ABB Automation and Power World

ABB Automation and Power World

Ulrich Spiesshofer, ABB CEO

Ulrich Spiesshofer, ABB CEO

I’m sad that I could not make it to the 2015 edition of Automation and Power World, ABB’s user group meeting in Houston. That there is a lot of energy and information, I have no doubt.

There has not been much news popping up in my news feeds this week. Control Global, as usual, has the official show daily. Most interesting would have been CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer’s keynote explaining the company’s position.

ABB has faced some financial difficulties over the past 18 months or so. It has shed a number of businesses. Several key executives were moved from the automation business to the power business in order to bolster its strength.

Here are two interesting stories from the conference compliments to my friends Jim Montague and Mike Baccidore.

ABB CEO Affirms Commitment to Responsible Growth

Building the Business Case for Industrial IoT

2015 Automation, Business, Manufacturing Prognostications

2015 Automation, Business, Manufacturing Prognostications

Jim Pinto w beardLet the debates begin! Jim Pinto has published his 2015 prognostications in the latest JimPintoBlog.

Check out his entire list and enter your thoughts on his blog. I’ll highlight some of his thoughts and add some of my own.


Automation Industry Trends

New inflection points will change the leadership lineup.

GM—I do not expect big changes in the automation leadership lineup. Mitsubishi, Rockwell Automation and Siemens are dominant in their home areas and fighting it out in China and India. Siemens has a bit of an edge having been international for a longer period of time. But as automation commoditizes, perhaps some new entrants will grab some share. If Bedrock Automation can market well, watch out for it. On the process side, Invensys is gone, absorbed by Schneider Electric. So the process automation business becomes even more of a minor part of the overall businesses, like ABB, Emerson Process Management, and Yokogawa. The only interesting situation in that market area is Honeywell Process Solutions. But I don’t really expect any change there.

I think 3D printing (additive manufacturing) is a game changer and one of the most important things from last week’s CES. It’s not strictly automation, though.

From Jim:

  • Internet of Things (IoT): The Industrial Internet will transform the next decade. Intelligent sensors and networks will take measurement and control to the next level, dramatically improving productivity and efficiencies in production. Growth in 2015 will be bottom-up, not top-down.
  • Smaller, Cheaper Sensors: Everyone is looking for or working on smaller, cheaper sensors for widespread use in IoT. Expect fast growth for sensors this year.
  • Cloud Computing: Cloud computing technology reduces capital expenditures and IT labor costs by transferring responsibility to cloud computing providers, allowing secure and fast access for data-driven decisions. The significant gains in efficiency, cost and capability will generate continuing rapid growth in 2015.
  • 3D Printing in Manufacturing: Today, do-it-yourself manufacturing is possible without tooling, large assembly lines or multiple supply chains. 3D printing is reshaping product development and manufacturing.
  • Mobile Devices in Automation: The use of WiFi-connected tablets, smartphones and mobile devices is spreading quickly. Handheld devices reduce costs, improve operating efficiency, boost productivity and increases throughput. More and more employers are allowing BYOD (bring your own device).
  • Robotics: Millions of small and medium-sized businesses that will benefit from cheaper robots that can economically produce a wide variety of products in small numbers. The next generation of robots will be cheaper and easier to set up, and will work with people rather than replace them.
  • Control Systems Security: In spite of apprehensions over consumer security breach events, industrial cyber security has mostly been ignored due to lack of understanding of solution costs. Many companies struggle to justify what is seen as added cost to secure their operation. Major security breaches will change this attitude.

Business Technology Trends

Gartner’s top trends for 2015 (3) cover three themes: the merging of the real and virtual worlds, the advent of intelligence everywhere, and the technology impact of the digital business shift. There is a high potential for disruption to the business with the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt.

Here are the top Gartner trends:

  • Computing Everywhere: As mobile devices continue to proliferate, there will be increased emphasis on the needs of the mobile users. Increasingly, the overall environment will need to adapt to the requirements of the mobile user
  • 3D Printing: Worldwide shipments of 3D printers are expected to grow 98 percent in 2015, followed by a doubling of unit shipments in 2016, reaching a tipping point over the next three years.
  • Advanced, Pervasive and Invisible Analytics: The volume of data generated by embedded systems generates vast pools of structured and unstructured data inside and outside the enterprise. Organizations need to deliver exactly the right information to the right person, at the right time, so analytics will become deeply, but invisibly embedded everywhere.
  • Smart Machines: Advanced algorithms will allow systems to understand their environment, learn for themselves, and act autonomously.
  • Cloud Computing: The convergence of cloud and mobile computing will continue to promote the growth of centrally coordinated applications that can be delivered to any device. Applications will evolve to support simultaneous use of multiple devices.
  • Risk-Based Security and Self-Protection: All roads to the digital future lead through security. Organizations will increasingly recognize that it is not possible to provide a 100 percent secured environment. They will apply more-sophisticated risk assessment and mitigation tools. Every app needs to be self-aware and self-protecting.

GM—My take is that the biggest thing in this area is analytics combined with improved visualizations and dashboards that take advantage of smartphones and tablets. Cloud is here. IoT is here. Security will forever be an important part of business.

2015 Consumer Electronics Show

  • Wearable Devices: The time is right for wearable devices.
  • Practical green tech.
  • Sustainability and transportation: Tesla Model X all-electric SUV with the doors that open like a Delorean. Electric-assisted bike technology; electric scooter with swappable batteries and dashboard analytics.
  • Kid-Tech: Apps to help teach children science, math, and tech. Fun little robots that teach kids computer programming concepts. Drawing, design, and color patterns to help kids learn about robotics and computer programming.

GM—as I’ve already written, autonomous vehicles could be a game changer and 3D printing was huge. The outlier is drones. Who knows where that might go?

Future Prognostications 2015-2025

Here are ten prognostications for the next decade, picked from the World Future Society (7) forecasts, plus other readings and discussions with Futurists.

  • – Education: A major shift to on-line education and certification is already happening, and will continue steadily.
  • – Jobs: Advances in artificial intelligence will eliminate human workers.
  • – Robot Work Force
  • – Middle Class Impasse: delaying retirement, income stagnating
  • – Driverless cars
  • – Speak to Computers.
  • – Robotic Augmentation (exoskeletons)
  • – Health & Well-being: sensors everywhere
  • – Brain scanning will replace juries
  • -Energy: Futurist Ray Kurzweil notes that solar power has been doubling every two years for the past 30 years while costs have been dropping. He says solar energy is only six doublings (less than 14 years) away from meeting 100% percent of energy needs.

GM-There are going to be some disruptions and huge benefits from a number of these. Autonomous vehicles and health advances are fantastic. I wish education would change more quickly that it does. Even those who wish to disrupt education mainly only have the political agenda of “teachers’ unions” and driving down salaries. (Why is it a political agenda to drive down salaries. Shouldn’t we be trying to improve everyone’s lot in life?)

I’m not a fan of Kurzweil. 100% is not realistic—maybe residential, but not everything. Don’t think there’s enough volts there!

I think we are going to need those labor-saving, productivity-enhancing advancements because we’re actually facing a labor shortage in 10 years. Time to start thinking farther ahead.

Humans have a way of adapting to thrive. I am optimistic about the future!

Yes, Jim, I’m with you there!

Automation Company Changes

Automation Company Changes

I saw on the Automation World and Packaging World Websites that the company, Summit Media LLC, has sold to the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI). I figured that there had to be a sale endgame for the owners. They have had a long relationship with PMMI, and this makes sense for it–at least as far as Packaging World goes. It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of Automation World. Maybe they’ll leave it alone. It should be profitable.


All I can say is congratulations to the principal owners Lloyd Ferguson and Joe Angel. The took a chance starting a magazine (first Packaging World, then with Dave Harvey, Automation World), worked hard, invested shrewdly. They deserve the payout.

Things changed a lot when Dave Harvey passed away four years ago that led to new ownership situation. It was time for me to move on. Not that it wasn’t somewhat traumatic. Now things will change a lot again. I’ve been through numerous buyouts as an employee. There are always many assurances at the beginning, and then reality sets in.

When I was contemplating a change in 2013, Dr. Henry Cloud released “Necessary Endings.” It seemed to speak directly to my situation. Now, I’m refocusing again. And Cloud has released a new book, “Never Go Back.” Again he seems to be talking directly to me. I recommend both books as a means to help you open your eyes to your situation and help you move on and grow.

In 10 days or so, I’ll be at a Schneider Electric software user group. This is the old Wonderware/Invensys event. I’m betting that it will be totally different from the old Wonderware gatherings. Even different from the ones Invensys held. It is looking like marketing is moving to the old APC group. Its message is energy management and power. Sometimes they don’t even pay lip service to automation.

<sigh> Many changes in the industrial control and automation market over the past 11 years. What I’m trying to do now is figure out the new directions and hot technologies and go there. I’m not tied to advertisers or tradition. So, let’s dive into what’s new. All thoughts welcome. Drop me a line at gary@The with your thoughts of what I need to cover to keep all of you at the forefront ot technology and stratagies.

Siemens’ Ludwig Bullish on Manufacturing in the USA

There is definitely one executive out on the front lines providing thought leadership for what he calls the Manufacturing Renaissance in the US. Interestingly, he is German and CEO of a German company–well, regional CEO anyway.

Helmuth Ludwig, CEO of Siemens Industry USA, just held his second press conference of the year touting manufacturing improvements. First he was at the Detroit Auto Show discussing digital manufacturing. Now, he was promoting an article he has co-authored with Siemens Corp. US CEO, Eric Spiegel. The article was published in strategy+business, a publication of global management consulting firm Booz & Co.

Once again, Ludwig discusses a new wave of software innovation that he says is about to “transform industry—and give the United States the chance for a lasting edge.”

Ludwig looks at the numbers and notes, “The industrial sector in the United States is rebounding. Manufacturers are boosting output, building new plants, increasing exports, and creating better-paying jobs that require precise skills—and in the process are helping lead the U.S. out of the long, stubborn slump that followed the market disruptions of 2007. A growing number of political and business leaders, economists, and commentators are taking notice, and talking about a domestic ‘manufacturing renaissance’.”

Ludwig is convinced of the importance of software leading the way. Following are his “Software’s Impact on the Five Steps of Product Development and Production.”

  • Product design: Increasingly powerful visualization and simulation software is enabling manufacturers to speed and improve product design, testing, and optimization.
  • Production planning: Automation design technology makes it possible to digitally design entire factories or individual pieces of equipment, and then simulate and optimize against a range of production scenarios for cost, speed, productivity, utilization, energy usage, and quality.
  • Engineering: Modern production may have hundreds of interrelated automation components. New software makes it possible for engineers to program and coordinate all automation tasks from a single portal, optimizing workflows and improving productivity.
  • Execution: Manufacturing execution systems monitor production performance in real time, enabling short-term control of manufacturing output and long-term optimization of production-unit configuration.
  • Service: Mobile devices, powerful networking, and “big data” analytics are enabling technology-based services opportunities such as remote monitoring and advanced predictive failure analysis that will reduce costs and improve utilization and productivity.
  • On the crucial importance of manufacturing to the overall economy, Ludwig says, “Beyond job creation, manufacturing plays a vital role in promoting innovation and long-term competitiveness. Every dollar generated by manufacturing supports US$1.48 of additional economic activity, according to the Manufacturing Institute, compared with $0.54 for retailing. And although manufacturing accounts for 12 percent of U.S. GDP, it provides nearly 70 percent of private-sector R&D and 90 percent of patents issued.”

    And finally, he says, “To make the most of the manufacturing renaissance, however, the U.S. will also have to compete as a manufacturing location for high-value-added products designed for export. It is for this reason that the advantages the U.S. offers—as a base for the advanced, virtual-to-real manufacturing that is transforming the global industrial landscape—will become increasingly important. To understand why this transformation is so profound, it helps to look at how today’s advances fit within the historical context of manufacturing technology.”

    In all the time since Siemens seriously entered the US market with the acquisition of the Texas Instruments PLC business in Johnson City, TN, quite frankly it has floundered. Market share dropped immediately, but then stablilized.

    However, the leadership of Ludwig (and Raj Batra who heads the automation business and several others) has energized the company and made it much more competitive. Interesting times in the automation market in the US for sure.

Automation Company Changes

Automation and Operations Management Trends to Watch

Tim Sowell is a vice president and fellow at Invensys Operations Management as well as a blogger. His blogs are always thoughtful and forward looking. I’ve written from the blog on August 27 and October 7 of last year. He has recently posted a couple of trends and observations pieces that I’ll riff off of.

But first, thinking about Invensys leads to the mystery of 2014 in our market niche–what will Schneider Electric do with it? There is little overlap with existing business, so leaving it alone as an operating division within the company makes sense. Schneider more or less has done that with Square D and APC. However, the automation business it acquired from Modicon was pretty much buried in internecine warfare at the time.

I’m betting on the former. But corporate managers are always a mystery. At any rate, I’ve already heard of managerial layoffs due to the acquisition. Hopefully they don’t need many to pay for the purchase.

Transformation year

Sowell writes, “2014 has a real opportunity to be a transformation year in the Operational Management space, with many of the seedlings of trends and direction becoming increasingly adopted as we accelerate into new requirement of agility.”

He offers this list with which I agree–and which I intend to build into the new editorial directions of my two properties, The Manufacturing Connection and Maintenance Technology & Asset Performance.

  • Increased use of the “internet” as a natural part of the operational / automation architecture
  • increased adoption of the cloud combined with the expect rapid expansion “managed industrial services”
  • Increased transition from central to distributed, in all aspects of architecture and operational approach to plants
  • Increased role of energy and environment as big factors in operational/ automation design
  • Change in operational Experience to accommodate the transition of workforce to Gen Y and to a more operational team
  • Shift to the “Internet of Things” where smart strategies will increase the distributed landscape of operations, and control

Operational solutions

Sowell’s post this week picks up the theme of designing new “operational solutions.” You need to follow the link to read his entire thought process, but here are a few snippets.

  • With the drive towards more and more agility and rapid deployment of products to markets, the alignment of multiple plants,and their operational/automation systems with the business strategy/ applications is a key area.
  • The other key area of critical concern is the operational workplace. With rapid agility,comes the requirement for more alignment, and more complexity, combined with key / rapid decisions to be made in real-time, and as a result the new operational team collaboration, and operational workspace will be critical.
  • Some people throw technologies around like Cloud, wireless, and mobile, and begin looking for how to apply them, instead of stepping back and looking at “how they will be Operating, based upon the business, market and both capital and human assets”. This requires developing a plan and landscape to satisfy this future operational state.

Welcome 2014! Hope it’s a good one for all of us.

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