2011 – fall Issue

Automation Technology Outlook

If there is just one consistency in life, it's change. Technology is an area that changes at a fast pace and can make or break a company in terms of productivity and output. Interstates constantly reviews technology for what is here today and what is just beyond the horizon. Here are 5 ½ technology items that we believe will impact manufacturing and process operations in the near future.

  1. Manufacturing Information Technology will expand in the next 3-5 years as you see tighter integration between plant floor automation and business systems. The lines of separation between the two areas will continue to blur. As this happens, you could see increased use of dashboard views into the plant floor or process.
  2. Mobile Device Usage will increase and we will find mobile devices more heavily used in process and manufacturing industries. Mobile devices will allow fast and easy information sharing and allow people to see what is happening on the plant floor without being tethered to a computer. Many platforms will be available and it will be interesting to watch who emerges as the leader "" Apple, Windows Mobile, Android, or something else.
  3. Ethernet will invade the Plant Floor and in the near term, we will see a steady increase of Ethernet enabled devices (instruments) such as flow meters, control valves, and transmitters that integrate with automation and information platforms. We can also expect more drives, starters, and gateway devices to use Ethernet networks. With more communication on the plant floor, there will be added emphasis on efficiency ranging from energy usage and conservation, to raw materials usage, to labor tracking.
  4. Enhanced Network Security will become more standardized as government regulations increase and companies move to mitigate their risk for plant floor access. Look to the NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corp), ISA (International Society of Automation), and others to drive the standardization.
  5. Track and Trace Technology will become higher priority for more companies. As operations become more automated and the systems tie together more seamlessly, there will be added emphasis on detailed track and trace capability. With news media quickly reporting product recalls and issues, consumers are demanding immediate response to their questions of "?where did this product originate?'. Companies will need the ability to respond quickly and accurately through robust track and trace technology.
  6. Alarm Management will be a focus for manufacturers and process operators. Many alarms are ignored because they do not have real meaning to the process operation. Interstates will be working to study the need for alarms and assist our clients in making better decisions about what alarms are necessary to their process.

As technology changes, Interstates continues to evaluate how our clients can best leverage these advancements. Our team members will assist you in evaluation of your current situation, planning for the future and executing your plan. For more information or answers to your automation technology questions, contact Interstates Control Systems.