Automation Connect wishes all its viewers A Very Happy New Year 2017 which promises to be a very interesting one for the Industrial Automation industry. Given that the manufacturing industry, which hitherto has been relatively slow to adapting to changing technology, is now embracing the Information Technology like never before, to bring about some dramatic changes in the way it will be employed transforming the face of industrial automation.
With Manufacturing units gearing up to meet the competition and a new type of customer demand, ‘Smart Factory’ is becoming a reality. The Internet of Things (IOT) is emerging as the next technology mega-trend across the business spectrum including the Automation industry. Manufacturers are looking at embracing technology that enables seamless connectivity from the sensor, right up to ERP level. Allowing for a more intelligent analysis of business operations, enabling smarter business decisions are trends that involve a lot of devices networked together providing a lot of data availability to do things. Yet, with much less than 1% of devices that could be connected to the internet are currently online, meaning IOT has room to grow, in more ways than one. Wireless transmission of data from sensors, installed in remote location, will enable cheaper installation cost than corresponding wired one and will make maintenance cost much cheaper. Lot of work is going on in this area which will see demand of such smart devices increasing manifold. We will witness more things being connected to the Internet every day and in turn, experience improved efficiencies, productivity and job growth.
With such free flow of large data coming out of the system, the next challenge is to the use Big Data and not restrict it to Data Collection being an end by itself. Advanced Analytics which will become an integral part of manufacturing operations will help in efficiency improvement, scheduling, track and trace enabling not only a robust supply chain and operations data but will provide insights to the market intelligence and dovetail it to manufacturing. Storage of Big Data is in itself an area on which technology experts are now working and will continue to work.
With manufacturing becoming smarter with huge Data generation, an important step will be the question of how, where, when and the methodology for the Storage Device. With no more wired devices in place and with advancements in Wireless technology, WiFi etc, Cloud computing is rapidly gaining ground and acceptable as it enables connectivity between plants at different locations to use same database and data. Most large manufacturing units are looking at Hybrid Cloud combination as the most viable option today.
The introduction of IT into manufacturing brings with it the dangers of misuse of the gateways leading to a major Security risks which are being addressed. Hackers targeting and breaching systems could damage and endanger manufacturing plants and its operations. While many established cloud platforms already include advanced security settings, we are likely to see great advancements in industrial security during this year. Products designed from now will have to take Security as an important parameter.
While a number of initiatives for the Automation industry is slated for the year, one of the areas that needs immediate attention is the required manpower resources for implementation. While in the past, we have had a large diversion of capable engineers and technologists to the IT industry at the expense of traditional manufacturing industry, the introduction of IT in manufacturing will bring back the best into the ambit of manufacturing. With a large share of young engineers, who have no concept about life before internet and its environment, entering the employment arena, it is but natural that career opportunities in Automation industry in its present development mode will find it attractive.
As we get into this new year, these technological trends will set the pace for future development and innovation. With these trends in place, the capabilities of industrial automation seem to be limitless.