No matter which industry you are dealing with, four key trends are impacting on the core of customers’ automation:
- Resources efficiency
For industrial automation providers, however, these are more than just trends. They are the essential building blocks for tomorrow’s automation solutions.
In the last five to 10 years, automation has undergone an important transformation thanks to an increasing adoption of new IT technologies that offer real benefits to customers’ business, from designing a new plant to modernizing aging systems.
The adoption of these technologies, however, is creating a new burden on the PLC. As more and more devices are connected and smarter (ie more diagnostics information, predictive maintenance, etc), the PLC is called on to manage a larger number of devices, process more data and run more complex and bigger applications as part of the operations.
Cybersecurity is a growing concern for end users and a subject that receives a great deal of attention and visibility in the media. Customers are asking from more openness, and they see the clear benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), but they also require automation solutions that have cybersecurity built into their PLCs. They expect every component in their automation system to come from a trusted vendor with a strong track record of effectively managing cybersecurity risks.
Customers are also demanding compliance with the latest and strictest regulations. Many countries, in fact, have established dedicated agencies that focus on testing PLCs against the most stringent cybersecurity rules in order to qualify for consideration to be used within critical infrastructure sites. If you don’t comply, you are not in the game.
Users today expect agile or flexible automation systems that are able to adapt quickly to external factors such as volatile demand. The days have passed when it was the customer who had to adapt to the limitations of the PLC. Now, vendors must provide PLCs and automation architectures that can adapt to customers’ current plant topologies, as well as to their future needs, in a cost effective manner.
Agility also translates to adapting to changes in user habits such as, for example, an operator who doesn’t want to have to stop the process in order to make a change (changing the instrumentation configuration or adding a remote drop or a new drive etc) or a maintenance engineer in the field who needs to access vital information remotely via a smart phone or tablet. Today’s systems have to be able to accommodate these ways of working through features like an embedded web server.
Automation plays an important role in the business of end users who are faced with challenges linked to the efficient use of resources to maximize asset utilization and production output.
An automation system has a long lifecycle which means that customers have invested heavily in automation equipment as well as in people with deep knowledge and expertise. Yet, this equipment is now aging, some operating for 20+ years, and the workforce is aging, too, so a scarcity of resources is a real concern.
It’s easy to see how customers may feel overwhelmed with more questions than answers when considering the rapidly changing automation technology environment. How can they make the most of their assets? Are the new PLCs helping them to re-use their knowledge and hardware? How can they move forward without prohibitively expensive investments?
Automation is ON!
In these challenging times, automation users look for trusted automation partners with a strong track record of continually leveraging technology and innovation to serve their most important needs and challenges along the full automation life cycle and, most importantly, accompany them in moving on with confidence and seamlessly to the next step of automation that will make their business grow.