Experts using scare tactics in order to drive page views and notoriety get daily publicity talking about “robots” taking manufacturing jobs away from people. They never even dig deeply enough even to find the broader “automation” that they really mean.
I’ve written a couple of recent posts about this including a response from Jeff Burnstein of the Association for Advancing Automation.
Digging deeper, here is a new survey by Leading2Lean that measured public perception and understanding of the manufacturing as a whole – from its economic impact to awareness of job opportunities. It found stark differences between older generations (Gen X, Baby Boomers) and Millennials.
Given a greater variety of jobs and careers today compared to when I (boomer) entered the workforce, I’d have to say the results are not dire. But they do reveal a failure of our leaders to get the word out about the importance of manufacturing to our society and the great careers that are available for people with many different levels of education and training.
A recent Manufacturing Index survey by Leading2Lean, a manufacturing software technology company and creator of CloudDISPATCH software, found that generation-affiliation significantly affected how Americans view manufacturing careers, the role of manufacturing in the U.S. economy, and the industry’s growth.
Respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed that manufacturing jobs are important to the U.S. economy. Older generations, particularly those born between 1946 and 1964 (Baby Boomers), and those born between 1965 and 1980 (Generation X), appeared better informed about the significance of these jobs to the U.S.
Eighty-six percent of Baby Boomers and Gen X respondents agreed that manufacturing jobs are important to the economy, while only 68% of Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1998, agreed.
“We were surprised by how the responses varied by generation,” said Keith Barr, CEO and President of Leading2Lean. “We are seeing some of the highest demand for skilled manufacturing jobs in recent history, yet it seems the industry has failed to keep younger generations informed about the skills gap or availability of great jobs.”
This difference in generational perspective was also reflected in a question about whether respondents agreed that manufacturing offers fulfilling careers. Only 49% of Millennials agreed, while 59% of both Baby Boomers and Generation X agreed. This underscores that Millennials are less convinced that manufacturing offers desirable career paths.
It is estimated that approximately 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled over the next ten years, and 2 million of those jobs will go unfilled, according to recent data from The Manufacturing Institute. Despite this urgent industry need, half of Millennials indicated that they do not believe there is a shortage of skilled workers in the U.S. In comparison, 63% of Gen X and 60% of Baby Boomers indicated that they did understand there is a current shortage of skilled workers.
“We see from this data that we need to do better as an industry to show the younger generation how the industry has changed,” said Barr. “Manufacturing is more dynamic than ever before. Jobs in the industry involve complex problem solving and interesting technology. They’re not mind-numbing jobs that take place at dilapidated factories. And they offer competitive pay, benefits and opportunities for advancement.”
Millennials may not be aware that manufacturing jobs pay on average nearly three times the federal minimum wage for production and nonsupervisory employees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For managerial roles, manufacturing offers pay competitive with tech sector jobs, according to 2018 data from Glassdoor.
Leading2Lean commissioned survey provider ENGINE to conduct the national survey at a 95% confidence level, surveying 1,002 respondents representative of U.S. demographics.
We should be so beyond talk of The IT/OT convergence.
This has not been a technology issue for years. If anything it is an organization and personal issue.
Executives continue to view their organizations as constructed of a variety of separate domains. This is often because there are all these SVPs running around who need an organization to lead. So, one has operations, another IT, another design, another marketing, and so forth.
When senior management wakes up to the fact that technology has broken the barriers long ago, maybe they can get their organizations to follow suit.
This year we should be talking about how all technology is meant to serve leaders and managers who are trying to build safe, productive, profitable companies.
The story should be about benefits of using technology; not about pitting one against another.
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.
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.
Simulators are great training tools. It sure beats flying 777s around for your annual pilot recert. Gaming technology has become so good along with many other technologies, that operators of process plants and machinery should be well trained to respond appropriately to any emergency.
Georgia Institute of Technology sent this information about an advancement in simulation for operator training. Good stuff.
A simulator that comes complete with a virtual explosion could help the operators of chemical processing plants – and other industrial facilities – learn to detect attacks by hackers bent on causing mayhem. The simulator will also help students and researchers understand better the security issues of industrial control systems.
This flow chart shows data flows within a simulated chemical processing facility.
Facilities such as electric power networks, manufacturing operations and water purification plants are among the potential targets for malicious actors because they use programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to open and close valves, redirect electricity flows and manage large pieces of machinery. Efforts are underway to secure these facilities, and helping operators become more skilled at detecting potential attacks is a key part of improving security.
Screen captures show a simulated explosion in a chemical processing plant precipitated by a cyberattack on the system.
“The goal is to give operators, researchers and students experience with attacking systems, detecting attacks and also seeing the consequences of manipulating the physical processes in these systems,” said Raheem Beyah, the Motorola Foundation Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “This system allows operators to learn what kinds of things will happen. Our goal is to make sure the good guys get this experience so they can respond appropriately.”
Details of the simulator were presented August 8 at Black Hat USA 2018, and August 13 at the 2018 USENIX Workshop on Advances in Security Education. The simulator was developed in part by Atlanta security startup company Fortiphyd Logic, and supported by the Georgia Research Alliance.
The simulated chemical processing plant, known as the Graphical Realism Framework for Industrial Control Simulations (GRFICS), allows users to play the roles of both attackers and defenders – with separate views provided. The attackers might take control of valves in the plant to build up pressure in a reaction vessel to cause an explosion. The defenders have to watch for signs of attack and make sure security systems remain operational.
Screen capture shows a chemical processing plant in which critical parameters are rising due to false process data and control commands injected by an attacker.
Of great concern is the “man-in-the-middle” attack in which a bad actor breaks into the facility’s control system – and also takes control of the sensors and instruments that provide feedback to the operators. By gaining control of sensors and valve position indicators, the attacker could send false readings that would reassure the operators – while the damage proceeded.
“The pressure and reactant levels could be made to seem normal to the operators, while the pressure is building toward a dangerous point,” Beyah said. Though the readings may appear normal, however, a knowledgeable operator might still detect clues that the system has been attacked. “The more the operators know the process, the harder it will be to fool them,” he said.
The GRFICS system was built using an existing chemical processing plant simulator, as well as a 3D video gaming engine running on Linux virtual machines. At its heart is the software that runs PLCs, which can be changed out to represent different types of controllers appropriate to a range of facilities. The human-machine interface can also be altered as needed to show a realistic operator control panel monitoring reaction parameters and valve controller positions.
“This is a complete virtual network, so you can set up your own entry detection rules and play on the defensive side to see whether or not your defenses are detecting the attacks,” said David Formby, a Georgia Tech postdoctoral researcher who has launched Fortiphyd Logic with Beyah to develop industrial control security products. “We provide access to simulated physical systems that allow students and operators to repeatedly study different parameters and scenarios.”
GRFICS is currently available as an open source, free download for use by classes or individuals. It runs on a laptop, but because of heavy use of graphics, requires considerable processing power and memory. An online version is planned, and future versions will simulate the electric power grid, water and wastewater treatment facilities, manufacturing facilities and other users of PLCs.
Formby hopes GRFICS will expand the number of people who have experience with the security of industrial control systems.
“We want to open this space up to more people,” he said. “It’s very difficult now to find people who have the right experience. We haven’t seen many attacks on these systems yet, but that’s not because they are secure. The barrier for people who want to work in the cyber-physical security space is high right now, and we want to lower that.”
Beyah and Formby have been working for several years to increase awareness of the vulnerabilities inherent in industrial control systems. While the community still has more to do, Beyah is encouraged.
“Several years ago, we talked to a lot of process control engineers as part of the NSF’s I-Corps program,” he said. “It was clear that for many of these folks then, security was not a major concern. But we’ve seen changes, and lots of people are now taking system security seriously.”
Looking for the source of innovation in manufacturing technology. Not only am I planning for direction in 2018, I’m in conversations about where lies the excitement.
OK, so it’s been two months I’ve been digesting some thoughts. In my meager defense, November and December were very busy and hectic months for me. Still lots going on in January as I gear up for the year.
Last November, I quoted Seth Godin:
Like Mary Shelley
When she wrote Frankenstein, it changed everything. A different style of writing. A different kind of writer. And the use of technology in ways that no one expected and that left a mark.
Henry Ford did that. One car and one process after another, for decades. Companies wanted to be the Ford of _____. Progress makes more progress easier. Momentum builds. But Ford couldn’t make the streak last. The momentum gets easier, but the risks feel bigger too.
Google was like that. Changing the way we used mail and documents and the internet itself. Companies wanted to be the Google of _____. And Apple was like that, twice with personal computers, then with the phone. And, as often happens with public companies, they both got greedy.
Tesla is still like that. They’re the new Ford. Using technology in a conceptual, relentless, and profound fashion to remake industries and expectations, again and again. Take a breakthrough, add a posture, apply it again and again. PS Audio is like that in stereos, and perhaps you could be like that… The Mary Shelley of ____.
So I asked on Twitter “Who will be the Mary Shelley of automation?
I’m sitting in a soccer referee certification clinic when I glance at the phone. Twitter notifications are piling up.
Andy Robinson (@Archestranaut) got fired up and started this tweet storm:
Gary… why do you have to get me fired up on a chilly November morning! I’m not sure we have any.. at least at any scale. And the more I’ve pondered this more the more I consider the role or culpability of the customer. Buyers of automation at any scale tend to be 1/
incredibly conservative. If they are ok with technology that isn’t much more than a minor evolution of the existing then we aren’t going to get anywhere. Recently I devoured Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma. I keep trying to figure out how a small player 2/
with disruptive tech can move our industry. There are pockets and potential but ultimately if there isn’t enough uptake by customers willing to take a risk then we don’t move forward. Considering all this I “think” I have figured out one potential causal factor. 3/
If you look at where the fastest innovation is happening it’s in software. Is the majority of the innovation coming from vendors or asset owners. it’s asset owners. Amazon, Netflix, AirBnB, etc. are all doing amazing things and taking risks writing new code for their systems4/
Having been an asset owner and vendor I can tell you for a fact I was way more willing to take risks when I was the owner. As a vendor I want to deliver a solution to spec with minimal risk. Fundamentally product companies are doing the same thing. Just good enough with 5/
minimum risk to supply chain, warranty repairs, reliable field operations etc. Even platforms like Kubernetes that appear unaffiliated were developed by asset owners like Google, taking risks and pushing the boundaries. The Exxon work with open automation “has” this 6/
potential but I don’t know if the willpower up and down the chain and left and right with partners is going to be there. It takes incredible willpower to take risks and accept that there will be blow back and consequences in the form of loss of political capital and failure. 7/
So maybe it all boils down to the fact that until we as an industry find a place where failure is acceptable and even celebrated on a small scale we will continue to innovate at a speed somewhere between typewriters and vacuum cleaners. 8/
is it any wonder we have such a hard time attracting young talent? Pay is good and challenges to solve real problems are there. But looking 20 years out we are still doing same things, just a new operating system, faster Ethernet, and new style of button bar on the HMI /endrant
He asks some good questions and provides some interesting insights.
I’ve had positions with companies at different points of the supply chain. He makes sense with the observation that the asset owners may be the most innovative. My time in product development with consumer goods manufacturers taught me such lessons as:
- Fear of keeping ahead of the competition
- Relentless concentration on the customer
- Not just cost, but best value of components going into the product
- Explaining what we were doing in simple, yet provocative terms
Today? I’m seeing some product companies acquiring talent with new ideas. Some are bringing innovative outlooks to companies who find it very hard to take a risk for all the reasons Andy brings up. The gamble is whether the big company can actually bring out the product—and then integrate it with existing products to bring something really innovative to market. They of course have the funds to market the ideas from the small groups.
Next step, do the innovative people from the small company just get integrated into the bureaucracy? Often there is the one great idea. It gets integrated and then that’s the end. The innovators wait out their contract and then go out and innovate again. I’ve seen it play out many times in my career as observer.
Often the other source of big company innovation bubbles up from customers. An engineer is trying to solve a problem. Needs something new from a supplier. Goes to the supplier and asks for an innovation.
I’d look for innovation from asset owners, universities, small groups of innovative engineers and business thinkers. They live in the world of innovating to stay ahead of the competition or just the world of ideas.
I’m reading Walter Isaacson’s biography “Leonardo” right after his one on Einstein. He offers insights on what to personality to look for if you want to develop an innovative culture in your workforce. Wrote about that recently here.