Jun 1, 2020

Rockwell Automation: remote monitoring & cloud analytics

Smart Manufacturing
Marc Baret
5 min
Marc Baret, Director, EMEA industrial services, Rockwell Automation discusses the future of automation for remote monitoring and cloud analytics


Marc Baret, Director, EMEA industrial services, Rockwell Automation discusses the future of automation for remote monitoring and cloud analytics 

Automation is rapidly changing the jobs we do, the places we work, and even how we define work. Forrester has predicted that one million knowledge-work jobs will be replaced by chatbots, software robotics, RPA and virtual agents in 2020 alone. This may sound like an ominous forewarning, but the report also estimates 331,500 jobs will be added to US workforces alone, uplifted by roles requiring empathy, intuition and mental and physical agility.

As automation adoption increases it will bolster connectivity and reliability and help businesses make data, systems and processes more accessible and available. However, many manufacturing firms are finding their route to automation and digital transformation strategies being slowed down by productivity levels and the simultaneous risk of downtime.

Addressing this is possible through tools such as predictive analytics and maintenance that act as a virtual extension of their teams. However, implementing these technologies successfully requires additional external expertise. To explore this further, here are the main five pitfalls we see businesses face as they approach digital transformation and suggestions for how to address them.

Pitfall #1: Cybersecurity Risks

Security breaches continue to make major headlines due to the serious impact they can have on business. A breach not only risks a loss of sensitive information but also disruption, downtime and performance issues, as well as serious reputation damage. This highlights the importance for businesses to improve their data management processes and invest in their IT infrastructure.

Predictive maintenance support can help manufacturers avoid such issues by automatically monitoring for unusual patterns and immediately identify potential signs of data theft or network intrusion. They also require a comprehensive approach to security that includes policies and procedures and provides layers of defence around people, processes and technology risks.

Pitfall #2: Having Too Much Data

Businesses are generating huge volumes of data that, when utilised correctly, can be an immensely valuable asset. However, many manufacturing organisations don’t know how to make the best use of their data and, as a result, don’t optimise their workflows or production processes in a way that enables them to gather the best insights and results.

Being able to understand massive amounts of data is key to solving the biggest challenges facing organisations. But the skills and capabilities required to do it are rarely part of a business’ core competencies. It’s therefore important to partner with a trusted data expert that can collect the right information, store it and present it in a way that enables them to make the most effective business decisions.

Pitfall #3: Poor Management of Data

Businesses are amassing more data than ever, but simply having huge amounts of data does not suffice. They need tools that help them better harness their data and understand the information they have.

The true value of automation lies in the IP that businesses hold on their customers, processes and product designs. Leveraging AI and machine learning enables them to analyse huge amounts of information, hypothesise and create significant data patterns, and train learning models to discover the unknown. Furthermore, data teams will be able to try more use cases in significantly reduced times, which will help them to make huge strides in understanding their data.

The potential of these advances in AI is highlighted by McKinsey analysis that found the most advanced deep learning techniques could account for up to $5.8 trillion in annual value. In two-thirds of the 400 use cases it tested, AI improved performance beyond that enabled by other analytics techniques. Without this ability to collect huge amounts of data from multiple platforms and action it effectively, manufacturers will continue to struggle to draw effective conclusions on changes and productivity within their plants.

Pitfall #4: Not Keeping up with the Pace of Technology

The amount of buzzwords surrounding digital transformation can often be overwhelming and even irritating for businesses that simply want technology to work. Many providers also demand vast investments upfront, which can be a daunting prospect and can put businesses off when a project doesn’t work out. Furthermore, getting locked into one vendor or deployment can result in companies get left behind by their competitors.

It’s therefore important to work with providers that offer a pilot or prototype in advance of any deployment that represents a huge technological shift. This will provide a step-by-step vision of how the process will work, provide milestones, and help the business understand how it will work and what their expected ROI will be. Trusted technology partners need to be extensions of a team if they are to help businesses realise their goals and KPIs.

Pitfall #5: Lacking Expertise

Even with the right automation technologies in place, businesses often still require external support from people with appropriate experience and expertise. This can now be achieved by using augmented reality to provide remote application support and overlay information for engineers to follow.

As with any technology deployment, it needs to fit in with the business’ culture and what works best for their specific needs. However, businesses that are slow to move on these types of emerging technology run the real risk of being left behind.

Embrace the Future of Automation

Meeting the key challenges of better productivity and reduced downtime is possible with the right technology practices and the right technology partner in place. By understanding the common pitfalls outlined above, manufacturing firms can better navigate their path to the future of automation. However, digitalisation is not something they can achieve alone.


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Jun 8, 2021

IMF: Variants Can Still Hurt Manufacturing Recovery

Elise Leise
3 min
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) claims that while markets are rising and manufacturing is coming back, it’ll push for global immunisation

After a year of on-and-off manufacturing in the US, UK, and the eurozone, demand for goods surged early last week. Factories set growth records in April and May, suppliers started to recover, and US crude hit its highest price point since pre-COVID. As vaccination efforts immunise much of the US and UK populations, manufacturers are now able to fully ramp up their supply chains. In fact, GDP growth could approach double-digits by 2022

Now, the ISM productivity measure has surpassed the 50-point mark that separates industry expansion from contraction. Since U.S. president Biden passed his US$1.9tn stimulus package and the UK purchasing managers index (PMI) increased to 65.6, both sides of the Atlantic are facing a much-welcomed manufacturing recovery. 

Lingering Concerns Over COVID

Even as Spain, France, Italy, and Germany race to catch up, and mining companies pushed the FTSE 100 index of list shares to a monthly high of 7,129, some say that UK and US markets still suffer from a lack of confidence in raw material supplies. Yes, the Dow Jones has made up its 19,173-point crash of March 2020, and MSCI’s global stock index is at an all-time high. 

Yet manufacturers around the world realise that these wins will be short-lived until pandemic supply chain bottlenecks are solved. If we keep the status quo, consumers will pay the price. In April, inflation in Germany reached 2.4%, and across the EU’s 19 member countries, overall prices have increased at an unusual pace. Some ask: Is this true recovery? 

IMF: Current Boom Could Falter

Even as Elon Musk tweeted about chip shortages forcing Tesla to raise its prices, UK mining demand skyrocketed; housing markets lifted; and the pound sterling gained value. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), however, cautioned that manufacturing recovery won’t last long if COVID mutates into forms our vaccinations can’t touch. Kristalina Georgieva, Washington’s IMF director, noted that fewer than 1% of African citizens have been vaccinated: “Worldwide access to vaccines offers the best hope for stopping the coronavirus pandemic, saving lives, and securing a broad-based economic recovery”. 

Across the globe, manufacturing companies are keeping a watchful eye on new developments in the spread of COVID. Though US FDA officials don’t think we’ll have to “start at square one” with new vaccines, the March 2021 World Economic Outlook states that “high uncertainty” surrounds the projected 6% global growth. Continued manufacturing success will in large part depend on “the path of the pandemic, the effectiveness of policy support, and the evolution of financial conditions”. 

Mathias Cormann, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) concurred—without global immunisation, the estimated economic boom expected by 2025 could go kaput. “We need to...pursue an all-out effort to reach the entire world population”, Australia’s finance minister added. US$50bn to end COVID across the world, they imply, is a small investment to restart our economies.

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