Thursday, December 20, 2018

Why are we going Back to the Future?

I recently write a post on the Bigfinite Blog titled "Taking Smart Manufacturing Back to the Future", and I wanted to share here as well. It was an attempt to reflect on the "back" part. Not trying to confuse anybody, but many of the concepts that we consider a paradigm shift and transformational have in fact existed for a while. The most common is AI, that has arguably been around for over 60 years and is now becoming pervasive in nearly all gadgets and things. Another lesser known is multi-agent systems which is really at the core of IIoT and collaborative manufacturing equipment, i.e. collaborative robots. As mentioned in an earlier post I got immersed in the everyday grind of work  and only recently realized that these concepts are coming to life, and soon into the main stream.
"Automation has been around for decades so why is this advanced collaboration and self-driving performance important and where is the real value? Well, it has to do with the adaptive behavior that these smart systems can exhibit. Since the process behavior is dynamic and ever changing the, only way to get consistent performance is by having adaptive control. Not only can adaptive control manage the ever-changing nature of the process’ both internal and external factors, but it can also continuously learn, improve and thereby consistently increase performance and quality."
I keep writing about it because I am just giddy with the fact that its happening, the digital transformation is here! Call it what you want, Industry 4.0, Pharma 4.0 or Smart Manufacturing, its here, the future is now - its like going back to the future  that we dreamed about in the late 1990's! This is may passion and it tickles me to see the transformation as it happens in the industry - can't wait.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

My head is in the Cloud

I have spent the last 2 months coming up to speed with SaaS, The Cloud, Big Data and advanced analytics. Wow, I am amazed at how far technology has come. In the last 7 years it seems I have moved further and further away from software technology with my increasing operational responsibilities. I did my best to follow the general trends and progress but really never in enough depth. I knew there was something “big” happening but kept thinking “I know what is going on…”, “I should have a general understanding…”. When I stopped to really understand how far some of these technologies, we group under the “Industry 4.0” umbrella, have come I found it quite astounding!

The power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms that are able find patterns we never knew existed in vast amounts and use this information to predict future behavior is amazing. Stories such as the one where Target (the retail store) was able to identify a girl as pregnant before her dad knew, stand as proof. I have also found the ease at which data can send data to the Cloud is just hard to understand. We have been fighting the connectivity and data contextualization problem for such a long time that its hard to believe it can be done any other way. If we take a breather, step out of the ditch and take a look around then we can quickly realize - we don’t need to do this anymore! Data can be collected by software agents running on everything from a server to a sensor and configured through a digital twin. There is no need to format, convert, transform or contextualize the collected data. In fact the AI and ML algorithms work best if we keep it unstructured and the smaller the data sets the better.

This is all very exciting and the more I think about how we can use these technologies the more more encouraged I am that we can achieve true manufacturing intelligence. The ability to have a real time picture of everything that is going on in our manufacturing plant is simple and achievable. On top of that we can discover relationships between processes and artifacts that we never imagined existed, and use these to improve, to better operate, and maybe stop the great firefight that is operating a plant. We can transform the daily operational meetings to something akin of a weather forecast - wouldn’t that be something to watch?