For the last decade, many in our industry have raised the alarm that the inevitable retirement of baby-boomers was going to leave the market with a massive brain drain. That sentiment is one of reasons we started this newsletter, and in particular, the Young Gun Insert in 2011. The goal was to help prepare the next generation of automaton professionals.
Guess What? It happened!
The shift we all feared and anticipated has happened.
Without fanfare, our market demographics have shifted. In 2012 over 58% of our website visitors were over the age of 45. Today that age group makes up less than 22%. Of the 30,000 unique visitors who visit rtaautomation.comeach month, 78% are under 45 and 36% of viewers are between 25 & 34 years old.
The majority of our site’s traffic comes from technology or protocol white papers. The users are largely represented by a group of people searching for information on industrial and building automation protocols. Needless to say this is not exotic information many outside of automation dabble in. We don’t have any secret pages devoted to Justin Bieber dragging down our age demographic.
What Does This Shift Mean?
Most importantly I think it puts to rest the paranoia regarding change. While shocking to many, the generation known for living in their parents’ basements as entitled brats now represents the largest segment of the workforce in the United States. Yes, I repeat, Millennials, who just won’t get a job, are now the generation most strongly represented in the workforce.
Businesses didn’t die, operations did not cease. The corporate hierarchy as we know it did not erode to facilitate Millennials. Things by and large just carried on. For those really worried about the future remember both Clinton and Trump are boomers – don’t blame us Millennials! 🙂
Was the Brain Drain a Myth?
Not a myth but certainly overblown. There’s a massive amount of information on the aging manufacturing technology and the work force that supports the technology in America. While this aging technology and knowledge base has always been a concern, the value proposition to overhaul systems has become much stronger.
The cost of replacement and ownership of new devices and control is now much cheaper. Self tuning controllers, the emergence of digital control in the early 2000’s and the standardization of programming with IEC 61131-3 has made automation easier. We are finally starting to see the benefits of open (semi-open) standards.
While control engineers still need to wear many hats, finally their core knowledge and skills do not need to be segmented between 3-6 proprietary legacy environments.
If you haven’t heard, the Allen-Bradley 1761-NET-ENI will meet its end January 30th, 2017. It was a good run but the powers that be are pulling the plug and taking another step to move customers away from legacy PLCs. The problem is many of you aren’t ready to say goodbye to the NET-ENI. You want to milk every last drop of function out of your legacy PLCs, and the NET-ENI is a vital tool to do just that. Real Time Automation is here to save your legacy systems from obsolescence with the 515RTAENI.
Featuring browser based configuration and diagnostics, the 515RTAENI will support up to 10 TCP/IP connections. It also exposes additional data transfer options the NET-ENI never allowed. It’s the 1761-NET-ENI and the 1761-NET-ENIW all in one!
BETAS Ship OCT 1st – Call to take part!
People use our gateways to interface with a lot of different devices, drives being a common one. I used to take these little devils for granted but some recent applications have given me a whole new appreciation for the drive.
What is a Drive?
A drive, or more accurately, a variable-frequency drive (VFD), is a device that can manage the speed, direction and torque of an electric motor. They allow smooth control of conveyors and can be an alternative or complement to mechanical braking of a motor. Controlling the speed and direction of a motor may seem rather vanilla but there are some very cool benefits to using a drive.
Flipping a switch and letting the motor rev up to full speed puts a massive amount of mechanical and electrical stress on the motor. A start up can put strains of up to 8 times those experienced at full run mode. A drive lets a user ramp up the speed creating far less stress. That in turn leads to fewer repairs and longer life span for the motors.
Energy saving is another huge benefit of using a drive. It’s estimated that 50-65% of energy consumed in the United States of America is used to supply motors. Widespread VFD usage could cut this by an estimated 20%. These savings are especially prominent in large fan, pump, and centrifuge applications.
Did you know that due to the affinity laws, reducing the speed of a fan to 68% of max will use 25% of the power?
Any reduction in speed leads to significant reduction in energy consumption.
By far the coolest energy saving feature in drives these days is the ability to regenerate power.
Remember, a motor rotates when electric energy is applied. If an outside energy spins the same motor, the motor becomes a generator and electric energy is produced.
There are a lot of applications that will generate reactive energy during a portion of a process. For example, the momentum of a large fan or other centrifugal operation will continue to spin after an energy source is removed; this momentum can be harvested. This is especially effective if you have a process that cycles on and off often.
The other applications that create reactive energy are any operation that overcomes gravity for a portion of the process. Imagine a motor driving a roller coaster up an incline. As the rate of clicking intensifies gravity takes over and pulls the cart towards the earth. That energy can be harvested (I am aware most roller coaster carts do not have motors in them).
Processes like door lifts, crane hoist lifts and oil pump jacks are perfect examples of applications that can create reactive energy during each cycle. This reactive processes can lead up to a 25-50% improvement in energy consumption.
While some of this energy saving drive technology is currently prohibitively expensive, I would expect advances in the technology will lower the costs and improve the efficiency leading to many more applications that can produce an energy savings ROI. That is awesome technology!
The July survey was unapologetically self serving market research. Unfortunately good data requires good sample sizes and you need a good giveaway to get those sample sizes. Vanilla scented RTA lip balm w/ SPF15 is not the universal draw I thought it would be. Readers be warned the survey results are from a record low response rate of 43 people.
Behind the Numbers:
Reliability – Not surprisingly long term reliability is the most attractive quality in a gateway. From a marketing perspective it is also the most challenging quality to prove. Once a gateway leaves our door we don’t have the systems in place to track field life span. We do, however, strongly believe in the quality of our product and back everything we sell with a 5 year hardware warranty.
Made in the USA – While we are proud to sell products manufactured in the USA, the 32.56% of customers who rated sourcing US products as very important was a surprise. I think these results are reflective of the individuals’ views as opposed to company purchasing practices. It’s a benefit we take great pride in offering but I can’t say it has been a differentiator during any purchasing decisions I have witnessed.
Side Kicks – I can’t believe we did not have one hardcore Dr. Who fan in this bunch! That crazy Wookiee Chewbacca ruled the day with 30.23% of the vote. Of note among the other votes were a few young men fawning for the latest Wonder Women. A few brown-nosers who wrote in John Rinaldi and a true romantic who wrote in his wife.
What is the most important characteristic of a good gateway supplier?
Which is more important in a gateway supplier?
Which is more important in a gateway supplier?
How important is sourcing products made in the USA for your company?
If tomorrow you became a super hero, who would you take as your side kick?