McMenon Acquires Flowmeter Line from ABB

This news came to me via a UK company called McMenon Engineering Services. It concerns ABB, too. To quote from McMenon, “A UK manufacturing company’s growth plans have taken an exciting leap forward with the acquisition of a state-of-the-art product line from Europe.”

A range of Variable Area (VA) Flowmeters will now be manufactured in Workington, Cumbria, after McMenon Engineering Services Ltd was chosen by global technology company ABB to make the VA flowmeter product portfolio that had been produced by ABB in Germany. 

Following the acquisition, McMenon, under a supply partnership agreement, will continue to supply VA meters carrying the ABB brand and the meters remain part of ABB’s product offering.

McMenon, a worldwide manufacturer and supplier of quality flow and temperature measurement instrumentation, and ABB have a long-standing partnership.

With this acquisition, McMenon, already a highly recognised name in the global flowmeter and temperature instrumentation market, will now be placed among the top global manufacturers of VA flowmeters. ABB customers will see no difference and can expect the same product quality they are used to. 

ABB Adds Power, Speed to Cobot Line

Collaborative Robots, also known as cobots, have added juice to the overall robot market. Just as I thought robotics was a pretty stagnant market, cobots arrived to bring automation to applications previously too small for the size and expense of industrial robots. 

What started with startup Danish firms has spread to large and established firms. ABB, one of the originals, has announced a new cobot series.

  • SWIFTI CRB 1300 industrial collaborative robot is six times faster and five times more precise than other robots in its class
  • Combination of high payload capability – up to 11kg – and speed improves production efficiency by up to 44%
  • Features ensure safe deployment alongside workers and ease-of-use for non-robotics specialists

ABB has launched the SWIFTI™ CRB 1300 industrial collaborative robot, bridging the gap between industrial and collaborative robots. Combining class-leading speed and accuracy with expanded load handling capability of up to 11kg, the SWIFTI CRB 1300 can be used in a wide variety of production and product handling applications – from machine tending and palletizing to pick-and-place and screwdriving.

Powered by ABB’s OmniCore™ C90XT controller, the SWIFTI CRB 1300 is up to five times more precise than any cobot in its class, making it ideal for tasks requiring consistent accuracy and repeatability. This, combined with a top speed of 6.2m/s, and payload options from 7 kg to 11 kg and reaches from 0.9 to 1.4, enables the SWIFTI CRB 1300 to perform a range of higher payload tasks including screwdriving, assembly, pick-and-place, and palletizing. With protection against dust and moisture (up to IP67), it can also be used in demanding environments, making it ideal for machine tending applications.

The SWIFTI CRB 1300 prioritizes operator safety, with a safety laser scanner integrated with ABB’s SafeMove collaborative safety software..

Research Reports Reveal IoT Cyber Risks Plus Value of Manufacturing

ABI Reasearch sent the results of a couple of research studies last month. I’m still catching up on an unusual amount of news. One report is on the value of manufacturing to the world’s economy. The other relates to Cyberattack risks relative to the growth of Internet of Things (IoT) connections.

Cyberattack Risks to IP Rich Data Double as Manufacturing IoT Connections Grow at a CAGR of 53% by 2026

Intellectual Property (IP) theft, including industrial trade secrets, is one of the costliest security breaches costing the U.S. economy, which is between US$225 billion and US$600 billion annually. Most IP forms are stored as IP-rich data via digital mediums, including cloud platforms, servers, and laptops. 

ABI Research, a global technology intelligence firm, forecasts that manufacturing Internet of Things (IoT) connections will increase by a CAGR of 53% globally, significantly expanding the vector of attack to obtain IP-rich data. While this is a potential opportunity for cybersecurity vendors, they must explicitly showcase that their usual IT/OT solutions can also help protect IP. Vendors that provide Identity and Access Management (IAM) or those providing encryption services contribute to IP security but need to emphasize that IP security is embedded in their solutions. 

Protecting sensitive data is a primary strategy for protecting IP. Protecting data can be achieved by identifying, managing access, and encrypting sensitive data.  

These findings are from ABI Research’s Industrial Data Security: Protecting Intellectual Property application analysis report. This report is part of the company’s Industrial Cybersecurity research service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. Based on extensive primary interviews, Application Analysis reports present an in-depth analysis of key market trends and factors for a specific technology.

Industrial and Manufacturing Contributed US$16 Trillion Worth of Value to the Worldwide Economy in 2021

According to a new global technology intelligence firm ABI Research report, the world manufacturing value add rose by around 20% from 2020 to 2021 to reach more than US$16 trillion.

The largest manufacturing companies globally remain a mix of petroleum refining, mining, electronics, and automotive. However, nine out of the ten biggest factories in the world are automotive manufacturing plants, notably the Volkswagen Wolfsburg Plant, Hyundai’s Ulsan Factory, and Kia’s Hwaseong Plant. In fact, five of the top ten plants are Kia factories. 

Despite this, the automotive market is not dominant in digital transformation expenditure. Interestingly, in the United States, out of the six CAPEX spends measured (machinery and equipment, computers and peripheral data processing equipment, software purchases, data processing, and other purchased computer services, communications services, and professional and technical services), the automotive industry was only the top spender for three of these. 

The other three were dominated by the chemical manufacturing industry, where Dow, Exxon Mobile Chemical, and Dupont are some of the largest players. However, the largest difference in spend did belong to automotive, with its data processing and other computer services coming in 469% higher than the closest second spend.

These findings are from ABI Research’s 2022 Manufacturing Market Data report. This report is part of the company’s Industrial and Manufacturing Technologies research service, which includes research, data, and ABI Insights. Market Data spreadsheets are composed of deep data, market share analysis, and highly segmented, service-specific forecasts to provide detailed insight into where opportunities lie.

Metaverse Solutions For Enterprises

Press releases and extensive news coverage provoked some thinking about the Metaverse and its assorted technologies—Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), eXtended Reality (XR), and Mixed Reality (MR). It’s enough to distort in one’s mind just what is reality. Some psychologists and philosophers think there is no reality outside of what’s in your head. At this rate, they may be right. I even devoted a podcast to thoughts about this.

Mostly I’ve been exploring AR usually in the form of glasses that project the digital over the physical or VR usually in the form of an eye covering totally immersing you in the digital world. I’ve controlled machines while wearing glasses such as Microsoft’s HoloLens and seen training demos in VR. But VR can be on a flat panel, too. My wife the other day was holding her iPhone up and pointing at the walls of her “reading room.” She was visualizing a piece of furniture.

But I am here today to talk about constraints and overcoming them. 

Dijam Panigrahi, COO and co-founder of GridRaster, talked with me the other day. 

We started with constraints. Even AR requires a lot of compute power. And memory. And networking/communication bandwidth. Not to mention an electric power source. It’s hard to fit all that into an acceptable form factor. Rumors were that Apple was about to release its long awaited AR and VR products. The rumors pointed to the need for the wearer to have a battery pack clipped on their belt with a cable to the device. (For those who don’t wear pants with belts, well, I have no idea what you would have had to do.)

Panigrahi told me they started from a different point. They saw the power of the cloud plus the power of new communications networks such as 5G. Add to this advances in 3D CAD. Why, they asked, should designers try to put everything into the wearable device. Why not host the data in the cloud and use advanced networking to communicate with the device.

GridRaster does not design and sell end user devices. It works with any device and cloud service. It has what they call a unified and shared software infrastructure that enables enterprise customers to run AR, VR, XR, and MR applications.

Here are some underlying ideas and technologies:

  • Ultra-low latency high fidelity remote rendering using distributed GPUs for graphics heavy computing for high-fidelity rendering without time-consuming polygon reduction, and wirelessly streaming the solution to headsets, mobile phones, and tablets. 
  • Millimeter precision 3D AI based spatial mapping achieving accurate 3D spatial mapping with high fidelity 3D scene reconstruction, scene segmentation, and 3D object recognition using 3D computer vision and deep learning-based AI running on discrete GPUs on the server. 
  • Auto scaling and deployment using DevSecOps applying gaming tools and concepts in a cloud native environment that allows for agile, secure, and rapid development, deployment, and operations on the cloud/on-premises. GridRaster uses Kubernetes for deployment and scaling. It follows a CI/CD pipeline for deployment of its services into the cluster following the best practices and CNCF graduated projects. This enables loosely coupled systems that are resilient, manageable, and observable, and future proof.
  • Easy API-based integration open architecture approach enables a frictionless onboarding and seamless integration with existing content formats and provides future proof cross-platform support. This also allows the platform to integrate with other systems to share data and allow for interoperability.

And some use cases:

DESIGN & ENGINEERING

Enables Real-time Collaboration for Rapid Prototyping

  • Enables quick iteration on the ideas and concepts 
  • Clearer communication among team members
  • Quick decisions. 
  • Precise overlays of virtual models on real-world on any commercially available mobile devices, HMDs, smartglasses and PCs in real-time.

REMOTE MAINTENANCE, REPAIR AND TRAINING

  • Enables photo-realistic visualization and remote collaboration.
  • Create a virtual environment close to real world settings, along with photo-realistic product visualization and real-time collaboration, so that the most effective environment can be created for remote maintenance, repair and training.

LARGE SCALE SIMULATIONS AND TRAINING

  • Manages ultra-realistic mixed reality simulations.
  • Combines the best of the gaming and traditional simulations to provide a massive multi-user and multi-platform ultra-realistic large world simulations in AR,VR and MR. 
  • Provides a cloud-based agile and secure deployment and operation that distributes complex computations across compute server nodes and handles scaling in real time using Kubernetes.

Phoenix Contact acquires iS5 Communications

2023 is starting off with an acquisition news blizzard. OK, not that bad, but here is yet another piece of acquisition news.

The Phoenix Contact Group has acquired Canadian company iS5 Communications Inc., based in Mississauga, Ontario. The provider of industrial network products specializes in services and solutions for critical infrastructure networks. 

Martin Müller, vice president of Phoenix Contact, says: “The expertise of iS5 Communications Inc. enables Phoenix Contact to take a leading position in the market for critical infrastructure networks and to further expand the business together.” Cybersecurity and data analysis play a strategically vital role in this field. 

iS5 Communications was established in 2012 and currently employs more than 40 people who specialize in bringing IIoT and IT together and who have significant engineering expertise. Phoenix Contact invested in the company in 2018 through its venture capital company, Phoenix Contact Innovation Ventures, as part of its round of financing at the time. Building on this, product development and joint sales activities have already been initiated through the participation of Phoenix Contact USA Inc.

“We are really pleased that, with the Phoenix Contact Group, we have a strong global player on our side to further expand our business. Our existing cooperation in the fields of product and technology development will continue to grow as a result of the acquisition,” says Pino Porciello, chief executive officer at iS5 Communications Inc. 

Changes For Automation Trade Shows

We have two movements on the automation trade show front that are interesting. IMTS, the International Manufacturing Technology Show and formerly the International Machine Tool Show, is a huge event held in September every other year. Some time ago, organizers added an automation segment partnering with the company behind Hannover Messe.

This automation show was given a few aisles in the East Hall. The first year is was only a couple of aisles, but even this year there were not that many exhibitors. They were mostly German automation suppliers. 

The Hannover Messe group pulled out of IMTS  after the last event. It has announced the formation of a new annual show that will be held in Indianapolis in October. IMTS, meanwhile, has filled the open automation slot with a joint venture of AMT and Mesago Messe Frankfurt.

The new Hannover Messe event.

Industrial Transformation USA in 2023. The organizers of Hannover Messe USA have announced the event will be rebranded as Industrial Transformation USA and held annually, beginning in October, 2023 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. 

“Our exhibiting companies have been telling us they want to get in front of their customers more frequently (annually) for a number of years,” said Ed Nichols, CEO of Industrial Transformation USA.  “Our focus groups at HANNOVER MESSE USA 2022 demonstrate that our attendees, primarily OT, also want to meet more frequently and bring more members of their team.”

Industrial Transformation USA joins the Industrial Transformation brands currently serving Mexico and Asia-Pacific. Industrial Transformation USA will be built from the Operational Technology (OT) user perspective, engaging a Board of industry professionals that will guide the development of the events format and content.​​​​

Filling the opening at IMTS are AMT and Mesago, Messe Frankfurt

Two of the global manufacturing industry’s premier organizations, AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology and Mesago, a subsidiary of Messe Frankfurt Group, announced a collaboration to create the Automation Sector at IMTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show in 2024, and SPS – Smart Production Solutions in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2025.

The Automation Sector at IMTS and SPS – Smart Production Solutions in Atlanta will be held in alternate years, and both events will be supported by Gardner Business Media (GBM), the leading publisher for manufacturing in North America.

IMTS 2024 runs Sept. 9-14 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois.

SPS – Smart Production Solutions will be held Sept. 23-25, 2025, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The inaugural event will host exhibits from simple sensors to intelligent solutions, from what is feasible today to the vision of a fully digitalized industrial world.

The Atlanta event is an expansion of the SPS – Smart Production Solutions trade show held annually in Nuremberg, Germany. It is Europe’s leading trade fair for digital industrial solutions. SPS 2022 attracted 44,000 visitors and featured about 1.2 million square feet of gross exhibition space and 1,000 exhibitors involved in advanced automation solutions.

Mesago Messe Frankfurt also produces SPS fairs in China, Italy, and the Middle East, as well as events focusing on electronic assemblies, intelligent motion, and additive manufacturing.

AVEVA Acquisition By Schneider Electric Is Final

I had one surprise acquisition announcement today. This one is hardly a surprise as it has been underway for some time. Aveva today (Jan. 18, 2023) announced the completion of its acquisition by Schneider Electric.

Here are the essential points from the announcement. No word from either party about leadership or how this fits within the organizational structure. AVEVA CEO Peter Herwick led the software group within Schneider Electric before merging that group with AVEVA. I think he did his job there.

• Schneider Electric and AVEVA together, enable a holistic approach to digital transformation across a customer’s operations. They drive step-change improvements through a reduction in energy, carbon and resource intensity, accelerating customer journeys of efficiency and sustainability.

• AVEVA’s strategic focus is on becoming the number one SaaS provider of software and industrial information. The company continues to evolve to a subscription-only business model and the acquisition will accelerate that transition.

• AVEVA will now be wholly owned and part of Schneider Electric, but intentions have been set out to preserve AVEVA’s business autonomy, future R&D investment, and enhancing the potential benefits for customers and meeting their needs faster with a stronger portfolio of solutions.

Emerson On Another Major Acquisition Hunt

My phone exploded yesterday afternoon with news. Emerson initiating a hostile takeover fight for NI (formerly National Instruments). Right now the figure on the table is $7.6 billion. According to my scanning of the news from a number of outlets, NI is developing a “poison pill” to avoid the takeover.

That latter makes sense to me. NI stopped emphasizing automation applications of its technology several years ago. News sources said Emerson was interested in NI’s test technology and “technology stack”.  In other words, Emerson would strip NI of what makes the company unique, suck up some technology, probably devalue LabView since it’s not compatible to Emerson’s control technology.

I don’t see the value here, just like I didn’t think the attempted takeover of Rockwell Automation a few years ago made sense. I thought there was no way Emerson could merge the Rockwell culture into its own. Maybe Emerson thinks the industry is still consolidating and that would be a gigantic consolidation?

NI’s market is not Emerson’s market. I’m not even sure it is adjacent, exactly. How much would this assist the drive toward industry consolidation? Where would this help in the global competition toward size among ABB, Schneider Electric, and Siemens?

Is this action just another example of corporate hubris of which we’ve seen plenty in the past decades?

We’ll see how this dance ends. I’d personally hate to see NI go away. I’ve always liked the company’s culture of technology and innovation. And great people. Not that I have anything against Emerson. But I don’t see the $7 billion in benefits resulting from the acquisition. I did tell a CEO whom I was interviewing yesterday, though, “I am not a financial analyst.” I am a student of strategy. Wonder where this strategy will lead.

Relate With People By How They Are Not What They Look Like

This is post number 3,000 on this blog dating back to my experimentation with the genre in 2003 while I was trying to get Automation World off the ground. I have almost 2,900 posts on my other blog focusing on personal development. I guess these are my Ickigai–the reason for getting up in the morning.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream.

I was a student when Martin Luther King delivered that speech. I don’t know the degree to which this comment inspired me or if I was just always this way. I have tried to treat people individually where they are. If they are poor or rich or powerful and they have more stuffing than a Christmas goose, I deal one way. Most people are hard-working individuals trying to do their jobs. I don’t care if they are CEO or junior assistant account executive. They deserve to be treated with honesty and respect. And I try.

Today in the US is an official holiday observing the birth and work of Martin Luther King. It is good to remember the good he did, what he stood for.

The movement did some good. Laws were passed. Barriers were broken.

Today I believe that there is broader acceptance of people of varying skin colors, races, languages. Yet, still much work remains. Some prejudices are hard to overcome. They require a change of heart in each individual.

Unfortunately, you don’t change hearts with laws or with one magnificent speech. Ann Lamont wrote a wonderful little book Bird by Bird, where she tells the story of her brother. He procrastinated over writing a report on birds for school. Now it’s the night before it’s due. (Sound familiar?) He whines to his father about how he’ll ever get it done. “Just write bird by bird and you’ll get it done.”

Just like a good bread requires time to rise, so a changed heart requires time for the change to root and grow. And it happens one heart at a time.

Dr. King set out a vision. Much good did happen. But the hard work remains for each of us. What is the condition of our own heart? Where can we nurture another’s heart?

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