Future pondered at RSTechED

Source: PlantServices.com

Jul 07, 2008

Attendees of the 2008 RSTechED, hosted by Rockwell Automation, learned how to glance into the future this week and envision how their companies may look a little brighter because of it.

“The issue is no longer simply access to information,” said Kevin Roach, vice president of Software, Rockwell Automation. “It’s how the sea of information generated from many systems is rationalized across the enterprise into succinct and useful context.”

The ability to contextualize information, adapt and make innovative decisions that could change the course of a manufacturer’s future were among key concepts discussed at the 11th annual RSTechED, as more than 1,500 registered attendees gathered for the weeklong user and partner event June 1-6 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel, Orlando, Fla.

“Innovation is going to fuel the manufacturing engine of the future,” Roach said. The most commonly successful form of innovation is “combining existing technology in new ways,” Roach added. He pointed out how the iPod has changed the way people listen to music by combining several technologies. It worked because Apple understood its market. GPS systems are another example.

As we go forward, there will be less time spent on worrying about getting the right information and more time acting on it, according to Roach. “Just because we don’t know how to do something today doesn’t mean we won’t be able to do it tomorrow,” he says.

Tuesday’s keynote speaker was Alvin Toffler, “futurist” and author of “Future Shock,” “The Third Wave” and (with his wife Heidi), “Revolutionary Wealth.” Addressing the need to change how work is done in the future, Toffler discussed how macro trends affect the future of business segments and, in turn, can define a company’s success for decades to come.

Commenting that manufacturing output is growing as manufacturing employment declines, he said, “We are entering a revolution of wealth creation … a shift from muscle power to production based on ‘mind.’ Knowledge is a different input as a resource because everyone can use it.”

Recent breakdowns in the system such as the mortgage crisis, response to hurricane Katrina and others are systemic, explained Toffler, and are symptoms of the growing mismatch between the needs of our current industrial-based manufacturing society and the growing knowledge revolution.

That’s not all bad. “Even in chaotic situations, there are desirable patterns,” he says. “It is a mistake to assume current chaotic situations are bad. The crises are systemic.”

Held in conjunction with RSTechED, the Manufacturing 2.0 Executive Forum was themed “Fueling Your Innovation Engine” and focused on best practices in terms of leveraging an IT-driven approach to manufacturing that couples product and business planning, supply chain processes and plant operations into one efficient and responsive enterprise.

Representatives from IBM, Cisco, OSIsoft and Smithfield Foods provided manufacturers a better grasp of coming changes and how to use them to help their enterprise prosper in tomorrow’s business environment.

Attendees also could attend any of five two-hour customer panel discussions addressing key industry trends, including using asset management software to protect intellectual property and leveraging existing plant-floor investments. Lively discussions throughout the event featured panelists from Wyeth Biotech, Chrysler LLC, Kimberly-Clark and Tyson Foods Inc., among others.

In two of the best-attended sessions, panelists from Kimberly-Clark, Smithfield Foods, Metalsa and KLA-Tencor discussed plant-to-enterprise integration and representatives from Kimberly-Clark and Blandin Paper delved into the convergence of IT and controls engineering.

Eager to help bolster manufacturers’ information prowess, Rockwell Automation announced availability of a new version of FactoryTalk ProductionCentre, a software system that helps users deploy and scale manufacturing production applications across multiple sites in a more rapid and cost-efficient fashion. The latest version of the manufacturing execution system (MES) application delivers comprehensive production management functionality, along with advanced decision support tools to help manufacturers track and control production, reduce cycle times and excess inventory, analyze root cause and failures, and track and manage factory and field repair orders.

Future products available for preview included FactoryTalk ViewPoint and FactoryTalk Metrics, and attendees were able to participate in discussions about the impact of the recent Rockwell Automation acquisitions of Pavilion Technologies and Incuity Software.

For more information about RSTechED 2008, please visit http://www.RSTechED.com.