I recently attended the 20th annual Automation Fair in Chicago, IL presented by Rockwell Automation, an industrial automation vendor headquartered in Milwaukee, WI. There were over 12,000 attendees from various segments of the manufacturing industry and over 125 different vendors on the show floor. The show kicked off with the usual "setting the stage" for growth in the economy – including how the middle class will expand (and hopefully buy more) and the increasing contribution of emerging market coun
Energy and the Environment
The show was broken down into what Rockwell called industry-focused forums, including: automotive, energy and environment, metals and mining, water wastewater, and food and beverage.
I attended one of the energy and environment tracks where the University of Iowa presented its overall energy landscape today and its goals for as far out as 2020. It was an interesting perspective. I often receive my heating or electricity bills in the mail and don't think twice about them – other than, did I pay it on time? The numbers Iowa stated around its utilities budget were eye opening. Its overall budget is $86 million – one of the 10 largest line item budget items in the entire state! And of that total, approximately $30 million is directly for energy costs. The university has some pretty lofty goals, including:
- 40% renewable energy by 2020 (today they are at 15%)
- Net negative energy growth (meaning use no more energy in 2020 than they do today)
To accomplish these goals the school realized it needed data it could act on. An energy control center was created and it uses technology from Rockwell Automation to analyze over 100,000 points of data from various buildings – and even the weather outside – to better regulate its overall energy use. The data is dropped into excel and energy dashboards that show red, yellow, or green signals to determine if a building is using energy efficiently or not. If not, the data can be analyzed in real-time to adjust temperatures, or find the source of energy leaks, and hopefully over time save the campus money on its energy use. At $6,000 - $14,000 an HOUR to energize the campus in its entirety it's important to keep tabs on these things. If you want to learn more about energy efficiency, IDC Energy Insights provides research specifically around Smart Buildings - energy management for commercial buildings.
Virtualization in Manufacturing
The conference also had tracks set aside for manufacturing specific technology needs – such as virtualization. Virtualization in manufacturing is key because hardware is often bought to last – for a very long time. Manufacturing environments are typically dealing with space limitations, power limitations, diverse workstations (traditional office vs. shopfloor), and a lifecycle of product that is typically longer than other industries. Hardware may need to be replaced every 3-5 years but applications in a shopfloor environment often need to continue to exist long after that – virtualization allows manufacturers to lengthen the life of that application.
Using virtualization is essentially creating your own private cloud. Manufacturers can determine which applications are run in house, and offset others to a public cloud to be run outside the organization. This often allows internal assets to work on more strategic IT initiatives.
Automation in Manufacturing
Over the course of the Automation Fair there were many examples of automation at work, from the thermostat to the server room – improving and enhancing the overall manufacturing industry. I think 2011 can officially go down as the year of "actionable information." Whether you call it automation, mobility, cloud, collaboration – the end result is the same. Give me the data I need, when I need it, so that I can make changes in real-time with fewer resources and increased customer demand.