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Get Ahead of the Curve in 2015: Invest in IoT

As the holiday season gets into full swing, executives like you are polishing off strategic and operational plans for the New Year. For many manufacturing companies, 2014 was a good year, for some outstanding, and most manufacturers are optimistic for more of the same in 2015. According to MAPI’s US Industrial Outlook, “manufacturing will continue to grow faster than the overall economy,” with 2015 growing at a higher rate than 2014.

Because manufacturers are looking to get ahead of this growth curve and set the stage for competitive differentiation and advantage in 2015, you are utilizing budgets remaining from 2014 to make smart investments now in new technologies, before the year comes to a close. With strategic investments in operations or R&D/engineering, companies position themselves to be more agile, productive and competitive while the economy slowly but surely continues to strengthen. In an Industry Week report, “Manufacturers are optimistic about their businesses as well as the economy as a whole, and are investing accordingly … Following a profitable growth strategy, they are controlling costs while introducing new products, increasing sales from existing customers, and leveraging data to make smarter business decisions.”

In recent conversations with a few of my Cisco colleagues who happen to be 20+yr Manufacturing / OT (Operations Technology) veterans, these industry gurus describe how they counsel manufacturing clients during the transitional holiday season. Steve Gansen points out that for many companies, budgets need to be expended this calendar year-end (‘use it or lose it’), which presents a great opportunity to change the prioritization for projects. “Many of my customers see this as an opportunity to reprioritize projects and drive budget to improve R&D or product engineering and offerings.” (His comments reminded me of the Sub-Zero’s innovative investments in their product development, NPI and processes.)

Jim Fledderjohn and Dwayne Edwards add that there are other considerations for a variety of Internet of Things (IoT) proof-of-concept (PoC) projects for production environments and engineering programs that present incremental, re-directional opportunities at year-end. From video surveillance to energy management, to factory wireless and plant virtualization, there are many compelling use cases that can be easily ‘piloted’ to deliver immediate business outcomes and measurable ROI. In fact, an option recently announced at Automation Fair is Cisco Services Factory Starter Kit, a fast-track, turnkey PoC package of wireless capabilities for your plant environments.

Jim further describes, “Piloting an IoT project on a small scale lets manufacturers test out a concept in their environment and puts them in a better position to win budget and additional investment in 2015.” Particularly in the US—where according to the latest ISM Report On Business for November, the manufacturing sector expanded for the 18th consecutive month—momentum in the industry just keeps building. And considering manufacturing technologies that include embedded intelligence and IoT, according to the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), orders for 2014 are showing growth of >5%.

Are YOU planning end-of-the-year investments in IoT? Let us know what you think in the comment block below. Thanks for reading.

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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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