Investing in automation opportunities

Manufacturers should act and invest in opportunities that will improve their efficiency and their ability to do new things.

Historically, I have tried to avoid buzzwords. Frequently, word choices defy how some buzzwords are applied. For example, taken literally, what does the “Internet of Things” (IoT) actually mean?

To the author of this issue’s cover story, IoT means connecting machines—to each other and to the enterprises they serve. “In manufacturing, it’s really all about connecting machines to get more actionable information using intelligent devices at lower levels of the system architecture…than ever before.”

Perhaps the words are intended to convey that, because of the Internet, we have more ways to connect “things” than we have ever had. “IoT offers plenty of things to do to make manufacturing automation even more robust.”

Is this new? We have had this connectivity for some time. We have also had the infrastructure. But, as the cover story author points out, the focus of IoT and big data has been CEOs and CFOs. Now that the context is shifting toward manufacturing automation, the costs of implementing the technologies behind this buzzword are becoming more justifiable.

 The other story in this issue examines variable frequency drives (VFDs), which have evolved considerably over the years. While digital displays, comprehensible error messages, and easy configuration are some of the outward manifestations of technological evolution, the internal changes are even more beneficial to those who use and maintain them. Better power electronics help minimize switching noise, better circuit designs help minimize harmonics, and better quality has helped to greatly increase reliability—which is perhaps the most valuable of these attributes.

When manufacturers see opportunities for improvement, they should act on them.

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