Automation, robotics, AI, ransomware

Think Again: Applying automation, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) may be easier than you think. Preventing a ransomware attack may be more difficult, as explained at the A3 Business Forum in February. See upcoming conferences.

By Mark T. Hoske April 14, 2022
Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Automation, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and ransomware were among topics at the A3 Business Forum, Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. (For advice from other Association for Advancing Automation (A3) conference speakers, see “Robotics, motion control, machine vision, AI.”)

Integrate automation, use robotics to help humans, make AI scalable, and don’t think for a minute cybersecurity or physical security doesn’t need attention. Also, below, see upcoming conferences and training opportunities.

Applying robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing

Oli Qirko, senior vice president and general manager, North America, Cambridge Consultants, said clients seek help installing automation to get fast solutions to help with severe labor shortages. Applications need to be scalable and work with current systems and minimize disruptions, she said. Interoperability and communication are key. Many people want to work with robots, given the chance, said Qirko. It’s an exciting time for robotics with a lot of investments and many startups.

Shane Dittrich, co-founder of the House of Design robotics, began as a system integrator. He discussed challenges applying automation to truss building, difficult because of the wide variability of wood quality. When working with customers, ensure they’re ready for the level of automation sought, Dittrich suggested, letting humans do what humans can and allow automation to do the rest. Automation providers need to provide more open-source, easier to integrate and communicate with devices and systems, he added.

Oli Qirko, senior vice president and general manager, North America, Cambridge Consultants, and Shane Dittrich, co-founder of the House of Design Robotics, each offered automation application advice at the A3 Business Forum in February. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Oli Qirko, senior vice president and general manager, North America, Cambridge Consultants, and Shane Dittrich, co-founder of the House of Design Robotics, each offered automation application advice at the A3 Business Forum in February. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Deep learning applications, resolving worker shortages

Deba Sen, president, abrasive systems division, 3M, said the company is bringing in partners to help with deep-learning application expertise. COVID-19 brought 15 years of technology investments in 5 months, she said. It’s also important to look at what medium and small manufacturers need since they are the majority of U.S. manufacturing output.

Greg Smith, president, Industrial Automation Group, Teradyne (includes Universal Robots, Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR), AutoGuide Mobile Robots and Energid), continues to see a worker shortage. Smith hoped to help resolve worker shortages with safe and easy-to-use collaborative robotics and AI to solve customer problems.

The era of finding cheap labor is gone, Smith said, adding automation and AI can provide more sustainable results. “People make lousy robots, and robots make lousy people.” Use of AI with automation “doesn’t make hard things easy, but it makes impossible things possible.”

Enabling technologies to help with automation applications include ROS (an open-source robotic operating system from SwRI) and digital twins to provide realistic emulation of what’s going on. About AI, Smith observed that once AI starts working, then people stop calling it AI.

Deba Sen, president, Abrasive Systems Division, 3M; Rashmi Misra, general manager AI, mixed reality and silicon platforms, business development, Microsoft; Greg Smith, president, Industrial Automation Group, Teradyne (includes Universal Robots, Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR), AutoGuide Mobile Robots and Energid); and Andrew Ng, CEO, Landing AI, offered advice about artificial intelligence (AI) use for automation and manufacturing at the A3 Business Forum in February. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Deba Sen, president, Abrasive Systems Division, 3M; Rashmi Misra, general manager AI, mixed reality and silicon platforms, business development, Microsoft; Greg Smith, president, Industrial Automation Group, Teradyne (includes Universal Robots, Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR), AutoGuide Mobile Robots and Energid); and Andrew Ng, CEO, Landing AI, offered advice about artificial intelligence (AI) use for automation and manufacturing at the A3 Business Forum in February. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Don’t reject AI because of the hype

Andrew Ng, CEO, Landing AI, said artificial intelligence has been overhyped in the last 10 years. A recipe that would serve a billion users doesn’t work in industrial automation. Custom AI needs to be applied in each factory, Ng said, resolving complex issues with ingenuity. He warned about buying into the idea that one company has all data and answers. Data centric AI development works on developing carefully curated data sets to get cutting-edge performances.

People often apply the wrong set of rules to capture defects. Deep learning can use a different approach by showing the system a set of images what you’re trying to detect. AI is automation on steroids.

Rashmi Misra, general manager AI, mixed reality and silicon platforms, business development, Microsoft, said Microsoft is looking at how it can work with partners to create an ecosystem to help with abstraction layers, hardware, management and application inputs. Software tools help training to enhance learning on the job with remote experts, using augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) to overlay the physical world with digital assets. This helps customers monitor, analyze and fix something while the expert is elsewhere.

It is a challenge, Misra said, to optimize objectives and move from a ton of data to something usable, making tools open to all players to democratize every level of capability.

Cybersecurity, ransomware for manufacturers

Aiming to demystify ransomware attacks for manufacturers, Jeremy Dodson, CISO, chief information security officer, (left in photo) and Jay Korpi, a principal cybersecurity advisor, both with NextLink Labs, offered advice. Ransomware is malware that uses encryption to hold data ransom.

Dodson said he hears many incorrect things about ransomware, including that paying once will restore everything. Crooks may or may not restore, may or may not seek only one ransom and likely will not remove the malware. Assets also may be locked up again after paying once, he warned.

Dodson said the six typical phases of a ransomware attack are:

  1. The initial access campaign.
  2. The actual infection, where systems are breached, often undetected.
  3. Staging, which is where the hacker ensures access remains after a system reboot.
  4. Internal system scanning for high-value targets (HVTs).
  5. Data encryption.
  6. Payday, when you’re informed of the breach, systems are locked and initial ransom demanded.

Korpi said his goal is to help customers go from that worst possible day to better days. He often warns customers about how easy it is for social engineering professional to gain physical access to systems to plant ransomware, adding, “I have never come across a room I couldn’t talk my way into.”

Dodson gave examples about how they attacked (with permission) and accessed secured areas to plant ransomware. Dodson detailed how they gained physical access into a customer’s ultra-secured area twice before they were convinced they needed training.

Jeremy Dodson, CISO, chief information security officer, (left) and Jay Korpi, a principal cybersecurity advisor, both with NextLink Labs, each offered cybersecurity advice at the A3 Business Forum in February. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Jeremy Dodson, CISO, chief information security officer, (left) and Jay Korpi, a principal cybersecurity advisor, both with NextLink Labs, each offered cybersecurity advice at the A3 Business Forum in February. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology

Flexible manufacturing to meet individual customer needs

Christoph Schell, chief commercial officer, HP, talked about how the automation revolution in digital manufacturing enables customers to easily find professional uses for customized consumer products. As president of HP’s 3D printing and digital manufacturing efforts, he noted a huge acceleration of technologies during the last two years, citing some estimate of 5 years of digital adoption in 8 weeks. Must if the investment is expected to stick past COVID-19. The blur of professional and personal lives has created huge opportunities for businesses: “All of us has become supply chain, Schell said, outlining opportunities including:

  1. Flexibility and performance at the right price point. This included ability to use a credit card from home to design, test, and print better robotic parts, shortening the supply chain from 8 to 10 weeks to 6 days.
  2. Hyper-customization can disrupt production as the digital twin becomes the physical output of a manufacturer.
  3. Sustainable supply chain enables technology built with the future in mind: 60% of global consumers are interested in sustainability when the buy. Digital manufacturing ships designs, not products. Globally, 1 in 3 list sustainability as most important when buying. Digital manufacturing enables flexibility, speed, affordability and responsiveness to customer sustainability requirements, Schell said. “Digital twins are our metaverse,” Schell observed. “They’re already here for manufacturing.”

Condition monitoring may require more sensors

In a discussion with Control Engineering after the conference, Will Healy III, marketing manager, Americas for Balluff, said he sees more digitalization attention being given to condition monitoring and predictive maintenance. Sensors used to monitor critical assets make that an increasingly approachable entry point, he said, checking critical measurements of pumps, motors, fans and HVAC systems, especially as there are fewer maintenance people available. Systems can get data and notify as needed to protect critical systems first, because if those break, no one can work, such as when pumps fail in a painting facility, and production stops.

Retrofit solutions can bolt onto existing systems, measuring electrical use, vibration, heat, and other parameters. Healy said adding technology adds value to companies, making it easier to justify more technology applications.

Paper shortage, paper stock

It seems few industries are impervious to supply chain disruptions, but Control Engineering offers apologies, anyhow. Some reading this print edition may find a lower-grade paper stock in their hand, which was the best we could do given a paper mill strike in Finland and continuing supply chain turmoil.

In person, digital learning: Which way do I go?

Control Engineering plans to cover two of three industry events scheduled (or rescheduled) week of June 5. If any of you are attending the Pittsburgh conference and want us to consider publishing some of your notes, let me know.

Automate, June 6-9, Detroit, A3 www.automate.org

ARC Forum, June 6-9, Orlando, ARC Advisory Group, www.arcweb.com/events/arc-industry-forum-orlando

Smart Manufacturing Experience, June 7-9, Pittsburgh, SME, CESMII, AMT,  www.smartmanufacturingexperience.com.

CSIA Executive Conference, Denver, June 27-30, www.controlsys.org/events/conference2022

IMTS 2022 (AMT) www.imts.com and Hannover Messe USA (Hannover Fairs USA), https://hannovermesseusa.com, Sept. 12-17,

Vision Show, Oct. 11-13, Boston, A3, www.visionshow.org, co-located with Autonomous Mobile Robots & Logistics Week 2022, A3, Oct. 10-13.

Pack Expo Chicago, Oct. 23-26, PMMI, www.packexpointernational.com.

Think again about digital education with CFE Media and Technology education.

www.controleng.com/online-courses

www.controleng.com/webcasts

www.controleng.com/webcasts/past

https://cfeedu.cfemedia.com/pages/virtual-training-week

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology at mhoske@cfemedia.com.   

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Mark T. Hoske
Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.