5G Marketing Failures

5G has potential for industrial and manufacturing applications, but when have we heard that much about it? Analyst firm Global Data’s recent study says mobile operators are failing to come up with a strong marketing story.

The study by GlobalData Technology, which involved a July 2022 audit of around 30  standalone 5G  commercial deployments worldwide, concluded that although operators are keen to flag the adoption of standalone 5G in general marketing messages—largely focusing on the improved network quality and capabilities for enterprises—the number of standalone 5G references within consumer 5G service portfolios are few and far between.

Emma Mohr-McClune, Service Director at GlobalData, comments: “The lack of effective standalone 5G promotion is a real problem for the future of 5G monetization. Standalone 5G will be a vital requirement for a lot of the more exciting 5G use cases, from autonomous devices to commercial augmented and virtual reality.”

Mohr-McClune continues: “The few exceptional cases—in Singapore, but also in Germany and elsewhere—make for fascinating study. In the future, we could see more operators position standalone 5G as greener, safer, and more reliable than future generations of wireless technology, but the current industry is still waiting for signature use cases to give the upgrade meaning to consumers. In the meantime, we believe that most operators will focus on marketing the technology to the business sector, where there are more immediate and distinctive use cases emerging.

“In the Enterprise sector, it’s an entirely different story. Standalone 5G enables enterprises to set up their own, closed Private 5G networks, to better manage connectivity in ultra-connected working set-ups, such as ports and mines–or even ‘slice’ the network for prioritized levels of service for mission-critical operations. The benefits, use cases, and return on investment (ROI) are far clearer. However, in selling standalone 5G to consumers, operators are going to have to make sure they don’t repeat the same promises they spun out for non-standalone 5G, or risk appearing to contradict themselves.”

Emerson Helping Albioma Become a Fully Renewable Energy Provider

Sustainability continues its strong trend among industrial and manufacturing companies. This story concerns Emerson and Albioma regarding biomass.

Global technology and software company Emerson has been selected by Albioma, a French independent energy provider, to help transition its coal-fired Bois Rouge plant to 100% renewable energy. As part of Albioma’s wider mission to transition all of its existing fossil fuel plants to renewable energy, Emerson’s automation systems and software will enable the coal-fired power station to convert to biomass feedstock.

The multi-million-dollar project is the latest example of how Emerson technologies are helping customers accelerate their transition to more sustainable energy. The power plant, one of three that Albioma operates on Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean, will be converted to use 100% biomass wood pellets. The overhaul of the 108-megawatt facility will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 640,000 tons of CO2 equivalent per year, an 84% decrease in direct emissions compared to current operating levels.

The Bois Rouge plant consists of three generating units. Two units are already controlled by Emerson’s Ovation™ distributed control system, which will be modified for use with biomass feedstock, and the third unit will be replaced with a new Ovation system. The units will also be modernized with new turbine protection and health monitoring systems, safety systems for the boilers, and upgraded boiler control elements and instrumentation.

To ensure the project is completed within the available timeframe – a critical requirement of Albioma – Emerson will provide its Project Certainty methodologies, digital technologies and software expertise. In addition to delivering local engineering support for the project, Emerson will provide its Remote Virtual Office (RVO) collaboration platform – a secure virtual engineering and testing environment that will enable Albioma to access Emerson’s resources and ongoing support to reduce project risk and costs.

IIoT Gateways Optimized for Integration with Azure IoT Edge

Here is an interesting trend. Moxa released a series of IIoT gateways optimized for Microsoft Azure.

Moxa launched the AIG-300 Series of IIoT gateways. Optimized for seamless integration with the Microsoft Azure IoT Edge computing platform, AIG-300 gateways provide the stable connectivity needed in distributed and unmanned sites to collect, store, process, and analyze operational data from sensors and other IIoT devices.

As edge computing use cases continue to evolve, Moxa AIG-300 gateways enable flexible and secure cloud connectivity by leveraging: Arm CortexA7 dual-core 1 GHz processors, pre-loaded Azure IoT Edge and Moxa ThingsPro Edge software, and versatile I/O options for Ethernet, CAN, RS-232/422/485, USB, and four digital (DI/DO) interfaces. For system integrators with wireless communication needs, the AIG-300 comes with LTE cellular, GPS and Wi-Fi antenna connectors.

Vision Platform Eliminates Manufacturing Blind Spots

ThinkIQ developed a manufacturing software platform focused on the flow of materials through the manufacturing process rather than the health of specific machines. I’ve had several interviews over the past couple of years with executives I’ve known for years from previous gigs.  You can check them out here, here, and here.

I recently conducted an interview with Doug Lawson, CEO, Brian Anderson, CMO, and Rob Schoenthalar, CRO to discuss an added feature to their offering. They have added vision as a sensor attempting to solve a sticky problem for manufacturing management.

The problem? ThinkIQ’s customers are still effectively blind to up to 70% of events on the Factory Floor. Current safety practices are primarily reactive and rather than averting any unfortunate incident in the first place, these procedures only provide solutions to salvage a regrettable situation.

The solution? Enhancements to its Vision Platform.

Locating cameras in strategic locations around the plant facility, Think IQ can look at safety and correlations among activities. Maybe checking events of ship, store, manufacturing, looking for root causes. They offered an example General Mills has publicized where they recorded savings of $40 million out of oats for making Cheerios. They also avoided multiple recalls by detecting gluten entering the process before manufacturing.

An MES or other software may not always record every aspect of a process. Merging cameras with their MES, ThinkIQ can add much more data plus analysis to discover more problems. Their cameras do not do parts inspection. They observe movement and behavior generating what they call “Operational Data Streams.” Now ThinkIQ can combine data about material flow plus what machines are doing plus what people are doing. Operations does not need to ask operators to fill out HMI screen forms about what happened. ThinkIQ’s value add is intellectual property around AI/ML looking for patterns in the data.

From the press release:

The latest version of ThinkIQ Vision now has out-of-the-box abilities to detect and digitize dozens of common manufacturing events including:

  • Vehicle activities in receiving and shipping
  • Material movements and presence
  • Anonymous People presence and activity
  • Machine state and physical events
  • Andon light status
  • Safety violations
  • Values from legacy analog and disconnected digital displays
  • Values from stand-alone displays

Addressing Risks Introduced By Digital Manufacturing, A Conversation With BT

Manufacturing companies began a digital journey decades ago. I began a digital project in 1978. Digital is one thing. Connectivity is another. My customer in 1994 told me he would never allow a wire from a PLC to anything else (other than I/O of course) as long as he was the controls leader. By 1999 he was retired and the plant had some connected controllers.

He was right, though. The concern was risk. And that was before anyone knew anything about cybersecurity. But there was risk of someone breaking in and messing with the program and settings. 

And risk was a key word as I was introduced to BT, a networking and IT company, through an interview with global manufacturing lead Jose Gately. He told me connected boxes leads to risks and liability. There is a constant tension between efficient services and risk. This was my introduction to BT. I had not interviewed anyone from there before.

Three Key Words, Connectivity, Collaboration, Cybersecurity

Gately told me, “BT as a company had to change. The question was how to provide security around data that customers expect us to transmit for them. Last year BT invested in Safe Security. We can talk about financial risk alongside risk of data loss and hacking.”

Manufacturing has made tremendous investments in digital technologies and connectivity. That come with a risk. According to the 2021 NTT Global Threat Intelligence Report, threat actors have made manufacturing one of the five most targeted industries seven times over the last nine years. Cyber-espionage, data theft and other types of digital attacks have become the norm rather than the exception.

BT industry sales representatives have an additional security tool in their toolbox of solutions for their clients. The Safe Security SAFE (‘Security Assessment Framework for Enterprises’) platform allows organisations to take a health check of their existing defences and understand their likelihood of suffering a major cyber attack.

SAFE is unique in calculating a financial cost to customers’ risks and giving actionable insight on the steps that can be taken to address them. The platform ultimately enables organisations to surgically target gaps in their defences, and already protects multiple Fortune 500 companies and governments around the world.

Sustainability, 5G and Ecosystem

Before leaving the briefing, Gately told me about two other BT emphases of interest to manufacturing—sustainability and 5G/WiFi6 networks.

“Sustainability adds another layer,” said Gately. BT has joined with Cisco and Global Data to compile data about global sustainability. In this context, the focus here is reduction of energy consumption.

BT works with private 5G and WiFi6. Gately says scaling is crucial element. “Engineers install 5G in a plant,” he says, “and business managers say, this is great. Now, roll out to 200 plants. But that is hard. There are too many differences from plant to plant. Solving scaling is a big problem.”

Industry IoT Consortium Publishes Artificial Intelligence Framework, Updates Networking Framework

I missed the notes of an interview when I transferred to a new notebook a couple of months ago. It concerns a new Framework published by the Industry IoT Consortium (you may remember them as the Industrial Internet Consortium, still known as IIC). These Frameworks are blueprints targeted at decision makers providing a variety of perspectives on a topic along with practical advice according to Wael William Diab, Chair IIC Industrial AI Task Group and Secretary IIC Steering Committee, and Bassam Zarkout, Executive Vice President IGnPower Inc. and the Chief Editor of the IIAIF.

They told me the work approaches the topic from different perspectives—business, usage, functional, and future.

Artificial Intelligence Framework

The Industry IoT Consortium (IIC) announced the Industrial IoT Artificial Intelligence Framework (IIAIF). The framework highlights the value proposition AI can enable in next-generation industrial IoT (IIoT) systems and addresses the emerging requirements and implementation challenges.

“The rapid growth and innovation in the field of AI have unlocked applications that a few years ago were infeasible. These advances are fueling digital transformation across industry sectors such as manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, finance, and retail,” said Wael William Diab, Chair IIC Industrial AI Task Group and Secretary IIC Steering Committee. “By taking a holistic approach to the emerging requirements and challenges, the framework aims to accelerate responsible adoption of AI-enabled IIoT systems and ultimately bring the benefits of digital transformation to more use cases and sectors.”

The IIAIF brings together both the IT and OT perspectives and their convergence by considering the various aspects of next-generation AI-enabled IIoT systems. For instance, the framework addresses the value proposition, implementation challenges, and architectural decisions and provides exemplary usage scenarios.

“AI-enabled IIoT systems enable better insights, faster decision making, and more effective operations, and empower organizations to deliver higher value to the market,” said Bassam Zarkout, Executive Vice President IGnPower Inc. and the Chief Editor of the IIAIF. “The framework is unique in terms of positioning, scope, and real-world use cases. It addresses the practical business, trustworthiness, ethical, and technical considerations of AI with other digital transformation enabling technologies.”

“The IIC is focused on creating transformative business value by accelerating the adoption of industrial IoT systems,” said Stephen Mellor, IIC CTO and Exec. VP of OMG. “The IIAIF is a prime example of how IIC is facilitating the adoption of emerging technology by helping organizations understand and address the unique requirements of AI in IIoT environments.”

Update to Industrial Internet Networking Framework

The Industry IoT Consortium (IIC) published an update to its Industrial Internet Networking Framework (IINF) that includes new guidance on deploying satellite communications technologies in place of terrestrial networks, which can be technically and economically unfeasible. Today, developers can deploy satellites to connect IIoT devices spread over vast areas or for connectivity in remote, underpopulated land areas, or over the seas and oceans.

“The main advantage of satellites over terrestrial networks is their wide coverage on a regional and continental scale,” said David Lou P.hD., Co-Chair, IIC Networking Task Group and Chief Innovation and Strategy Officer at Huawei. “Even though closing the link budget for IIoT devices is challenging, satellite technology can support IIoT devices as a direct radio access network. They can also serve as a backhaul technology for wireless or wired networks at any altitude.”

NI Corporate Impact Report

The first NI Week in Austin, TX I attended was 1998. I hit every year until maybe 2015. The clear vision of leadership around building a company with solid ethics and focus on having a positive impact on the world impressed me from the very beginning.

The company has grown from that startup scrappiness I first witnessed to the corporation it is today, yet the vision persists through the third generation of leaders.

Recently I interviewed Tabitha Upshaw, senior director of Brand, Reputation and Impact to learn more about the results reported in the 2021 Corporate Impact report just announced about a month ago. She emphasized the Three Pillars of the program: Changing the Faces of Engineering, Building an Equitable and Thriving Society, and Engineering a Healthy Planet. These were created to reflect where the company can have the greatest influence and impact as a test and measurement engineering leader.

Some of the results noted in the report include:

  • The launch of a rigorous grant-making process with $2.7 million in grants to nine nonprofit partners who are advancing diversity in STEM education, including the Girls in Engineering and Technology program in Malaysia and the Women at Tech program in Hungary.
  • Improved equity in base pay across NI, with ratios of 99% for women to men (global), 101% for people of color to white (U.S.), 100% for Black to white (U.S.) and 101% for Latinx to white (U.S.).
  • 35.5% of electricity sourced from renewables, plus 113,542 square feet of new buildings and remodels designed to LEED/WELL standards.

A particular point of pride according to Upshaw came from tracking pay equity goals and reporting that the company was beating these goals handily.

The company has placed dollars, executive time, and other emphases on STEM education at all levels of schooling as long as I’ve known it.

The report also puts forth a new goal: By 2030, NI will become a climate-neutral company with an ongoing commitment to protecting biodiversity. The company’s ambition is to operate in a way that produces no net greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 1 and 2).

“We are living through a period of rapid evolution. We see it with our customers who are accelerating the digital transformation of our world, and we see it in our society and across our planet,” said Eric Starkloff, CEO of NI. “Our 2030 Corporate Impact Strategy reflects our desire to be a driver of positive change.”

One of NI’s key drivers of positive transformation in 2021 was its announcement of $2.7 million in grants to STEM education initiatives that advance diversity in STEM education globally. The company formed nine new partnerships with nonprofits to bring hands-on programs and mentoring to girls and women, people of color and economically disadvantaged populations.

“We’ve had to put in extra effort to keep Corporate Impact top of mind in the face of macro challenges such as the pandemic, supply chain disruption, and our transformation as a company,” concluded Upshaw. “And I’m so proud of what we’ve worked together across the company to achieve this year.”

Connecting OEMs With Their Installed Base

The people who introduced me to the M2M concept, or machine-to-machine (later called IIoT), extolled a prime use case—OEMs could connect with their installed base of machines. This would enable service contracts as they monitored performance and components. They could also monitor components to grade suppliers.

This turned out to be difficult to implement. IT departments placed roadblocks to outside connectivity. Concerns about leaking proprietary information posed another roadblock.

Best practices and improving technology have overcome many of the roadblocks. Enough so, that a major technology provider such as Honeywell can introduce an “Industry 4.0 solution helps increase end user equipment uptime and satisfaction while reducing OEM service and maintenance costs.”

Honeywell introduced on June 28, 2022 its Connected OEM (original equipment manufacturer) offering, an Internet of Things (IoT) solution that allows OEMs and skid manufacturers to remotely monitor the health and condition of their installed base. Equipment such as compressors, furnaces, pumping stations, analyzer houses and skids at end-user locations around the world can be monitored through the offering.

Through a cloud-based central asset management system securely connected to equipment assets, OEMs can obtain a consolidated view of their global installed base through a customizable key performance indicator dashboard. Users can apply data analytics and tools to troubleshoot and fix equipment, predict failures, plan maintenance and make informed business decisions in areas such as R&D.

I’ve written recently on LinkedIn and Twitter about a major social media company who blatantly proclaims that all its recent changes were in service to its own benefit with no mention of benefit to users or customers. Here, Honeywell notes specific user benefits to the new solution.

Honeywell Connected OEM was developed in response to a longstanding issue facing OEMs: the inability to monitor the performance of their installed assets. Prolonged sub-optimal asset operation results in high operating expenses for end users, and OEMs with performance contracts are unable to guarantee or justify assets’ operating outcomes. In addition, OEM service engineers must often rush to a site for unplanned maintenance and troubleshooting, incurring high travel costs if the assets are geographically dispersed. The net result is poor quality service and maintenance that can lead to the loss of repeat business for OEMs.

New Generation Leadership At Inductive Automation

Bringing in a new generation of leadership to an organization when you’ve groomed people with potential to realize that potential brings rejuvenation and excitement. The leadership at Inductive Automation is transitioning to the next generation.

I met Steve Hechtman in probably 2003 or 2004 at a trade show. A quiet software guy he told me he had started a new company with many new ways of approaching the HMI/SCADA market. The software was built from the ground up to be IT friendly. Pricing would be totally different from what was common at the time.

With much skepticism, I dived into learning about the new approach. Gotta say he moved the market forward. I met the co-developers of Inductive Automation’s Ignition Colby Clegg and Carl Gould a year or so later to interview for my new podcast called Automation Minutes. I just blew a half-hour trying to find that in the archives without success. 

The reason for this reminiscing comes from notice of a leadership transition at Inductive Automation. The full story is on its blog.

After dealing with inferior software and inadequate support for 25 years in the integration business, Steve started this company in 2003 to provide a new and better user experience for industrial professionals. Ever since, we’ve worked to provide our customers with the industry’s best SCADA software and equally excellent customer service.

Together, the two of us [Steve and Wendi-Lynn Hechtman] serve as the Executive Chairmen of our Board of Directors, and we’ve both also held C-level positions since the company started.

And today, we are very excited to announce that the time has come. While we will both continue to lead the company as the Executive Chairmen of the Board of Directors, Colby Clegg will take over as the Chief Executive Officer, and Kat Robinett will assume the role of Chief Operating Officer. Kat and Colby have been preparing for this moment for years, and we have every confidence in their ability to lead the company in our mission to empower our customers with the best software and services in the industry.

And some brief bios of the new leadership team. I wish them well. 

As Inductive Automation’s new CEO, Colby Clegg will oversee the company’s strategic vision and execution, ensuring that the goals set forth by the Board of Directors are achieved and maintained. Colby has been with Inductive since its very beginning, serving most recently as Vice President of Technology.

During his time here, Colby has created great strategic plans and executed practical solutions not just for technology problems but for sales, support, marketing, and organizational challenges as well. Colby has also had extensive first-hand experience working with integrators in the field and seeing the challenges our customers face. We think he is the perfect person to take on this role.

As the new COO, Kat Robinett will oversee the tactical execution of strategic goals and projects. Kat will be responsible for the company’s daily operations and facilities, as she continues to work to create a great company culture that encourages collaboration, fosters community, and provides growth opportunities.

Kat has been preparing for this new role for years. She has worked directly with both of us, learning the ins and outs of the company, learning directly from Wendi-Lynn about finding and cultivating superb talent, and working daily with leaders and contributors across the organization to carry out the executive strategies and plans that keep our operational efficiency at the highest level. 

With Colby now turning his attention to the company’s strategic management as CEO, we are promoting Carl Gould to the new role of Chief Technology Officer to ensure the continued success of our technology efforts.

Serving most recently as the Director of Software Engineering, Carl has been a driving force behind the creation of Ignition, from its foundations to the most recent innovations. He is a master software engineer, a great collaborator, and a natural leader, all qualities he’s employed to make Ignition the leader in our marketplace. Like Colby, Carl has also worked in the field, learning our customers’ pain points first-hand and developing practical solutions to real problems. We’re fully confident that Carl will excel in his new role as CTO.

Industrial Manufacturing M&A Stable Despite Market Headwinds

PwC sends industrial manufacturing market updates periodically. They focus on business level merger and acquisition activity. They report industrial manufacturing M&A was strong in the first half of 2022 but slower than in 2021, which was driven by pent-up demand.

Average deal value decreased over 30% in the first half of 2022 from the second half of 2021. Activity in the first half of 2022 was  focused less on transformational megadeals (transactions exceeding $1 billion in deal value) and more on smaller, targeted acquisitions and divestitures. This was driven by buyers building out platforms and filling in strategic market gaps, sellers divesting non-core divisions or assets and broad concerns of US regulatory scrutiny.

Recognizing concerns such as inflation and war in Europe, they continue, companies, however, face ongoing market headwinds of economic and geopolitical uncertainty, including record-high inflation, which will likely continue to influence the M&A landscape into the second half of 2022. 

The future looks interesting for those who are prepared.

While some expect the global economy is headed for a near-term slowdown, underlying economic fundamentals remain strong. Private equity firms with dry powder and corporations with significant cash balances are expected to drive significant M&A activity. This, coupled with a large number of carve-out divestitures being contemplated, provide supply for potential transactions. 

A few nuggets of advice:

  • A targeted focus may be necessary to manage headwinds from global and economic uncertainty.
  • Given global forces are likely to continue to drive uncertainty into M&A processes, private equity and strategic buyers alike should critically evaluate individual transactions in a targeted and strategic manner. 
  • Sellers may find setting a realistic projection plan and addressing these market risks to be a moving target. They may instead find assessing upside and downside risks to the projection plan to be a more successful approach for discussions with potential buyers. 
  • Buyers, on the other hand, may then have the challenge of securing lending for a transaction in uncertain global market conditions. M&A success may depend on using a focused approach to acquisitions, including factoring in downside market risks.