Industrial Automation / IIoT / Skills Gap / Workforce Development / Mobile Technology / Industrial Cybersecurity

3 things I'm looking forward to at the 2017 Automation Fair

Mobility, cybersecurity, and the craft skills gap lead the list of pressing MRO topics to be covered at 26th annual event

By Thomas Wilk, editor in chief

The 26th annual Automation Fair®  takes place in a few weeks (Nov. 15-16) at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX, a central business hub for the oil & gas sector and its many related industries. This will be my fourth Automation Fair since joining the Plant Services team, and every year there have been several sessions and technologies that address key challenges facing maintenance and reliability teams. Here's a quick rundown of three key topics of interest for MRO event-goers:

1. IIoT and Cybersecurity

Two of the most frequent IIoT-related questions heard by Plant Services editors are, "How do we start with the IIoT?" and "How do we make sure our system is protected from hackers?" We developed a recent cover story with these questions in mind, and I'm very much looking forward to learning more at several technical sessions that comprise part of the overall "Connected Enterprise" program track:

  • T87 Where to Begin Your Digital Transformation
  • T45 Interstates Control Systems Inc.: Starting the Journey to
  • The Connected Enterprise
  • T21 Deliver the Plant of the Future Today
  • T22 Cyber Security – Why and Where Do I Start?
  • T84 Develop a Secure Architecture for The Connected Enterprise

Several further presentations will be available in the "Networks and Security" program track:

  • T56 Owl Cyber Defense Solutions: Securing Today’s Connected Enterprise –
  • Data Diode Cybersecurity Architectures & Implementations
  • T57 Phoenix Digital Corporation: Mission Critical Redundant Bridge and Tunnel
  • Control and Automation at Louisville, KY
  • T34 Cisco Systems, Inc.: Digital Manufacturing Solutions in Practice
  • T58 Stratus Technologies: Modern Computing Infrastructure for
  • The Connected Enterprise

2. Overcoming the Skills Gap

In the 2017 Plant Services workforce survey, both frontline and management teams agreed that the #1 concern on their minds was how to locate and train the next generation of skilled workers. From a frontline perspective, the concern was focused on overwork due to a lack of skilled workers in the field; managers on the other hand simply cited "recruiting talent" as their top challenge.

Rockwell Automation CEO Blake Moret addressed this topic in his 2016 Automation Fair keynote address, explaining that the company has long been a supporter of education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), adding that “we’re taking that support to a new level with a four-year, $12 million gift to FIRST Robotics,” Moret said. “That’s a lot of money—the biggest gift they’ve ever received, and the biggest we’ve ever made.” It will be interesting to learn about the new advances being make by Rockwell Automation and its partners in this area one year later, with the skills gap showing no sign of closing any time soon.

3. Mobility

Given how quickly condition monitoring technologies are going mobile, from portable data collectors to sophisticated reporting tools, I thought the story of the show coming out of the 2015 Automation Fair event was Rockwell Automation's work with Microsoft, originally termed Project Stanton and Project Thali. One year later, the FactoryTalk TeamONE App premiered at the 2016 Automation Fair, enabling users to collaborate and share knowledge, view live production diagnostics, interact with machine alarms, and troubleshoot devices.

Kyle Reissner, mobility platform leader, Integrated Architecture, Rockwell Automation, said “the “FactoryTalk TeamONE app introduces a new, zero-friction-to-value paradigm where teams can download the app, form a team and use their knowledge alongside device data to drive productivity increases. The app doesn’t need teams to install servers, have pre-existing infrastructure like OPC servers, or connect automation assets and devices to the cloud in order to use the modules.”

Given how quickly Reissner and his team developed this application, and the growing demand by MRO teams for remote monitoring tools, I'm keeping a close eye on new developments for 2017.

Click here to register to attend the Automation Fair® event. And For additional coverage of automation, please check out the monthly "Automation Zone" column, which features a rotating set of contributors on topics that help prepare you and your teams to manage and maintain your automation assets.



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