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Manufacturing Robotics: Automation with Emotion

I enjoy Halloween.  I particularly enjoy passing out candy and treats to the children and being amused by their costumes.  Some are very creative, and cute.   A young girl no older than 3 years was dressed as a duck and instead of saying, “Trick or Treat” she just quacked. It was Hilarious!! So what does my Halloween experience this year have to do with manufacturing.  Well, a young man came to my home dressed in a very elaborate and cleverly designed C-3PO costume.  You know the clever robot in the Star Wars series that translated for R2D2.

I began to think about how robots in manufacturing are evolving and becoming more intuitive and cerebral, but an interesting phenomenon is also starting to evolve in the world of robotics.  They’re becoming more emotional.

Say Hello to Mr. Baxter.  Rethink Robotics has designed a friendly and compassionate robot with ‘common sense’.  Baxter is a worker robot with a touchscreen face that’s as much about communicating its intent as giving humans something more to experience.  It’s safe to work around, courteous and follows instructions very well.  The ideal teenage son. Baxter also cost about $22,000. Less than a 1/3 of some college tuitions.

Can you envision yourself treating your fellow robot much like you treat your trusted Golden Retriever, Fido?  Do you remember Rosie from the Jetsons and B9, the robot from the late 1960′s sitcom, Lost In Space (Boy am I dating myself)?  These robots expressed emotions like love and fear, were treated like family and were trusted to help make critical decisions that effected the safety and well being of their owners.

Baxter is being touted as the catalyst to help restore US and European manufacturing prowess.  Do you think Baxter robots will achieve this objective?  I’m not sure, but I would like to know how President Obama and Mr. Romney plan to tax Mr. Baxter.  I would hate for Baxter to become emotionally upset and stage a strike.

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See The Power of Collaboration at Automation Fair 2012

October 26, 2012 at 8:00 am PST

Equipment builders and plant personnel are trying to achieve three goals simultaneously:

  • Converge their control and enterprise networks
  • Simplify and lower the costs of their machines
  • Improve line integration at the plants they serve

 

You’re invited!

Rockwell Automation, Panduit, Fluke Networks, and Cisco joint demonstrations

As the world’s leading industrial Ethernet, EtherNet/IP converges the physical framework offered by Panduit, logical framework by Cisco and Rockwell Automation and toolsets from Fluke Networks, enabling equipment builders and plant personnel to design and deploy robust, secure and future-ready networks utilizing common infrastructure assets.

While you’re at Cisco booth #1307 – be sure to come right across the way to booth #1407 to see how EtherNet/IP is changing the manufacturing industry. Cisco and its partners – Rockwell Automation, Panduit and Fluke Networks – will demonstrate how each component works together to design and deploy robust, secure and future-ready networks using common infrastructure assets.

Stop by the EtherNet/IP booth to learn more about:  Read More »

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Harsh Wireless Environment? Not a Problem.

It’s a fact – everyone wants wireless access.  Recent research indicates that by 2015, more US internet users will be accessing the internet over their mobile devices than on traditional computers.   With that many people online and on their mobile devices not having stable, secure wireless access is surely an impediment for companies as well as every day users. Companies leverage mobile devices to enable a more efficient workforce. Mobile devices are used to leverage “always-on” applications, increasing access for employees and as a better means of time management. Both of which increase employee productivity.  Companies also often rely on their wireless network for regulating employee safety.  Such is the case for the iron manufacturing company, North American Hoganas Inc.

With 11 production facilities across four continents in eight countries including the United States, where it staffs 250 employees, North American Hoganas Inc. needed to deploy an end-to-end wireless network in order to keep up with market demands and target new operational efficiencies.  Up to the minute communication is vital not only for business operations, but also for the safety of their plant employees.  Updating employees on risk assessments, proper product handling techniques, and work schedules are just some examples of mission-critical, daily communication from management to employees.  There was one problem that stood between North American Hoganas Inc and a successfully deploying a pervasive wireless network: North American Hoganas Inc. itself.

Read More »

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Can Manufacturers Stop the BYOD Trend or Should They Even Try?

I just finished reading Chuck Robbins’ blog on the BYOD trend and its impact on corporate culture. In the blog Chuck cites a recent study on how most executives are still uneasy about their companies’ mobile data-access policies… and it got me thinking about how manufacturers are dealing with this trend.

More and more manufacturing workers are adopting mobile technologies into their workspace, and are growing accustomed to interacting and working in a more visual, virtual, social, and mobile way.  In fact a survey conducted by Manufacturing Executive this year noted that 63% of manufacturing companies permit their employees to bring their own devices (BYOD) to work, but only  17% of manufacturing enterprises have a formal BYOD strategy with clear goals and objectives.  Manufacturers are struggling with how to create, deploy and enforce sound enterprise wide security polices around BYOD.   Protecting intellectual property is only half the concern.  Manufacturers must also consider how a breach in security will effect the safety of their workers and environment, as well as, their products.

Although security is a top of mind concern for manufacturers, the promise of deploying a sound BYOD policy can not be discounted.   Empowering employees and partners with the freedom to collaborate and access video, data and voice on an open, mobile and personal platform can produce a culture that drives operational excellence, supply chain agility, and innovation throughout the entire manufacturing value chain from the plant floor up through to R&D centers.

For example if there is a problem on the manufacturing line, an employee with access to the company directory on their personal mobile device can locate and contact a supervisor or expert using Cisco Jabber and then launch with a single click mobile Cisco WebEx mobile,  where they can show the problem using the video camera on the device and quickly collaborate to solve the problem.

Supply chains can now become more agile and flexible, because customers and the enterprise can analyze, monitor and track progress from order through successful delivery in real-time.  Data is now not just captured, stored, analyzed and delivered, but is now acted upon, presented and shared with the appropriate people and systems in real-time.

In addition, a May 2012 Cisco Connected World Technology Report found that two of five survey respondents said they would accept a lower-paying job that offered more flexibility for device choice, social media access, and mobility than a higher-paying job with less flexibility.  Crucial for an industry looking to retain and attract a qualified workforce.

Can manufactures continue to avoid the new BYOD paradigm, or are they just delaying the inevitable? Let me know your thoughts.

 

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Cisco, Customers and Partner Speak of Possibilities at ITxpo

October 2, 2012 at 3:32 pm PST

We all know something about the evolution of agriculture.  Once upon a time, a horse pulled a plow, led by a man who spent days upon days in the fields.  And small, local rivers were dammed to redirect water to crops.  Today, monster machines plow acres in minutes.  And irrigation systems feed farms that are hundreds of miles away. 

The long-term evolution of productivity and efficiency was dramatic.  But what does the near-term evolution of business processes look like?

I hope you can join Cisco at Gartner’s Symposium/ITxpo.  You’ll get near-term business evolution insights from folks like Barry Libenson, CIO of Land O’ Lakes, Inc., and Ron Gilson, CIO of Johnsonville Sausage, Inc.  They’ll join Marie Hattar, Cisco’s Vice President of Enterprise Segment Marketing and Bhavani Amirthalingam, World Wide Technology Inc.’s Vice President of Information Technology on Monday, October 22nd at 3:30 pm to discuss the topic, “Work Your Way: A Mobility Strategy for Business Success”.

Cisco’s Unified Workspace makes “Work Your Way” possible

Just a short decade ago manufacturers communicated by phone, by email and by foot. Many business conversations occurred in the same geographic location. Product management, operations meetings and training often occurred on the same campus. A company’s culture and reputation was defined by things like face-to-face meetings, hallway conversations, employee recognition and the attention provided to customers.

Today, employees, supply chains and processes are widely dispersed.  Meanwhile, skilled workers are retiring and they’re harder to replace.  What evolutionary solutions are manufacturers choosing in order to bring remote and shrinking resources together?   Read More »

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