GAC: ‘Contextualize Technology’

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 @ 05:04 PM gHale


By Gregory Hale
Automation technology is great and it truly does helps, but end users just can’t throw the latest and newest equipment at problems, they need to understand what the problem is, and then use technology to enable the solution.

“Let’s get back to the point where we figure out what the problem is and then we solve it,” said Peter Martin, vice president business value solutions at Schneider Electric during his keynote Tuesday address at the Schneider-Electric 2015 Global Automation Conference in Dallas. “The lens we have been looking through has changed multiple times over the years. We need to contextualize the technology to the problem.”

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Martin and the Schneider team really focused in the new approach the industry is facing and that is focusing more on a consultative approach to finding and solving issues to create a more productive and profitable manufacturing enterprise.

Yet, as it always turns out, issues always point toward safety and security as a key determining factor leading to the future.

“Security is a real-time control problem. Safety is a real-time control problem. Controlling safety risk in real time is where we are going,” Martin said.

“There is pressure today to do it more, faster, better and more secure and safe,” said Chris Lyden, senior vice president of business development for software and industrial automation at Schneider. “Control systems are much more complex. Systems are being changed daily whether you know it or not.”

The number of cyber threats is increasing daily. Lyden talked about the Shamoon virus that wiped out at least 30,000 hard drives at Saudi Aramco.

Reported cyber attacks growing by 600 percent since 2010, according to NSS Labs.

Lyden pointed out some startling numbers focusing squarely on the security area: The average cost of an attack is at $8.9 million and there have been 1.8 successful attacks per week in 2012.

“Security infrastructure and approaches are often piecemeal,” Lyden said. “Automation systems must be designed to inherently reduce cyber vulnerabilities.”

One of the areas Lyden said is now mandatory is all Schneider embedded products will go through the ISASecure certification process before they go to market.

In terms of safety environment, Lyden simply said “Safety, safety, safety.” Again, some interesting numbers: 13 people a day in the United States, don’t come home from work; 4 million people suffer injuries every year in the U.S., and the industry-wide cost impact per year for abnormal situations was $20 billion.

Safety is out there, but there needs to be a more robust safety environment and culture.

“Making your workplace safe and secure is what we do,” Lyden said.

With the advent of the Internet, and Ethernet capabilities and interoperable and open software, Martin said life in the plant was much different in the 70s through the 90s where all everyone worried about was keeping the plant running. From the 90s to the early 2000s, it was about optimizing the plant through technology. From 2010 on it is all about optimizing the business.

That means manufacturers have to get down to the basics and understand what they are there for. They are making a product, so the company and make a profit. That also means they have to learn to measure business values and metrics in real time.

As Martin said, “all the problems we facing the world are control problems.”

That means engineers are in the driver’s seat to help lead their companies to better profitability.

“Going forward, this is a collaboration, this is not a solo flight. A solo flight will not work,” Martin said. “Together we can do so much more. We have to keep our eye on our value. We can take on problems and knock them off one at a time.”



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