Restarting Manufacturing After The Covid-19 Shutdown

Someday soon we’ll be going back to work. Some, of course, are already working in manufacturing under the new regime. Many questions lurk for those planning to get moving again.

To find out more, I spoke with Kim Wallace, executive vice president of Hire Dynamics a staffing consulting company focused on the Southeastern US.

She told me that after the first shock of cutting back or closing, companies began reevaluating their workforce and job descriptions. The first order of business was what jobs needed to be maintained and which employees could work from home. Then came the difficult decisions of furloughs and lay offs. Managers would evaluate balancing personnel needs per department. What is driving the frenetic activity? Cash flow. All of who have been in business know that cash is king. Many companies needed to stop the bleeding.

Hire Dynamics provides strategic consulting on workforce issues and was quickly called in to help management develop strategies for a situation no one knew how long would last.

When it’s time to start up, employees have many considerations, all of which have ramifications for the company. In some cases, going back to work could actually mean a pay cut for the employee who is better off financially to stay home. Some have childcare or elder care situations where there is no alternative to their being home to provide that care. Many will be nervous and concerned about returning to work only to become infected by the coronavirus—despite efforts to reduce the risk.

Many people do want to work, though. And companies need to get production going or die.

So, what does it take to start up again? The threat of virus spreading is still real. No one wants to have most of its workforce and its management team home sick with the possibility of several dying.

This takes a strategy. Companies such as Hire Dynamics are there to help companies plan and start up.

Wallace pointed out that most companies are worried about three things: cash flow, culture, and image. Managing cash flow is crucial for all businesses, and especially for small to mid-sized enterprises (SMEs). This calls for phased start up balancing workers with sales. As companies bring back employees and face necessity of bringing in new hires, they need to be mindful both of maintaining their culture and also developing a culture of health practices. Aware of how decisions impact their image in their communities and their industries, companies need to manage the startup well.

Strategies

Companies cannot afford for the virus to spread throughout the entire management team. They, therefore, stagger management team days at work so that if someone spreads the infection it will not spread to the entire team. Considering production people the first strategy is to adjust shifts so that they do not congregate exiting and entering. If at all possible, have different doors for entering and exiting to keep some separation.

Companies may need help with signage to direct people where and how to enter and leave. They need procedures for temperature screening employees entering for their shifts. Do managers do the screening leaving them at higher risk of infection? Or hire medical technicians?

Another consideration is sanitizing. Perhaps the best strategy is for each shift to sanitize when they arrive at their workstations and then again just before they leave. They will need procedures and training on sanitizing. Note that all this needs to be part of the clock in/clock out procedure. Speaking of company image, management must be cognizant of the impact of decisions unlike a very large company who earned a lot of bad press and congressional scrutiny by doing much of that work off the clock on employee time.

Here are some of the policy and procedure and practical help that Hire Dynamics can provide:

  • Signage
  • Sanitizing
  • Procedures
  • Break rooms (close? Eat at stations? Other things.)
  • Restrooms (block every other sink and toilet stall, etc.)

Try A New Source of News

While I scan a number of sources for news each day (never TV news, though), I have found a new source that I really like called Morning Brew. It’s a short read and gets you up to date quickly. Links for more in-depth reading if you care to.

Harting A Partner for Industry 4.0 and IioT

Once again, in lieu of attending Hannover Messe in person, we attended a Web briefing. Harting held this one last week. I picked deeper information about a couple of technologies—especially “single-pair Ethernet (SPE).” It’s hard to do a complete Industrial Internet of Things (IioT) installation without connectors, cables, and the like. Harting has been a leader in this field.

“The industrial arena is undergoing far-reaching change: For Harting, this transformation means leveraging our key technologies and entering into targeted partnerships in order to pool skills and competencies capable of creating new solutions within the framework of our entire technology network,” explained Philip Harting, CEO Harting Technology Group. “Our ultimate goal here is to develop these solutions in larger contexts and create ecosystems that generate significant added value for our customers.”

Small Ethernet Infrastructures

Evolution of the Ethernet connector. Harting turned the RJ45 into the “RJ Industrial”, created modular M12 interfaces with X-coding and PushPull locking, and set the next major milestone in Industrial Ethernet with the miniaturized “ix Industrial interface” – which is 70% smaller than an RJ45, yet significantly more robust. ix Industrial is one of the most important components in the Harting solution portfolio for its All for Ethernet segment.

For more information, check out our Industrial Ethernet Trends 2020 webinar series.

Industrial standard interface for SPE

Users can now make investments with a reassuring measure of security: IEC 63171-6, published on 23 January 2020, sets the basis for future IIoT networks. The international standards bodies ISO/IEC and TIA have declared the IEC 63171-6 interface as the standard for SPE in industrial applications. On this foundation, a comprehensive portfolio for the Single Pair Ethernet market is now emerging.

SPE Industrial Partner Network grows to 20 members

Last year saw the foundation of the bhttps://www.single-pair-ethernet.com. As a registered association, the Network is more than just a loose association of companies with shared interests – it is a strong, legally binding community of partners. Consequently, it provides the security required to implement this new physical layer. All the companies in the network are technology leaders in their own right; between them, they specialise in the various fields needed to strengthen and complete the SPE ecosystem. The common, unifying basis of their work is the international standardisation for SPE infrastructure in accordance with IEC 11801-x, IEEE 802.3 and IEC 63171-6. In the space of just a few months, numerous strong partner companies from various fields of industrial production have expressed their support for IEC 63171-6 and joined the SPE Industrial Partner Network.

Han S: Safe contacting of modular energy storage systems

In Han S, Harting is – for the first time – introducing a special connector for battery storage modules. Global demand for electricity storage systems is booming. The new series meets the technical requirements of the latest standards for stationary energy storage systems (including UL 4128) and offers users optimum safety for the connected units. The single-pole connector solution with a 200A high-current contact is mechanically coded, is coloured red and black for easy identification, and locks intuitively. In this way, Han S enables fast, reliable contacting of storage modules and enables the processing of large volumes.

Han 1A: Miniaturised rectangular connector ideal for networking

The Ethernet networks sensors, machines, controllers, computers and data centres. Harting is now offering interfaces tailored to these applications as part of the miniaturized Han 1A industrial connector series.

The Han 1A features two new inserts for fast and secure data transmission. This can be used to supply end devices with up to 100 Mbit/s Cat. 5 Fast Ethernet for Profinet-based communication; a 10 Gbit/s, Cat. 6A version for High-Speed Ethernet is also available. The latter is used for live camera system applications.

High-performance switch with robust ix Industrial Interface

Imaging processes are becoming increasingly important for quality assurance and monitoring in all industry sectors. New camera technologies offer higher resolution despite their increasingly compact dimensions.

The new eCon 2000GX-I-A unmanaged Ethernet switches from Harting are high-performance Gigabit switches, enabling consistent networking of machine-monitoring and diagnostic systems via ix Industrial.

Focus on user-optimised DC power transmission

One current trend – particularly challenging from a technical perspective – lies in the field of DC power transmission, where demand is forecast to rise sharply. To equip the field of application with the appropriate installation technology, Harting is promoting technology concepts that offer increased personal and plant protection. A novel connector for industrial applications transmits voltages of up to 800V and currents of up to 40A and cannot be removed when under load. In addition to the DC Industries working groups, Harting is also engaged in the activities of the German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies (DKE) geared to drafting new standards. The project is based on cooperation with the SmartFactory KL.

Software solutions for cloud and edge: Partnership with PerFact

Harting are keenly focused on establishing optimal connections between the field level and software solutions in cloud and edge computing. Harting RFID solutions, digital twin, and the MICA edge computing gateway operate at this interface. What’s more, intelligent sensor technology solutions – which ensure seamless data exchange within networks – are also becoming increasingly important.

The partnership with PerFact, which Harting announced at the SPS trade fair in Nuremberg in November 2019, will be expanded in the field of software. PerFact develops customisable modules for servicing, maintenance, logistics and process management as IT solutions for industry.

“The market environment of the MICA edge computer, RFID, and IIoT is developing at an incredibly fast pace. Rapid, agile and entrepreneurial action is imperative,“ emphasized Philip Harting. In this context, the three companies peraMIC, PerFact, and Perinet will be advancing solutions in the field of digitalisation and will be cooperating closely with the Harting Technology Group.

PerFact develops individual, customization modules for service and maintenance, logistics, and process management as IT solutions for industrial clients. Perinet (Berlin) concentrates on the seamless connection of sensors and actuators with IT systems (ERP, for example), in order to improve the transparency and analytical performance throughout the value creation chain.

HPE Technology and Finance Counter COVID-19 Impacts

  • Partners benefit from HPE Partner Ready revenue threshold suspension, accelerated liquidity for distributors, as well as virtual training, demonstrations and briefings
  • High-performance computing (HPC) is playing a leading role in our fight against COVID-19 to support the urgent need to find a vaccine that will save lives and reduce suffering worldwide.

I have already written about several companies pitching in to do what they can in support of people and companies impacted by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Any glance at the history of pandemics and plagues of the past compared to today unveils just how advanced we have become in corporate research and response to this easily communicable virus infection.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has actively responded within its scope to contribute to the cause.

The first announcement I received related to dedicated relief initiatives for partners in support of business continuity in the wake of COVID-19.

These new interim initiatives have been specifically designed to relieve financial pressure on HPE partners and assist with business continuity planning. They join a number of new financial relief programs offered by HPE Financial Services as part of a $2 billion allocation to help customers and partners.

“Our partners are at the core of HPE, so when they are facing potential challenges, it’s our duty to step up and be a pillar of support,” said Paul Hunter, HPE Worldwide Head of Partner Sales. “Whether it’s helping them drive business as usual, relieve financial pressure, or simply giving them peace of mind during this time, our aim is to have a thriving ecosystem better able to meet customer needs”

Financial and support initiatives available to HPE partners include:

Program Changes to Support Financial Planning

  • HPE Partner Ready Revenue Threshold Suspension – To provide stability for partners facing financial uncertainty, HPE has suspended the revenue targets required for partners to maintain their status in the HPE Hybrid IT Partner Ready program for 2021 eligibility, as well as the Aruba Partner Ready for Networking Program. During 2020, both of these programs will focus on enabling partners and helping them meet training and certification goals.


Providing Buying Partners with Liquidity

  • Improvement in Early Pay Discount Terms – To alleviate COVID-related liquidity pressures, from May 1 until July 31, 2020 distributors and service providers in North America that do not participate in factoring programs can take advantage of extended Early Pay Discount terms to improve their working capital and cash positions.
  • Improvement in Factoring Terms – Within the same timeframe, HPE will extend payment terms from 60 to 90 days in North America and Europe for participants in existing enhanced factoring programs.
  • Suspending SDI Targets – To improve predictability of earnings, HPE has temporarily suspended or significantly reduced Strategic Development Initiative (SDI) targets in most geographies, thus providing a pay-out for distributors from $1 at or near the full percentage rebate target.

Hybrid IT Partner Propositions for Customers

  • Free Remote Server Management – For the remainder of 2020, HPE will offer its remote server management software Integrated Lights-Out (iLo) Advanced to partners and customers free of charge, enabling users to configure, monitor and update HPE servers seamlessly from anywhere, with minimal resources.
  • New Cloud28+ Spotlight Page – Today, HPE is working to support our service provider partners’ efforts by offering increased business continuity services to customers via a central Spotlight Page hosted on Cloud28+. This new site provides customers with a means to quickly find the right HPE partner and cloud services capable of supporting their needs. Business continuity services could include, but are not limited to, remote working solutions, extra IT capacity, connectivity, and/or any other complementary offerings.
  • Fast-tracked HPE GreenLake Options – Partners can leverage HPE GreenLake Quick Quote and targeted mid-market offers to rapidly respond to customer business challenges such as cash preservation and planning for unpredictable IT needs. HPE has developed additional pre-configured reference architectures at pre-agreed pricing that speed time to implementation.

Continuing Partner Enablement with Virtual Solutions

To support partners’ continued learning, HPE is introducing the HPE Sales Pro Learning Center in May, a new sales enablement experience with trainings and micro-learnings, helping sales leaders develop the sophisticated skills needed to sell consumption propositions and solutions.

Partners also benefit from HPE’s newly developed, industry-first practical exam methodology – an innovative virtual delivery that won this year’s IT Certification Council Innovation Award. Moreover, partners can continue to participate in HPE events that have been converted into virtual experiences. Moving forward, as announced by Antonio Neri, HPE Discover 2020 and HPE Partner Growth Summit (PGS) will convert from an in-person event to HPE Discover 2020 Digital Experience on June 22, with a global audience.

Virtual demonstrations and Proofs of Concept are now possible via the no-cost, self-serve Demonstration Portal – including a number of short, pre-recorded lab demos for partners and customers – and virtual tours of the HPE Briefing Centers.

Covid research

Accelerating vaccine research for COVID-19 with high-performance computing and artificial intelligence

High-performance computing (HPC) is playing a leading role in our fight against COVID-19 to support the urgent need to find a vaccine that will save lives and reduce suffering worldwide.

Scientists in labs around the globe rely on the massive computing power of HPC and supercomputers to run complex mathematical models, which transform vast volumes of evolving COVID-19 data into simulations of biological and chemical processes. These simulations advance our understanding of the new strain of virus and the complex interactions of the human body down to the molecular level, to accelerate the development of new treatments and preventative measures.

By combining modeling and simulation capabilities with new techniques in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, these simulations are now becoming even more accurate. That is why through our collaborations with worldwide leading research centers that are using our HPC and AI solutions, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and the HPC industry are supporting scientists tackling complex research that will unlock insights and bring us closer to drug discovery.

These initiatives, which represent both public and private sector investments, are driven by a global network of scientists, researchers, AI and supercomputing specialists, who in many cases are working together to share data, collaborate, and make vital contributions in the overall effort.

HPE is proud to play a leading role in supporting many of these initiatives with HPE HPC systems and expertise. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) together with GENCI, the French national infrastructure for HPC resources and facilities, are using HPC and AI to speed up discovery of antibody and drug candidates that can be tested for new vaccine treatments.

Each of these research teams are separately applying AI and machine learning to modeling and simulation to increase accuracy and predictions – something we describe as the emerging convergence of modeling and simulation with AI and analytics. These efforts further accelerate discovery of new antibodies, which are blood proteins produced to fight toxins or other foreign substances that induce immune response, or potential drug candidates based on existing catalogs of data. Researchers are then able to test these for potential countermeasures to the virus that can be developed into drug therapies.

Argonne researchers apply AI-enabled modeling and simulation to significantly speed discovery of antiviral agents

At the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, researchers have taken on a mission to dramatically accelerate the pace in discovering antiviral agents to counterattack the new virus, reducing the potential timeframe from years to just couple of months.

Researchers are using the Theta supercomputer, powered by HPE, and housed at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, to apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to accelerate the process of simulating billions of different small molecules from a publicly available database of drug candidates. The goal is to improve predictions on how molecules in drug candidates interact with each other and bind to viral proteins. Successful binding means these drug candidates can be used for further testing for a vaccine treatment.

LLNL uses a first-of-its-kind AI-driven modeling platform to design 20 initial antibody candidates among 1040 possibilities

LLNL has already made significant progress narrowing down the number of potential antibody candidates from 1040 to an initial set of just 20!  That’s a dramatic process of elimination. On top of that, this inspiring breakthrough was achieved in just weeks, compared to a typical lead time of years using other approaches.

LLNL’s COVID-19 response team, which includes researchers from various disciplines with deep expertise in vaccine and countermeasure development, used LLNL’s Catalyst, an HPC cluster powered by HPE, to improve predictions and speed up this discovery process by using a first-of-its-kind modeling platform. The platform integrates important components to generate high-quality predictions, such as experimental data and structural biology data, with bioinformatics modeling, molecular simulations and machine learning algorithms.

CNRS and GENCI offer a faster approach to perform molecular dynamics simulations

Similarly, GENCI, together with CNRS, has extended its Jean Zay supercomputer, which is installed in IDRIS, one of CNRS’ data centers, to power converged modeling, simulation, AI and machine learning workloads, to a number of research centers also focused on increasing accuracy and outcomes of antibodies. GENCI’s Jean Zay was designed by HPE in direct response to President Emmanuel Macron’s significant AI initiative to propel France’s R&D in AI with a new supercomputer.
We are extending our HPC efforts to address COVID-19 research on a greater, national scale by recently partnering with the White House as part of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing consortium.

OSIsoft Launches Edge Data Store as Part of Its Pervasive Data Collection Strategy

In brief: IIoT edge software allows industrial organizations to store and send data from remote assets to PI Server or OSIsoft Cloud Services for full edge-to-cloud connectivity.

The spring “conference season” has either been cancelled or gone virtual. The first virtual conference of the season for me was OSIsoft PI World. I’ve made the trip to San Francisco a couple of times to be there in person, but this year I sat in my office with headphones firmly affixed to my ears.

The “Edge” has been a hot topic for a few years now—mostly from the IT-oriented technology providers that I follow. OSIsoft’s PI is the ubiquitous “system of record” for a huge percentage of the industrial world. This historian database is often used in platforms for moving data from the plant to the enterprise. PI is the bridging step in most cases. The Edge, in our industrial case, often refers to a device serving as a data concentrator from physical devices in the plant or in the field and then as a gateway serving the data to the cloud or to the enterprise.

At the conference, OSIsoft announced general availability of Edge Data Store. With Edge Data Store, customers can remotely monitor critical assets to improve uptime, while minimizing the costs and safety risks associated with manual, in-person inspections.

Edge Data Store is Industrial IoT (IIoT) software that allows operators to collect, store, and access data from assets and sensors in remote environments. Remote edge data can now be easily collected and integrated with primary control network data to create a holistic view of industrial operations. OSIsoft’s customers and partners have deployed Edge Data Store in a variety of settings, including on hardened gateways to monitor personnel safety at sea, track performance of pumps in the field, and optimize the efficiency of large-scale battery solutions around the globe.

To improve the safety of personnel who must work in the dynamic, dangerous environment of the drill floor on offshore rigs, Edge Data Store pilot customer Rolloos turned its CCTV technology into a comprehensive detection system that could track personnel as they entered active zones. Through the Edge Data Store pilot, Rolloos ensured that all data was accessible by offshore operators for immediate decision support and could be streamed onshore for further retrospective analysis.

“We can actually track people from video and can combine that with the output from the equipment data to improve efficiency even more. Then, we can stream it back to shore using the Edge Data Store,” said Martijn Handels, director at Rolloos.

Easy, reliable access to edge data has enabled real-time monitoring of personnel and equipment to improve both employee safety and overall process performance.


“Our pervasive data collection strategy, with support for over 450 industrial protocols, has been utilized by thousands of customers, and we’re supplementing these capabilities with edge connectivity,” said Chris Felts, senior strategic product manager for OSIsoft. “Edge Data Store is a major step toward helping industrial customers capitalize on the promise of IoT and ubiquitous sensing. By supporting both edge to on-premises and edge to cloud data patterns, Edge Data Store provides an easy way for customers to improve operations with full end-to-end visibility.”

Because Edge Data Store shares the same data storage and API technologies as OSIsoft Cloud Services, custom applications developed for the cloud can be used at the edge and vice versa.

The Edge Data Challenge

Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 initiatives continue to transform critical operations with low-cost sensors and solutions. However, data from remote operations has remained isolated due to poor network connectivity, the difficulty of developing edge solutions that meet both the high standard of critical operations data management, and strict hardware requirements of rugged or remote devices. Valuable remote data is often stranded beyond the reach of automation systems, held up by unreliable network conditions. Edge Data Store overcomes these challenges; the software self-heals after hard reboots from power outages and runs on low-cost, rugged devices with Windows or Linux operating systems.

Edge Data Store provides no-code connectivity to common industrial protocols and can expose the data for use by field technicians or analytics applications. In addition to facing extended loss of connectivity, remote areas are often subject to limited connectivity, where data transfer costs are closely monitored.

For example, snow on a satellite dish could mean that a remote location is disconnected for days at a time, previously leading to data loss or requiring personnel to drive to the asset in harsh conditions. Edge Data Store delivers robust local storage and simple configuration options to optimize bandwidth and send edge data to PI Server or OSIsoft Cloud Services, allowing corporate users to augment existing data sets and drive further analysis.

“Edge technology simultaneously drives centralized knowledge and distributed decision making,” said OSIsoft President Michael Siemer. “For 40 years, OSIsoft has pushed the boundaries of real-time, high fidelity operations data. Edge technologies decentralize information access and empower essential employees to make local decisions for safer, smarter operations.”

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