Tech Podcast and Numbers

Tech Podcast and Numbers

Gary on Manufacturing Podcast 200 has been published.

I have been podcasting in a variety of formats since around 2007. Obviously frequency is a problem. After I left magazine publishing, I spent some time figuring which direction to go.

This podcast (sponsored by Inductive Automation) gives a quick recap of where the podcast has been and then I take a look at challenges for industrial tech for the future.

On another note, yesterday I published two blog posts regarding market intelligence (or, lack thereof) reports.

One showed transparent methodology that yields granular data that is perhaps as trustworthy as possible.

The other had to have been a huge SWAG (strategic wild-assed guess). It was not transparent (despite the name of the firm including the word “transparent”) with results not passing the smell test.

The other press releases I get this time of year are magazine awards. I know how the sausage is made. I also heard John C. Dvorak once an editor with PC Magazine back in the day say the same things about PC Mag’s editor awards. Suffice to say, I don’t report on them. I’m happy the companies got an award for their relationship with the magazine, but it’s not relevant to this site.

Good information is so hard to come by. Sometimes I like to stir things up, but mostly I just like to give a clear unbiased view.

Let’s just say I can still remember my roots when I actually worked for a living–life on the line getting projects done and manufacturing producing.

Tech Podcast and Numbers

Software Investments—Looking Beyond the Surface

Rockwell Automation through Blake Moret, chairman and CEO, invested $1 billion in PTC with Moret gaining a seat on the board. The public reason was really to get early information about ThinkWorx, the IIoT product.

The investment valued PTC, a company with $1 billion in sales, at approximately $17 billion. On the surface, we all pondered why.

Speeding up the time, I was able to spend a couple of hours with several people from PTC at last week’s Automation Fair event. This really opened my eyes to the depth and breadth of the ThingWorx offering. There is much technology and usefulness under the hood. This is powerful software.

Now, I understand. Beyond a relationship and most likely some preferential access to ThingWorx and other PTC technologies, I’m surmising that Rockwell Automation can also drop some visualization projects, cut development costs, and utilize the full value of the PTC software. That alone would be a good return on the investment.

Therefore, the most prominent branding at Automation Fair–Powered by PTC.

Revealing more of Rockwell’s piece-at-a-time partnering strategy, it is not using PTC’s CAD and PLM offerings for its digital twin development, but instead it is partnering with ANSYS.

Like I noted in my initial report on Automation Fair, partnering was the centerpiece of news from the event. Looks like it is also the centerpiece of product development. That is most likely financially prudent.

Schneider Electric Foxboro and Triconex Innovation Days 2019

Schneider Electric Foxboro and Triconex Innovation Days 2019

I’ve followed Foxboro and Triconex for many years now in my coverage of the process automation business. A great company that, not unlike too many others, suffered now and again with very poor management. The company has now settled in nicely at its home in Schneider Electric and appears to be healthy here.

Much credit must go to Gary Freburger. He provided a steadying hand as the leader before and through the transition, as well as guiding the integration into the new home. He is retiring at the end of the year. I’ve met a number of great leaders and a few stinkers in my 20 years at this side of the business. Gary’s one of the great ones. And his chosen successor (see more below) seems more than up for the task of building on his successes.

Marcotte Succeeds Freburger as Process Automation President

This week’s major announcement revealed that Nathalie Marcotte has been selected to succeed Freburger as president of its Process Automation business, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Nathalie Marcotte Official Picture  jpg

“After a long, successful industry career, including more than 15 years serving Invensys and Schneider Electric in various senior leadership roles, Gary has decided to retire,” said Peter Herweck, executive vice president, Industrial Automation business, Schneider Electric. “We thank him for his many contributions and his strong legacy of success. We wish him well, and I congratulate Nathalie on her appointment. She brings more than 30 years of industry knowledge, expertise and experience, as well as a long record of success. I look forward to working with her as we build on the success Gary has delivered.”

Since joining the Schneider organization in 1996, Marcotte has held several positions of increasing responsibility, including vice president of Global Performance and Consulting Services; vice president, North America marketing; general manager for the Canadian business; and, prior to her current position, vice president, marketing, Global Systems business. As the company’s current senior vice president, Industrial Automation Services, she is responsible for Schneider Electric’s Services business and offer development, ranging from product support to advanced operations and digital services. She is also responsible for the company’s Global Cybersecurity Services & Solutions business, including the Product Security Office.

“As we move through this transition, it will be business as usual for Schneider Electric and our Process Automation customers,” Marcotte said. “Gary and I are working very closely together to ensure there will be no disruptions to our day-to-day operations. This ensures our customers have the same access to the exceptional people, products and technology they have come to trust and rely on to improve the real-time safety, reliability, efficiency and profitability of their operations.”

“I thank Gary for his many contributions to Schneider Electric and to our industry in general. Under his leadership, our customers, partners and employees have never been better situated to succeed, today and tomorrow,” Marcotte said. “This transition will have no impact on our technology strategy and portfolio roadmap. We remain committed to our continuously-current philosophy, which means never leaving our customers behind. Now, by leveraging the strength of the full Schneider Electric offer, we can take the next step toward enabling an easier, less costly digital transformation for our customers, while keeping them on the path to a safer, more secure and profitable future.”

Following the opening keynotes, I had the opportunity to chat privately with Freburger and Marcotte. Following summarizes a few key takeaways.

Digitalization and Digital Transformation.

These topics were prominently displayed in the ballroom before the keynotes. In fact the welcome and opening presentation were given by Mike Martinez, Director of Digital Transformation Consulting. These are common themes in the industry—in fact, not only process automation, but also at the IT conferences I cover. Each company has its own unique take on the terms, but it still boils down to data, data integrity, databases, and data security. All of which were discussed.

Key Points From the Presidents.

Integration across Schneider Electric. One priority has been working with other business units (and their technologies) across the Schneider Electric portfolio. This could be PLCs and drives, but power is a huge emphasis. Schneider Electric management wants very much for its process automation acquisition to integrate well with its historic electric power business. This is seen as a strategic opportunity. One thought-provoking observation—is the process engineer/electrical engineer divide as serious as the IT/OT divide? No direct answer. But these domains have historically had little to no collaboration. One to watch.

Close working relationship with AVEVA. If you recall, Schneider Electric bundled its various software acquisitions including the ones from Invensys (Wonderware, Avantis) and used them to buy into AVEVA—the engineering software company. Bringing automation and software together was a constant source of pain for Invensys. Schneider Electric dealt with it through a separate company. Along the way, cooperation seems to be better than ever. Marcotte explained to me that Foxboro combines its domain expertise with the more broadly general software platforms to achieve customer values. See for example my previous post on Plant Performance Advisors Suite.

Cybersecurity.  Marcotte has been leading Schneider’s cybersecurity efforts. These are seen as a key part of Schneider Electric’s offer. See especially the establishment of the ISA Global Cybersecurity Alliance. They don’t talk as much about Internet of Things as at other conferences, when I probed more deeply about IT, cybersecurity was again brought up as the key IT/OT collaboration driver.

It’s been a struggle, but the Schneider Electric process automation business (Foxboro and Triconex) seems as strong as ever. And the people here—both internal and customers—are optimistic and energetic. That’s good to see.

Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

This is a post about education, personal development, and why you should be a generalist.

Tiger Woods was trained almost from the cradle for one thing–to be the greatest golfer.

Roger Federer tried many sports. He loved soccer. Even though his mother was a tennis teacher, he didn’t pick up tennis until his early teens. Other kids had been playing for years by then. He soon passed them by and into his thirties is a dominant tennis star.

You need to be good at something, but it is good to be interested and experienced in many things.

Range by Epstein

I have a book to recommend. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein. This book will help you learn to live a fuller life–and help you bring up your kids and encourage your grandkids.

Life in the industrial age, as well as in some previous eras, was composed of patterns. You could be trained to recognize patterns and adapt and become skilled at them. These are called “kind” learning environments. Kids excel who see and repeat the patterns.

Life today is what a psychologist call a “wicked” learning environment. Here, the rules of the game are often unclear or incomplete, there may or may not be repetitive patterns, and they may not be obvious, and feedback is often delayed, inaccurate or both. In most devilishly wicked learning environments, experience will reinforce the exact wrong lessons.

So, let’s look at responding to today’s “wicked” learning environment. “The bigger the picture, the more unique the potential human contribution. Our greatest strength is the exact opposite of narrow specialization. It is the ability to integrate broadly.” This all sounds great. But what about what I read in the news as the “typical Trump voter” who is a worker trained in the old way watching his job being replaced. And who is the leader who is poised to take them to this next level? Well, no one. Just leaders who play to their fears.

There are some courageous leaders changing the system for educating young people so that they can thrive in this new environment. We just have to have more of that. More people guiding young people—and older people, as well—need to take into practice this advice from psychologist and creativity researcher Dean Keith Simoton, “Rather than obsessively focusing on a narrow topic, creative achievers tend to have broad interests.” Modern work demands knowledge transfer—the ability to apply knowledge to new situations and different demands. In my life I have worked with both highly educated engineers AND high-school-educated technicians who exhibit  this. More must be encouraged.

For those who, like me, studied broadly as an undergraduate and didn’t care much about grades, take this observation from professor and researcher James Flynn who was “bemused to find that the correlation between the test of broad conceptual thinking and GPA was about zero. Flynn, “The traits that earn good grades at [the university] do not include critical ability of any broad significance.

Here is a tip for those who teach at any level. When asking a student a question, force them to answer, even if it is wrong. Then just force them to answer again. And again. Until they get it right. Giving them hints to guide a correct answer quickly provided fewer long-term results than the first method. “Repetition is less important than struggle.”

Oh, and in a test of forecasting, experts were far worse than “amateurs” getting it right!

How does one adapt? By reading widely. Pursue several interests. That will be the human triumph in an age of robots.

Industrial IoT Suppliers From a Different Point of View

Industrial IoT Suppliers From a Different Point of View

I have just returned from a weekend in Eastern Ohio at a youth soccer tournament. You learn a lot about human nature–your own as well as others–when you’re in a competitive tightly compressed space.

The games I refereed had coaches and parents carrying exhuberance carried way too far–probably into less positive descriptions. As director of referees for the tournament, I walked around observing other games, as well. Talked with a 15-year-old girl about her game. She told me the parents were the worst. They yelled unkind things directly at their goalkeeper including calling her a “bitch”. Sometimes I wonder.

This week I’m heading west for another IT conference. This one is Hitachi Vantara. I have had a few interviews lately with people from there as they have ramped up an Industrial IoT practice. I’m sure there will be more later this week.

What started me thinking about human nature and Industrial IoT suppliers was a comment I received a couple of weeks ago at another conference. “The trouble with the IT companies is that their sales people come in and promise that their Industrial IoT solution will solve all their problems.”

What engineer do you know who would believe that? Which ones would immediately tune them out and start thinking about their hobby?

I was a sales guy once. Or twice. I also was the guy from engineering who tried to explain the technology, benefits, and competitive advantage of our product versus the market. I also watched for when the sales peoples’ eyes glazed over. They didn’t want too much information. Too much gets in the way of a sales pitch. It’s partly just human nature and partly knowing their job.

That was a good comment. I don’t work with sales at these companies. Sure, the CEO is “selling” when they talk to me, but it’s a different selling. I write; I don’t buy.

It taught me to probe a little deeper into all these companies I cover–IT and OT–and get into what message they take to the prospect or customer. It may be entirely different from what I hear. And that would be a valuable part of the story.