The Evolving Trend in Industrial Automation
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The Evolving Trend in Industrial Automation

By Wei Yuan, R&D Lab Manager, Hitachi America Ltd. And Jason Burkett, Director, HK ECU PE

A profound transformation in industrial automation has occurred over the past decade, and it is a technological shift and a consequence of the changing economy, fast shipping, and agility in operations. Automation initiatives are also quickly deployable, task-agnostic, smaller than their clunky forebears, and can work alongside humans. Similarly, global initiatives have been added to the typical workloads, and are tasked to be more aggressive to achieve cost and quality targets.

In the light of your experience, what are the trends and challenges you’ve witnessed around industrial automation?

Wei Yuan: Based on our engagement with industries, the trend to adopt robotics and automation for industrial purposes is gaining momentum over the decade, considering reduced cost in robotics and the increased labor cost. Similarly, the digital transformation of factories and utilization of production data for KPIs are also accounted as emerging trends.

“Digital transformation is at its peak, and almost all industries are going through this transition”

For the manufacturing industries, digital transformation is gaining prominence as IoT is used in different manufacturing levels. Through our engagement with multiple factories, it is very evident that they are willing to adopt IoT to digitize their operations. However, things like return on investment, infrastructure, data collection, and connectivity issues are restricting them. On top of that, many manufacturing industries are still not accustomed to the applications of industrial data. Therefore, we are trying to mitigate these challenges with the help of our research and development team so that manufacturing industries willing to adapt IoT platforms and manufacturing solutions have a clear picture about the benefits and utilities of these solutions.

Could you talk about your approach to identifying the right partnership providers?

Jason Burkett: There are numbers of IoT developers in the market, but all come up with their platforms rather than solutions. As each factory is different, the production line, factory operations, and machine equipment are separate as well. To meet these requirements, a scalable and repeatable solution is required. And, to get the desired outcome, it is essential to identify the correct partner to provide an IoT solution.

Moreover, many IoT platform providers do not have a proper solution which can run smoothly on top of the platform, and the ones having an appropriate set of solutions might not have a defined platform. This problem leads to improper outcomes and scalability issues that can restrict manufacturing industries to step ahead with IoT. Therefore, an IoT platform with proper solutions and relevant integration should be the foremost preference for any manufacturing industry.

What’s your take on mitigating such IoT issues that are going around the industrial automation landscape?

Jason Burkett: We are working on IoT solutions, autonomous driving and similar kind of. With these two significant advances, we are taking a step further to create a better future for the manufacturing industry in terms of technology.

As IoT is becoming a prominent trend in recent time; we are concentrating on automating some of our data access points, and also pushing for a more natural way to obtain information coming from the production line. At this moment, we have different types of data storage methods, and we want to bring all of it together in a more usable state. In addition to this, we are also taking the initiative to work on real-time data to visualize the performance of our lines and production facility.

Currently, we are also focused on some compelling projects like Formalized systematic problem-solving training, Floor Management Development System (FMDS), Jishuken activities ( Workplace-based “on the job training” problem solving activity for senior leadership) , Manufacturing IoT solution (Hitachi Limited & R&D), which will definitely have positive impact over the changing industry trends.

What would be the single piece of advice that you could impart to a fellow or aspiring professional in this field, looking to embark on a similar venture or professional journey along the lines of your service and area of expertise?

Wei Yuan: Digital transformation is at its peak, and almost all industries are going through this transition. Some of the sectors are embracing these digital changes, and some are compelled to adapt to situations as this transformation is gaining access worldwide. Moreover, from the manufacturing perspective, integration of information technology and operational technology together with IoT intend to build a better future for the manufacturing industry.

Jason Burkett: To top it off, as we go ahead with our IoT solution, a continuous process should commence, expanding the solution to make it more accessible and comfortable for the manufacturing industries to work efficiently.

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