Automation to go

Think Again: I’ll take my automation to go, please, and throw in a big helping of continuous improvement, productivity, quality, and optimization, with a side of safety and industrial energy management, thanks.


As industrial devices are becoming more portable, so are accompanying software applications. Nearly everything you do or see in a control room, on a human-machine interface, on a machine, line, or on specialized instrumentation, you can see and engage on a mobile device anywhere in the world. It has become an era of mobile automation, with applications for smartphones, tablets, and other devices. You might say, “I’ll take my engineering applications to go, please, and throw in a big helping of continuous improvement, productivity, quality, and optimization, with a side of safety and industrial energy management, thanks.”

Owens Corning has a vision for greater workforce mobility, said Jim Beilstein, director, manufacturing technology and global IT operations, Owens Corning, in a Feb. 8, 2012, presentation. Courtesy: Owens Corning and ARC Advisory Group

In practical terms, a larger serving of mobile controls will mean avoiding outage-related hunger, not having to get up at 2 a.m. and drive to the plant or, worse, having to wait half a day while a technician arrives to troubleshoot what she could have done remotely with secure access to machine data and a real-time tablet-based video feed. Operations alarms, in predictive mode, can be fed in real time to maintenance techs or, better yet, automatically schedule time for preventive maintenance, fixing problems before outages result.

“From motor manufacturers to food factories, from paint plants to drink distributors, from oil rigs to service companies, more companies are cutting the fixed wire leash that has been holding back their workers from doing more with less,” said Peter Granger, senior manager, Cisco Systems. At John Deere and Continental Tires of the Americas, workers see plant-floor configurations on mobile devices and can use them as real-time maps. The right parts and materials are used at the right times, and issues can be reworked in real time, he said.

Control Engineering Product Exclusive: CFE Media’s Apps for Engineers software is an “app of apps,” providing an interactive directory of approximately 60 mobile engineering-related software applications in various categories useful for Control EngineerinWireless mobility is changing why and how we do business, how we make things, and work processes, observed Greg Gorbach, ARC vice president. More efficient and responsive manufacturers using smart mobile implementations can help innovate and extend business, improve regulatory compliance and safety, and enhance real-time performance, he suggested.

Ultimately, said Jim Beilstein, director, manufacturing technology and global IT operations, Owens Corning, a more wireless interconnected workforce, with appropriate architectures and applications, will reduce travel with mobile video, increase decision speed, lower costs, and resolve issues more quickly.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE MediaTo help, CFE Media, owner of Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer, presorted a mobile application collection in new software called Apps for Engineers. Think again about mobile productivity, on pages 10 and 26, in this issue.

- Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media

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