Technology Trends

Big Data and the Future of Manufacturing Technology (a la the Rockwell Automation Fair)

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  • Big Data and the Future of Manufacturing Technology (a la the Rockwell Automation Fair)
  • Big Data Toys

Rockwell Automation Fair

I am fresh back at the IW office in Cleveland today after a busy week on the road for the Rockwell Automation Fair.

From forums on safety automation, the energy and environmental industries, and global machine and equipment builders, to seemingly endless resources on ways to improve workforce enablement and energy management, the three-day fair and related events were jammed full of manufacturing technologies and industrial automation information.

As I try to make sense of my notes from the event in the relative calm of my cube, one major theme sticks out that really seems to tie together much of the information discussed at the event: big data.

To Rockwell, the terms "big data" and "big data analytics" are taboo and subject to much eye-rolling and redirection. Sujeet Chand, Rockwell's CTO, for example, deferred to something he called "asset management solutions," refusing even to utter the catchier buzz-wordy synonym.

That little semantic pet peeve -- however trifling it may seem -- captures the essence of the big data problem and the issue driving every technology and solution presented at the Automation Fair.

Behind the drive to optimized production and energy management, behind manufacturing intelligence and mobile solutions, there is an absolute and unwavering focus on taking all of those petabytes of data we are collecting in the manufacturing process -- measures of every degree of every gear in a motor, of every vibration of every turn of a rotor, of every stylistic tick each employee adds to every process -- and translating it into useful, actionable intelligence. 

Calling big data analysis "asset management solutions" does exactly that -- it translates a vague, broad term into something manufacturers can process and actually use to help them understand their business better.

So under any name, that trick of creating intelligence from data seems to be positioned at the heart of industrial IT developments, particularly in the automation field. Heading into 2013, it is a safe bet that this focus will define the future of manufacturing technology well into the new year.

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