Sebastien Grau, Regional Sales Director Middle East & Sub Saharan Africa at Rockwell Automation discusses current trends within the automation industry.
What are the benefits of automation for the manufacturing industry?
Every day we see the many benefits of automation that are helping manufacturers. With automation, manufacturers can get much greater access to data, work smarter and respond faster with Industrial IoT. Automation allows for improved collaboration and efficiencies, as the new communication methods have wireless and mobile technologies. Actionable information is available which allows workers to make better and faster decisions with scalable analytics. Rockwell Automation provides analytics dashboards that pull data from multiple sources into a single pane of glass, bringing insights into production KPIs by location, line or product Automation allows manufacturers the ability to share data in real-time and communications are made seamless with a secure network infrastructure. It also enables agile and flexible production operations, with multi-purpose equipment, like packaging systems that can change between products and packaging sizes at the push of a button.
What are the challenges of this technology?
With automation comes some challenges, and one of the main challenges faced is that of security. The interconnection of systems is a key feature in industrial digitalization, which also, however, represents a security challenge in terms of data protection. This data must be secured against direct, external hacking attacks but also against unintentional data leaks, for example, as a result of employee error or lack of competence. At Rockwell Automation, we offer industrial security and solutions with a comprehensive approach beyond just network security, protecting the integrity and availability of complex automation solutions. Rockwell Automation’s industrial security services help to effectively assess, implement, and maintain ICS security within operations. As the security landscape is ever-changing managing the constantly evolving risk is vital.
What are the current trends within manufacturing when it comes to automation?
When it comes to automation, one of the most current trends within manufacturing is Artificial intelligence. AI is extending human capabilities and is helping people to achieve more every single day. Rockwell Automation has a large portfolio of AI technology products such as FactoryTalk Analytics for devices that are improving industrial production at a rapid pace. It can ease decision making for factory workers by providing informed predictive analytics. With AI, industrial workers can now more easily use the data from their equipment to predict production issues and improve processes with their existing automation and control skill set. AI can also detect production anomalies and alert workers so they can investigate or intervene, as necessary, thus improving product quality and reducing downtime.
How has the use of automation evolved within the manufacturing industry?
Over the past two decades, automation in manufacturing has seen a large transformation. Today, we are seeing the array of rapid advances in automation; such as the use of robotics, artificial intelligence, digital twin and machine learning which are all enabling machines to perform a wide range of work activities. The technology we are using will continue to evolve every day, and the companies that are incorporating automation will reap huge benefits. For those companies that are slowly introducing automation into their organisations, they must understand what automation is making possible with current technology, and what it is likely to make possible in the future.
What is the best strategy for adopting automation technology?
At Rockwell Automation, we believe that incorporating a company culture that fosters agility, collaboration and diversity is crucial in adopting automation technology. When we talk about digitalisation, we are referring to bringing people, technologies, and processes together into a connected enterprise. We believe that embracing digitalisation starts with creating a culture of perpetual learning that empowers employees with tech-enabled tools. If companies want to stay productive and profitable in this digital age, they need to incorporate digital technologies to train, empower and support a new generation of employees.
How will automation impact the human workforce?
In the coming years, adopting automation - AI technologies, smart Sensors, digital twins - will transform the skills of the workplace as people interact with smart machines and AI. These types of advanced technologies need humans who understand how these technologies work, and they need to be able to develop, adapt and work with them. Training the workforce of today to be well equipped with the skills required to adopt and implement automation and other forms of technology such as AI will increase productivity growth across the entire industry. The skill shift that is present now, that accompanied automation and digital transformation in the workplace, is resulting in the need for increased technological skills. This change means that companies need to rethink their approach to worker training and should start to focus on equipping their teams with the new skills needed.
Looking to the future, what would you like to see developed in relation to automation?
The ongoing developments on automation are supported by great new technologies such as Augmented and virtual reality, Machine Learnings, AI or collaborative robots using more and more data to help us better understand processes and optimise them.
What I would to like to see, is a complete automated, integrated and autonomous enterprise system. A single system able to monitor and control a process, advise on the right decisions to optimise it. It will anticipate and forecast all possible issues in the future based on condition monitoring and predict the maintenance in advance, at the best time to avoid downtime, with the right trained resource to perform. It must be linked with the IT side to ensure the proper stock of spares is available on stock at the right time. We can really start to think about a “no unforced/no forecasted downtime” industry, and we are already seeing concrete successful developments.
Could you tell me a little bit about your company?
Rockwell Automation is the largest company in the world that is dedicated to industrial automation and information. For more than 100 years, Rockwell Automation’s keen focus on technology innovation, domain expertise, and integrity and corporate responsibility fuel its success. Rockwell Automation is committed to enabling the next generation of smart manufacturing and its mission is to improve the quality of life by making the world a more productive and sustainable place.
How is your company utilising automation/providing automation technology?
With more than 100 years of industrial automation experience, Rockwell Automation offers a wide range of automation solutions to meet the challenges faced by today’s industry. Rockwell Automation provides many automation technologies that are helping manufacturers across the globe in their operations. One such system that Rockwell Automation provides is its PlantPAx® system. The PlantPAx® system helps companies make better and faster decisions. This system enables manufactures to respond more quickly to the demands of the customer and fast-changing specifications. This modern DCS connects uses a common automation platform for seamless integration between critical areas of the plant and helps companies to drive productivity, increase efficiencies and reduce costs. Another system that Rockwell Automation provides is The FactoryTalk® Analytics™ platform which is a bundled offering that includes FactoryTalk Analytics DataView, FactoryTalk Analytics DataFlowML, and FactoryTalk Analytics Edge. With FactoryTalk Analytics, our clients gain scalable analytics from the edge to enterprise and can ingest data from many different sources. FactoryTalk Analytics is providing our clients with self-service machine learning and data mashups for collaborative data analysis.
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