What does 2020 hold for businesses across the machine vision, automation and robotic landscapes?
MVPro has sought to find out by getting the thoughts of various businesses in each sector via the quickfire five Q&A, which offers an insight into how each business views 2020 and what was the highlight of 2019.
Today… George Walker, Managing Director of Novetek UK & Ireland.
What will be the biggest trend in automation in 2020?
For almost a decade we’ve been bombarded with buzzwords and phrases like Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and smart manufacturing. These phrases initially did wonders for the popularity of robotics and automation technologies. However, we’re increasingly finding that many manufacturers are, frankly, fatigued with the bluster and the promise of these concepts.
In UK industry, there’s a growing sentiment that although concepts like IIoT offer the promise of progress, industrial businesses need tangible solutions. Automation and robotics do offer these solutions, so we anticipate in 2020 we’ll see a change in how value is expressed, both by automation systems providers and industrial businesses. More specifically, we’ll see a trend for this decade’s biggest industrial trend — IIoT and/or Industry 4.0 — to fade from focus.
For example, many suppliers might say that historian software is the first step to achieving a smarter, connected factory. For manufacturers, the value lies more in being able to observe and understand how your systems operate accurately and effectively. This in turn offers the immediate benefit of developing more strategic operations or boosting the effectiveness of maintenance scheduling.
What do you predict will be the biggest challenge in 2020?
Even if we consider that Industry 4.0 and IIoT are fading phrases, they have done some good in helping spread the value of industrial connectivity and networking to businesses. However, the current situation is that smaller businesses and niche manufacturers are being priced out of the true efficiency of connected operations by high system and data storage costs.
Government reports such as Made Smarter have alluded to modern automation systems as a cure for the productivity crisis, but this is only true if the barriers to entry are removed for manufacturers of all sizes. Overcoming this will be one of the biggest challenges of 2020, and indeed for the next few years.
What are the company’s ambitions and plans for 2020?
It’s an understatement to say that UK businesses have been facing uncertain market conditions and unpredictable operational challenges in the past few years. Going into 2020, we’re keen to help overcome this by helping senior business leaders understand the opportunities of modern automation technologies — beyond the bluster of buzzwords — and making access to these systems achievable to more businesses.
Alongside GE Digital, we’ve already taken steps to set these plans in motion. In 2020, we’ll be introducing more industrial businesses to the value hidden inside their plant processes and systems using historian software.
What industry event are you looking forward to attending in 2020 and why?
We have several trade events lined up for the year ahead, but we’re particularly excited to be sponsoring the Industrial Data Summit in London on April 30, 2020 alongside GE Digital.
In the age of industrial connectivity its easy for manufacturers to forget that data is arguably the single most important factor for operational and process improvement. Events specifically focussed on industrial data are valuable in emphasising the importance of it, as well as addressing the challenges around data collection, such as software price points.
Looking back over the past year, what have been the business’s highlights?
One of our biggest highlights of the year has been our collaboration with GE Digital to overcome the price-based barrier to industrial connectivity. We teamed up with GE Digital to offer a new subscription-based model for its Historian software that gives industrial businesses an economical means of experimenting with different analytical approaches to performance data.
Conventionally, businesses pay over the odds for historian software because they are required to purchase “X” amount of tags irrespective of whether they are actively analysed or even used at all. And because industrial operations are so large, a company will never know how many tags it needs before it begins to digitalise. You might pay for 10,000 and only need 150 — which prices out businesses with more modest operational expenditure (OpEx) budgets.
Based on an annual subscription, our new GE Historian model means manufacturers can collect and store up to 500,000 data tags, with 200 available for analysing and reporting on the most important and operationally relevant. We’ve priced this subscription in line with the typical OpEx budget, making data accumulation and analysis accessible to more industrial businesses in the UK and Ireland than ever before. That’s a remarkable achievement that we’re proud to be continuing into 2020.