Employee Well Being and Mentoring

What is your experience as an employee? I’d like to juxtapose two attitudes in this brief essay. The first one reveals the results of a survey that “finds a major disconnect between employees and HR in supporting wellbeing at work.” That one wasn’t surprising. My philosophy developed in the 70s holds that companies once had Personnel departments that viewed employees as people. These changed to Human Resources departments that viewed people as resources just like machines and switchgear and other resources.

Ken Bannister writes in the other piece about his experience with a mentor early in his career. Reading this one, consider people who have helped you along and who you should be helping now.

Major Disconnect Between Employees & HR in Supporting Wellbeing at Work

Half of employees feel stressed, and few are getting the support they need despite HR beliefs about wellbeing at work. Of the HR leaders polled, half (47%) say their company supports employee wellbeing, while just a quarter (24%) of employees agreeing — a major disconnect. That’s according to the new Empowering Employee Wellbeing in the New World of Work report from Achievers Workforce Institute (AWI). AWI is the research and insights arm of Achievers, the global leader in employee voice and recognition solutions that accelerate a culture of performance.

The global research surveyed more than 2,000 employed respondents and 950 HR leaders from Australia, Canada, UK and USA, and found just one in five (20%) employees say they feel physically and mentally healthy and less than one in five feel their physical wellbeing (17%) and mental wellbeing (18%) are supported by their employer. Nearly half (48%) of employees feel stressed, and of that group, two-thirds (63%) say their stress is related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we look ahead at the weeks and months to come, it’s easy to think that the worst is behind us with vaccinations on the rise and many businesses starting a phased return to the office. However, the wellbeing research from Achievers Workforce Institute shows that stress remains high, with COVID-19 as a key driver,” says Achievers Chief Workforce Scientist Dr. Natalie Baumgartner. “Almost one third of employees surveyed have taken leave due to stress, and this is even higher for marginalized groups. HR leaders need to understand how and why marginalized groups are experiencing heightened stress, otherwise inequities will deepen and result in cultural erosion over time.”

HR leaders are twice as likely as employees to say their organization supports employee wellbeing, including mental wellbeing. In addition, 40% of HR leaders feel their company offers employees resources to support their mental wellbeing, but just 18% of employees feel supported at work in managing their mental wellbeing.

This disconnect suggests one of two things: either existing programs are not being sufficiently communicated so employees are unaware of the available support, or these programs are reaching employees but not having the desired impact.

Achievers’ employee voice and recognition solutions bring your organization’s values and strategy to life by activating employee participation and accelerating a culture of performance. Achievers leverages the science behind behavior change, so your people and your organization can experience sustainable, data-driven business results.

Mentoring

I worked with Ken Bannister a bit when I detoured into working with a magazine called Maintenance Technology. He now works with a team of people I know who started a newsletter and website called The RAM Review. This essay can be found here.

As a young design engineer, I worked under the tutelage of my mentor Tedeus (Ted) Monkiewicz. Within this arrangement, I often accompanied him on visits to customer operations that were experiencing machine warranty issues/problems. At each sites, I was not to speak, but observe and record every little detail of the job, however inconsequential. Then, when we left a site, I would report to Ted on my findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

Ted typically would remind me in the customers’ parking lots to base my reports on my six senses. As he put it, “I want you to see with your fingertips, nose, and  ears, touch with your eyes, and say nothing until asked”.

In the process, Ted helped me to understand that a precision machine, built and set up correctly, should present only the faintest of vibration. (Any more than that level of vibration required further investigation into how the drivetrain components were fastened and aligned.) But, even more important, Ted taught me to ensure machine were treated with respect.

I would like to issue a challenge to all readers for the next time you approach a machine to troubleshoot a problem (as Ted always challenged me and his memory still does today). I challenge you to combine your training and experience with your six primary senses to “experience” and assess the problem in a unique, organic, and multi-dimensional way. Only this time, perform your sense assessment from the machine’s perspective.

TwinCAT Automation Software from Beckhoff Turns 25

A fervent issue for discussion in German automation circles, especially for those who wish to displace Siemens from its leading position, is software-based control. An early leader in this technology is Beckhoff Automation. This press release made public this week gives some of the technology historical foundation. Yes, it’s commercial. But, yes, it’s interesting to see where we’ve been in order to speculate on where we’re heading.

The TwinCAT automation software suite from Beckhoff has reached its 25th anniversary in the market. Ubiquitous in automation today, TwinCAT has served as a powerful resource for engineers since 1996 – a quarter of a century. In addition, the underlying PC-based control technology from Beckhoff has been going strong since 1986, marking 35 years in the industry. TwinCAT, short for The Windows Control and Automation Technology, provides numerous benefits from its robust software functionality. The advantages of TwinCAT stem from its modular expandability extending to support for innovations such as integrated machine vision and artificial intelligence.

Since the 1996 introduction of the first software generation, TwinCAT 2, this product is still available and maintained, which is proof of its continuity and compatibility with current systems. Windows served as the operating system and the PLC programming was adapted to meet the requirements of the IEC 61131-3 standard. This introduced the ability to implement an industrial control system on a “regular” PC with a standard operating system.

Another milestone was the decision to align the TwinCAT programming environment with the world’s predominant IT programming environment. Microsoft Visual Studio is used for all major IT software developments, and Beckhoff also used this tool to develop TwinCAT 2 software. So why not develop PLC software applications with Visual Studio as well? The subsequent TwinCAT 3 software generation was introduced in 2010 and delivered to customers from 2011 on – which makes for another 10-year anniversary and another track record of success in the field.

The integration of the TwinCAT automation tools into Visual Studio established a completely new type of engineering environment. With the availability to use additional programming standards such as C/C++ and MATLAB/Simulink, further possibilities emerged for more efficient code generation for machines and systems. This has also gained widespread acceptance in the automation industry.

In addition to programming, TwinCAT offers an I/O configuration interface for a wide variety of fieldbus systems – first and foremost EtherCAT as well as more than 30 other communication protocols. Motion control applications from simple PTP movements to sophisticated CNC and robot kinematics are just as much part of the ongoing evolution as safety functions, image processing for machine vision and machine learning. With the advent of Industrie 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), it quickly became clear that the cloud, long established in IT, would also become a major factor in the automation market. To provide this functionality for customers, Beckhoff launched hardware and software solutions for IoT and cloud connectivity in 2015, followed by data analytics tools in 2018.

Linux Foundation Open Standards Updates

Industries cannot advance without standards. Trains could not operate across a continent. I could not connect to the world from my computer through WiFi to an Internet. Standards may be recognized by governments or they may be de facto industry standards. The key benefit from standards is interoperability. At some level, competing proprietary products can interoperate. I can send a text from my iPhone to your Android phone. I support standards in the name of interoperability. I say this as preamble to three pieces of news coming from the Linux Foundation.

EdgeX Foundry Announces Jakarta, the Project’s First Long Term Support Release

EdgeX Foundry, a Linux Foundation project under the  LF Edge project umbrella, announced the release of version 2.1 of EdgeX, codenamed ‘Jakarta.’  The project’s ninth release, it follows the recent Ireland release, which was the project’s second major release (version 2.0). Jakarta is significant in that it is EdgeX’s first release to offer long term support (LTS). 

“Our Jakarta release is a stabilization release,” said Jim White, the EdgeX Foundry Technical Steering Committee  (TSC) Chairman and co-founder of the project.  “As such, it is our project community’s pledge to adopters that EdgeX offers you a stable version of the platform that you can expect the community to stand behind and support for a period of two years.  We stand with you in support of EdgeX in real world, commercial deployments of the platform.”

“Only a few open-source projects offer long term support; the rapid change of open source projects and the effort needed to LTS is significant,” said Arpit Joshipura, general manager, Networking, Edge and IoT, at the Linux Foundation. “By including LTS, EdgeX demonstrates it understands the needs of the operational technology (OT) user base, and how products in this space must work and operate over longer periods of time than traditional IT solutions,” said Arpit Joshipura. “This is a big milestone for any open source community, and we are incredibly proud of EdgeX Foundry for this achievement.”

The EdgeX long term support policy states that the community will work as quickly as possible and give “best effort and development priority to fix major flaws as soon as possible.”  Major flaws by the project are defined as 

• bugs causing the system or service to crash and where there is no work around for the function

• bugs for a feature/function that does not work and there is no work around for the function

• a security issue deemed a critical or high-level CVE (per CVSS)

The project has further stipulated in its LTS policy that “no new major functionality (at the discretion of the TSC) will be added” to the LTS version after the release happens.

The next EdgeX release, codenamed “Kamakura,” is set for Spring 2022.  The community has held its semi-annual planning session to lay out the goals and objectives of this release.  Kamakura is likely to be another dot-release that will again be backward compatible with all EdgeX 2.x releases (Ireland and Jakarta).  Major additions currently under consideration and being developed by the community include:

• Initial north to south message bus.  Improved security secrets seeding and allowing for delayed service starts.

• Metrics collection

• Dynamic device profiles.  Better (native) Windows support

• Improve testing – including real hardware testing

• A second version release of the EdgeX Command Line Interface (CLI) which,  compatible with EdgeX v2.x.

The Cyber-Investigation Analysis Standard Expression Transitions to Linux Foundation

The Linux Foundation announced the Cyber-investigation Analysis Standard Expression (CASE) is becoming a community project as part of the ​​Cyber Domain Ontology (CDO) project under the Linux Foundation. CASE is an ontology-based specification that supports automated combination and intelligent analysis of cyber-investigation information. CASE concentrates on advancing interoperability and analytics across a broad range of cyber-investigation domains, including digital forensics and incident response (DFIR). 

“Becoming part of the Linux Foundation is a major milestone for CASE that will significantly benefit the broader open source and cyber-investigation communities,” said Eoghan Casey, Presiding Director of CASE. “As an evolving standard supporting structured expression and exchange of cyber-investigation information, CASE will substantially enhance efforts to address growing challenges in the modern world, including cyberattacks, ransomware, online fraud, sexual exploitation, and terrorism. Our objective is to create a culture of common comprehension and collaborative problem solving across cyber-investigation domains.”

Organizations involved in joint operations or intrusion investigations can efficiently and consistently exchange information in standard format with CASE, breaking down data silos and increasing visibility across all information sources. Tools that support CASE facilitate correlation of differing data sources and exploration of investigative questions, giving analysts a more comprehensive and cohesive view of available information, opening new opportunities for searching, pivoting, contextual analysis, pattern recognition, machine learning and visualization.

Development of CASE began in 2014 as a collaboration between the DoD Cyber Crime Center (DC3) and MITRE, led by Dr. Eoghan Casey and Sean Barnum, involving the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In response to international interest, this initiative became an open source evolving standard, with hundreds of participants in industry, government and academia around the globe. Early contributors include the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), the Italian Institute of Legal Informatics and Judicial Systems (IGSG-CNR), FireEye, and University of Lausanne. CASE governance and community coordination were formalized with support of Harm van Beek, Rich Brown, Ryan Griffith, Cory Hall, Christopher Hargreaves, Jessica Hyde, Deborah Nichols, and Martin Westman. Growing international involvement is tracked on the CASE website.

CASE, built on the Hansken trace model developed and implemented by the NFI, aligns with and extends the Unified Cyber Ontology (UCO). This year has seen the release of UCO 0.7.0, and most recently CASE 0.5.0. CASE and UCO now both are built on SHACL constraints, providing an instance data validation capability. Currently, CASE is developing a representation for Inferences, both human formulated and computer generated, to bind investigative conclusions to supporting evidence and associated chain of custody.

Linux Foundation to Host the Cloud Hypervisor Project

The Linux Foundation announced it will host the Cloud Hypervisor project, which delivers a Virtual Machine Monitor for modern Cloud workloads. Written in Rust with a strong focus on security, features include CPU, memory and device hot plug; support for running Windows and Linux guests; device offload with vhost-user; and a minimal and compact footprint.

The project is supported by Alibaba, ARM, ByteDance, Intel and Microsoft and represented by founding member constituents that include Arjan van de Ven, Fellow at Intel; K. Y Srinivasan, Distinguished Engineer and VP at Microsoft; Michael Zhao, Staff Engineer at ARM, Gerry Liu, Senior Staff Engineer at Alibaba, and Felix Zhang, Senior Software Engineer at ByteDance. Initial focus for the Cloud Hypervisor project will be security and modern operation for Cloud. 

K.Y Srinivasan, Advisory Board member from Microsoft adds: “Cloud Hypervisor has matured to the point that moving it to the Linux Foundation is the right move at the right time. As LF continues to standardize key components of the software stack for managing/orchestrating modern workloads, we feel that the Cloud Hypervisor will be an important part of the overall stack. Being part of LF will help us accelerate development and adoption of this key technology.”

Multi-Petabyte Starter Packs to Accelerate Enterprise-Class Digital Transformation

Data comprises the foundation for digital transformation. The ecosystem growing around data—storage, security, management, migration—seems to be expanding like the universe. New products and services along with acquisitions and consolidation are happening. And beyond gigabyte, we’re in the land of petabyte.

This news comes from Datadobi, who bills itself as the global leader in unstructured data management. It has released new Starter Packs for DobiMigrate ranging from 1PB up to 7PB. The latest offering is purpose-built to bolster unstructured data management projects’ success in data-heavy, high-volume environments. The new Starter Packs will enable channel partners and end users to accelerate digital transformation and conduct data management projects to any storage platform or cloud environment.

To respond to the challenges of managing unstructured data, Datadobi’s newest PB-scale Starter Packs equip customers and partners to have choice, flexibility, and range for projects varying from 1PB to 7PB. The popular DobiMigrate Starter Packs were originally designed for the lower end of migrations up to 500TB to make it easy for customers to get started quickly on their project. These new Starter Packs will assist customers with larger environments to do the same.

Because Datadobi is the only truly vendor-neutral solution on the market, customers and partners can move massive amounts of data to any storage or cloud platform of their choice using the new Starter Packs guided by a world-class support team at Datadobi. This will enable end users to kick off their projects in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Supply Chain Solution Provider Verusan Adds Executive Talent

I keep telling PR people that I’m not the supply chain specialist, but they assume among the 150,000 monthly viewers (estimated from my service provider) of this blog many will be involved with supply chain issues. I also seldom report on executive hires. In this case, I had an opportunity for a conversation with Christine Barnhart, new VP Product Strategy and Go-To-Market at Verusen, to discuss the career path of a woman in engineering.

Christine has an engineering degree. I related that in my freshman engineering class of 700 there were 7 women. One was in my engineering drawing class. The grad assistant would come in and give us the problem of the day. He’d leave a bunch of 18-year-olds (well, I was 17) alone for two hours. One guy was outspoken. He never directly harassed her, but he would say things generally designed to embarrass her. She just sat in the back corner quietly doing her work. Christine didn’t relate stories, but she did acknowledge that she had to develop the right attitude and learn to relate to a variety of other personalities.

That helped her in her first job following graduation working in maintenance at Whirlpool. I’ve could understand. Degreed engineers are already suspect among the workers. Go back 20-some years and women were also a rarity. She told me, “I never had the attitude that I knew more than other people.” That outlook on life will carry you a long way.

She also helped me understand more about what the PR people mean referring to supply chain. Her career path moved into materials management—inventory control, purchasing, and the like. I could understand that, because that’s where I began. She also lived through an SAP installation. Moving into the supplier side, she worked at Infor before leaving for this opportunity with a new company trying to forge a new path in the market.

In 2021 and 2018, Supply and Demand Chain Executive recognized Christine as one of the Top Women in Supply Chain. Christine has a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Evansville and she completed her MBA with distinction at the University of Louisville. She is certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) through APICs (ASCM) and as a Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute.

In her new role, Christine will work closely with Verusen’s product management, sales, and marketing teams as the company continues to expand upon its delivery of industry-leading innovation for its customers. Verusen’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform digitally transforms the connected supply chain, helping global organizations take a more digital approach to their materials management strategy and challenges. Christine will report directly to Paul Noble, Verusen Founder and CEO.

“Christine’s deep background in supply chain management and extensive engineering experience in building data-driven systems is a huge asset to Verusen,” said Noble. “We are thrilled to have such a visionary product leader join our team as we continue to innovate by combining data + human intelligence to accelerate resilient supply chains.”

“Verusen is an incredibly innovative and disruptive force in the supply chain industry,” said Christine Barnhart. “I am excited to be a part of the team, delivering material truth for data, inventory optimization, and procurement intelligence to complex global supply chains. It’s a pivotal time in our industry right now, and I am looking forward to building on the company’s success and the unique opportunities we have to accelerate growth and drive further efficiencies.”

Verusen is a Supply Chain Intelligence company focused on materials management that uses AI to provide complex global supply chains material truth for data, inventory optimization, and procurement intelligence. The company’s platform harmonizes disparate material data across legacy systems and processes while providing trusted data across the enterprise to reduce supplier and operational risk. The result is a data foundation organizations can trust to fuel digital transformation and support related Industry 4.0 initiatives.

IIoT versus SCADA, Technology 2021 Untangled, And More

I just wondered when Michael Bird of HPE was going to release another Technology Untangled podcast and, voila, here came one this morning into my Overcast feed. In this episode, Bird interviews Anthesis Group CEO Stuart McLachlan, HPE President and CEO Antonio Neri, Micro:bit Educational Foundation CEO Gareth Stockade, and ROKiT Venturi Racing CEO Susie Wolff. Bird summarizes, “2021 was a year to press on toward the future. We learned successful organizations are resourceful. The message of taking it on the chin and moving on came from each speaker. Each of us changed over the past two years, but there was also opportunity. As Wolff summarized in an earlier podcast, ‘Live in the moment, enjoy right now, be part of the journey instead of focusing just on end results.’ “

Interested in knowing more about what Artificial Intelligence (AI) consists of? Well, the podcasters from MIT’s Technology Review concocted a game show style explanation presented on its In Machines We Trust podcast.

The Internet of Things began to gain prominence a decade or more ago with the sensors added to smart phones and then to smart watches. GE touted the “Industrial Internet.” Then the Industrial Internet of Things swept the manufacturing and production landscape.The IT companies jumped on the wave. I went to Dell Technologies conferences (long since abandoned) followed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) first with Aruba networking and then the now dormant (I guess) IoT group, and briefly by Hitachi Vantara, which abandoned its manufacturing IoT emphasis faster than fans leaving after another Cleveland Browns loss.

On the other hand, smaller software startups began building IIoT platforms and either acquiring or being acquired. I noticed just a few years ago how my long-time sponsor, Inductive Automation, began adding components to its SCADA platform transforming into also an IoT platform. Talk sprung up about IoT Platforms replacing SCADA platforms. I listened today to a webcast from Litmus “Will Industrial IoT Platforms Replace SCADA?” This is a clearly presented comparison of the two with some MES thoughts thrown in for good measure. It is worth a listen. Definitely not a sales pitch.

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