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Ericsson Works With SAP on Technology for Directing Machines

  By Cornelius Rahn – Feb 25, 2013 2:21 AM MT Ericsson AB (ERICB) and SAP AG (SAP) will work together to offer technology that may be used to detect risks at oil refineries and direct vending machines to restock items appropriate to the weather. Ericsson, the world’s largest maker of wireless networks, will deliver hardware to connect machines to the […]

Maker Shed Microcontroller Quick Reference Chart

  By Michael Castor , 2013/01/31 @ 1:30 pm With all the microcontrollers and single board computers on the market, sometimes it’s hard to see all your options. That’s why we made up this quick reference sheet for the 8 most popular boards we sell in the Maker Shed. This handy chart (which we lovingly refer to as the “Grid”) […]

Raspberry Pi : A Tiny Computer Attracts a Million Tinkerers

  Raspberry Pi may sound like the name of a math-based dessert. But it is actually one of the hottest and cheapest little computers in the world right now. Almost one million of these $35 machines have shipped since last February, capturing the imaginations of educators, hobbyists and tinkerers around the world. Enlarge This Image […]

Skilled Work, Without the Worker

By 

 

DRACHTEN, the Netherlands — At the Philips Electronics factory on the coast of China, hundreds of workers use their hands and specialized tools to assemble electric shavers. That is the old way.

At a sister factory here in the Dutch countryside, 128 robot arms do the same work with yoga-like flexibility. Video cameras guide them through feats well beyond the capability of the most dexterous human.

One robot arm endlessly forms three perfect bends in two connector wires and slips them into holes almost too small for the eye to see. The arms work so fast that they must be enclosed in glass cages to prevent the people supervising them from being injured. And they do it all without a coffee break — three shifts a day, 365 days a year.

All told, the factory here has several dozen workers per shift, about a tenth as many as the plant in the Chinese city of Zhuhai.

This is the future. A new wave of robots, far more adept than those now commonly used by automakers and other heavy manufacturers, are replacing workers around the world in both manufacturing and distribution. Factories like the one here in the Netherlands are a striking counterpoint to those used by Apple and other consumer electronics giants, which employ hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers.

“With these machines, we can make any consumer device in the world,” said Binne Visser, an electrical engineer who manages the Philips assembly line in Drachten.

Many industry executives and technology experts say Philips’s approach is gaining ground on Apple’s. Even as Foxconn, Apple’s iPhone manufacturer, continues to build new plants and hire thousands of additional workers to make smartphones, it plans to install more than a million robots within a few years to supplement its work force in China.

Foxconn has not disclosed how many workers will be displaced or when. But its chairman, Terry Gou, has publicly endorsed a growing use of robots. Speaking of his more than one million employees worldwide, he said in January, according to the official Xinhua news agency: “As human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache.”

The falling costs and growing sophistication of robots have touched off a renewed debate among economists and technologists over how quickly jobs will be lost. This year, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made the case for a rapid transformation. “The pace and scale of this encroachment into human skills is relatively recent and has profound economic implications,” they wrote in their book, “Race Against the Machine.”

In their minds, the advent of low-cost automation foretells changes on the scale of the revolution in agricultural technology over the last century, when farming employment in the United States fell from 40 percent of the work force to about 2 percent today. The analogy is not only to the industrialization of agriculture but also to the electrification of manufacturing in the past century, Mr. McAfee argues.

“At what point does the chain saw replace Paul Bunyan?” asked Mike Dennison, an executive at Flextronics, a manufacturer of consumer electronics products that is based in Silicon Valley and is increasingly automating assembly work. “There’s always a price point, and we’re very close to that point.”

But Bran Ferren, a veteran roboticist and industrial product designer at Applied Minds in Glendale, Calif., argues that there are still steep obstacles that have made the dream of the universal assembly robot elusive. “I had an early naïveté about universal robots that could just do anything,” he said. “You have to have people around anyway. And people are pretty good at figuring out, how do I wiggle the radiator in or slip the hose on? And these things are still hard for robots to do.”

Beyond the technical challenges lies resistance from unionized workers and communities worried about jobs. The ascension of robots may mean fewer jobs are created in this country, even though rising labor and transportation costs in Asia and fears of intellectual property theft are now bringing some work back to the West.

Take the cavernous solar-panel factory run by Flextronics in Milpitas, south of San Francisco. A large banner proudly proclaims “Bringing Jobs & Manufacturing Back to California!” (Right now China makes a large share of the solar panels used in this country and is automating its own industry.)

Yet in the state-of-the-art plant, where the assembly line runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there are robots everywhere and few human workers. All of the heavy lifting and almost all of the precise work is done by robots that string together solar cells and seal them under glass. The human workers do things like trimming excess material, threading wires and screwing a handful of fasteners into a simple frame for each panel.

Such advances in manufacturing are also beginning to transform other sectors that employ millions of workers around the world. One is distribution, where robots that zoom at the speed of the world’s fastest sprinters can store, retrieve and pack goods for shipment far more efficiently than people. Robots could soon replace workers at companies like C & S Wholesale Grocers, the nation’s largest grocery distributor, which has already deployed robot technology.

Rapid improvement in vision and touch technologies is putting a wide array of manual jobs within the abilities of robots. For example, Boeing’s wide-body commercial jets are now riveted automatically by giant machines that move rapidly and precisely over the skin of the planes. Even with these machines, the company said it struggles to find enough workers to make its new 787 aircraft. Rather, the machines offer significant increases in precision and are safer for workers.

And at Earthbound Farms in California, four newly installed robot arms with customized suction cups swiftly place clamshell containers of organic lettuce into shipping boxes. The robots move far faster than the people they replaced. Each robot replaces two to five workers at Earthbound, according to John Dulchinos, an engineer who is the chief executive at Adept Technology, a robot maker based in Pleasanton, Calif., that developed Earthbound’s system.

Robot manufacturers in the United States say that in many applications, robots are already more cost-effective than humans.

At an automation trade show last year in Chicago, Ron Potter, the director of robotics technology at an Atlanta consulting firm called Factory Automation Systems, offered attendees a spreadsheet to calculate how quickly robots would pay for themselves.

In one example, a robotic manufacturing system initially cost $250,000 and replaced two machine operators, each earning $50,000 a year. Over the 15-year life of the system, the machines yielded $3.5 million in labor and productivity savings.

The Obama administration says this technological shift presents a historic opportunity for the nation to stay competitive. “The only way we are going to maintain manufacturing in the U.S. is if we have higher productivity,” said Tom Kalil, deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Government officials and industry executives argue that even if factories are automated, they still are a valuable source of jobs. If the United States does not compete for advanced manufacturing in industries like consumer electronics, it could lose product engineering and design as well. Moreover, robotics executives argue that even though blue-collar jobs will be lost, more efficient manufacturing will create skilled jobs in designing, operating and servicing the assembly lines, as well as significant numbers of other kinds of jobs in the communities where factories are.

And robot makers point out that their industry itself creates jobs. A report commissioned by the International Federation of Robotics last year found that 150,000 people are already employed by robotics manufacturers worldwide in engineering and assembly jobs.

But American and European dominance in the next generation of manufacturing is far from certain.

“What I see is that the Chinese are going to apply robots too,” said Frans van Houten, Philips’s chief executive. “The window of opportunity to bring manufacturing back is before that happens.”

A Faster Assembly Line

Royal Philips Electronics began making the first electric shavers in 1939 and set up the factory here in Drachten in 1950. But Mr. Visser, the engineer who manages the assembly, takes pride in the sophistication of the latest shavers. They sell for as much as $350 and, he says, are more complex to make than smartphones.

The assembly line here is made up of dozens of glass cages housing robots made by Adept Technology that snake around the factory floor for more than 100 yards. Video cameras atop the cages guide the robot arms almost unerringly to pick up the parts they assemble. The arms bend wires with millimetric accuracy, set toothpick-thin spindles in tiny holes, grab miniature plastic gears and set them in housings, and snap pieces of plastic into place.

The next generation of robots for manufacturing will be more flexible and easier to train.

Witness the factory of Tesla Motors, which recently began manufacturing the Tesla S, a luxury sedan, in Fremont, Calif., on the edge of Silicon Valley.

More than half of the building is shuttered, called “the dark side.” It still houses a dingy, unused Toyota Corolla assembly line on which an army of workers once turned out half a million cars annually.

The Tesla assembly line is a stark contrast, brilliantly lighted. Its fast-moving robots, bright Tesla red, each has a single arm with multiple joints. Most of them are imposing, 8 to 10 feet tall, giving them a slightly menacing “Terminator” quality.

But the arms seem eerily human when they reach over to a stand and change their “hand” to perform a different task. While the many robots in auto factories typically perform only one function, in the new Tesla factory a robot might do up to four: welding, riveting, bonding and installing a component.

As many as eight robots perform a ballet around each vehicle as it stops at each station along the line for just five minutes. Ultimately as many as 83 cars a day — roughly 20,000 are planned for the first year — will be produced at the factory. When the company adds a sport utility vehicle next year, it will be built on the same assembly line, once the robots are reprogrammed.

Tesla’s factory is tiny but represents a significant bet on flexible robots, one that could be a model for the industry. And others are already thinking bigger.

Hyundai and Beijing Motors recently completed a mammoth factory outside Beijing that can produce a million vehicles a year using more robots and fewer people than the big factories of their competitors and with the same flexibility as Tesla’s, said Paul Chau, an American venture capitalist at WI Harper who toured the plant in June.

The New Warehouse

Traditional and futuristic systems working side by side in a distribution center north of New York City show how robotics is transforming the way products are distributed, threatening jobs. From this warehouse in Newburgh, C & S, the nation’s largest grocery wholesaler, supplies a major supermarket chain.

The old system sprawls across almost half a million square feet. The shelves are loaded and unloaded around the clock by hundreds of people driving pallet jacks and forklifts. At peak times in the evening, the warehouse is a cacophony of beeping and darting electric vehicles as workers with headsets are directed to cases of food by a computer that speaks to them in four languages.

The new system is much smaller, squeezed into only 30,000 square feet at the far end of the warehouse and controlled by just a handful of technicians. They watch over a four-story cage with different levels holding 168 “rover” robots the size of go-carts. Each can move at 25 miles an hour, nearly as fast as an Olympic sprinter.

Each rover is connected wirelessly to a central computer and on command will race along an aisle until it reaches its destination — a case of food to retrieve or the spot to drop one off for storage. The robot gathers a box by extending two-foot-long metal fingers from its side and sliding them underneath. It lifts the box and pulls it to its belly. Then it accelerates to the front of the steel cage, where it turns into a wide lane where it must contend with traffic — eight robots are active on each level of the structure, which is 20 aisles wide and 21 levels high.

From the aisle, the robots wait their turn to pull into a special open lane where they deposit each load into an elevator that sends a stream of food cases down to a conveyor belt that leads to a large robot arm.

About 10 feet tall, the arm has the grace and dexterity of a skilled supermarket bagger, twisting and turning each case so the final stack forms an eight-foot cube. The software is sophisticated enough to determine which robot should pick up which case first, so when the order arrives at the supermarket, workers can take the cases out in the precise order in which they are to go on the shelves.

When the arm is finished, the cube of goods is conveyed to a machine that wraps it in clear plastic to hold it in place. Then a forklift operator summoned by the computer moves the cube to a truck for shipment.

Built by Symbotic, a start-up company based in the Boston area, this robotic warehouse is inspired by computer designers who created software algorithms to efficiently organize data to be stored on a computer’s hard drive.

Jim Baum, Symbotic’s chief executive, compares the new system to a huge parallel computer. The design is efficient because there is no single choke point; the cases of food moving through the robotic warehouse are like the digital bits being processed by the computer.

Humans’ Changing Role

In the decade since he began working as a warehouseman in Tolleson, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, Josh Graves has seen how automation systems can make work easier but also create new stress and insecurity. The giant facility where he works distributes dry goods for Kroger supermarkets.

Mr. Graves, 29, went to work in the warehouse, where his father worked for three decades, right out of high school. The demanding job required lifting heavy boxes and the hours were long. “They would bring in 15 guys, and only one would last,” he said.

Today Mr. Graves drives a small forklift-like machine that stores and retrieves cases of all sizes. Because such workers are doing less physical labor, there are fewer injuries, said Rome Aloise, a Teamsters vice president in Northern California. Because a computer sets the pace, the stress is now more psychological.

Mr. Graves wears headsets and is instructed by a computerized voice on where to go in the warehouse to gather or store products. A centralized computer the workers call The Brain dictates their speed. Managers know exactly what the workers do, to the precise minute.

Several years ago, Mr. Graves’s warehouse installed a German system that automatically stores and retrieves cases of food. That led to the elimination of 106 jobs, roughly 20 percent of the work force. The new system was initially maintained by union workers with high seniority. Then that job went to the German company, which hired nonunion workers.

Now Kroger plans to build a highly automated warehouse in Tolleson. Sixty union workers went before the City Council last year to oppose the plan, on which the city has not yet ruled.

“We don’t have a problem with the machines coming,” Mr. Graves told city officials. “But tell Kroger we don’t want to lose these jobs in our city.”

Some jobs are still beyond the reach of automation: construction jobs that require workers to move in unpredictable settings and perform different tasks that are not repetitive; assembly work that requires tactile feedback like placing fiberglass panels inside airplanes, boats or cars; and assembly jobs where only a limited quantity of products are made or where there are many versions of each product, requiring expensive reprogramming of robots.

But that list is growing shorter.

Upgrading Distribution

Inside a spartan garage in an industrial neighborhood in Palo Alto, Calif., a robot armed with electronic “eyes” and a small scoop and suction cups repeatedly picks up boxes and drops them onto a conveyor belt.

It is doing what low-wage workers do every day around the world.

Older robots cannot do such work because computer vision systems were costly and limited to carefully controlled environments where the lighting was just right. But thanks to an inexpensive stereo camera and software that lets the system see shapes with the same ease as humans, this robot can quickly discern the irregular dimensions of randomly placed objects.

The robot uses a technology pioneered in Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensing system for its Xbox video game system.

Such robots will put automation within range of companies like Federal Express and United Parcel Service that now employ tens of thousands of workers doing such tasks.

The start-up behind the robot, Industrial Perception Inc., is the first spinoff of Willow Garage, an ambitious robotics research firm based in Menlo Park, Calif. The first customer is likely to be a company that now employs thousands of workers to load and unload its trucks. The workers can move one box every six seconds on average. But each box can weigh more than 130 pounds, so the workers tire easily and sometimes hurt their backs.

Industrial Perception will win its contract if its machine can reliably move one box every four seconds. The engineers are confident that the robot will soon do much better than that, picking up and setting down one box per second.

“We’re on the cusp of completely changing manufacturing and distribution,” said Gary Bradski, a machine-vision scientist who is a founder of Industrial Perception. “I think it’s not as singular an event, but it will ultimately have as big an impact as the Internet.”

Cisco Brings Intelligent Networks to Industrial Automation; Unveils New Industrial Switch Series

Cisco Develops Switching, Routing and Wireless Networking Products for Industrial Manufacturing Environments to Accelerate Industrialization of the Internet

SAN JOSE, CA–(Marketwire -04/23/12)- Reinforcing its commitment to the industrialization of the Internet, Cisco(NASDAQ: CSCO – News) today announced the Industrial Ethernet (IE) 2000 switch series, a cornerstone product for the company’s Connected Industries business unit and industrial network offerings. The Cisco IE 2000 industrial switch series will help customers build intelligent networks for industrial automation, delivering highly secure, scalable connectivity from plant floor to enterprise network.

The Cisco IE 2000 switch series builds on the company’s enterprise networking expertise and existing Industrial Ethernet family of switches, delivering reliable and highly secure network connectivity to unique manufacturing environments. With the IE 2000 switch series, Cisco continues its leadership in providing intelligent networks that simplify the deployment of security, video and voice services for machine-to-machine communications on the manufacturing floor and industrial IP networks.

According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI), by 2016, there will be nearly 2 billion machine-to-machine wireless connections — including GPS systems in cars and asset tracking systems in shipping and manufacturing sectors — demonstrating the need to more tightly connect and integrate devices, machines and vehicles with traditional enterprise networks. The resulting transition, which Cisco refers to as “The Industrialization of the Internet,” will accelerate the networking industry beyond the IT and service provider (SP) networks in industries such as manufacturing and transportation.

Cisco is uniquely positioned to address these new demands on industrial networks, which require a greater need for improved inter-connectivity across industrial equipment and enterprise networks. The Cisco IE 2000 switch series provides consistent network services between industrial networks and enterprise business applications, while also providing integrated security and better manageability — creating a truly intelligent network.

The Cisco IE 2000 industrial switch series also provides highly secure remote access and monitoring of automated systems and offers intelligent energy management with visibility into machine performance to help customers better manage costs. The IE 2000 industrial switch interoperates corporate and manufacturing floor networks in a cost-effective manner to deliver video and corporate applications to manufacturing plant floor.

The Cisco IE 2000 industrial switch portfolio will be formally unveiled at the Hanover Messe Industrial Automation trade fair beginning on April 23. Cisco will also be displaying (Hall 8, Stand D26) its complete line of industrial networking solutions from its Connected Industries business unit, including the Cisco switching solutions developed in collaboration with Rockwell Automation, showcasing switching solutions that enable faster deployment and reduced risk for manufacturing, oil and gas, mining, transportation and energy companies.

Supporting Quote:

 

  • Maciej Kranz, vice president and general manager, Connected Industries business unit, Cisco
    “Major sectors of the economy are undergoing a transformation driven by new requirements around production and factory automation, traffic management, data analytics and machine-to-machine communication. Cisco’s Connected Industries business unit was created to help customers realize the benefits of the transition to Ethernet and IP across the operational technology segments including manufacturing plants, transportation infrastructure and vehicles.”

 

Supporting Resources:

 

 

Tags / Keywords
Switching, Internet of Things, Intelligent Networking, Manufacturing Automation, VNI, Visual Networking Index, Borderless Networks, Connected Industries, Ethernet-to-the-Factory, Industrial Manufacturing, Industrial Networks, Machine to Machine, M2M, Digital Factory, Hannover Messe, Hanover Messe, IE 2000, Cisco Connected Industries Business Unit, Industrial Automation, Mobility, Wireless Factory, IT Solutions

About Cisco
Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO – News) is the worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate. Information about Cisco can be found athttp://www.cisco.com. For ongoing news, please go to http://newsroom.cisco.com.

Cisco and the Cisco logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Cisco and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and other countries. A listing of Cisco’s trademarks can be found atwww.cisco.com/go/trademarks. Third-party trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners. The use of the word partner does not imply a partnership relationship between Cisco and any other company.

RSS Feed for Cisco: http://newsroom.cisco.com/rss-feeds

Cisco Builds Upon Smart Grid Portfolio to Help Modernize the Electric Grid

Delivers Utility Industry’s First Multiservice Communications Platform With New Field Area Network Solution, Professional Services, Enhanced Substation Offerings, and Architecture

MarketwirePress Release: Cisco – 34 minutes ago

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  • The new Cisco Connected Grid 1000 Series Router is ruggedized for the utility environment.  (Image: Cisco)The new Cisco Connected Grid 1000 Series Router is ruggedized for the utility environment.  (Image: Cisco)

SAN JOSE, CA–(Marketwire -01/17/12)- Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCONews) today announced additional solutions and services to its Connected Grid portfolio that will help utilities modernize the electric grid with built-in flexibility, security and interoperability enabled by the power of the network. Cisco’s new technology architecture, solutions and related services address key utility concerns around cost, reliability and scalability in their communications infrastructures.

As the electric grid becomes more intelligent and complex, utilities around the world want technology that can grow to address multiple operational needs over time, supports their unique market and organizational structures, and is designed so that different vendor systems can work together. They also need solutions that provide a high degree of security and allow them to utilize their existing installed base of technology as they modernize their electric grids.

Given these requirements, Cisco offers utilities and partners a comprehensive blueprint for smart grid deployments known as the Cisco GridBlocks™ Architecture. This provides a forward-looking view of integrating digital communications and the electrical grid, as well as specific deployment guidance for the various grid communications networks that exist today. It also provides a framework for utilities to design and deploy comprehensive management and security solutions across the entire grid.

The new Cisco offerings — which include a complete field area network (FAN) solution delivered in conjunction with Itron, as well as expanded transmission and substation products — are based on this architectural model and are designed to address key utility concerns around cost, reliability and scalability in their communications infrastructures. By delivering multiple applications over a single, intelligent and highly secure platform, electric utilities will benefit from lower total cost of ownership as well as derive value from new services and functional integration of networks.

The new Cisco Connected Grid services and integrated solutions help electric utilities in the planning, design and optimization phases of their grid modernization initiatives.

Key Highlights

Cisco GridBlocks Architecture

  • Cisco’s GridBlocks Architecture provides utility operators with a communications view of the entire power delivery chain with security woven throughout the design.
  • The modular approach allows utilities to focus on particular elements of their network at any given time and is adaptable to differing market structures and regions.
  • The Cisco GridBlocks Architecture provides a framework in which communications requirements can be specified at each level.
  • It allows customers to take a holistic view of how to evolve their electric grid and design phases of technology implementation.

Field Area Network Solution

  • Cisco’s Connected Grid FAN solution simplifies utility operations by enablingapplications such as advanced meter infrastructure, distribution automation, and protection and control to be delivered over a common network platform. The solution has a layered architecture that supports both wired and wireless communications.
  • Cisco and Itron deliver on their strategic alliance announced in 2010 by providing a complete FAN solution that integrates Itron’s smart grid solution onto the Cisco IPv6-based network. This provides a validated, interoperable solution for utilities that allows affordable and accessible upgrades as time goes by.
  • As part of the new FAN solution, Cisco is introducing the 1000 series Connected Grid Router. The router comes in models for outdoor pole-top mount (CGR 1240) and indoor din-rail mount (CGR 1120). Each supports 2G/3G, WiMax and RF mesh connectivity.
  • These ruggedized routers are specifically built to comply with electrical substation standards and designed for outdoor environments. The router has no moving parts (e.g., fans) and is built with industrial-grade components to support an extended temperature range.
  • The FAN solution also includes new endpoints, device management and network management systems that are open and flexible across diverse energy markets, providing a modular solution that can be reassembled as market structures change.
  • The Cisco Connected Grid Network Management System (NMS) provides network operators with end-to-end monitoring and control of the network communications, delivering enterprise-class visibility that can currently scale to manage up to 10 million endpoints.

Transmission and Substation Solutions

  • Cisco is expanding its transmission and substation solution to help utilities extend the useful life of their installed base of technology as part of a phased migration to standards-based networks. With this launch, Cisco offers a full set of communication modules for its 2000 Series Connected Grid Routers. These include the smart grid industry’s first wireless 4G/LTE module, WAN modules to support ISDN, and DSL networks.
  • Cisco has also enhanced security capabilities on the 2000 Series Connected Grid Routers and Switches. This includes the most advanced portfolio of VPN, encryption, access control, and threat detection in the industry. Features include intrusion prevention system (IPS) / intrusion detection system (IDS) and support for SCADA signatures. In addition, the Cisco 2000 Series Connected Grid Routers support synchrophasor deployments with source-specific multicast for efficient transfer and sharing of phasor management unit data across utility boundaries.

Connected Grid Services

  • Cisco has developed a set of tools and professional services to help utilities prioritize their communication investments by performing portfolio-level analysis of solutions on a shared multilayer infrastructure. This helps deliver an optimal design for technology deployment based on proven use cases and business requirements.
  • Cisco has developed the Connected Grid Visualization and Design tool to address the complexity of automating substation communications. The tool allows engineers to visualize in a single interface the energy delivery network CIM diagrams, IEC 61850 protection schema for intelligent electronic devices (IEDs), and the communications network. This helps enable engineers to design, model, and simulate all three networks dynamically, reducing design and deployment time and enabling engineers to standardize designs across hundreds or thousands of substations.

Supporting Quotes:

Laura Ipsen, senior vice president of Connected Energy Networks, Cisco: “The expansion of Cisco’s smart grid offerings will enable utility customers to more effectively and efficiently transition to a highly intelligent energy infrastructure for the 21st century. Cisco has developed solutions that will help utilities save costs and derive more value out of their existing technology networks as they transition to more robust and scalable standards-based networks. This architectural approach to smart grid, enabled by industry alliances like the one between Cisco and Itron, can help utilities achieve long-term, strategic objectives while reducing operational expenses.”

Philip Mezey, president & chief operating officer of Energy, Itron: “Together, Itron and Cisco are setting the stage for grid modernization. We have delivered on our joint vision to create a truly open, interoperable communications architecture to drive Smart Grid success for our utility customers and consumers. Through our extensive collaboration, we are helping utilities accelerate adoption and simplify deployment of smart grid solutions, reduce the total cost of ownership of these systems, and unleash innovation for smart grid applications and technologies in the marketplace.”

Customer Quotes:

Adrian Clark, chief technology officer, Ausgrid: “Cisco Services has recently worked with Ausgrid to understand the requirements for electricity substations today and as we move towards a more complex and integrated future environment. Their work is assisting us to transform the electricity network into a smarter grid. We highly value their ongoing partnership and commitment to our company and the industry.”

Gary Murphy, chief project officer, Smart Metering Program, BC Hydro: “The Smart Metering Program will help keep rates in British Columbia low by delivering $1.6 billion in savings to our customers over the 20 years. The Cisco-Itron alliance was a game changer for the industry. The ability to leverage our infrastructure with Itron’s smart grid solution and Cisco’s Connected Grid networking and security capabilities is a great stepping stone into smart grid. We will be able to leverage it for years to come.”

Miss Lu Hong, director of automation department, State Grid Corporation of China: “State Grid Corporation of China is leading the world by deploying full IEC 61850 Digital Substation architectures. For such large scale implementation the management of IED configuration and its communication network is very complex and time consuming. Cisco’s Visualization and Design tool enables our engineers to streamline substation network discovery, design, modeling and testing processes. It also helps validate and keep track of configuration changes, which meet our operational needs very well.”

Supporting Resources:

Tags / Keywords: Cisco, Smart Grid, Sustainability, Environment, Connected Grid, Substation Automation, Utilities RSS Feed for Cisco: http://newsroom.cisco.com/rss-feeds

About Cisco Systems Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCONews) is the worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate. Information about Cisco can be found at http://www.cisco.com. For ongoing news, please go to http://newsroom.cisco.com.

Cisco and the Cisco logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Cisco and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and other countries. A listing of Cisco’s trademarks can be found at www.cisco.com/go/trademarks. Third-party trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners. The use of the word partner does not imply a partnership relationship between Cisco and any other company.

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Contact:
Press Jennifer Greeson Dunn Cisco 202-354-2968 jegreeso@cisco.com

Manufacturing Technology Demand Was Strong in 2011

Although 2011 was marked by a mixed bag of economic strengths and weaknesses, demand for manufacturing technology was strong with the forecast for 2012 calling for continued but slow growth.

By Gary Mintchell, Co-Founder and Editor in Chief

The resurgence of manufacturing following the crash of 2008 is unprecedented according to a release from  AMT—The Association for Manufacturing Technology ( www.amtonline.org). The most current U.S. manufacturing technology orders put the year-to-date total at $4,529.11 million, which is up 80.5 percent compared with 2010 and are the second highest dollar amount in the last 15 years. As of October, manufacturing technology orders had already surpassed the total value accumulated in 2007.

“It’s long been recognized that analysis of manufacturing technology orders provides a reliable leading economic indicator, as it is an indicator that manufacturing firms are investing in capital equipment to increase their capacity and improve productivity. Manufacturing technology provides a foundation for all other manufacturing,” said Douglas K. Woods, president of AMT. “These machines and devices are the equipment that turn raw materials such as steel, iron, plastic, ceramics, composites, and alloys from their original state as stock materials into what will become durable goods such as airplanes, cars, and appliances, as well as consumer and other goods that are used every day.”
The Midwest and Central regions of the U.S. have seen the greatest surge in manufacturing technology orders. The Midwest’s manufacturing technology orders in 2011 are 105 percent more than the comparable figure for 2010. This large increase is the result of the region’s large traditional customer base.
It is also where the oldest equipment resides and the industries impacted most by the weak dollar and reshoring trend are located. The Central region pick-up — 85 percent higher compared to 2010 — was powered by the growth in the energy business and secondly by the automotive industry.
Overall manufacturing robust
Beyond manufacturing technology, overall U.S. manufacturing is robust. Despite the past several years trend of offshoring, the value of U.S. manufacturing output increased by one-third to $1.65 trillion between 1972 and the 2008 recession. Even though China accounted for 19.8 percent of global manufacturing value in 2010, the United States was strong with a share of 19.4 percent.
“The factors that are fueling this tremendous surge are the traditional reasons that drive growth in investment, but what is unusual about the current rebound is that all factors have come together at one time. This is something that’s never been seen before and as a result we are seeing a true renaissance for manufacturing in the U.S.,” Woods noted.
“American manufacturers rushed to beat the end-of-year bonus depreciation deadline. Inventories were low – something we’ve never experienced going into a recession – and that accounts for the quick rebound,” he explained. Exports are rising as American manufacturers meet overseas demand. Manufacturing technology from the U.S. is less expensive than foreign equipment, and U.S.-made goods are more price competitive than many imports due to the weak dollar.
Replace aging equipment
The average age of machinery currently in use at U.S. manufacturing facilities crept up from nine years in 2007 to 13.5 years, and as demand started to increase the need for investment to replace the aging equipment became apparent. Those investments are being made in completely new technology. Multi-operation machines are profoundly impacting productivity.  Water jet cutting and hydroforming are experiencing massive growth because they offer all the benefits of traditional processes but eliminate distortion and deformation. Additive manufacturing is growing, nano machining has become commercially affordable, and the availability of new materials, such as compact powdered metals, is having a tremendous impact. Plus, the emergence of cloud manufacturing, which promotes collaborative efforts across organizations, is opening new doors to manufacturers.
Expanding markets worldwide are playing an important role as manufacturing grows. China seems insatiable and accounts for almost one half of the world’s total consumption of manufacturing technology. India’s economy is growing at double the Western economy’s rate, with expectations for more China-like development soon. As it prepares for major world events including the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup competition, South America faces the challenge of building infrastructure that can support the events. Russia, South Africa, the Middle East and South Asia are on the fringe, but nevertheless contribute to growth in the global manufacturing economy.
Reshoring helps
Another factor boosting U.S. manufacturing is the reshoring phenomenon. More work is coming back to the U.S. from foreign shores and there is greater foreign direct investment in U.S. facilities. The quality of work in the U.S. is proving to be more valuable than originally thought in the off-shoring investment calculation. Companies face increasing

costs in logistics issues with the delivery of components and the exporting of completed products to North America. Add to that the rapidly increasing labor costs in traditionally “low-cost” labor markets, and the continued decline of labor in the overall share of total production cost, and the reshoring picture becomes clear. “When the the total cost of manufacturing is calculated, the U.S. is a very favorable environment,” Woods notes.
“In fact, new research from the Boston Consulting Group shows that transportation goods such as vehicles and auto parts, construction equipment, appliances, electrical equipment and furniture are among the sectors that could create up to 3 million job as a result of manufacturing returning to the U.S.,” Woods says.
The outlook for 2012 remains positive. The weak dollar is making exports strong. Reshoring is in full bloom. The manufacturing base is reinvesting in the latest tools. Energy will continue to be a large investor in manufacturing technology. The automotive industry is making major changes to address green issues, which will lead to significant investments in production technology, as well as spending to support the shift of the industry’s center from Detroit to the South/Southwest. Aerospace green field investments will continue in the Southeast and West.
Help still needed
Woods says, “This all said, manufacturing in America still needs help. Jobs are an unresolved issue. Despite the high number of Americans out of work, manufacturing jobs continue to go unfilled. That is because the factory floor today is very different from what it used to be. It is awash with new technologies and processes that require advanced training and adaptable skills.  We need a “smartforce” of workers who are up to the job.
“Until we take steps to level the playing field for U.S. companies in the global marketplace by eliminating trade barriers, reining in regulations, and lowering taxes for manufacturers, we risk losing ground to our foreign competitors in new markets and industries. We must keep the pressure on our elected officials to come up with a focused plan for moving forward. AMT is poised to work with the Federal Government to implement a national manufacturing strategy – a Manufacturing Mandate that will establish America as the worldwide leader in next-generation manufacturing technologies and the world-class products and services they provide. Continued growth in our manufacturing sector is a necessary step on the path to sustainable economic prosperity and worldwide leadership and only achievable through the concerted, collaborative efforts of the stakeholders.”

Mobile SCADA Benefits

Make Timely Decisions Anytime, Anywhere
SCADA access on mobile devices empowers manufacturing managers and supervisors to make timely decisions anywhere. Remote access can be enabled through a secure VPN or external router. The Ignition Mobile Module can read and write to the control system, so you can manage operations just as if you were physically on the plant floor.

 

Fast, Easy Plant Floor Management
Manage your process system quickly and easily while walking around the plant floor. Go anywhere on the machine floor and manage the entire facility in the palm of your hand. With Ignition available on your cell phone, you can quickly implement changes or make notations.
Convenient Alarm Supervision
Receive and view automatic alerts on your phone, tablet or PDA. Respond immediately to SCADA alarms through mobile interaction with real-time data. Save a trip to the office and reduce the time it takes to resolve an issue that slows production.

3 Reasons Linux Is Preferred for Control Systems

By Krista Duty, Inductive Automation
Linux has long been on the “wishlist” for control systems. Until now, most systems have been locked-in to the Windows operating system due to reliance on classic OPC—a ubiquitous communication standard based on Microsoft’s Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM). The name of the game is changing, however, with the arrival of the next-generation OPC standard, the OPC Unified Architecture (OPC-UA). The new standard was designed for cross-platform compatibility, which makes room for Linux to gain popularity in the automated control industry.
Jonathan Gross, vice president of Pemeco , a 32-year-old IT consulting firm, explained why Linux will be a big player as the industry moves ahead. “The stars are aligned for Linux-powered servers to gain significant market-share in industrial automation environments,” Gross said. “Currently, security, stability and reliability make Linux the operating system of choice to support many web-server applications. With the increasing tendency to develop SCADA and control systems in web-based environments, it only makes sense that end-users will strongly consider Linux-based operating platforms. As icing-on-the-cake, Linux generally has a much lower total cost of ownership than Windows.”
Gross is not alone in his analysis. Others in the industry, such as Paresh Dalwalla, are also predicting a growing trend toward Linux. Dalwalla is president of OpteBiz Inc. , which focuses on providing real-time operational intelligence solutions to control system users in both the United States and India.
Dalwalla’s explanation closely mirrors that of Gross. “End users are looking for improved security, stability, and reduced total cost of ownership,” Dalwalla said. “More and more end users will see the benefits once they cross the learning curve of an open source operating system. This change will require some time and commitment, but it will be well worth the effort.”
Let’s look at why security, stability, and cost top the list of reasons why Linux is a great choice for control systems.
Reason #1: Security
If a computer system’s integrity is compromised by a virus or a malicious attacker exploiting a security vulnerability, it can cause downtime and equipment damage. Just this week, Managing Automation magazine published a story  regarding a virus that attacks the Siemens’ SIMATIC WinCC and PCS7 software through a vulnerability in Windows. The article also states that these types of attacks for process control systems have been on the rise during the past few years. (Editor’s note: Update from Siemens on Virus affecting Simatic WinCC SCADA systems)
Until recently, companies were tied to Windows as the base for their control system—and they were more likely to be a victim of system hacking than if they were using Linux.
“Compared to Linux, Windows is a bigger attack target,” Gross said. “On average, Windows operating systems are roughly twice as susceptible to hacks and cyber-attacks.  Also, an attack event on a Windows operating system has the potential to cause more widespread damage than a similar attack on a Linux system.”
 
Using Linux means less vulnerability, less downtime, and fewer headaches for companies.
Reason #2: Stability and Reliability
Linux is widely considered to crash less than Windows. It’s also easier to update the system without having to reset the system, as is needed in a Windows environment. This means that systems have more uptime and increased productivity levels.
“Operating system or server downtime introduces risks associated with a temporary inability to monitor and control the systems,” explains Gross. “Though today’s Windows systems are much more stable than they have historically been, they still experience more downtime than Linux systems. One reason for downtime is that Windows systems need to be rebooted to install updates. In contrast, Linux systems can generally be updated without a hardware reset.”
Reason #3: Less Cost
Last but definitely not least is the fact that Linux is more cost effective in the long run. Not only is it available free of cost because it’s open source, but it’s also easier to maintain by IT staff—which means substantial savings in ongoing administrative costs.
“The open source market has expanded tremendously in recent times due to the backing of large companies such as Sun and Google,” Dalwalla said. “Linux is an open source operating system that is considered more stable and comes with very little capital costs. There are ongoing support costs that are to be considered for both options, but Linux can definitely help keep it down.”
Bottom line, companies don’t have to spend money on licenses for Windows servers, nor spend as much time maintaining the system.
OPC-UA and Linux in Action
Now that OPC-UA is available, the next step to take is to find products that use the new standard. Integrator Kyle Chase described his story. Chase is a systems integration specialist for Surefire SCADA Inc. , located in Canada, who has always been a fan of Linux. Naturally, he was very excited about OPC-UA and being able to build systems on Linux.
Earlier this year, Chase found Ignition by Inductive Automation , which included an OPC-UA server, making the entire software system Linux compatible. Having used Inductive Automation software for the past three years with much success, he was confident in trying out the company’s newest release.
He gave an example of a project he implemented for a customer using Ignition. The customer’s distillation refinery has a single controller with 14 racks of remote IO. The facility needed both fast update performance, as well as reliability. Previous solutions from industry-leaders couldn’t deliver both. For example, one product gave them the reliability, but it could only give updates once every eight seconds—but the customer needed updates every second. Another product they tried provided the performance needed, but it would shut down every day.
Enter Ignition, OPC-UA, and access to Linux. Chase began testing to see how well it performed, and after going through dry runs, he has been very pleased.
“The performance is absolutely crazy!” Chase said. “Ignition is actively subscribed to 30,000 tags with updates every second. We can finally monitor all of our tags, at the speed we want with the reliability we need.”
Chase is sold on OPC-UA. “To me, the move to a true cross platform environment is important,” he stated. “This holds many advantages, especially when it comes to system flexibility and security. It helps keep costs down as well. Inductive Automation is the first to provide the software required to do this.”
Krista Duty is the marketing director for Inductive Automation. Since 2003, Inductive Automation has been producing software that reduces frustration and increases efficiency in the industrial automation market. Their software facilitates the instant accessibility of meaningful information throughout the enterprise.

OPC Foundation

Top Six Benefits of OPC UA for End-Users

Thomas Burke, president and executive director of the OPC Foundation, discusses why end-users are discovering the benefits of an OPC UA solution, including reliability, performance, multi-platform support and easy migration.

Welcome to the August 2009 edition of OPConnect, the official newsletter of the OPC Foundation. There have been a lot of things happening in 2009, and it’s been very exciting with respect to OPC Foundation and the OPC vendor community.

One of the most significant things is the recognition by the end-users of the value proposition for the OPC Unified Architecture (UA) technology.

There are six key features that OPC UA delivers to the end-users: The ease-of-use, plug-and-play, high reliability and redundancy, enhanced performance, multiplatform support, and easy migration plan for existing OPC products to the OPC UA technology.

That last feature–easy migration plan–is critical to its success. Even though OPC UA is a revolutionary new architecture, it still provides a rock-solid evolutionary migration mechanism to allow existing OPC products to plug in and get many of the benefits of the OPC UA technology… Read more

 

TECHNOLOGY NEWS

OPC UA Interoperability Proves Worth For Pharma

Gary Mintchell, Editor in Chief, Automation World, discusses one of the key features of OPC UA technology–interoperability–and the promise this holds to significantly reduce integration costs across complex systems.

Integrating various components of an automation system can cost up to ten times the price of just the components, depending upon the complexity of the system. This fact alone can destroy the benefits of an integrated system. The latest specification from the OPC Foundation–OPC UA–holds the potential of greatly reducing this cost penalty. All we need is for more suppliers to adopt the specification and make it available to those charged with implementing an integrated automation system… Read more

TECHNOLOGY NEWS

OPC Server Meets Demand for 64-Bit Systems

New OPC server suites from Cyberlogic have 64-bit kernel mode device drivers, so users can deploy 64-bit systems regardless of the type of network or network adapter.

Cyberlogic has released 64-bit versions of the company’s OPC server suites that deliver an easy migration path for users moving to x64 Windows platforms. The 64-bit versions of Cyberlogic OPC suites provide native 64-bit support, including 64-bit kernel-mode device drivers, for all x64 Windows operating systems, including XP, Vista, Server 2003, and Server 2008.

As the shift toward 64-bit systems is speeding up, there is a growing demand for the 64-bit versions of popular software tools. Complicating the picture is the fact that some of the new 64-bit systems may have to be deployed in existing environments, either as replacements or for expansion… Read more

CASE APPLICATION

Integrating OPC Servers and SCADA Systems

Engineers working on a high-security project in Denmark used the OPC DataHub, from Cogent Real-Time Systems, for OPC client connections between equipment at the secure facility and a remote monitoring station.

In a recent data integration project, Siemens engineers in Copenhagen, Denmark, were able to connect equipment and instrumentation running in a high-security facility to a remote monitoring location using the OPC DataHub. The goal was to allow technicians access to the machines they needed to work on, without breaching security or permitting any non-authorized personnel on site.

At first the project promised to be a typical OPC application. The main objective was to connect a chiller unit with an OPC server running at a secure facility to two SCADA systems at a monitoring station, each enabled as an OPC client. However, it soon became apparent that there would be some problems with networking. OPC networking depends on distributed component object model (DCOM), which at the best of times can be difficult to configure and slow to reconnect after a network break. To make matters worse, the OPC server provided by the chiller manufacturer was not up to the task… Read more

OPC WHITEPAPER

Process Analytics Finds Process Problems

In this whitepaper, Canary Labs outlines how companies, by using process analytical software, can gain great insight into their process operations to find problems and improve quality.

Process Analytics and Intelligence–sometimes called Manufacturing Intelligence–has transformed the way companies produce goods, understand their manufacturing processes, and ensure a quality product in ways we could not have foreseen ten years ago. Process Analytics and Intelligence can take many forms–from basic trend charts that highlight a single process variable to complex statistical analysis of multiple variables. Trending process variables allows you to go back in time and see what happened over the past minutes, hours, overnight, or over a weekend. When trend charts show that the data from the system is not typical, you can quickly determine the problem and resolve it before it becomes a major problem.

The cornerstone of any real-time Process Analytical and Intelligence solution is an effective data storage and retrieval capability. In manufacturing applications, data is generated from a multitude of sources, from devices as simple as a weigh scale to as complex as a PLC controlling a high speed bottling line… Read more

CASE APPLICATION

OPC Facilitates Increased Capacity

A water treatment plant in Utah doubled its capacity after deploying the System 800xA Extended Automation from ABB, which uses OPC 2.0 technology to gather and display data.

Quail Creek Water Treatment Plant (Quail Creek WTP) is part of Washington Counties’ Water Conservancy District, a political subdivision of the State of Utah. It is a regional water supply agency organized in 1962 under the Water Conservancy Act to develop a water supply for rapidly growing areas in Utah’s Washington County. The District is primarily a wholesaler of water to other agencies. The main role of the District is to develop or purchase water where it is available for its service area. The District is committed to serving its water customers in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The District serves water on a retail basis only when other local providers are not available or do not have facilities to do so. It is dedicated to development of a resource in an environmentally sound manner.

The Quail Creek Water Treatment Plant’s control system was in need of an upgrade in order to fulfill the District’s goals of efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sound operations… Read more