Software, Robots, Friday Updates, Automation and Ethics

Software, Robots, Friday Updates, Automation and Ethics

It’s Friday before Memorial Day and I’m catching up on a number of items I’ve read this week concerning automation and ethics.

  • GPR
  • AI (Eric Schmidt / Elon Musk)
  • Robot Market
  • Automation Tsunami
  • Rockwell Automation OPC UA
  • Schneider Electric Triconex
  • Peaceful Fruit

GDPR

Marketing people lust after your information. Trust me, I was in the business. If a magazine or website can collect your email address and provide (sell) it to a marketer, fantastic. If they can add name, company, address, and telephone number(s), all the better.

Some companies have treated you (us) like a commodity to be harvested and sold. Now in the wake of the European GDPR regulation, companies have been flooding us with emails telling us that, while in the past they may have done all that to us, in the future they’ll do less of it—maybe. Makes me wonder about all of them.

As for me—I have an email list of people who have signed up for my occasional newsletter. I use them only for that. No one besides me sees it.

Artificial Intelligence

Remember the old Groucho Marx line, “Military intelligence is an oxymoron”? Well, how about adapting the phrase to modern times? “Artificial Intelligence is an oxymoron.”

I wrote a little about that yesterday. Scanning my news items today, I see Eric Schmidt contesting with Elon Musk on the subject—“Elon is just plain wrong.” Yep.

Robot Market

According to Tractica, a market intelligence firm, Consumer Robots, Enterprise Robots, Autonomous Vehicles, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are expanding their share of the $52.7 billion annual robotics market.

A new report finds non-industrial robots represented 70% of the $39.3 billion robotics market globally in 2017, growing from a 64% share in 2016. By the end of 2018, the market intelligence firm expects that non-industrial robots will rise to 76% of the total market, which will have grown to $52.7 billion by that time.

Tractica’s analysis finds that most robotics industry growth is being driven by segments like consumer, enterprise, healthcare, military, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and autonomous vehicles.

The epicenter of robotics continues to shift from the traditional centers of Japan and Europe toward the emerging artificial intelligence (AI) hotbeds of Silicon Valley and China. ”

Tractica’s report, “Robotics Market Forecasts”, covers the global market for robotics, including consumer robots, enterprise robots, industrial robots, healthcare robots, military robots, UAVs, and autonomous vehicles. These categories are further segmented into 23 robot application markets. Market data within the report includes robot shipments and revenue segmented by world region, application market, and enabling technology. The technologies included in the attach rate analysis are machine vision, voice/speech recognition, gesture recognition, and tactile sensors. The forecast period for this report extends from 2017 through 2025. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the firm’’s website.

“Automation Tsunami”

Steve Levine in Axios Future of Work newsletter reports, “There is barely a peep from Washington in response to a widely forecast social and economic tsunami resulting from automation, including the potential for decades of flat wages and joblessness. But cities and regions are starting to act on their own.”

What’s happening: In Indianapolis, about 338,000 people are at high risk of automation taking their jobs, according to a new report. In Phoenix, the number is 650,000. In both cases, that’s 35% of the workforce. In northeastern Ohio, about 40,000 workers are at high risk.

Check it out on his website. I have mixed feelings on the issue. On the one hand automation has replaced humans in dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks. And…we are facing a coming labor shortage if demographic data suggestions hold out and politics inhibits immigration. On the other hand, we do have short term crises for people who can’t find work. That is a very real social and personal problem.

Rockwell OPC UA

I’ve written a couple of times lately about how Rockwell Automation has switched direction and adopted standard technologies OPC UA and TSN. It has just informed me that its FactoryTalk Linx software allows OPC UA communications across industrial IoT technologies from different vendors.

Companies can now take advantage of the OPC UA standard in Rockwell Automation products to achieve interoperability among their industrial IoT devices. Support for the vendor-neutral standard is provided through the FactoryTalk Linx communications software, which allows Rockwell Automation and third-party products to exchange data.

Schneider Electric Tricon update

Schneider Electric has released Tricon CX version 11.3, the most powerful version of its EcoStruxure Triconex safety instrumented system. This version embeds cybersecurity features within its flagship process safety system.

Peaceful Fruits

I am interested in good products, ethically produced, that perform a social good. I’ve invested in a local coffee house that buys coffee from a distributor/roaster who buys directly from the farmer. Not only does the farmer (and his workers) earn a living wage, the coffee is ethically grown, and also tastes great.

A message came my way this week about Peaceful Fruits. This young man joined the Peace Corps and worked every day for two years to make an impact on people’s lives in the Amazon rainforest. Living in the Suriname jungle, he worked jointly with indigenous tribes to build systems to preserve independence and sustainability.

It was here that Evan first tasted the acai berry — which grows naturally in the rainforest — and he decided to take the first step in helping to make advances in the food industry.

As the founder of Peaceful Fruits, an Akron, Ohio-based company specializing in whole fruit snacks, Evan speaks to this generation’s pursuit of nutrient-friendly, label-accurate, and eco-sensitive food. And with childhood obesity skyrocketing, it’s a great time to revisit which snacks our kids are eating on a daily basis. “The snack industry is slowly lurching forward because of increased consumer demand for healthier and more responsible options — and this is an opportunity to teach the next generation of kids that everyday food can be tasty, healthy and sustainable.”

His goal beyond changing the food industry is to educate and empower young people to pursue big goals that have big consequences. “Sure, I’m in the healthy fruit snacks business, but I’m really in the business of promoting wellness, sustainability and a cultural shift in how we think about what we put in our bodies.”

Software, Robots, Friday Updates, Automation and Ethics

Manufacturing Professionals – Think You Don’t Matter to the Bottom Line

My latest email from The Information highlighted the woes and tribulations of Tesla. There are headlines in all the major media outlets—manufacturing problems at Tesla impacting stock price, profitability, and cash flow.

How would you like to be the engineers who “over automated” the factory according to the boss (Elon Musk)? Want to be the Director of Manufacturing hung out to dry in the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times?

Just consider all this and see how you matter to the company—the employees, stockholders, customers.

From The Information quoting Reveal:

Tesla’s 2018 is starting to look like Uber’s 2017: Every week there is a new allegation or setback about workplace culture or business performance or the quality of its products. In this case, an investigative report by Reveal says that Tesla consistently under-reported ailments suffered by workers at its main production plant. “Everything took a back seat to production,” said a former safety manager, Justine White, who left at the start of 2017. “It’s just a matter of time before somebody gets killed.” Tesla, as is its custom, fired back by calling the report by Reveal, which is part of the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting, a tool of an “extremist organization” that is trying to unionize Tesla’s workers and that reporters misunderstood how injuries are reviewed. We suggest reading the Reveal report and Tesla’s response, and coming to your own conclusion. (the Reveal)

And another quote from The Information about a class action lawsuit where the former director of manufacturing is giving information to the plaintiffs.

It’s not common for a shareholder class-action lawsuit, typically filed after a stock’s value has fallen precipitously, to get buzz among reporters. But this one against Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk seems unique: No fewer than 11 former workers at Tesla, including an ex-director of manufacturing at the company’s main car-production plant, provided information to the plaintiffs’ lawyers who filed the suit, according to an amended filing from March 23. It alleges Musk knowingly made false statements to investors that Tesla would be able to make 5,000 Model 3 sedans per week by the end of 2017, despite being told by his subordinates that that would never happen and continued to do so in the face of mounting evidence. Tesla’s stock dropped in price by 20% between May 2017 and November of that year, after it became clear that production target would not be met—not by a long shot. Five months later, the production pace is about 2,000 per week, Tesla has said. A spokesman for the company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the suit, which is worth reading.

We have an important role within our companies. We must always consider that. Sometimes even being required to tell overoptimistic executives the reality of manufacturing.