Opinion

Dec. 3, 2014 - Growth in the global product lifecycle management (PLM) software market continues to depend strongly on regional economic and industrial trends and is experiencing significant variability. Currently, there is significant business activity across certain global regions, most notably North America, and industrial sectors, most notably upstream oil and gas. While overall growth in the PLM market slowed slightly from 2012 to 2013, some offsetting factors and technology trends will drive growth in the PLM market in the coming years, according to a recent ARC Advisory Group report, Product Lifecycle Management Global Market Research Study.
Nov. 24, 2014 - I reviewed Radica’s Electra back in 2006. The fact that the product is still active says something about the company and the relevance of the product.
Oct. 24, 2014 - If you want to be a programmer, but don’t want to spend the money on the tools, you have some options.
Sept. 29, 2014 - AutomationDirect’s “Point of View” (POV) Windows-based software is a feature-rich industrial HMI with SCADA tendencies designed for machine control as well as plant floor enterprise. To be clear, AutomationDirect has licensed the core of a third-party technology and value-added to it to create POV.
Dream Report, from France-based Ocean Data Systems, is marketed as a real-time reporting generator solution for industrial automation. It is interesting to note that the company is trying to get Dream Report recognized as the global standard for reporting in automation. This is a new development, and while it is unclear to me what this really means, it is worthwhile to examine the technology.
My last column dealt with Rockwell Automation’s Connected Components Workbench (CCW). But there is much more to say, so this is Part 2 of my review.
May 3, 2017 - Most manufacturers consider this a statement they can relate to, especially the last two components: do and measure what gets done. The biggest opportunity for improvement however, is through the first two components: thinking and planning.
Feb. 7, 2017 - Despite initial hesitation and slower adoption, the use of mobile devices in the manufacturing industry is picking up speed. With a growing need to make tighter deadlines and hit quicker turnaround times, manufacturing companies are turning towards mobile technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) to help increase efficiencies and reduce downtime.
Nov. 15, 2016 - Across the globe, manufacturers are looking to innovation to provide a key competitive advantage over their rivals, and in many cases, as the answer to their very survival. But innovation is such a broad term that many are struggling to implement the concept, simply because they don’t know where to focus their innovation activities.
Oct. 17, 2016 - If I asked you to describe the current environment in your market, what would it look like? This is a question I ask a lot of the CEOs and executives I meet and hands-down there is one word that comes up more than any other. Disruption.
Jul. 15, 2016 - In just a few years, 3D printing has moved from a “nice-to-have” to “must-have” technology. It’s well known by manufacturers who have purchased a printer or used a service to make non-functional prototypes; they have enjoyed seeing their designs come to life quickly and at low cost, while decreasing their time to market.
Jun. 27, 2016 - Reshoring has been a discussion point over the last decade and was a reaction to the heavy globalization of manufacturing that moved production capacity out from western economies to emerging markets offshore. “Take back manufacturing” advocates have now convinced most corporations that globalizing manufacturing just for low cost labour, while grossly over extending supply chains, has significant hidden total costs; many are now accepting that much more sustainable and environmentally-friendly short supply chains can be the better solution.
Nov. 24, 2014 - With all of the continuous improvements being made in process control and automation through more effective alarm management systems, better HMIs and improved control theory and algorithms, we often forget that a control system is only as good as the field measurements and final control elements used to monitor and control the process. Fortunately, the new HMI standards take this into consideration by providing suggestions on how equipment health can be incorporated into tag display information. Similarly, field device manufacturers have agreed on methods to communicate device status for both analog- and fieldbus-based systems.
Oct. 24, 2014 - The Fieldbus Foundation (FF) celebrated a significant milestone earlier this year — its 20th anniversary. In honour of this occasion, this month’s column will focus on how FF has evolved over the last two decades, and what’s in store for the future.
Sept. 29, 2014 - Every signal and network is going to have some noise, but good design practices can help minimize some of that “sound.”
Every industrial network has more than a single protocol within it. A simple analogy for a protocol is to think of it as a language. So if we are changing from one protocol to another, we are effectively translating between languages. And because of the complexity of today’s networks, you can almost guarantee that it will be necessary to translate protocols between different networks.
One of the reasons often cited for not using wireless networks, especially in an industrial setting, are the concerns related to security — or, more accurately, cybersecurity. Though it is true that a wireless signal propagates in many directions, this does not mean it is freely available to be compromised.
One of the best ways to save energy and minimize waste is to better manage your processes and know what is going on every step of the way. ISA is trying to help manufacturers do this, with three standards committees that are focused on developing documents to improve the way we work with our control systems and their human machine interfaces (HMIs).
Jun. 30, 2015 - The future of manufacturing is application dependent and two examples of this come to mind. One is the understanding of black holes, and the other is regarding Google’s internal organization.
Jun. 16, 2015 - My reading list includes more than physics books. I do read “guy” stories, and in recent columns, I have talked about my Saturday forays into the movie theatre to see a “no-content” movie. It helps relieve and empty the stuff running around my head.
Mar. 27, 2015 - People keep asking me what a physics major thinks about of the “going green” discussion. Right now, I’m thinking about 3D farming. Currently we farm on a two-dimensional basis, however, 3D manufacturing is coming into its own and, I believe, coming up fast. This gets its impetus from the existing hothouse businesses growing specialized plants.
Nov. 24, 2014 - Almost everything in automation needs sensing and measurement. There’s definitely a bright future here. That’s why I’m focusing this month’s column on future trends in sensitivity and measurement — a fitting topic as we say goodbye to another year and look at what’s ahead.
Oct. 24, 2014 - Nearly every Saturday afternoon, a friend and I go to the movies. We don’t know what movie we will be seeing before we buy the tickets. This gives us a sense of adventure.
Sept. 29, 2014 - It’s been proven time and time again — small groups perform better than large groups.
Sep. 15, 2017 - Factories around the world are becoming more automated, intelligent and connected. The outcome? As control system connectivity increases and advanced technologies become pervasive, manufacturers are more productive, can better utilize assets, and optimize operations. Machine safety is no exception.
Jun. 27, 2017 - One of the most significant opportunities available to factory leaders is the convergence of operational and information technologies (OT and IT) on the plant floor; and yet, adoption of IT in Canadian factories remains slow, a fact due — at least in part — to several misconceptions and fears about Ethernet-based networks.
May 3, 2017 - This article was originally going to focus on how collaboration solutions — technologies that allow us to connect via voice, messaging and video — are helping manufacturers resolve issues on the plant floor faster and for less money.
Apr. 8, 2017 - The introduction of advanced technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to the plant floor has created new challenges for Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) professionals.
Jan. 30, 2017 - The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) — or the Internet of Things (IoT) — is on the minds of most Canadian manufacturers as we begin 2017. But the question I get asked most is: what is the IIoT?
Jul. 12, 2017 - The province of Ontario is proposing to raise minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2019, up from the current minimum wage of $11.40. Predictably, the announcement has caused instant and intense debate, along equally predictable lines.
Jun. 27, 2017 - We are at a very interesting time in our industry; indeed, we may be at the cusp of a significant paradigm change, and a critical one.
May 3, 2017 - “10 nuggets for $1.99; I’m going to text my mom!”
Apr. 8, 2017 - Over the last 50 years, the price of oil has had a direct affect on the stability of the world. When the price of oil is high, we see the rise of threatening leaders and regimes. When it’s low, we have periods of more stability.
Feb. 11, 2017 - The start of a new year is not just a great time to look ahead with some clarity to the next year and somewhat speculatively to the distant future, it is also a good time to look back at the past year and further back to our companies’ origins.
Nov. 15, 2016 - Alpha. Bravo. Charlie. Delta. Echo.
Nov. 28, 2016 - Over the past few years at Ply Gem Canada, we have had iterations of problem solving models used on our production shop floor.
Nov. 7, 2016 - Many moons ago when I was just getting started on my Lean journey, I visited a large automotive supplier to benchmark pull systems. My own factory had started a pilot Kanban between two work centres and I was hoping to gain some insight from a more experienced source. To my disappointment, when I was escorted into the factory, the aisles were crowded with pallets of kitted orders.
Oct. 17, 2016 - I was recently on vacation in Nanaimo/Victoria, B.C., and as always, I did some touristy things. The tourist industry just about everywhere has Lean down to a science. They move many people through a maze, usually quite efficiently. They have accomplished this by analyzing their data, number of guests, complaints, lost children, etc. This has me now watching other industries for good Lean principles.
Jun. 27, 2016 - A few years back, a new CEO took the helm at Tree Island Steel, a wire mill located in Richmond, B.C., with 360-plus team members. He was rebuilding a company that had struggled through a recession and he had a vision — a vision to reposition Tree Island as the industry leader it was capable of becoming and to assemble a team to lead the company into the future. Dale MacLean refocused his finance, sales, procurement and scheduling departments to move in one direction and he has not changed course since. He and his executives have quarterly meetings with all staff and operations personnel to inform them of the state of the business while opening up the floor to comments and observations on what and where we need to improve.
Mar. 18, 2016 - Many companies aspire to Lean manufacturing and its power to change the way things are done on the shop floor. In principle, Lean is the reduction of waste and the focus of continuous improvement throughout a product or process’s life cycle.
Mar. 2, 2016 - While pervasive views of manufacturing in Western economies have been pessimistic for decades, the true picture is more complex. Persistent decline in manufacturing jobs has undeniably occurred, but manufacturing is still a crucial growth engine. Automation is the key to revival not just in manufacturing itself, but as a broader stimulus for innovation. Economist Martin Neil Baily says, “the biggest factor transforming manufacturing has been technology; and technology will largely determine its future.”
Sep. 18, 2017 - Working efficiently doesn’t mean safety needs to be sacrificed. In fact, more and more facility managers are learning that the latest technology actually improves safety along with efficiency.
May 1, 2017 - The manufacturing industry is filled with complexities, from dealing with hazardous materials and overseeing intricate processes to managing inventory and seamlessly moving products to the market.
Mar. 20, 2017 - Millions of workers work every day in industrial environments. But ever wonder the impacts of the constant noise pollution they experience on their hearing ability?
Feb. 11, 2017 - Workplace safety initiatives are essential when it comes to maintaining a work environment that is both safe and productive.
Nov. 28, 2016 - Collaborative robots are poised to take off in the next few years, says WSPS consultant Robert Vomiero. With built-in safety limits, sensors and other safety functionality, “cobots” offer exciting benefits — they’re able to work more closely with humans, can be cheaper and easier to integrate and maintain, and promise better cycle time and productivity.
Nov. 15, 2016 - A food manufacturing client required my assistance regarding a “perceived” machine safeguarding issue. “Perceived” is used because up to the point of my involvement, the issue was considered adequately mitigated by the employer. The issue surrounded an already provided access door on a piece of packaging equipment. The door itself was a ubiquitous metal framed clear plastic interlocked door. The minimum starting distance off the floor and overall height of the door complied with CSA Z432 requirements. The provided safety interlock and safety relay was installed and operated as required. So the question remained — what would the “perceived” safety concern be?
Sep. 1, 2017 - As quality leaders, it is our role in the organization to provide differentiation from the competition. This starts with quality process engagement across functions and definitely must be made a high priority with top management. The key elements are strategy, data and analysis that we can use to help communicate this to top management in order to drive this culture and important differentiation for the organization.
Jul. 12, 2017 - Supply chain executives are paying close attention to the implications of what trade might mean under the new administration. With U.S. President Donald Trump’s new agenda to put “America first,” supply chain executives are specifically concerned about issues surrounding import tariffs and trade rules.
Jun. 20, 2017 - According to Brendan Sweeney, growth is the one word that can be used to sum up the findings of a recent report that examines the stability of the overall Canadian vehicle production and auto industry employment over the last five years.
Jun. 14, 2017 - How the Canadian economy — with an ailing resource sector and a diminished manufacturing base — will stack up in this future of more nationalistic and shorter, but hopefully more sustainable, supply chains will depend on political will to drive a directive to make much more of what we consume.
May 8, 2017 - What a thrilling month April has been; publisher Klaus Pirker and I both attended Automate in Chicago in the first week of April and Hannover Messe in Germany the last week of the month, bookending a month of innovation and networking in the industrial automation world.
May 8, 2017 - While plenty of versions of the classic fairytale Cinderella exist, it is arguably one of the most familiar stories in the world.

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