Businesses shift towards automation

Businesses shift towards automation

Australian and global businesses are making a shift towards automation and remote operations — a move that is becoming increasingly critical in the current climate.

Increased demand for automation was recently demonstrated at Rockwell Automation On The Move — an event held on 3–4 March, prior to Australia’s social distancing measures, which saw 119 customers attend 15 breakout sessions in Auckland, New Zealand.

Attendees engaged with new trends, technologies and fellow delegates in a hands-on experience to apply the latest automation and remote operations technology to a business problem. With the support of an experienced technician and working with their team, this activity provided a chance to demystify Industry 4.0 and showcased what automation and IT/OT (information technology/operational technology) convergence can mean for businesses.

“Businesses want to get to market quicker,” Rockwell Automation South Pacific Regional Director Anthony Wong said.

“They want to know how they can leverage data better to improve productivity and sustainability.

Wong explained that the novel coronavirus is encouraging some companies to explore increased automation solutions and remote operations due to the challenges posed to business operations.

“A lot of customers, partners and engineers are unable to go onto site right now,” he said.

“I expect this to change the way we think about how we can run plants effectively without people onsite.”

The arrival of Industry 4.0 has accelerated technology, providing streamlined, multifaceted solutions that allow more rapid retrieval of data in real time.

According to Wong, augmented reality (AR) is allowing the overlay of the digital and the physical worlds, including being able to visualise and move around a machine that isn’t physically there and being able to overlay a physical machine with an AR visualisation, which can support training and maintenance.

Although technology may have become increasingly intuitive, Wong said that getting started isn’t always easy.

“When beginning your journey towards Industry 4.0, consider the following: what data you want to connect? How can you make solutions repeatable? How can machine learning or predictive analytics be used to analyse trends and retrieve insights? How will relevant insights be delivered to those who need them? What happens when you do spot something unusual or interesting?”

Wong suggested trying to strike the right balance between off-the-shelf and customised solutions.

“Prioritise solutions that are repeatable from an infrastructure perspective but that offer a user experience that fits what you need.”

Certain platforms allow customers to tap into a range of in-built applications relevant to their needs, with options to add those which might become useful down the line.

Platforms such as Rockwell Automation’s Factory Talk Innovation Suite include specific applications around remote monitoring, creating digital twins with AR/VR, and an IoT platform that extends to manufacturing execution systems (MES), overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and predictive maintenance to support productivity, sustainability and integrated supply chain solutions.

When getting started, Wong says not to worry about gold plating from the get go.

“See what works and what doesn’t. Find a balance. Iterate,” he said.

“With the help of this remarkable technology we can get through this latest crisis and come out stronger on the other side.”

Image courtesy of Rockwell Automation

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