Newsletter Issue # 5

Real Time Automation's - Best Darn Newsletter 


IN THIS ISSUE
Why don't the brightest and Best always win?
And the gifts given through their incredible lives
The Four Future Pillars of Automation
Fun Facts and Trivia



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Why Don't the Brightest and Best Always Win?


No this isn’t a reference to the Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Heat, or the New York Yankees, but it could be. The best, most skilled, most functional pieces don’t always fit together to take the ultimate prize. It’s true in sports, and its true in Industrial and Building automation protocols. But why do Legacy protocols still dominate most automation applications? 

The first place to look for an answer may be a mirror. If you are the average control engineer you are male, 52 years old and have been in the industry for more than 25 years. I’m not saying we can’t be taught new tricks but we have spent decades becoming Masters of Modbus and Sultans of Serial. We have seen enough new protocols come and go to warrant our pessimism.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If you have a line that has been running since the dark ages of industrial automation and it’s still successfully putting out what ever widget it makes why would you upgrade it? Why would management warrant the expense and why would you want the headache? There are plenty of perfectly fine applications out there running on old protocols.

Industrial and Building Automation has yet to find its Steve Jobs. Let’s face it, new protocols have great new features and vast improvements over old field buses but all those improvements come with piles of extra complexity. Find me a PLC or HMI that works as easily as an Ipad… It just hasn’t happened yet.  That means that there is a lot to learn whenever we use a new protocol.

Dollars that Make Sense. Often devices featuring older simpler protocols have vastly lower sticker prices. The protocols are simple to support from a technology and hardware perspective. They have also been around long enough that multiple companies are offering solutions that in turn create competition that lowers the price. 

There are plenty of reasons why the newest, brightest and best solutions don’t dominate automation.  The nice thing is we can help get your old, perfectly fine, stuff onto those new fangled protocols with the easiest to use gateways in the market.  Happy Networking!

 

 

RTA News Team

Trivia Challenge

· What was St. Patrick's birth name?

· True or False: St. Patrick was Irish?

·Why is St. Patrick's Day celebrated on March 17th?

· What was the original color associated with St. Patrick's Day?

·According to legend, what does each leaf of the clover stand for?

 

Answers located on bottom of page.



Two Fathers

A Column of personal opinion by John Rinaldi, Founder and Owner of Real Time Automation.

I had a chance recently to spend some time with a really great guy and friend of mine, Matt Kuzel. If you don’t know Matt, you should. He’s the owner of Huron Net Works. He’s a great engineer and knows the CAN physical layer about as well as anyone. He’s especially skilled at DeviceNet development and can probably quote from the DeviceNet specification by memory.

I was sad to learn that Matt had recently lost his father. Cancer took Matt’s dad. Old age took mine. It was painful and difficult for both of us. But amid all the emotion there was joy and remembrances that united us.

Both our fathers, while coming from totally different backgrounds, lived rich full lives. My dad was born on a rural Italian Tobacco farm during WWI. Things were pretty primitive. No plumbing. No electricity. Little connection with the world outside his town, and even seeing other townspeople was pretty unusual. Dad spent a lot of his youth sleeping in the fields protecting the sheep herd from predators.

But in 1934, with less than $25, the clothes on his back, and 2 years of elementary school education, dad set out for America. Leaving the farm took him to America - a job at a wrecking company gathering bricks from destroyed buildings for 16 cents an hour, a WWII Army service in the Pacific, eventually a mechanics job at Miller High Life, and a family life with a wife and two sons.

Unlike my dad, Matt’s dad was an educated man. A high school education. An Electrical Engineering degree. Service in WWII in the European Theatre. He lived his life as an entrepreneur, an avid skater and inventor. He had any number of innovations including plans for a portable tool storage/recharger station for home work benches he conceived of during one of his last rounds of chemo.

Matt’s dad was organized. Really organized. A list maker all his life, he instilled that trait onto Matt. Matt too makes a lot of lists and keeps everything very organized. You’ll know this to be true if you ever visit Huron Net Works in Ann Arbor. Everything is in its place. I always wonder how anyone can work in a place that organized.

It’s tough to lose a parent, especially guys like these two. But I had an experience that day that I can look back on and laugh about. The morning of the funeral there was a lot to do. I had to run a number of errands, chauffeur people here and there, and help get things organized. The one thing I didn’t do was put gas in the car (I’m sure that would have been on one of Matt’s lists).

After the funeral mass, my mother and I get in my car which is parked just behind the hearse. My brother and his four kids are behind us, as are about 70 cars. Yes, 70. Dad was an engaging, gregarious, lovable guy and had many, many friends.

So, I get in the car, look down and the needle isn’t on the E; it’s not touching E. IT’S ABOUT A ¼” BELOW E! Oh my God. What am I going to do?

The one thing I’m not going to do is to tell my mother. No way. No how. I can’t tell her that we might run out of gas during her husband’s funeral procession. I didn’t think I could lead the procession through a gas station - all I could do was pray.

And pray I did. I prayed for each and every block. I thanked God for every intersection, every sign, every light. “Please God, thank you for that block. Can I have another one?” I prayed like my life depended on it.

And it worked (Well, at least I am going to say it worked).

We finally arrived at the cemetery. And I am the most relieved guy ever to arrive at that cemetery. Probably any cemetery. I somehow dodged that bullet, but the image of 70 some cars stopped behind me as the hearse goes on haunts me to this day.

I often laugh about that day, but it will always be the day I buried my father, just as Matt recently did. But we’ll never bury their memories. What they shared with us is more important than their differences. A love of God. A love of life. An encompassing love for their families and friends. Matt said it best in an email to me, “And what is great is that these are the things that we got to inherit…”And better still, we get to pass them on”



The Four Future Pillars of Automation

I Recently, I had a chance to visit the ARC Forum in Orlando for the first time. I like doing these kinds of things. There are always people at these events that have the unique ability to assemble all the little pieces laying around into a coherent whole. Which is what I’d like to talk about in this article.

We all know about cloud computing. We all know about social networking. We all know about the advances in data driven analytics and how it is being used to enhance the quality and speed of product manufacturing. And we all know about mobile communications.

Or do we? Have we stopped for a second to think about the impact the combination of all these things is going to have on automation and the products and services we deliver?

Let’s take cloud computing. Cloud computing, in short, is the practice of using computer resources outside the confines of your manufacturing environment and usually beyond the doors of your facility. There are various types of cloud computing. There’s everything from private clouds where the resources are dedicated to you and only your use to public clouds where anyone can use that resource. And there are a few models in between.

The big advantage of cloud computing is the flexibility and extensibility it gives you. Need more server space, you got it. Need to duplicate critical data in vastly different areas of the world. No problem. And you only pay for what you use without incurring facility costs, people costs, site maintenance or any of that.

Pretty sweet deal? Well maybe not.

Are you ready to trust critical data about your processes, operations, customers and finances to a third-party?  Do you know that the APIs that access the cloud are secure? Can that third-party keep a virtual firewall between your data and the next guy’s data?  Is your data encrypted? Who works at that provider? What are their backgrounds? Do they have access to your data? I am not recommending you avoid using a cloud, just go into it with your eyes wide open to the potential problems.

Truth is, we use cloud computing every day. That’s what Facebook is. That’s LinkediIn. There’s probably a CRM service that your sales force uses that is cloud based [trouble anybody that your customer list is in a cloud somewhere that can be accessed by who knows who?] Despite the risks, it’s just too darn flexible and convenient to not use it.

The second pillar of future automation is mobile. I don’t know where you could be living today without realizing the advances that have been made in mobile computing in the last few years. I’m a guy that started my career by lugging a massive, 30 pound Compaq computer with me. That thing was not only heavy, but big and awkward. Now we have teeny tiny laptops, cells phones and Ipads. We’re connected all the time. Not sure that’s a good thing but it’s the way it is.

Lots of us think that we have all the connectivity we could want but I’m here to say that we haven’t even scratched the surface. There’s lots more coming when we integrate the kinds of things I talk about a little later in this article. Mobile communications with the ability to deliver exactly what data you need when you want it without having to type in a tag name from some PLC is coming. And it’s going to offer us massive productivity enhancements. It’s not here yet. Not the way I envision it, but it’s coming.

A third pillar of this world is advanced analytics. This field has been around for quite a while. I remember in my old Procter and Gamble days that we had this Measurex computer for the paper machines that did all sorts of fancy calculations.

Today our production processes are not only fast, they’re complex and continually changing. Some of them hinge on being out of control all the time. There are interdependencies, mechanical or chemical dynamics, and temporal needs that make advanced analytics necessary. And these advanced analytics often need to interact with business systems - ours, suppliers and customers, to achieve the very best results. That’s the future - taking those advance analytics and integrating them with people and systems - it’s going to put them on steroids.

The last pillar of this automation future is social networking. I’ll bet this is the one that surprises you, but social networking has a role to play in automation. It’s not just your teenage daughter’s social media anymore.

Using social media technologies, you can easily bring to bear the best experts in the world to solve problems. Social media is the way that we are going to connect with internal colleagues, partners in trade groups, customers and vendors as well as friends and family. More and more it’s a way of life for hundreds of millions of people. It’s not realistic to think that this won’t affect us in the automation industry.

Do I think that Facebook, as it exists today, is the media for that? No. Definitely not. But Facebook does give us an inkling of how we might interact in the future. I’m excited about the idea of having the ability to create networks of people that can solve specific problems.

Kenandy has taken the first step into making this happen. They are the first ERP Vendor to incorporate social media tools into their software application. What can you do with it? Find new suppliers. Send customers delivery information. Let suppliers know when stock levels reach trigger levels. This is just the start. More vendors will be incorporating social networking into their product offerings.

Look at all these things in tandem. Moving data on our manufacturing systems into the cloud. Having mobile platforms that allow us to view, analyze and change processes on the fly from anywhere. The ability to call on advanced analytic support systems to provide specialized algorithm analysis on that cloud data. The ability to quickly and easily work with a remote team of experts though a common, convenient media.

When we take all of that together, combine all these technologies and trends, we are going to have a method of working that is more effective and productive than anything ever seen in history. Henry Ford and his assembly line have nothing on this.

I’m excited about all this and the benefits it will bring.

 

Fun Facts

 


·Hallmark usually sells anywhere from 8-15 million St. Patrick's Day cards each year.

·By law, pubs in Ireland were closed on St. Patrick's Day, a national religious holiday, as recently as the 1970s.

·An estimate suggests that there are about 10,000 regular three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf clover.

Irish is the second most frequently reported ancestry in the US, ranking behind German.

 

  Trivia Answers: Maewyn Succat; False, he was Scottish; St. Patrick died on March 17th; Blue; The first is for hope, the second for faith, the third for love and the fourth for luck
   
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