Peak performance: Changing workforce, energy issues highlight user summit


Chicago, IL— An aging workforce, collaborative employees, energy supply and demand issues, and innovative technology were among the topics scrutinized under the umbrella of 'New Ideas for Peak Performance' at SmartSignal 's recent Summit 2006 conference. The third annual running of the two-day event, held at Chicago's Swissôtel last week, brought together some 250 executives and senior managers from many industries to exchange ideas and strategies.

Opening the two-day gathering, Jim Gagnard, SmartSignal president and CEO, cited three key business: the imminent retirement of baby boomers, a shortage a graduate engineers, and the changing role of the workforce. Calling the collective factors 'a semi-perfect storm,' Gagnard noted a shift towards specialization has prompted increased communication needs and led to a rise of 'collaborative' jobs.

'We are seeing a new kind of employee,' said Gagnard, 'one who searches, monitors, coordinates, analyzes, and decides.' Collaborative employees interact with other employees, customers, and suppliers, and make complex decisions based on knowledge, judgment, experience, and instinct, he went on.

Gagnard said that technology must complement collaborative employee skills and that technology priorities must attract and support a collaborative workforce. 'Leverage the strengths of your employees,' he challenged attendees, by promoting high quality interactions and by not only doing your best but doing what's necessary.

Also at the summit, Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) focused on energy security. Discussions cited energy as among the 10 biggest risks to the world’s economy. Economic consequences to energy markets include price, politics, and environment. Future influences include the power of markets, the often-underestimated and unanticipated power of technology, and relentless power of geopolitics. Energy growth in China will be huge compared to the United States, with greater concerns about energy’s role in supporting growth. Iraq, Nigeria, and Venezuela are among regions where problems have led to reductions in oil production, continuing energy insecurity, and supply anxiety.

CERA noted that technology will help; 10% of U.S. gasoline will come from ethanol by 2009; geo-thermal energy sources and wind power are now serious issues. Those in the U.S. generally don’t believe we are running out of oil, discussions noted; some foresee an expanding supply and a 20-25% increase in capacity in the foreseeable future.

Providing a closer look at the energy situation in China, Dr. Jun Zha, chief technology officer, energy IT group, FibrLink, the communication and infrastructure subsidiary of State Grid Corp. of China, told attendees that China is 'big!' To achieve a 10% annual growth in GDP, he said, the country needs to add 50,000 MW of generation capacity a year, or about one new 1,000 MW plant a week.

Dr. Jun said that power blackouts are a daily experience in many parts of China and that in summer, some factories shut down to reduce demand, while government buildings set air conditioning temperatures to 26 °C (nearly 79 °F) to conserve. There is lots of pressure on the Chinese government to do something, he admits. Thirteen new power plants, he said, smiling, are being built without all their approvals because there is such a need. 'We are not afraid of trying new things,' he adds. 'We are afraid of not trying new things.'

Watch for more highlights from SmartSignal Summit 2006 at the Control Engineering Web site.

For related developments, search SmartSignal atop .

—Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Jeanine Katzel , senior editor

No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Controller programming; Safety networks; Enclosure design; Power quality; Safety integrity levels; Increasing process efficiency
Additive manufacturing benefits; HMI and sensor tips; System integrator advice; Innovations from the industry
Robotic safety, collaboration, standards; DCS migration tips; IT/OT convergence; 2017 Control Engineering Salary and Career Survey
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This article collection contains several articles on how automation and controls are helping human-machine interface (HMI) hardware and software advance.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Future of oil and gas projects; Reservoir models; The importance of SCADA to oil and gas
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me