GAMS preview: The big impact of Big Data

In preparation for the 2016 GAMS Conference on Sept. 14 in Chicago, CFE Media asked our panelists to discuss some of the key issues facing manufacturing. This is one in a daily series of articles.


Sal Spada (top left), analyst, ARC Advisory Group; Franz Gruber (top right), CEO of Forcam; Aurelio Banda (bottom left), CEO and president, Beckhoff Automation North America; Chris LeBeau (bottom right), global IT director, ATS. Courtesy: ARC Advisory GroThe 2016 Global Automation and Manufacturing Summit (GAMS), presented by CFE Media, will bring together experts from all areas of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to look at not just the current state of IIoT but also at the potential benefits of deployment for the manufacturing industry.

The third GAMS conference takes place Wednesday, Sept. 14, beginning at noon. It is held in conjunction with the Industrial Automation North America (IANA) pavilion at the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show at McCormick Place in Chicago. The event is co-presented by Hannover Fairs USA.

In preparation for the 2016 GAMS Conference, CFE Media asked our panelists to discuss some of the key issues facing manufacturing. This is one in a daily series of articles leading up to this year's conference:

CFE Media: Implementing Big Data into maintenance will change the way maintenance workers do their jobs. We will give them more responsibility to make decisions, and this will flatten out most organizations. How do you think this will change the way plants operate, both on the floor and as a business?

LeBeau: This change is often characterized as the need for coordination between the operational technology (OT) in the manufacturing plant and information technology (IT). Traditionally separate, these two disciplines will need to cooperate to realize the benefits of IIoT.

In the IIoT model sensors will generate data that is collected, contextualized, analyzed, and ultimately sent as actionable information into applications supporting numerous operational functions including maintenance. Changes in monitored conditions will generate alerts, status notifications, and drive automated actions to maintenance teams.

All of this will require changes in operational behaviors for the maintenance personnel and increased coordination with their IT counterparts. In return IT will have to become much savvier about how the Operational Technology functions and continually work to provide easy-to-use applications that supply maintenance personnel with relevant and actionable information.

The aging workforce dilemma in maintenance has also been well documented. Modernization in the manufacturing sector and technological changes like IIoT combined with a younger maintenance workforce will start to close the gap between the OT and IT domains. I think that over time that distance will shrink through shared experience and knowledge transfer ultimately becoming a significant and complimentary overlap.

Gruber: Empowerment of employees is a key strategy in next-generation leadership to affect engagement. The key to workforce engagement is information. And the key to information today is technology.

With shop floor technology, the plant manager is able to monitor the production process, and each machine operator becomes an integral part in operational excellence. They can now detect errors and initiate correction of any deviation from the target to ensure a more efficient and leaner production process. Empowerment of these important employees is a key strategy for manufacturing businesses that translate into bottom line business results. The key component to this strategy is engagement through the power of information. And the key to information is technology.

Technology is empowering and motivating employees by aligning their efforts with the goals of the company. Competitive pressures, both internal and external, increase beyond local boundaries giving operators the authority to stop the line, call for assistance, and to address quality issues which in change promote the employee's involvement in the production process. In today's fast-paced market environment, all managers are faced with the task to win acceptance and buy-in for any kind of objective.

With technology moving further onto the manufacturing shop floor skill sets will need to change also. Implementation of technology and motivation has to mainly be carried out by middle management. These managers need to be adequately trained to enforce this transition on the shop floor and transform a culture.

I believe that if we allow our "children" to control their toys with technology and allow them to organize their friendships on their smartphones the faster will technology on the shop floor be accepted and enter mainstream.

Banda: Better access to and analysis of data lead to superior resource utilization and more connected enterprises, covering the entire production and supply chain for much more informed business decision making. Big Data will change the way maintenance is managed in many ways-predictive maintenance will further supplant reactive maintenance measures, and maintenance personnel time will be better utilized. More time and focus can be placed on production, improving the "cost center versus profit center" equation.

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Pipe fabrication and IIoT; 2017 Product of the Year finalists
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The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Power system design for high-performance buildings; mitigating arc flash hazards
VFDs improving motion control applications; Powering automation and IIoT wirelessly; Connecting the dots
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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