Machine and Process Management

What is Really Going on in Industrial Automation?

In my 40 years working in industry and industrial automation I cannot recall a period in which there has been so much technological jargon. Almost every periodical, advertisement, blog, article, paper, conference or website is loaded with references to the Internet of Things (IoT), the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), Industrie 4.0, Cloud Computing, Fog Computing, Edge Computing, Big Data Analytics and/or Small Data Analytics. It is not that the industrial automation field has not had its share of buzz terms over the years – it certainly has. The real issue is whether the extreme preponderance of these phrases springing up simultaneously might be indicative of an important technological advancement, or is it just more marketing hype during a slow market period?IIoT, Big Data, Cloud

At first I was of the opinion that all of this was just more marketing hype. Perhaps one reason was that each of these initiatives initially appeared somewhat technologically underwhelming, providing a reasonably slight advancement in the state-of-the-art. Secondly, almost every one of the initiatives was focused on technological advancements without much consideration for functional improvements. Typically the true benefit from any automation advancement is in the increased functionality for solving industrial problems. The extreme technology-focus of many of these initiatives made it difficult to identify any real benefits.

The more I started investigating, the more I believed something truly significant was happening.  I felt the large number of initiatives was signaling that the automation platforms might be going through a fundamental change. More detailed research confirmed my suspicions. I found the technology that underpins the design of industrial automation systems has reached a point at which the technology itself does not significantly constrain the design of the systems as it has in the past. Traditionally, limitations in network speeds, memory size, power consumption, compute time, cost and other factors have worked to constrain the design of automation systems. As a result, automation architectures have been at odds with industrial operational and business architectures. This mismatch has made working with these systems very difficult and the cost of implementing them quite high.

The automation industry is continually seeking new ways to make automation solutions simpler and easier to implement, lower cost and higher value. Automation technology has reached the point in which system designs can perfectly fit the industrial operations and businesses. I believe this will enable new levels of control and a new and exciting era for industrial automation and control.

7 Responses to “What is Really Going on in Industrial Automation?”

  1. Roger

    Automation industry is really growing fast today. This is really nice post which conveys the good knowledge regarding automation.

    Reply
  2. Peter Martin Peter

    Dear Roger,

    Thank you for your feedback and support. I appreciate both. Industrial automation has been so technology-driven over the past three decades that it may be tempting to treat new technological phrases that arise as just “more of the same.” I believe that right now that would be a mistake. Something big is about to take place, but I am not sure that any of the current buzz has truly captured the importance of what it is.

    Best regards,

    Peter

    Reply
  3. Ulrich BOMEN

    Great spot!
    Despite all those changes our educational system (Cameroon) even our college teachers seems not caring and continue to teach us, let’s learn the ancients Automation concept, terms and ways of thinking.
    Thanks , I’m very fan of Automation and industrial control.

    Reply
  4. Peter Martin Peter Martin

    Dear Ulrich,

    Thank you for your comment. I agree with your perspectives. It is too easy for humans in all disciplines to get into a rut by getting too comfortable with where they believe the state-of-the-art is. In a dynamic field like automation and control it is very important that we never gat too comfortable. There is always new ground to cover. Unfortunately the academic system – which should be pushing the art forward – has this tendency as well. I believe leaders across industry must continue to drive forward and ensure that all key disciplines are driving the state-of-the-art instead of falling back to a comfort zone. It is up to us all to keep this moving forward.

    Thank you and best regards,

    Peter

    Reply
  5. Smita

    Great share! The automation industry is really changing nowadays. This will be definitely helpful for the bright future of the industry.

    Reply
    • Peter Martin Peter Martin

      The future of the industrial automation industry will be both interesting and exciting. I am really hoping we, as an industry, can focus on driving higher levels of value through the control functionality that is delivered on automation platforms. I am not convinced that we have tapped into all of the benefits automation and control can drive. The developments that will impact industrial automation and control over the next decade should have huge impact.

      Reply

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