Survey Shows Humans Perform 72% of Manufacturing Tasks

Survey Shows Humans Perform 72% of Manufacturing Tasks

My response to automation and robot dystopian writers is that for the most part these technologies have removed humans from dangerous and monotonous manufacturing work. Humans are freed to do things using their heads as well as their hands. This report from A.T. Kearney and Drishti further contradicts hype about accelerating factory automation; demonstrates the need for greater investment in the human workforce.

According to new data released today by A.T. Kearney and Drishti, humans still perform 72 percent of manufacturing tasks. This data, from a survey of more than 100 manufacturing leaders, suggests that despite headlines about robots and AI replacing humans in factories, people remain central to manufacturing, creating significantly more value on the factory floor than machines.

Respondents also noted that there’s an almost universal lack of data into the activities that people perform in the factory. This analytical gap severely limits manufacturers’ ability to make informed decisions on capacity planning, workforce management, process engineering and many other strategic domains. And it suggests that manufacturers may overprioritize automation due to an inability to quantify investments in the human workforce that would result in greater efficiencies.

“Despite the prominence of people on the factory floor, digital transformation strategies for even the most well-known, progressive manufacturers in the world remain largely focused on machines,” said Michael Hu, partner at A.T. Kearney. “This massive imbalance in the analytics footprint leaves manufacturers around the globe with a human-shaped blind spot, which prevents them from realizing the full potential of Industry 4.0.”

While manufacturing technology has seen increasing innovation for decades, the standard practices for gathering and analyzing tasks done by humans – and the foundation of holistic manufacturing practices like lean and Six Sigma – are time-and-motion study methodologies, which can be directly traced back to the time of Henry Ford and have not been updated for the digital age.

“The principles underlying these 100-year-old measurement techniques are still valid, but they are too manual to scale, return incomplete datasets and are subject to observation biases,” said Prasad Akella, founder and CEO of Drishti. “In the age of Industry 4.0, manufacturers need larger and more complete datasets from human activities to help empower operators to contribute value to their fullest potential. This data will benefit everyone in the assembly ecosystem: plant managers, supervisors, engineers and, most importantly, the operators themselves.”

Additionally, the survey respondents noted the significant overhead needed for traditional data gathering methodologies: on average, 37 percent of skilled engineers’ time is spent gathering analytics data manually.

“Humans are the most valuable asset in the factory, and manufacturers should leverage new technology to extend the capabilities of both direct and indirect labor,” said Akella. “If you could give your senior engineers more than a third of their time back, you’d see immediate gains. Instead of spending so many hours collecting data, their attention and capabilities would remain focused on the most critical decisions and tasks.”

The survey also revealed the flip side of human contributions to manufacturing systems: Survey respondents noted that 73 percent of variability on the factory floor stems from humans, and 68 percent of defects are caused by human activities. Perhaps as a result, 39 percent of engineering time is spent on root cause investigations to trace defects – another manual expenditure of time that could be greatly reduced with better data.

“The bottom line is that better data can help both manufacturers and human operators across the board,” said Hu. “Data illuminates opportunities for productivity and quality improvements; simplifies traceability; mitigates variability; and creates new opportunities for operators to add even greater value. Humans are going to be the backbone of manufacturing for the foreseeable future, and the companies that improve their human factory analytics are the ones that will be best positioned to compete in Industry 4.0.”

To view the full report, click.

A.T. Kearney is a leading global management consulting firm with offices in more than 40 countries.

Joint Venture to Tackle Security Needs in Industrial IoT Environments

Joint Venture to Tackle Security Needs in Industrial IoT Environments

This is security day at The Manufacturing Connection. Not only do we have an implementation of CIP Security (see other post today), demand for increased protection where IT meets OT drives this decision to form a new company.

Moxa Inc., a leader in industrial communications and networking, and Trend Micro Inc., a global leader in cybersecurity solutions, have executed a letter of intent relating to the formation of a joint-venture corporation-TXOne Networks-which will focus on the security needs present in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) environments, including smart manufacturing, smart city, smart energy and more.

Historically, Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) have operated within industrial organizations as isolated and independent networks with different teams, objectives and requirements. Organizations are teeming with machinery and devices that were not originally designed for connectivity to the corporate network, which means they often lack the ability to be easily updated or patched for security measures. There is a critical need to secure these devices, identify clear ongoing ownership, and to provide a holistic view across the broadening attack surface within enterprises.

Trend Micro, majority owner in TXOne Networks, identified the potential challenges faced by IIoT stakeholders early on and has been working on several fronts to secure the entire ecosystem, from data center to device. Moxa Inc. brings more than 30 years of experience in industrial networking and protocol expertise. TXOne Networks combines these strengths and responds to the growing security needs of industry, such as smart factories that require a unified solution for delivering deeper visibility into both devices and protocols. These complicated environments are made up of multiple layers requiring protection that sits in and between IT and OT. The responsibility for the security of these combined layers is traditionally unclear.

“I’m excited about this venture and how Trend Micro continues to take diverse yet focused growth steps that allow our teams to remain concentrated on core strengths while giving room to better serve customers and advance into new markets,” said Eva Chen, chief executive officer for Trend Micro. “Partnering with Moxa will combine more than 60 years of expertise to accelerate our ability to view and secure the extended enterprise including these important but often overlooked OT environments.”

TXOne Networks will build security gateways, endpoint agents and network segmentation to secure, control, and provide visibility of operational technology and equipment. Unlike some solutions focused solely on protecting assets nearest to the IT layer via detection, TXOne Networks has expertise closest to the OT layer and will provide proactive, timely and easily implemented solutions to secure the Industrial Control Systems (ICS) world.

In addition to investing intellectual capital, funds, and dedicated headcount, each parent company lends complementary channel expertise. For its part, Trend Micro brings IT channel partner strength while Moxa brings OT channel partner strength. Together these reinforce the business model and geographic territory targets. TXOne Networks will be led by Dr. Terence Liu, Trend Micro Vice President and former CEO of Broadweb. With experience building both products and teams, Dr. Liu will bring nearly 20 years of security product expertise to this new team.

“With this joint venture, Moxa and Trend Micro will position TXOne Networks as a global leader in the industry to create effective IIoT security solutions that help ensure that IIoT applications and critical infrastructures are secure,” said Andy Cheng, Strategic Business Unit President for Moxa Inc. “Industrial automation customers around the globe will be able to reap the benefits of having a holistic OT/IT security solution to protect assets and reduce operational risk.”

TXOne solutions also will enable OT customers to optimize network infrastructure for more IIoT opportunities. They will benefit from Moxa’s expertise in building reliable networks to bring more legacy and disparate networks into on industry-grade Ethernet backbone and raising the security level of the entire network’s communication to help drive nonstop productivity and cost reduction. Professional services will also be provided including security risk assessment, security breach response, and access to threat intelligence from Trend Micro Research and its Zero Day Initiative (ZDI).

“In a world where attacks are getting more persistent and sophisticated, while organizations are struggling with skills shortage and alert fatigue, these two groups are joining forces to successfully secure enterprises around the globe,” said Dr. Terence Liu, General Manager, TXOne Networks. “I am eager to pursue the opportunities and challenges this team will tackle in the months and years to come.”

Industrial Control Devices Support CIP Security

Industrial Control Devices Support CIP Security

I didn’t attend Automation Fair this year, but I have been watching for news. Here is a first product release from Rockwell Automation using CIP Security—an extension of the Common Industrial Protocol promulgated by ODVA designed for, well, secure communication as one part of a defense-in-depth strategy.

CIP is the application-layer protocol for EtherNet/IP. CIP Security supports transport layer security (TLS), the most proven security standard in widespread use on the World Wide Web today.

“CIP Security can protect devices and systems that use EtherNet/IP from some of the top risks in connected operations, such as unauthorized PCs,” said Tony Baker, portfolio manager, security, for Rockwell Automation. “It does this in a few key ways. First, it limits device connectivity to only trusted PCs and devices. It also guards against packet tampering to protect data integrity. Finally, it encrypts communications to avert unwanted data reading and disclosure.”

Engineers will be able to implement CIP Security in their systems through new Rockwell Automation products and firmware updates to existing products such as Allen-Bradley ControlLogix controllers, communication modules, and Kinetix servo drives.

In addition, the newly enhanced FactoryTalk Linx communications software allows FactoryTalk visualization and information software running on a PC to communicate to CIP Security-enabled devices. The new FactoryTalk Policy Manager tool within the FactoryTalk software is used to implement and configure security policies between CIP Security-enabled devices.

Rockwell Automation developed this new capability to work with existing industrial control devices regardless of whether or not they were designed to support CIP Security. This allows industrial users to phase in security over time and retrofit existing installations.

In addition, Allen-Bradley ControlLogix 5580 controllers will soon be certified compliant with the IEC 62443-4-2 security standard, building on the IEC 62443-4-1 certification that the Rockwell Automation Security Development Lifecycle has already received.

This latest certification means the controllers will meet the global standard’s robust cybersecurity requirements to help companies secure their connected operations. The ControlLogix 5580 family of controllers is one of the first platforms on the market to achieve this compliance.

Automation and Industrial Innovation Funding News

Automation and Industrial Innovation Funding News

Automation, Innovation, Funding news from Rockwell Automation, IoT Partners Research, Dell EMC IoT, Schneider Electric Ventures

Rockwell Automation

I started going to Automation Fair in 1997. This is the first year I have missed. I could be in any of four different venues this week. Used to be that Rockwell had the week to itself. No longer. I am not there because I don’t like Rockwell. Business considerations are taking me a different direction. Tomorrow I’ll be speaking on IoT, data, solving business problems at the Industry of Things World-East forum in Orlando. I thought about a huge tour of three cities. Then I thought again.

I posted news from Rockwell Automation yesterday about its recent collaboration with PTC. I haven’t seen anything newer coming out yet from my sources.

ABI Research

In its recent analysis ranking 547 companies on their IoT service capabilities, ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies, finds that partner programs and their member companies are continuing to mature in their IoT offerings while simultaneously decreasing the average number of members per partner program.

In fact, 65% of listed organizations received a high IoT maturity grade, which is nearly 2½ times the number of organizations that received a high maturity ranking when ABI Research first analyzed these IoT ecosystems back in September 2015. Partner program parents such as Amazon Web Services, Dell, and IBM are aligning themselves with fewer, higher-value partners who can better help end-users navigate the convoluted IoT ecosystem.

Partner program parents need to ensure that their partners can effectively address the current major needs of the market while also addressing high-growth niche vertical markets, with companies like Dell and AWS showing that it’s possible to address these changing market dynamics without being encumbered by hundreds of partners. AWS’ IoT Competency program ensures that its partners have a high-depth of IoT expertise to meet end-user needs, while Dell’s IoT Solutions Partner Ecosystem is focused on having both technology and services partners who can address specific use cases.

The three most targeted verticals within these partner program ecosystems have consistently been healthcare, manufacturing, and energy applications, but over the past three years, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of partners offering solutions targeting the digital signage, wearable, and smart building markets due to end-user demand.

FogHorn Partners With Dell EMC OEM Solutions

Speaking of partnerships, this came in today. FogHorn, a developer of edge intelligence software for industrial and commercial IoT applications, announced a collaboration with Dell EMC OEM Solutions to deliver end-to-end Industrial IoT (IIoT) edge computing solutions. This collaboration allows industrial and commercial customers to leverage the power of the edge quickly with an out-of-the-box solution for their Industrial IoT (IIoT) deployments – providing real-time insights to streamline operations and improve business outcomes.

By integrating FogHorn’s Lightning edge computing technology to solutions from Dell EMC, industrial and commercial customers now have access to preconfigured gateways and other devices that simplify IoT deployments. These “edgified” solutions allow clients to deploy edge computing at various end-point locations quickly, wherever the power of edge computing is needed.

Schneider Electric Ventures

Schneider Electric, who also has an event this week, has announced “Schneider Electric Ventures”, which identifies, nurtures and supports innovations that will make a major contribution to future sustainability and energy efficiency. Several major projects are underway and ready to be deployed.

‘Schneider Electric Ventures’ nurtures tomorrow’s transformational and disruptive technologies according to the press release.

The company spends €1 billion a year on R&D; and EcoStruxure, its IoT-enabled, plug and play, open, interoperable, architecture and platform is at the cutting edge of connected energy management and industrial automation.

A few months ago, the company created “Schneider Electric Ventures”. The mission of this initiative is to identify, support and nurture companies and entrepreneurs whose innovations will transform the way we live and work, how we produce and consume energy, and how we run buildings and factories.

Schneider Electric Ventures supports innovation through:

  • Funding
  • Incubation
  • Partnerships

At its Innovation Summit North America, Schneider Electric announced some projects developed by “Schneider Electric Ventures”. These projects include:

  • eIQ Mobility, a start-up and spinoff from Schneider Electric Incubator, which enables and accelerates electric mobility at scale by providing “Electric Fleet as a Service ” to large commercial fleets.
  • Clipsal Solar, a business venture for on-grid and off-grid solutions for residential and commercial applications in Australia, where 1.8 million homeowners have installed solar panels to help manage their energy bills. The market is forecasted to grow with additional 134,000 homes by 2021.
  • Greentown Labs Bold Ideas Challenge in partnership with Greentown Labs, focused on fast-tracking entrepreneurs with the mentors, team members, grants of $25,000, and business and technical resources they need to launch successful ventures.

Through its different investment vehicles, Schneider Electric also made equity investments in six companies:

  • Sense, the leader in load disaggregation technology
  • Element Analytics, a leader in industrial big data analytics
  • Habiteo, a 3D specialist for new residential housing
  • QMerit, the “Uber” for contractors & MRO spend
  • KGS, a predictive engine for just-in-time maintenance
  • Claroty, the leading Cybersecurity company for industrial OT networks

Schneider Electric has committed to invest between 300 and 500 million euros in the coming years, in incubation projects, partnerships with entrepreneurs, and specialized funds, and welcomes ideas from innovators and entrepreneurs eager to turn their ideas into reality.

Universal Robots Hires Former Rethink Robotics Employees

Universal Robots Hires Former Rethink Robotics Employees

This is good news for the collaborative robot market and for many people after the closing of pioneer company Rethink Robotics. And a home for Baxter and Sawyer.

Human-like Robot

Baxter the Robot

Universal Robots (UR) is hiring 20+ Rethink staff members, merging UR’s Boston office with Rethink’s former headquarters in the Seaport area in Boston, with immediate effect. These key personnel bring extensive collaborative robotics experience in engineering, product development, and customer applications, which will combine well with UR’s expertise to continue to drive new and innovative collaborative robotics solutions.

“Our new colleagues from Rethink have extensive expertise, knowledge and know-how not only about the technology but indeed also about the market conditions and what the customers’ pain-points are. All of this will benefit our customers and partners as we face an increase in competitors due to the huge market potential for collaborative robots,” says Universal Robots’ President Jürgen von Hollen. “Our ability to secure key members of the Rethink team will have a significant positive impact in meeting market needs and driving innovation.”

Collaborative robots, now the fastest-growing segment of industrial robotics, is forecasted to grow from USD 283 million last year to USD 3.26 billion in 2022 according to BIS Research. Universal Robots’ market-leading growth means continually adapting the company structure and processes to deliver its ambitious targets for 2019 and beyond. The addition of key Rethink Robotics personnel will help expedite UR’s strategic ambitions and actions.

“Rethink Robotics – along with Universal Robots – has been a pioneer in driving and developing the collaborative robotics market globally,” says Jürgen von Hollen. “The company was always a good competitor, which helped us drive cobot awareness worldwide, and we want to make sure its customers can continue to fulfill their collaborative automation initiatives. “

Universal Robots offers a future-proof roadmap for customers of Rethink’s Baxter and Sawyer models, and is ready to help those customers transition to UR cobots.

Universal is a part of Teradyne Inc., is headquartered in Odense, Denmark. In 2017, Universal Robots had a revenue of USD 170 million.

Exoskeleton Technology Makes Humans Almost Super

Exoskeleton Technology Makes Humans Almost Super

In the 1960s a new, state-of-the-art automobile engine factory was built. As production settled in, new hires were shuttled through an introductory job. They were assigned the task of depalletizing engine blocks. Yes, 50-lb. to 75-lb. hunks of cast steel. Lifting from the pallet to the production line.

If you survived, you could move on to another department.

Technology ethically should be developed and deployed to make humans better. In this case a series of technologies from robots to ergonomic hand tools has made that plant—and all similar plants—much safer and humane.

One new technology to watch is exoskeletons. These are devices that will be a great help to humans performing tasks beyond human capability. Beyond manufacturing, think of the possibilities for assisting elderly or disabled people.

Here is a report from ABI Research detailing the latest on the market for these devices.

The Exoskeleton market continues to beat previous forecasts and will continue to attract outside attention from large-scale end-users, according to ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies.

Though a technology that has been talked about since the sixties, exoskeletons are now beginning to demonstrate their practical value with worldwide shipments expected to reach 91,000 by 2023 and 301,000 by 2028. Global revenue for the suits will increase to US$5.8 billion in 2028, according to ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies. Industry will be the largest single market for exoskeletons, with hardware revenue in this sector growing from US$104 million in 2018 to US$2.9 billion in 2028; a CAGR of 39.5%

In terms of market revenue, the distribution is tilted heavily towards industrial and commercial applications. The industrial market for exoskeletons (including manufacturing, construction, utilities etc.) is expected to reach revenues of almost US$3 billion by 2028, while by the same time, commercial use-cases (notably health and warehouse logistics) will be worth over US$2 billion.

“The market gets healthier with each passing month. The culmination of start-up activity, an increasingly permissive regulatory environment, improving drive and materials technology, and partnerships with larger corporations suggest the exo-market is in the best position it has been,” said Rian Whitton, Robotics Research Analyst at ABI Research. Companies such as Sarcos, German Bionic, and Indego (Parker Hannifin) are driving adoption across both the industrial and healthcare sectors.

Exoskeletons can be distinguished into two broad categories; those with active or powered suits with a power source, and passive suits that don’t help lift so much as help distribute weight and improve the user’s comfort. Of these two, powered suits are going to be the primary source of revenue for the wider industry going forward due to their lift capability and increased utility.

Lower-body exoskeletons- which have both applications in the Health and Industrial markets, are likely to be the most numerous systems as they have wide use-cases across differing markets. However, upper-body exoskeletons that help amplify human lifting performance and keeping heavy objects in place will be adopted at a faster pace in the industrial space. Already, companies like Ford are deploying upper-body powered devices from Ekso Bionics in their factories. Comau has teamed up with Ossur to build a passive upper-body exoskeleton for industrial use, while German medical giant Ottobock has leveraged its expertise in prosthetics to build passive industrial exoskeleton. German Bionic is offering a powered suit that provides lumbar support to workers in industrial and intralogistics environments and is building on the opportunities of Europe by targeting distributors in Japan- where the strategic drivers of exoskeleton demand, labor shortages, and aging workforces- are even more acute.

Full-body exoskeletons, particularly powered variants, are generally more expensive than their partial counterparts, yet their development holds the promise of more comprehensive solutions that significantly amplify human capability, both in terms of lifting heavy objects and preserving stamina in laborious occupations. Among the leaders in this field is Sarcos Robotics, who plan to launch to heavy-duty full-body suits next year under a service model. The technology is being anticipated by a wide range of vendors, including GM, Delta Airlines, Caterpillar, and construction giant Bechtel.

These findings are from ABI Research’s Robotic Exoskeletons Annual Update report. This report is part of the company’s Robotics, Automation & Intelligent Systems research service, which includes research, data, and Executive Foresights.

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