From Outsourcing to HMI: How market changes provide new opportunities
From Outsourcing to HMI:
How market changes provide new opportunities
On a global basis, the manufacturing industry is undergoing a degree of change not seen since the turn of the 20th Century. The repercussions of this evolution are being felt from the macro level of international economics to the micro level—your job in your industry today.
An interview with Tom Kopanski, Vice President and General Manager of Siemens Automation and Motion Division, provides insight into how he views the changes currently impacting the manufacturing industries—from outsourcing to HMI—and the opportunities these developments provide.
Q. What do you see as the principal manufacturing business factors impacting the development and use of automation and controls—from a global perspective and specifically in the U.S.?
Kopanski : Most U.S. manufacturers have already taken much of the cost out of their processes through automation of those processes. But this type of cost cutting is just the first step in creating a modern, adaptive, and cost-effective manufacturing business. The next step is to drive a manufacturing model that is responsive to the market place and that can automate the decisions of the business. This step is more difficult to achieve than the first because it involves both strategy, and a higher level of automation. However, it's worth the effort because it can bring significant financial benefits to the manufacturer.
Manufacturers must adapt to changes in their marketplace quickly to be an effective business today. For example, a candy manufacturer must be able to quickly and cost effectively change packaging based on holidays. The ability to respond to these changes means you can get your product to market faster and satisfy customer needs—two must-have capabilities for any modern, successful manufacturer.
Q. Beyond automation and controls, how do you see these factors impacting the profession of manufacturing engineers?
Kopanski : Today's operations must have sufficient flexibility in their designs to quickly and cost effectively allow for continuous adaptation to customer requirements.
This may require engineers to rethink how their systems are put together. In the past, manufacturing engineers acted more like system integrators, piecing together different vendors' components that met the needs of specific requirements. Now, engineers need to focus more on how to design flexibility into the system and look to suppliers that can help in providing a total solution that delivers this level of adaptability.
I also believe manufacturing engineers should act as catalysts for change within their organizations. Optimizing operations is not simply a matter of streamlining plant floor functions. It is also about optimizing inbound and outbound logistics—the total supply chain. That means collaboration must occur within multiple disciplines and departments of an organization. Someone or some group needs to drive this, and manufacturing engineers are well suited for this role because of their intimate knowledge of plant operations.
Q. Over the past few years there has been a great deal of debate over outsourcing and how it is affecting domestic manufacturing jobs. One camp believes outsourcing was never a major factor affecting manufacturing jobs, that the loss of jobs was more a result of higher productivity through better processes and automation. The other camp blames outsourcing for the job loss. What is your view on this debate?
Kopanski : Siemens, as a global manufacturer and supplier of products, has a different view on outsourcing because we manufacture across the world. The U.S. is just one of over 190 countries in which we have a presence. Siemens has increased the number of employees in the U.S., from a few thousand in the early 1970s to more than 70,000 today. This is a direct commitment of recognizing the U.S. as a growing market place and "outsourcing" jobs here. For most manufacturers, the question of outsourcing comes directly from being able to manage costs and remain competitive.
Q. Based on the factors you see as having the most impact on manufacturing, what is your advice to operations management? What do they need to be thinking about now to help position their processes for competitiveness over the next few years?
Kopanski : There are many factors that can impact operations: disruptions in material flows, down machinery, responses to changing markets. To remain competitive, manufacturers must adapt to those factors. By building flexibility into operations processes—to expect the unexpected—manufacturers can differentiate themselves in their market segment.
Q. The fairly quick adoption of wireless and Ethernet technologies in the industrial sectors has been surprising, especially considering how much resistance both technologies faced just a few years ago. What technology advances do you see having the biggest value impact on manufacturing in the next 5 years and why?
Kopanski : Siemens has been involved with Ethernet on the factory floor for over 20 years. Advancements in technology have allowed us to bring some exciting new developments to the factory floor. We are now able to allow data, I/O, motion, safety, and other applications to run on a single network. This allows the collapsing of multiple field buses into a single network, which will drive down installation costs and simplify the decision process when choosing a network.
Networks can then be implemented on a wired or wireless network, depending on the application. We have created a line of advanced industrial infrastructure products that allows the use of industrially hardened Ethernet components for cabling, switching, wireless applications, and security.
All of this advancement will impact the way we approach network architectures on the factory floor in the coming years.
Q. Siemens made an interesting move business-wise by incorporating its process automation and MES division into one group managed by you—in essence bringing the operations and IT sides of the business closer together. What does Siemens see happening in the manufacturing market that led it to make this move and how have your customers responded?
Kopanski : There are two major challenges our manufacturing customers face, regardless of industry: 1) They want to get the best possible return on their investments (asset optimization) and 2) do it with the lowest possible risk to their operations (risk mitigation).
Optimizing these two areas means that customers must not only be flexible on the factory floor, but also have the appropriate knowledge to make good business decisions in managing the entire supply chain associated with their operations. This is where we see process automation and MES coming together. The MES world is involved with information flow; the automation world focuses on product flow. To have the flexibility to adapt to disruptions in either set of processes, the two should be connected.
When the two sides of the business are combined, the information flow from business systems to factory floor can be harmonized, setting the groundwork for an extremely efficient and adaptive environment. This leads to greater productivity and more efficient operations—which ultimately means higher revenue generation. By aligning our business toward this customer viewpoint, we can provide our customers a single approach to achieve this continuous, adaptive approach.
We have had an extremely positive response from our customers to this move. This was especially evident at our users' conference, where, for the first time, customers were able to see and hear about both sides of the business in a single venue.
Q. As IT and production systems move closer together, HMI systems are increasingly playing a larger role because of the data accessibility they provide beyond pure machine interaction. How would you characterize the evolution of HMI over the past 5 years and what do you see happening with the technology in the next few years?
Kopanski : HMI is the view into the factory. Instant access to information allows everyone from the operator, to the maintenance manager, to the engineer, to the plant manager, to make faster, more intelligent decisions, which translate into more uptime and far greater productivity.
Functionality once reserved for PCs has now moved to the HMI, allowing for greater flexibility in their application. Client-server architectures, audit trails, and secure logins (for compliance with regulations such as 21CFR Part 11), and Web-based functionality can all be realized in the HMI now.
An evolving area of interest is integration of diagnostics from the controller into the HMI. Diagnostic information, alarms, messages, ladder logic, and other important troubleshooting information are displayed directly on the HMI without the need of programming software. This minimizes downtime by allowing maintenance personnel instant access to information.
Over the next few years, we will continue to see added functionality and greater capability in smaller devices. Better tools to analyze the information will be available and the HMI will provide the mechanism to visualize your information.
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