Opinion Archive

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.
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.
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.”

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