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Industrial IP Advantage at Automation Fair 2014

Last week, I joined my colleagues from Rockwell Automation and Panduit at the Industrial IP Advantage (IIPA) booth at Automation Fair in Anaheim.  This is the largest gathering of Rockwell Automation users where IIPA can do outreach directly to the community of controls engineers, automation managers and industrial IT professionals.

Since IIPA has a vision of putting forth an educational community where best practices, successes and failures can be shared and learned from, I was definitely struck that training will continue to be pivotal.   As we work together on thought leadership and the promotion of standard, unmodified Ethernet and Internet Protocol, together with the leading open industrial Ethernet standard, EtherNet/IP™,  skill sets need to grow to keep up with the market.

Training is Definitely a Hot Button

The workforce shortage issue for industrial markets is real.  Discussing and explaining the training and certification offerings from Cisco and IIPA resonated with the attendees.  The IIPA e-learning beta launch got great initial reviews.  Customers are looking for a portable and scalable learning option to complement the instructor lead Industrial CCNA offering.  Attendees were happy that Cisco and Rockwell Automation were investing in the various IT-OT training initiatives. Take a look at this video that summarizes this:

Business Outcomes are Key

Another thing that struck me this year was the theme of my conversations at this show matured from a technical discussion about why, what and how to deploy a Converged Plantwide Ethernet Architecture to what’s possible with a full Connected Factory.  So, the bits/bytes, speeds and feeds around product functionality, for example PoE, NAT, 802.11ad functionality and support, although still important were replaced with business outcome conversations.  For example, “I have a mandate around energy sustainability in my plant.  How can I leverage a wireless mesh deployment to lower my energy and resource consumption costs”  or…. “I have 6 months to provision 5 new packaging lines in my plant with 5 machine cells per line, and over 8 automation vendors to manage.  Can your solution provide a scalable path to cost and efficiency improvements.”   What are your thoughts on this and what manufacturing challenges is your company facing?  Thanks for reading.

Compelling Use Cases for Wireless in the Factory

tony shakib connected factory banner pic

At  Automation Fair this week, we are announcing major enhancements to our Cisco Connected Factory solution with new wireless and mobility capabilities.  This solution, called Factory Wireless, builds on the joint Cisco/Rockwell Automation architecture, known as Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE), as well as Cisco’s networking expertise with wireless and wired technologies and creates new flexible communication opportunities between things, machines, databases, and people throughout the plant.

Interestingly, many manufacturers have been reticent to adopt wireless broadly in their production floor or have been reticent to understand the many exciting use cases that are possible with wireless.  Despite this, the growth will still be steady, as analyst firm IHS predicts, “wireless network connections in industrial automation components in global factories will rise from 2.4 million in 2014 to 3.4 million by 2017.”

Savvy industrial companies who implement a new validated factory wireless infrastructure find that it is the key foundation for many use cases such as asset tracking to mobile visibility of automation controls and HMIs to wirelessly connecting plant floor equipment. In fact, we are seeing the demand for wireless in factories explode due to the potential to cut cabling costs by 95% and speed decision making by 80%.  One customer saw a 7% output boost as well by applying wireless to the production process.

Here are some of the most compelling use cases that automotive, process, discrete, consumer packaged goods and other types of manufacturers where wireless can truly be a game-changer:

  • RFID asset tags for wireless tracking of critical production tools resulting in significant productivity gains.
  • Quality control and assembly line monitoring reducing warranty returns and improving labor utilization such as the gains in the Reynosa, Mexico factory of Stanley Black and Decker.
  • Remote monitoring and real-time visibility of production line equipment for faster response time and better decision-making
  • Mobile video HD cameras for trouble-shooting and collaboration which means significant downtime reduction and faster new product introductions.  Check out the Sub-Zero/Wolf example.
  • Assembly line changeovers or reconfigurations (typical in automotive for example)—with wireless, the plant can be more flexible and adapt faster to new product lines or model changes.

Our design guides  bring together  wireless best practice designs, and tested and validated architectures integrating both IT and OT perspectives.   In addition, Cisco provides support for both unified or autonomous mode.The biggest problem I have seen is when customers fall into the trap of deploying multiple ad hoc wireless networks that ends up causing interference that reduces the effectiveness of those networks.  We can help you deploy a unified plant-wide wireless environment across IT and OT use cases where you can manage and secure end to end – increasing reliability and lowering cost.  Watch for future blogs on tips and considerations as you plan your wireless deployment.

What do you see as your killer use case for industrial wireless in your factory?  Let us know and visit here for more information.  Thanks for reading.

Real-World IoT Solutions at Automation Fair 2014

In a little over two weeks, many of my colleagues at Cisco are joining customers, ecosystem partners and strategic alliance partner   Rockwell Automation for their largest user conference, Automation Fair.  Automation Fair will be held at sunny Anaheim, California from November 19th thru the 20th.

Every year, we showcase the best of our real-world, joint solutions with Rockwell Automation as we meet with the many Operations, Controls, IT and Manufacturing professionals that attend this industry event. In our booth (#668), we will be demonstrating a complete factory floor model that will show you how to transform your production environment into a truly connected, Internet of Things-enabled ‘Factory of the future’. The demos will  showcase several leading edge manufacturing solutions such as factory floor application virtualization, remote and mobile access, energy management, video collaboration and security and will give a glimpse into some new products including wireless offerings.

Recently at the Internet of Things World Forum,  John Chambers, CEO of Cisco and Jim Grubb, Chief Demonstration Officer, showed a similar ‘connected manufacturing’ and industrial automation demonstration scenario- showing the breadth of what’s possible today. Take a look:

In addition to the factory solutions, we will also be showcasing Oil and Gas solutions including Secure Pipeline and Digital Oilfield as well as our recently announced Secure Ops solution.   Plus we will have technical and industry sessions where we will have Cisco subject matter experts share their knowledge and best practices.  Checking out these real-world solution demos as well as attending enriching sessions help broaden your skills set as  John Nesi of Rockwell Automation describes in this blog.  All are definitely worth your time and trouble.

For more information on Cisco’s presence at Automation Fair, please visit our event site.  Thanks for reading and see you at Anaheim!

IoT, STEM, Women, Innovation, Manufacturing and the 52% Opportunity

I can humbly say that I can now understand, embrace and apply the phrase that my grandfather often spoke, “Son, I’ve lived a little.  Trust your eyes more than your ears.   May the HOPE experienced by your ears be the reality of your eyes.”

I, one day HOPE that the reality of equality and opportunity for all people regardless of culture, socioeconomic status, gender or sexual orientation is achieved in my lifetime.

So, what does all this HOPE stuff have to do with IoT, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), Manufacturing, Innovation and Women? Stem Women

Well, let me explain……….

Here’s some metrics you may be familiar with:

  • IoT global value opportunity estimated to be over $8 Trillion
  • Over the next 10 years it is estimated there will be two million unfilled STEM related jobs globally
  • 82 percent of American manufacturers surveyed reported a moderate or severe shortage of high-skilled workers
  • Of the 52% — of women who earn STEM degrees, 52% leave the field within 10 years.

2014 IoT World Forum

…. But HOPE descended upon the Windy City of Chicago last week in the form of The Internet of Things (IoT) World Forum sponsored by Cisco Systems and its partners, including Rockwell Automation and Panduit.  The forum brought over 1700 thought leaders, executives, and creators representing companies and entities in the public, private, and education sectors

The event served as a platform and opportunity for participants to leverage the mindshare, perspectives and experiences from their peers.  The objective of the event was to evolve the IoT conversations FROM determining the IoT value opportunity TO “how” value can/is being realized from the IoT paradigm.  The HOPE is to leverage IoT to bring real and positive disruptive change to all sectors of society including education, finance, politics, environment, education, food, business and technology.  This can only be achieved by soliciting, including and welcoming a diversity of perspectives obtained from both women and minorities.

The 52% Opportunity

The event agenda was well put together with a broad range of diverse and engaging IoT topics being presented and discussed.  One of those agenda topics was entitled, “Women in IoT (STEM and the Lost 52%)

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Improving R&D Through Remote Visualization

Authors: Randal Kenworthy and Doug Wycoff

Innovation in manufacturing comes from many sources.   One of the core and traditional sources is the research and development (R&D) function within a manufacturing organization.   However, the requirements and traditional processes within those functions are changing.

Manufacturers are beginning to see an increase in the amount of collaborative R&D efforts.   That collaboration takes place across geographic boundaries.   Increasingly, it also extends outside the traditional walls of the organization to include other companies, suppliers, partners and universities.

Most organizations have a strong desire to enhance collaboration, but there’s also a need to make sure sensitive data is not exposed, data silos are removed and that the manufacturer’s employees are able to visualize diverse data sets independent of location. These abilities help close information gaps between domains to improve the security, speed, and accuracy of product design and research. .

Challenges Facing Manufacturing and Energy

The Manufacturing and Energy (MNE) industry is facing a unique set of IT challenges when it comes to mobile workforces being able to access and visualize data. Many organizational infrastructures are not designed to take on the visualization capabilities necessary for today’s manufacturing and energy workers. A few challenges impacting the industry are:

Computer processing intensive 3D Design applications -- From a research and development standpoint, we’re seeing engineers and designers working in applications that require heavy graphic usage – 3D graphics specifically. For example, there are engineers doing visualization of the topography of the landscape, trying to find where there’s oil in the ground and engineers designing the next generation jet engine. These 3D applications are very intensive from a Central Processing Unit (CPU) and Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) standpoint.

More collaborative R&D efforts -- Many current organizational infrastructures are not equipped to securely and collaboratively share graphics, drawings and renderings among partners and even fellow offices. Often times today, we’re seeing a 3rd party design company helping with some of the engineering aspects. This requires the ability to share 3D graphic files across multiple parties, globally, both internally and externally within an organization. This means manufacturers now have to deal with engineers outside of their organizations that might be on the other side of the country, or even in another continent.

Security -- as Internet of Things (IoT) continues to propagate, the number of vulnerabilities and exposure points for cyber-theft and attacks are increasing.

In order to address these challenges, the industry is leveraging various emerging technologies and innovations. One capability is remote visualization – remote collaboration on 3D graphics and visualization, through a unified infrastructure. Cisco is now helping create an optimized solution that accelerates the GPU capabilities of a VDI solution.

Benefits of a VDI-Enabled Unified Infrastructure

Recently, an oil and gas exploration company incorporated a unified infrastructure solution called FlexPod Datacenter with NVIDIA and Citrix. FlexPod enables you to centralize important datasets in one or a few locations and make the results of visualization available wherever they are needed. Centralizing data simplifies data integration between systems and accelerates workflows across functions (geophysics, geology, reservoir and simulation). Your geoscientists, engineers, and business decision makers can see important results in real-time, without the bottlenecks that result from transferring huge data sets over network connections or by mail. A few additional benefits include:

  • Eliminate the infrastructure challenges created by ever-growing datasets.
  • Improve collaboration within your organization.
  • Make visualization available where and when it’s needed, including on mobile devices—without local data copies.
  • Allow you to share the results of visualization across organizational boundaries while keeping valuable datasets secure.

Similarly, imagine a defense manufacturer has a large 3D design file that has been shared within the organization and amongst partners. Let’s assume that it’s on 30 different PCs in different countries. The ability for this company to manage, track and protect those 30 designs is challenging because it’s so distributed and hard to know what security levels all partners have in place. Under the FlexPod solution, there is one version of that design/drawing and it’s in a centralized data center that you manage and protect. With this, organizations have better control over what cyber security protection they have around it and also have better control of the actual files. Data centers are not 100 percent threat proof, but they are more secure and much more manageable than if the data was distributed across multiple PCs across the network.

This ability to manage top-secret information is why one defense manufacturer worked with Cisco to build a VDI platform that met all Department of Defense (DOD) security requirements.

No matter how carefully you plan, there can be unforeseen needs and opportunities that result in a requirement for more compute infrastructure in a hurry. Whether it’s in an existing data center, or a remote location, the integrated and tested design of FlexPod Datacenter means that you can have new infrastructure up and running in less time with less effort, providing a distinct competitive advantage in situations where time is of the essence.

Seeing is Believing  

A real-time clip of the VDI solution rendering a 3D Visualization application:

To learn more about visualizing data sets and incorporating a unified infrastructure for enhanced R&D collaboration, visit our solutions page. To see this solution firsthand, visit Cisco in booth 709 at SEG 2014. Together with partners NetApp, NVIDIA and Citrix, we’ll showcase how this solution enhances collaboration and enables faster decision making without exposing sensitive data.