• May 31, 2020
  • Industry Update

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New ISA virtual events include half-day online conferences

Not long after pandemic-related stay-at-home orders began being issued in the U.S., ISA leadership and staff realized that in-person events of all kinds were impossible in the short term and uncertain in the longer term. The slate of live events ISA was planning for 2020 had to be changed.

So the decision was made to cancel or move all ISA 2020 face-to-face conferences into virtual platforms. “The health and safety of ISA members and customers is most important,” said ISA director Mary Ramsey, “and we will leverage digital and virtual platforms to deliver valuable content instead of holding in-person events.”

The ISA Virtual Events Program encompasses webinars and virtual conference sessions on a series of essential topics, presented by ISA subject-matter experts and others. Webinars are hour-long online presentations with live questions and answers. Virtual conferences are multi-session, multi-“room” online events that have panel discussions with live Q&A, virtual exhibit booths, and attendee chat opportunities in addition to insightful presentations and user case study sessions. ISA virtual events are being created under one of four broad topic areas. These series include:


Explore the critical, dynamic world of automation cybersecurity with ISA’s expert contributors. Learn about threats, emerging protection methods, industrial control system best practices, fundamentals of the ISA/IEC 62443 standards, and implementation tips for bringing a standards-based approach into your facility. The first virtual conference—”Cybersecurity Standards Implementation Conference”—is scheduled for 30 June at 10:00 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. ET. It focuses on cybersecurity gaps in industrial automation and control systems and ways to address threats using a standards-based cybersecurity program.

IIoT and smart manufacturing

Learn the latest trends and technologies driving the next generation of industrial operations, including the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), data analytics, edge computing, artificial intelligence, wireless communications, cloud and mobile computing, robotics, and simulations.

Process control and instrumentation

This series explores the fundamental technologies and topics essential to your plant’s operations, including safety, quality, compliance, instrumentation, measurement, and maintenance. The Virtual Process Industry Conference is planned for November; the first on-demand webinar in the series is “Securing Industrial Environments with OT Endpoint Management.”

Digital transformation

Get real-world examples of IT/OT convergence, business transformation, and operational excellence using digital tools and technologies through this series of virtual events. An ISA100 wireless condition monitoring webinar is planned, for example, as is a half-day conference dedicated to deep water automation for the oil and gas industry.

Within the Digital Transformation Series, a new webinar is available for on-demand viewing. “Using New Technology to Maintain Progress During a Pandemic” describes how immersive technology, such as smart glasses, may be a solution to organizations needing to move parts of their supply chain out of affected areas during the pandemic, or if workers need to be demobilized to minimize their threat of infection. Ken Nguyen, program manager for major capital projects with British Petroleum describes how BP has used smart glasses to support remote inspections and reviews.

Report: Most countries to surpass 2019 levels of manufacturing production by 2024

In the latest update to its Manufacturing Industry Output Tracker (MIO), Interact Analysis forecasts a steady but varied recovery for global manufacturing, notwithstanding the fact that some sectors have been hit harder than others during the COVID-19 crisis. Most countries will have surpassed 2019 levels of manufacturing output by 2024. Some as early as 2022, according to the report.

In January 2020, Interact Analysis predicted the start of a gradual short-term rise in global manufacturing output, after relatively lean years in 2018 and 2019. This was based on various historical measurements and forward-looking indicators. COVID-19 has completely changed that outlook.

Adrian Lloyd, CEO of Interact Analysis, says: “This MIO report update is informed by our analysts on the ground in countries across the world, and is a forensic analysis of the short- and long-term prospects of 16 key manufacturing sectors in 37 of the largest economies, as efforts are made to recover from the global shock of COVID-19.”

There have been significant downturns in the past, notably in 2009, but this MIO update says that the crisis happened when basic market fundamentals for many economies were sound, so recovery, though slow, will be sustained. The report predicts a global pandemic-induced contraction of 7.6 percent in 2020—which is not as severe as the 8.6 percent contraction experienced in 2009.

5G-Industry Campus Europe opens in Germany

The 5G-Industry Campus Europe switched on its radio network in Germany in May to become what is called the largest 5G research network in Europe. In an area of almost 1 square kilometer, 19 antennas combine to create a bandwidth of 10 gigabits per second for a 5G network. In March, the 5G-Industry Campus Europe was awarded a first 5G license in the 3.7 to 3.8 Gigahertz range, and now the network is running. Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure is funding the ambitious project with around 6 million Euros.

The network is at the RWTH Aachen University campus, and it connects the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT, the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering WZL, the FIR (Institute for Industrial Management), and, in the future, other university departments with the new mobile radio standard. Additional partners for the development of the 5G infrastructure are the mobile network supplier Ericsson and the IT Center of the RWTH Aachen University.

Together, the partners at the 5G-Industry Campus Europe can research and test various applications of 5G in industrial use. The aim is to open up new fields of application for 5G mobile communication technology in production, ranging from 5G sensor technology for monitoring and controlling highly complex production processes to mobile robotics and logistics and cross-location production chains.

Another target of the Aachen scientists is to test modern edge-cloud systems for fast data processing in order to exploit 5G for fully networked and adaptive production.

Contact the consortium via the project website.

IDG Survey: Only 25 percent have completed IT modernization goals

Only one in four enterprises pursuing IT modernization initiatives have completed their initial objectives, yet even those in the earliest stages of the journey are reaping measurable benefits that are driving business transformation, according to a new IDG Research Services survey commissioned by Insight Enterprises’ Cloud + Data Center Transformation solution area.

The survey, “The State of IT Modernization 2020,” examined the maturity of efforts to optimize IT operating environments, cloud strategies, applications, and processes, including progress made, barriers encountered, and variations in initiatives at different phases. Respondents included 200 IT executives working in organizations with an average of 29,000 employees across a wide range of industries. Among the findings:

  • Just 25 percent have achieved their initial IT modernization objectives, in part because of hurdles including competing priorities, outdated processes and tools, outdated infrastructure, lack of in-house expertise, insufficient budget, and operational limitations.
  • The 26 percent of organizations in the beginning stages of modernization are seeing a measurable impact on business operations. This includes improved quality of service (65 percent), better customer experience/satisfaction (52 percent), cost savings (50 percent), uptime (44 percent), and creation of new revenue-generating products and services (42 percent).

Results are available at www.insightcdct.com/IT2020.

Automation helps honor pandemic-affected 2020 graduates

In the midst of the worst pandemic in a century, social gatherings are becoming a distant memory, and schools have either closed down or turned to online learning. While sporting events, conferences, family reunions, and other gatherings can be rescheduled, what of once-in-a-lifetime events like a graduation? Many seniors have been facing the end of their schooling without the ceremony they worked so hard to earn. To bring its graduates their special day of recognition while still maintaining social distancing standards, Arizona State’s Thunderbird School of Global Management partnered with Double Robotics to provide a unique solution.

Looking a bit like rolling broomsticks with human faces, mobile telepresence robots served as student “avatars,” rolling across the stage to receive their award from Dean Sanjeev Khagram. The tablet-computer “heads” of the two-wheeled robots used full two-way audio and video, so the graduates could experience the feeling of walking across stage and interacting with the dean, no matter where in the world they were. The entire 11 May ceremony was broadcast via YouTube so parents and friends could be part of the event.

Explained Dean Khagram, “We teach our students how to maximize the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by embracing global ingenuity and innovation, so leveraging transformative technologies like mobile telepresence robots for an unprecedented commencement was a fitting final lesson for the Class of 2020.”

Providing safety in the time of COVID-19 while still giving the students the recognition they deserve was the primary driver of this effort, said Khagram. “We’d love to be there to give [graduates] a hug or a high five. But if there is one thing the pandemic has shown more than ever . . . it’s that the digital transformation is underway and accelerating,” he said.

During his remarks, Khagram said those who can embrace new technologies and achieve a “digital global mindset” would become the leaders who take us into the increasingly digital world.

The ceremony consisted of some 140 graduates and four rented Double 3 robots. Although only the students who won special awards earned the treat of being able to maneuver the robots from behind the podium, each student sent in personal photos or videos that were loaded onto the robot screen. Therefore, each graduate received the treat of being able to see themselves in robot form.

It was fascinating to watch their robots maneuver across stage and around the podium so students could give their acceptance speeches. The Thunderbird support staff had time to get familiar with the robots and their usage, in order to run the ceremony, but it was evident that the graduate awardees were not as familiar with maneuvering the robots. Yet, their fascination with this innovative use of technology was evident throughout the ceremony.

“I want to thank ASU and Thunderbird for their innovative design to hold this ceremony for us, while keeping us all safe,” expressed graduate and award-winner Juili Amit Kale. “I was able to receive my award and converse with Dr. Khagram with the help of robotics. Isn’t that innovative?”

—Cory Fogg, Automation.com

In memoriam

Enrique Valer, senior vice president of the Iberian Zone of Schneider Electric, died 19 March in Spain. Valer was appointed general director of Schneider for the Iberian Zone in 2004, following more than 25 years in the electrical sector. Javier Pascual, managing director for Yokogawa Iberia, broke the news to Valer’s professional colleagues and wrote this touching tribute:

“All of us have someone who gives some impact in our lives. I had a very good friend who unfortunately passed away on the 19th of March 2020. Our current worldwide health situation is dramatic. We are losing friends and relatives, but we can hardly say farewell to them. Even worse, it is difficult to pay homage to them.

“Enrique Valer was my friend. He was an excellent professional, and an excellent father. He has built a long list of friends and has raised, along with his wife, a brilliant and beautiful family. I feel honored by having been a friend of him, working and enjoying life together. A few years ago, he won a battle with leukemia. However, and very sadly, COVID-19 arrived and snatched away his life.

“A big man deserves a big recognition. For this reason, I [am] giving tribute to him, and waiting for better times in the near future in order to celebrate his life with a proper funerary ceremony.”

Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chairman and CEO at Schneider Electric, said: “Very sad with the news. Enrique has been a great professional and companion, on top of being a good person. Many people will miss him, and many people can thank him. Our thoughts go to his family.”

Add your Voice to the Celebration

75 years of setting the standard for automation

The Sep/Oct 2020 issue of InTech will include the 75th Anniversary Commemorative Supplement.

In addition to technology timelines, Automation Innovator Profiles, and predictions for the future, the supplement provides ways for supporters to buy ads, share stories of ISA history, or position their companies as part of the Industrial Automation Innovators Showcase.

Show your support for the organization that supports your people, products, and customers. Email stories, congratulations, and questions to 75in2020@isa.org.

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