A New Beginning

Mature Technology Choices and No Legacy Systems to Get in the Way Make for Exciting Times

Jeremy PollardBy Jeremy Pollard, CET

Our annual AutomationXchange is a unique opportunity for vendors and buyers to get together, talk turkey and get down to real problems and real solutions.

This was the first year that vendors and buyers from both the process world and our discrete Machine Builder Nation were together at the same venue. Anyone who tells you they are the same is lying or confused. There’s a major difference in the way these guys think.

I was an host. This means that I made sure that a buyer—someone who has a need—gets to talk with the appropriate vendors.

I escorted three individuals—Michael Allen, director of engineering, Automation Center of Excellence; project manager Osvaldo Pagan Minaya and engineering manager Jack Ryan from a company called Covidien. You might have known them as Tyco Healthcare. They’re a global company with 65+ plants worldwide.

The company wants to put plant floor intelligence into practice by implementing a SCADA system on a company-wide basis. At our AX event they met with vendors of solutions for SCADA/HMI, networking and pneumatics issues, and system integrators because they realize they’ll need help in the implementation.

I knew where they were now and wanted to end up since I’ve taken companies from that point to the holy grail of plant floor data, so I was very interested in their journey.

We talked a lot about different things, which made them late for some of the appointments, but it was worthwhile in many ways for all of us. I argued that some vendors just don’t get it; their technology is boring, really boring. That was confirmed by meetings these guys came out of with a “glad-that’s-over” look on their faces. Some vendors really do need to spice up their presentations.

They were looking for a 5,000-ft-level discussion of how an experienced and knowledgeable vendor would deal with the problem they had and, of course, how the product or technology would help with that solution.

One system integrator appreciated that and helped them tremendously. There was a resounding “wow” when they came out of that meeting. Finally, someone who understood what they were after. That was a great one.

As it is with the normal progression of sales, some vendors simply flip the presentation switch on and ramble on. These guys are smart guys. They know when the issue isn’t in their domain, but they solider on nonetheless.

Covidien came away with tons of new information about things that I know they will need. I suggested that they check out a few other technology areas to help them with their platform.

Mike and his team have a very unique opportunity ahead of them at Covidien. No legacy to get in their way. They can make decisions with vision and comfort since most of the technologies here are relatively mature.

And the one thing of interest to them was that Ethernet is a standard on which to build the plant network. Yet everyone has a unique implementation. That will give them a very hard decision to make since the future depends on their decision today and whom they decide their supplier will be. since most of them don’t play well together.

It was a pleasure to spend the two days with these three gentlemen. They gave me hope that the world of automation can be exciting for those who aren’t long in the tooth. Another AutomationXchange success story.

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