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Automating Automation

“Hey, I bet we could automate that!”  Have controls people ever gathered ‘round the kegerator on a Friday afternoon without these words being spoken? Whether it be Christmas lights, banking, or lawn irrigation, there’s nothing we love more than automating things. Heck, we even automate automation.
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Your Ticket off ‘Automation Island’

The Sirens are mythical creatures that used beautiful songs to lure unsuspecting sailors too close to the rocks, only to have them realize too late that they were marooned with little hope of escape.
 
ROI challenges and quick projects are the Sirens of the automation world. Many manufacturers are tempted by low hanging fruit performance improvement opportunities and then, applying corporate ROI rules, request capital to execute a project. This approach leads down a path of one-off projects, eventually leaving you adrift among many point solutions or ‘islands’ of automation. The real disadvantage? You’re left stranded without automated equipment/solution coordination and real time decision making data, and the cost to change can’t be justified with corporate ROI rules.
 
Could it be that you listened to the Sirens and are now stuck with point automation solutions and no ability to coordinate with other islands nor share real time data? You may be marooned on ‘automation island.’
 
Do not fret; all is not lost. A successful approach that gets you free automation after several projects includes a holistic automation plan, a set of standards to build each one-off solution against so that it will become a leveragable holistic solution by the time you’re done. Manufacturers that do not heed the call of the Sirens develop projects that include coordinated control, built-in diagnostics and data collection as part of your standards. After a few projects and a little dedicated budget, you will have a free platform to build lower cost, high value solutions and applications on top of such as diagnostics, coordinated and advanced control, real time data-based decision-making and execution efficiency applications. You’ll have effectively built a life raft and can paddle away from ‘automation island’ for good. Never to be lured by the Sirens again!
 
Standard applications can be leveraged on multiple projects and can be justified within traditional ROI rules. Then you can use this free holistic platform and add high value low cost solutions/applications for manufacturing excellence.
 
That’s how we do it at Avanceon. Have you been similarly successful or have you taken a different path? We would love to hear your perspective!
 

Auto, Data, Help: Manufacturing’s “Puppy, Monkey, Baby?”

At this point most people have seen the notorious “Puppy, Monkey, Baby” Mountain Dew Kickstart commercial from the Super Bowl. It promotes a new beverage called Kickstart, which combines Mountain Dew, juice, and caffeine—a hybrid of three “awesome” things that are better together. The dancing, beverage-dispensing creature, with a puppy’s head, a monkey’s tail, and a baby’s chubby legs, has polarized audiences; some claim the surreal ad is “freaking out, scaring, and terrorizing” viewers, while others praise the impact of the marketing and the connection to the brand.
 
I’m not sure if “Puppy, Monkey, Baby” hit the mark from an advertising perspective, but it did make me think about three things that progressive manufacturing customers are focusing on in 2016. What will be our industry’s “three awesome things combined?” From our perspective, they are:
 
1. Next Level Automation – Many manufacturers automate their processes. In 2016 progressive manufacturers are driving complete system integration and capturing the most granular historical information possible about their process for the potential to model and analyze against.
 
2. Data Analytics – The concept of MES has existed for more than 20 years, allowing manufacturers to look back at what has happened, but not forward at what will happen. The shift in 2016 will be to use the volumes of data available to “predict the future” regarding where OEE will drop and where Quality will slip before it happens.
 
3. Help Where Needed – The previous two trends will inundate manufacturers with systems and technologies. Manufacturers will be tasked with revising and shifting their approach to maintenance, engineering, and IT support. The strategies of prior years are not viable today and progressive manufacturers are creating internal universities, entry level development programs, online training and tutorials, tailored external support programs, and an overall commitment to individual growth.
 
For us “Auto, Data, Help” is the 2016 “Puppy, Monkey, Baby” of our industry. They are three things that, when combined, can increase your level of manufacturing “awesomeness.”
 
That’s what we see! What do you think the “Puppy, Monkey, Baby?” of 2016 is for your company?