Aug 22 2018

iCaptain My Captain: Autonomous Ship to Set Sail in 2018

In the Golden Age of Piracy stories of haunted, crewless ships sailing the seas were the stuff of legend. Shipbuilding has come a long way since then, and 2018 will mark the biggest leap in shipbuilding and seafaring technology in recent memory.

The Yara Birkeland, the world’s first autonomous and crewless ship will set sail around the coast of Norway in 2018. The ship debuts in 2018, but will not be fully autonomous until 2020. In the meantime, a crew will operate the Yara Birkeland for a short time and then operated remotely, before becoming autonomous.

The Yara Birkeland is one of the most sustainable ships ever conceived as well as the world’s first autonomous ship, as it’s electric-powered and smaller than most container ships. The manufacturers of the ship expect it to reduce the emissions of roughly “40,000 truck drives a year,” that will no longer be necessary after the Birkeland sets sail. Furthermore, it will help companies save costs at an unprecedented level. The Birkeland costs $25 million to produce, which according to the Wall Street Journal is “about three times as much as a conventional ship of similar size,” however, the money saved on fuel and crew expenses “will save up to 90% in annual costs.”

The “Tesla of the Seas,” as the shipbuilders call it, will deliver fertilizer to farms up and down the coast of Norway. Much like autonomous vehicles, the Yara Birkeland will utilize “GPS, radar, cameras, and sensors,” to navigate itself successfully around other boats and even dock itself when it arrives at port.

Autonomous ships with sustainable energy sources are the future of the maritime shipping industry, however, it’s uncharted territory in terms of regulation and use. The International Maritime Organization won’t implement autonomous ship regulation until 2020. Until then, the seas will exist in a delicate state of flux where autonomous and traditional ships will coexist without clear rules governing their interactions. Moreover, it is unclear among industry experts how other companies will use these ships. The Yara Birkeland’s journey will be a short, 37-mile loop along the Norwegian coast. The makers of the Yara Birkeland hope to invest in larger ships capable of making longer journeys, but other industry leaders are less optimistic, arguing they will be great for short trips, but won’t be as feasible for thousand mile journeys that span oceans and continents.

Until the IMO implements regulations, it is difficult to say how prevalent autonomous ships will be in our oceans. For most of our history, the seas have been a source of adventure, excitement, and discovery. Now we stand on the precipice of the next chapter in our long relationship with the seas, and we all will wait and watch with as great a sense of adventure and excitement as ever, looking to see what this new chapter will bring.

This post originally appeared on Navigate the Future, the Dassault Systemes North America blog

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Aug 15 2018

THE RISE OF PLATFORM BUSINESS – How digital networks are changing competition

Whether we have purchased a book through Amazon or watched videos on YouTube, most of us have used a digital platform – an online framework for social and marketplace interactions. From Alibaba to eBay to Google, platform dealings have become part of everyday life for consumers. Now businesses are creating these high-value exchange environments to facilitate interaction with one another and, in the process, a pivotal change in the way businesses compete.

Only someone living without an internet connection on a remote island or deep in the jungle could have missed the digital platform revolution. From Uber’s well-publicized assault on taxicabs to Airbnb’s creation of an entirely new hospitality business, digital platforms have transformed many areas of daily life – and now they’re migrating from business-to-consumer (B2C) commerce and into the realm of business-to-business (B2B) interactions as well. Global consulting firm Accenture states in its “Technology Vision 2016” report, “unparalleled growth of the digital economy has put it on course to account for 25% of the world’s entire economy by 2020, up from 15% in 2005; Platform business models represent a fast-increasing proportion of the overall total.” “What we’re seeing is that the platform business model is a huge piece of how a lot of big companies are planning their futures,” said Michael Biltz, managing director of Accenture Technology Labs in San Jose, California, who advises firms on platform development. “Not all companies will create platforms themselves, but most firms are looking to carve out a nice meaty role within some of these new ecosystems that are just starting to be developed.”

B2C platforms such as Apple and Facebook have become a routine part of everyday life; but B2B platforms are less well known. Examples include Panoptix from Johnson Controls, a US firm that makes heating and air-conditioning equipment. Panoptix is an innovation platform that allows developers to write and sell apps for building management issues such as energy conservation and then sell them to users online. Meanwhile, an Australian bank launched a platform in Indonesia to help small businesses monitor their cash flows. While the online tools are free, the data gives the bank insights into which businesses might need its loans, as well as their creditworthiness. IDC Research, a Framingham, Massachusetts, market intelligence firm that specializes in technology, calls B2B platforms “Industry Collaborative Clouds,” to distinguish them from consumer-oriented platforms. Eric Newmark, program vice president for IDC’s Cloud, SaaS and Industry Cloud practice, estimates that these platforms now have revenue of between US$2 billion and US$4 billion a year, a tiny fraction of the income in the US$2.6 trillion market capitalization B2C platform economy. But he forecasts dramatic growth in B2B platforms over the next five to six years, reaching US$25 billion to US$30 billion annual turnover as companies scurry to reap the same benefits B2C companies are getting from platforms.

San Antonio-based Frost & Sullivan, another technology consultancy, is even more bullish about B2B platform commerce. It expects this business to reach US$6.7 trillion by 2020, double the amount of B2C business. Leading the charge are Chinese platform firms like Alibaba, which enables small manufacturers in China’s cities to reach outlying wholesalers and retailers without the need for brick-and-mortar stores. Whichever estimate you believe, it is undeniable that many companies are financing B2B platforms out of their balance 15sheets, without the need for the venture capital that fueled the growth of most B2C platforms. B2B platforms also can run profitably on a much smaller scale with hundreds, not millions, of users. That puts platforms within reach for even small companies to convert their existing pipelines to platform ecosystem.

Read the rest of this story here, on COMPASS, the 3DEXPERIENCE Magazine

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Aug 08 2018

Digitalization: What Would FC Barcelona Do?

You’re modeling a digital manufacturing strategy around a use case of new product introductions (NPI), because the corporate emphasis is organic growth through a constant stream of new offerings. You want to understand demand as early as possible in the product life cycle, to continuously adapt your manufacturing and supply chain response for timely replenishment. You want digital enablement of production and sourcing, to track products through the chain and take needed actions.

What would FC Barcelona do?

The soccer powerhouse is one of many sports organizations that have committed themselves to a digital makeover, and they offer compelling lessons for digital manufacturing—leverage digitization to get near-real-time information on every corner of the business, then turn loose machine learning to predict what is likely to happen and prescribe the right strategy.

This leads to improving what EdjSports calls GWC—Game Winning Chance. The company worked with the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, analyzing and simulating play data to help the team make decisions that increased its odds of winning. For business, that could be renamed CWC—Customer Winning Chance, doing the things that are most likely to gain market share and revenue growth.

For NPI, machine learning can crunch data on clusters of previous items with similar characteristics, then look at sales profiles of products grouped by shared attributes to inform the launch forecast calculation—not unlike analyzing and recommending in-game, down-and-yardage play calls in football.

Sports has also discovered the Internet of Things. Raúl Peláez at FC Barcelona worked in R&D at HP; now he heads Sports Technology, Innovation & Analysis at Barça, where he oversees a group of data scientists, game analysts, and engineers. They strap wearables to players during practice to track position on the pitch; machine learning assesses how their spatial decision-making affects the game.

Player field position is akin to inventory staging in business—placing the right goods at the right place at the right time to meet shifting channel demand and capitalize on each opportunity to move forward. Sometimes sports even dips directly into digital manufacturing: McLaren Racing brought a portable 3D printer to an F1 race. Digitized sports, like business, also wants to deliver an experience—capturing and analyzing a 360° view of fans for stronger engagement and a window into what customers want.

The changing face of the people sports are hiring points to the need for new competencies in digital manufacturing. The Houston Astros, last year’s World Series champs, feature a former NASA engineer as director of decision sciences; his analytics group works in an office nicknamed the “Nerd Cave.” One focal point for the team is using analytics to help players stay healthy—like analytics-driven predictive maintenance in digital manufacturing anticipates equipment needs to keep production humming.

In sports and business, it’s all about doing the right thing, fast. Digitization helps each advance toward the net—through an emphasis on data capture, data understanding, and data-driven prescriptions for a higher win probability.

This post originally appeared on Navigate the Future, the Dassault Systemes North America blog

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Aug 01 2018

Joe Zulick

PLC Security for Control Engineers: Keep Your Friends Close, and Your Enemies Closer

No one understood or more succinctly described strategies and philosophies of war than the great Chinese general, Sun Tzu. Despite living and penning these words of wisdom almost 2700 years ago, leaders of today still apply the tactics described in the Art of War in in the technology-driven world we live in today.

Sun Tzu also said, “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.” Now as a control engineer working for a reputable organization no one is advocating that you become a dark web hacker to understand the challenge you are facing when creating security for PLCs, but there is value at understanding who the enemy is and what their motivation and techniques may be.

When PLC’s developed in the early 1970’s replaced relays in control systems for automotive assembly lines and rapidly adopted and integrated across the industrial landscape security was entirely physical as there was no access to these systems outside a given facility. Times have obviously changed dramatically.

Advances in technologies involving M2M communications has given organizations access to massive amounts of data that can be translated into actionable information leading to better and more timely decision making. The rise of IoT has quickly brought access to this volume of valuable data over the internet. Machines can now be connected anywhere on the planet. This increased connectivity and access has also greatly increased the vulnerability of networks and the machines and PLCs utilizing them.

No matter what industry a Control Engineer is designing or developing a system with PLCs, security has come to the forefront and must be a top concern and consideration during all phases of design and implementation. So, who and what constitute the primary threats in the machine builder environment for Control Engineers utilizing PLCs? Here are some considerations:

New Threats

Malware has been the primary cause of most disruptive and destructive attacks over the last decade. Hacktivist would target an organization or industry based on their own beliefs with a goal of causing massive disruption and destruction. An often-cited example is the 2010 Stuxnet malware attack on the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran that resulted in the destruction of 1000 centrifuges. Over the past few years we have seen a rise in the number of attacks utilizing Ransomware to hold organizations as well as individuals sensitive or proprietary data hostage. Unless exorbitant payments were made the victim’s information or digital assets would be destroyed or leaked to the public.

In sports, the cheaters and dopers always seem to be one step ahead of the regulatory agencies trying to maintain a level playing field. The Academy Award winning documentary Icarus illustrates just how far individuals and states will go to cheat the system and stay ahead of doping controls. The same is true of hackers. It is much easier for any hacker to take advantage of the cracks in a new emerging technology than it is for an organization or industry to create impenetrable security measures.

These threats used to emanate mainly from small groups of hackers hiding in the shadows. Today organized crime groups and even state-sponsored action constitute the greatest threats. Syndicates have the money and the muscle to employ the most accomplished hackers on the planet, who are all available for a price. The proliferation of nation-grade malware has put these powerful weapons in the hands of individuals who can inflict as much harm as a rogue nation.

Change is Constant

Today, attacks tend to happen quickly and are relatively short in duration. Even though a breach can usually be eliminated swiftly, the fallout and damage can be more far-reaching and lasting. While attacks against infrastructure such as the electrical grid or water supplies could pose an imminent threat to human lives, those targeting consumer data can be equally as devastating. A company or industry’s reputation may never recover in the wake of such an event.

Markets and Industries are moving quickly. Companies are seeking to be innovators or disruptors and are racing to be first to market and are under intense pressure to perform. We are now in the midst of the rapidly emerging 4th Industrial Revolution and continue to see Moore’s Law on display as technology and innovation continue to accelerate at a dizzying pace. What constituted state-of the-art security in any industry 12-18 months ago can be woefully obsolete today.

Even though it may be impossible to eliminate all security breaches in systems and devices, machine builders can never rest on their laurels and have to remain proactively vigilant to maintain the best PLC security that can be incorporated into a design. These are the new battle lines in 21st century digital warfare. Sun Tzu said, “Invincibility lies in the defense.” How strong is your defense?

Security Factors:

  • Although it may not actually connect to the internet, a control system is unsafe. Contrary to popular belief, a modem connection could also experience intrusion and a hack.
  • Wireless networks, laptop computers, and trusted vendor connections could be other sources of connections in which people may be likely to overlook.
  • Keep in mind that the majority of IT departments are unaware of factory automation equipment, including CNCs, CPUs, PCBs, robotics parts and, last but not least, PLCs.
  • Piggybacking off of the last point, IT departments’ lack of experience with the aforementioned equipment, along with their lack of experience with industrial standards and scalable processes indicate that they should not be in-charge and responsible for a company’s PLC security. Nobody wants an annoyed employee to make inappropriate changes to a PLC’s communication highway.
    Hackers do not necessarily need to understand PLC or SCADA to block PC-to-PLC communication. They absolutely do not need to understand a PLC or SCADA system to cause operational or programming issues.
  • Often times, control systems, including ones that many PLCs integrate with, use Microsoft Windows, which is very popular amongst hackers.
  • Some PLCs crash simply by pinging an IP address, like what happened at the Brown’s Ferry Nuclear Plant, which is located in upstate Alabama. Since the incident in 2006, the plant has undergone numerous security, operational, and management improvements.

In conclusion, when a security breach occurs, regardless of the specifics, understanding that time is of the essence will help smooth over most incidents. Trusting who has access to a control systems environment and thumb drive is crucial. If someone has access to the control system environment and thumb drive, ensure they’re well-qualified and up-to-speed with their team and/or company.

Joseph Zulick is a writer and editor at MRO Electric and Supply.

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Jul 25 2018

Manufacturing Inventory and Technology – It’s About Time

The main purpose of having Inventory is to buy time. If a customer expects immediate shipment when they order a product, and it takes more than a few hours to make that product, finished goods inventory will bridge the difference in time to match supply to demand. Similarly, when a manufacturing line needs a component, an on-hand supply of that component makes it immediately available, keeping the line running instead of waiting to procure the parts from the supplier.

Inventory can also be a buffer that compensates for the things we don’t know (forecast error, for example), and the things we can’t control – things like late receipt of materials, unexpected machine breakdowns or higher-than-expected scrap. Without some kind of a buffer, variability can cause stock-outs that disrupt production, disappoint customers, and erode profit margins. A little extra inventory can go a long way toward preventing the disruption – you won’t have to wait for a replacement if it’s already on hand.

Technology can replace inventory, or at least reduce the need for inventory, to “buy” time to keep the plant operating and keep customers happy. Technology can also reduce the risk of unpleasant surprises and provide earlier warning of impending disruptions so there is more time to take preventive or compensating measures. The primary way that technology contributes is through increased visibility.

Imagine a case where customers expect immediate shipment of a product that takes two weeks to build. You would need to keep two weeks’ supply of the finished goods on hand, plus some extra for demand variation. In addition, if demand changes radically, either up or down, it would take at least 2 weeks to adjust production to match the change. And if the product is suddenly obsolete (it happens!), you’re stuck with a considerable amount of obsolete product and partially completed product in-process.

If you could reduce the lead time from two weeks to one week, it would greatly reduce the amount of inventory needed as well as lower the risks posed by a large change in demand. Automation and in-plant technology including Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors, modern Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), robotics and smart equipment controllers are all significant contributors to manufacturers’ efforts to shorten production lead time. Also consider the impact of IIoT and location-aware technologies in providing detailed information on the status and location of incoming parts and materials, inventory status in remote warehouses and shipments en-route, and near real-time demand information that feeds more accurate forecasts and distribution plans. Together, these technologies can shrink time and help us make supply chains more efficient, more responsive, and more profitable.

IIoT and related technologies are just beginning to have an impact on supply chains that will continue to expand at geometric rates, changing the landscape of manufacturing, distribution and supply chains throughout the globe. Eventually, these industrial technologies will integrate with “smart” homes, cities and infrastructure components (airports, railroads, highways, utilities) to multiply the efficiencies and tie the supply chain even closer to customers and suppliers.

This post originally appeared on Navigate the Future, the Dassault Systemes North America blog
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