is out.

He raises many interesting issues, as usual. I appreciated his description of returning home to India. I’ve never been there, but I have studied its history and culture since my university days, as well as having deep interest in business development there. Tom Wolfe said you can’t go home again. Looks as though Jim discovered it.

Jim has long been enamored of Automation Control Products and its thin client technology. I could not attend this year’s shindig, and it appears that I missed a good one. The company released a new mobile software technology. It was already breaking ground in that direction the last time I saw them. Check out Jim’s description.

I just left the PI North America (all things Profi) general annual meeting where someone asked me about what I thought were the big ideas in automation right now. My list:

  • Networking—all the connectedness of devices, controllers and Layer 3 and 4 software applications.
  • Wireless—a subset of networking, but this enables not only sensor networks but also mobile workers.
  • Integrated Design Environments—based on Microsoft Visual Studio, these not only greatly improve programming efficiency and accuracy, but they also improve project and systems management.
  • Analytics, Visualization, Data—powerful software applications make sense of “big data” for professionals of all types as they try to improve how they manage plants.

Jim talks about his career as a futurist and some of the things he sees.

“The old paradigm is fixed, tethered operator stations with way too much data and too little relevant information. This is fast becoming obsolete. Here’s the kicker that makes this exciting for factory people: They are fed up with walking over to large central displays to find out what’s happening and what’s needed. They simply view a mobile device that provides specific information related to their own function and location. Nothing like this is available from any of the current automation majors.” (I’m not sure about this, but he could be right.)

He also discusses other future scenarios, especially workforce.

“Manufacturing will still need people, if not so many in the factory itself. Automated machines need people to design, program and service them. But, that takes skills and training. As manufacturing transforms into a high-tech workplace, the new generation of process and automation engineers and technicians will be completely different than the factory workers of yesteryear. Old-fashioned ideas about training and seniority will quickly become obsolete. Fast-growing skills shortages generate high demand for engineers and technicians. Tech power will trump everything else.”

“Future workplaces – the equivalent of factories – will be bright and stimulating places where people enjoy working and jobs are challenging and rewarding. Knowledge workers don’t need time cards, defined working hours or bosses. The word “boss” is a relic of old-time, clock-punching factory-work. The continuing manufacturing drive will be to make more with less – pack more information and knowledge into less matter, using less energy while making more effective products. Jobs will keep moving from manipulating matter to playing with information and ideas. Priorities will continue to shift.”

I like to argue with Jim when the occasion warrants, but I agree with him there.

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