AI Solution for Manufacturing Services

Remember when AI was hidden, buried deep within the program? Now a marketer is derelict in duty when not promoting AI in the product. Not to say it isn’t beneficial. Just that there’s more to it, we hope, than AI meaning that it solves a real problem.

This news is from ServiceNow. Their solutions span broader industries than manufacturing. I have parsed the news for what is relevant to me.

ServiceNow announced new purpose-built solutions for the manufacturing industry to help power faster, more efficient operations and better employee experiences. Manufacturing Commercial Operations (MCO) incorporates generative AI (GenAI) to streamline sales, service and support, and order-to-cash processes. Employee Center (EC) Pro Kiosk brings intelligent self-service experiences to deskless workers, making it easy for them to access company communications, relevant resources, and seamlessly navigate hire-to-retire processes.

Manufacturing Commercial Operations is built on top of ServiceNow Customer Service Management and Sales and Order Management. It offers a single, generative AI-powered solution for order exceptions, dealer operations, customer service and support, order-to-cash operations, and product and quality management. It seamlessly integrates with manufacturers’ existing systems to help make work easier, faster, and more transparent.

Capabilities within Manufacturing Commercial Operations allow manufacturers to:

Transform field operations: MCO integrates with ServiceNow Field Service Management, making it easy for manufacturers to deliver proactive, preventative maintenance and dispatch and route technicians to the right work to fix problems fast. If a customer reports an equipment issue, customer service teams can quickly log the problem and deploy a field technician with the necessary knowledge, skills, and equipment to manage the task – all from within MCO. Real-time updates are sent to the technician’s mobile device, including the customer’s location and details about the product model, helping ensure that the technician has the necessary information and assets for their visit, reducing downtime and solving problems as efficiently as possible.

Employee Center Pro Kiosk is an intelligent self-service walk-up experience that provides a front door for everything the manufacturing factory worker needs, from requesting time off, to reviewing benefits, asking a payroll question, or accessing the latest company news and information. With EC Pro Kiosk – part of ServiceNow HR Service Delivery – employees can access critical company information and applications via a kiosk on the manufacturing floor by scanning a QR code on a personal phone or through personalized SMS messages. By bridging the communication gap between the employee and the company, leaders can help ensure deskless workers are in the loop on important updates or decisions and have the resources they need to stay informed and receive support, improving employee engagement.

DeepHow Introduces Smart AI Quizzing for Skilled Workforce Training

Some people feel that Generative AI on its own will be detrimental to human civilization—or indeed even existence. I think, as always, it is the human use of it just as every other technology for the past several thousand years that matters. For instance, look at the latest episode of the old “tech bro” culture from Silicon Valley—Sam Altman and OpenAI. One way or another he used Scarlett Johannson’s voice for the voice of the audio ChatBot.

Every week a couple of new uses for generative AI in manufacturing or industrial applications enter my inbox. This one touts leveraging advanced generative AI to provide personalized learning experiences and continuous skills verification, boosting employee retention and operational efficiency.

DeepHow, an award-winning AI-powered, video training platform for the skilled workforce, announced the release of AI Quizzing, which redefines the learning and development landscape by offering real-time assessments generated from training video content. Leveraging advanced generative AI technology, this feature ensures personalized learning experiences while continuously verifying employees’ skills. 

AI Quizzing takes training to the next level by empowering leaders to assess employees’ understanding and retention of training material. This allows them to accurately gauge readiness for skill advancement and increased responsibilities. AI Quizzing fosters a more competent workforce, equipped to tackle complex challenges with up-to-date knowledge and skills, which in turn reduces training costs, decreases onboarding time, and minimizes temporary employee attrition.

Additional benefits of AI Quizzing: 

  • Reinforcement of Learning: Users may utilize the quizzing feature to reinforce their understanding of the content covered in the training video.
  • Self-Assessment and Feedback: Quizzes offer users an opportunity for self-assessment, allowing them to gauge their comprehension and identify areas where they may need further review or clarification.
  • Active Participation and Engagement: Quizzing encourages active participation and engagement with the training material, as users are prompted to recall information, apply concepts, and solve problems.
  • Knowledge Check and Progress Tracking: Users may use the quizzing feature to assess their progress and evaluate their mastery of the training content over time.

Automate Report 4: Festo Introduces Several New Products

Festo is an innovative company that continuously surprises me with its creativity. This year at Hannover, for example, they displayed a “flock” of bees. At Automate they showed new electric actuators, an I/O platform, and an AI worker collaboration tool.

New Generation of Electric Actuators for Linear Applications

Festo introduced its newest generation of Cartesian-handling-system mechanical axes. The ELGD-TB, tooth belt actuators, and ELGD-BS, ball screw actuators, are based on an innovative Festo design. 

  • Suited to most electromechanical handling tasks, the ELGD series brings specific benefits to applications, such as:
  • Cantilever systems and pick-and-place solutions for small parts handling, where short cycle times, high precision, and repeatability are key
  • Handling systems for top loaders, which benefit from the ELGD’s attractive price/performance ratio, high travel speed, and long stroke lengths
  • Automation of 3D printing, additive manufacturing, dosing, gluing, and picking and placing are enhanced with the ELGD’s dynamic, virtually vibration-free movement.  

Remote and Decentralized I/O Platform

Festo offers both the CPX-AP-A distributed I/O and CPX-AP-I decentralized I/O. Whether physically attached on-terminal or connected via cable, all components such as PLCs, valves, motors, drives, and I/O appear to the programmer to be incorporated within one smart terminal under a single IP address. Having the entire distributed and decentralized I/O topology under a single IP address significantly reduces hardware and installation costs while lowering system complexity. Since many PLCs come with a limited number of IP addresses, the Festo solution means more capabilities are possible per PLC. Festo is a leader in adopting and applying IO-Link, and customers will find IO-Link capabilities integral to the new I/O automation platform. This I/O platform is ideal for effective conveyor control.

AI worker collaboration training package

At the show, Festo demonstrates a UR3e cobot equipped with an AI-powered camera capable of gesture recognition. This setup enables object tracking, allowing the cobot to pick up items and then hand them to booth visitors. The cobot will be handing out individually wrapped hard candy. The Festo Didactic AI/Machine Learning Worker Collaboration package provides learners with the opportunity to explore neural networks, machine learning, and advanced gripping systems. Festo Didactic incorporated into this demo its 360-degree robotic safety awareness package developed in partnership with SICK.

Siemens Have Made Many Interesting Automation Announcements

I received many releases regarding automation from Siemens resulting from the Hannover Messe last month. They presented them to assembled press, analysts, and blogger this week at Automate in Chicago. These are all pretty cool.

  • Siemens Industrial Copilot with Generative AI
  • Spatial Computing Electrical Training for Apple Vision Pro
  • Simatic S7-1200 G2—a new generation of controller

Siemens Xcelerator: Scaling roll-out of generative AI with Siemens Industrial Copilot

  • Siemens makes automation easy with the first generative AI-powered product for engineering in an industrial environment
  • Siemens Industrial Copilot accelerates the generation of complex automation code, reduces development times, and increases productivity
  • TIA Portal connection offers customers SCL code generation, customization of HMI visualization, and document search in natural language
  • Available for download from the Siemens Xcelerator marketplace starting in summer 2024

The Siemens Industrial Copilot, the generative AI-powered assistant, is now seamlessly connected to the Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) Portal. This will enable engineering teams to find the right help topic and to generate a basic visualization and code faster for programmable logic controllers (PLC). As a result, they will be able to significantly reduce their workload and offload repetitive tasks to the Siemens Industrial Copilot. In addition, the engineering of complex tasks will become less susceptible to errors. This in turn reduces development times and boosts quality and productivity over the long term. The Siemens Industrial Copilot for TIA Portal Engineering will be available for download from the Siemens Xcelerator marketplace starting in summer 2024. 

Siemens and BILT Launch Spatial Computing Electrical Training for Apple Vision Pro

  • Siemens leverages BILT on Apple Vision Pro to provide immersive step-by-step guided instruction for electricians
  • BILT becomes newest Siemens Xcelerator Ecosystem partner
  • BILT spatial computing app on Apple Vision Pro available at Hannover Messe tradeshow

Siemens and BILT, the creators of 3D Intelligent Instructions, are optimizing their mobile guides into spatial models for Apple Vision Pro. As the need for skilled electricians and other trades grows, training the entering workforce, while up-skilling the existing one, is essential. Tools such as BILT on Apple Vision Pro provide a highly immersive and visual training experience that helps users not only learn faster, but safer. 

Siemens’ first product assembly and installation guides available on BILT on Apple Vision Pro include Siemens Smart Infrastructure’s Class 14 NEMA motor starter, designed to control and protect motors applied in industrial processes, and the P5 Power Distribution Panel. 

To further the partnership and accelerate applications globally, BILT will become the newest addition to Siemens’ Xcelerator Ecosystem and Marketplace. Siemens Xcelerator, an open digital business platform and powerful ecosystem of partners, is where industrial clients from around the world can look for solutions that suit their needs. As part of Siemens Xcelerator, BILT will now be available as a turnkey solution to accelerate digital transformation and learning easier, faster and at scale. 

A new generation of controller with Simatic S7-1200 G2

  • Simatic S7-1200 G2 will be available in winter 2024
  • Key benefits include efficient motion control, flexible machine safety, increased performance, and seamless scalability

For the first time in ten years, Siemens is announcing a new generation of controllers, available in winter of 2024, at Hannover Messe 2024. The Simatic S7-1200 G2 controllers are part of the Simatic controller family. 

The new controllers help bridge the worlds of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT). The controllers’ high communication performance and efficient data processing increase production output. By connecting the controllers to IT systems, it is also possible to use advanced data analysis, for example in the cloud.

The new controllers are part of Siemens Xcelerator, allowing customers to benefit from the standardized engineering approach in the TIA Portal. The Simatic S7-1200 G2 controller generation enables customers to address major challenges, such as productivity, flexibility, and cost optimization. 

The new range of controllers combines integrated motion control functionalities with space-saving and flexible machine safety solutions.

For example, the S7-1200 G2 controllers make it possible for machine builders to control multiple coordinated axes and simple kinematics. Customers experience increased performance capabilities thanks to improved processing power, dedicated communication performance and more memory, as well as Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality with in-app access to diagnostic, operational, and device data. Plain text diagnostic information about the entire programmable logic controller (PLC) station reduces machine downtime and gives users quick access to data. 

Survey—Work Is Harder and Less Meaningful

I’ve been working some with a software company called Quickbase (disclaimer: they sometimes pay me for posts without dictating content and also for appearing on webinars and podcasts). They produce a number of products and software solutions in a no-code/low-code environment for customers. I picked up a phrase from them called “Gray Work”—the time lost when searching for data and information. This news announces the release of their second edition of the Gray Work research report – the “Gray Work Index” released April 16.

In brief: 

  • Work is Harder and Less Meaningful than Ever, and Everybody Knows It
  • More than half – 54% – of workers surveyed feel it’s harder than ever to be productive in their day-to-day work and 58% spend less than half a typical work week on meaningful work that drive results
  • AI could be a solution, but only if key steps are taken to ensure the right foundation

According to a recent survey by Quickbase, the software application platform for dynamic work management, over half (54%) of 1923 workers in the US and UK feel it is harder than ever to be productive in their day-to-work – even as their organizations ramp up investments in technology tools and software to enhance productivity, work management and collaboration.

Looking across a dozen complex, operationally and process-driven industries (including Construction, Manufacturing, Healthcare, and others), the survey sought to uncover the ways in which disconnected data and information, outmoded and ineffective processes and workflows, and too many technology tools lead employees to feel overwhelmed, ineffective, and frustrated.

  • Overwhelmed by technology – 94% of respondents reported feeling overwhelmed by the number of software solutions they need to use every day to get their work done (up from 87% in 2023).
  • Too much manual work – 74% of those surveyed say the amount of manual work has either stayed the same or increased compared to one year ago.
  • Less time for impactful work – 58% say they spend less than half a typical work week on meaningful work that drives results.
  • Hard to get what they need – 45% of respondents say they spend 11+ hours every week chasing information across their organization.

66% of respondents reported that organizations increased investments in tools/software to enhance productivity, work management and collaboration.

Top three challenges per the survey:

  • miscommunication (44%)
  • duplication of work (43%)
  • project delays (42%)

Project management:

  • Almost 70% of respondents say the use of multiple project management software solutions makes it harder to share project-related information with others.
  • 10% of respondents say they are “extremely confident” in the accuracy of the key project information in their current software solutions
  • the remaining 90% express some level of doubt

Quickbase’s “The Gray Work Index” surveyed 1,923 workers in the United States and the United Kingdom & Ireland in February 2024. Respondents included employees from more than a dozen operationally complex industries, including construction, manufacturing, professional services, healthcare, and state & local government.

Solving The Industrial Skills Shortage—A View from ABB

I recently connected with Adrian Heaton, Global Service Manager for ABB Measurement, to discuss the global skills shortage for technical talent in our industry.

A 2021 study conducted by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute (MI) predicts that 2.1 million manufacturing positions will go unfulfilled by 2030, partly due to an increasing skills gap.  

Following are several points Heaton made during our conversation.

Heaton works in the Measurement and Instrumentation group of ABB focusing on services. He told me that from a service resources point-of-view, finding technicians who want to work in the area and have relevant skills is difficult. In Europe it can take 6-12 months to fill a spot.

He told me, “This is reality—not fake news.” (OK, the US meme has reached Germany, from which we connected.)

It appears to be a pretty global situation that tech colleges are an important source for people with technical skills. I’ve witnessed that in the US for several years. Looks like the same in Europe. He also mentioned that that can be a problem as students graduate in one country where opportunities are not abundant, so they move to other countries to find appropriate jobs.

I asked about something I had heard years ago where the large automation suppliers may have an advantage hiring talented people over smaller companies. He said that sometimes customers are having trouble finding people while the large automation suppliers have brand awareness that helps attract applicants. While marketing is key to attracting talent, training and employment contracts that offer more potential for development are also important.

Training, has always been a strong suit at ABB, but they are standardizing more, making it consistent across lines. E-learning of instrumentation is an adjunct to the classroom. Training is prepared as part of product launches so that all concerned can get thorough updates. “It’s the DNA of the product program.”

Safety is an important part of training at ABB. They are taught to evaluate what is risk. Perhaps instrumentation is low voltage but there are enclosed spaces, and underground places to consider. The global services team puts on as many miles driving to sites as miles around the Earth. So driving safety is another part of the service training DNA. “It’s extensive so that the team gets home at night.”

Heaton confirms my observation that Virtual Reality technology seems best suited for training. But it is very expensive to develop the visuals for VR in order to achieve good industrial training.

I asked about Augmented Reality (AR). ABB has a program Visual Remote Support that allows remote experts to “look over the shoulder” of the on site technician. This program was a success during COVID. People couldn’t travel and customers found the experience quite good. But after COVID, people wanted to meet people face-to-face again, so the program has dropped off some. It remains useful for checking things out prior to a visit such that the traveling technician can bring the right tools and parts.

ABB put together training using AR/VR technologies during COVID. They found customer experience was quite good. There were a number of programs where customers could “send” multiple people to training without travel cost. Students could actually manipulate instruments and valves from their remote locations. 

AR remote support faces one major challenge for in oil and gas plants and other plants with hazardous areas—you can’t take an iPad in.

I haven’t had a talk with ABB for quite some time. It’s good to see how a major automation company responds to the skills crisis.

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