Integrator Roundtable Discussion: Facing the Future of Automation
Opportunities and Challenges in a Changing Environment55 min video / 45 minute read View slides
About this Webinar
As the increase in data and devices transforms the industrial space, industrial organizations are looking for greater mobility and interoperability in their control systems. System integrators are playing an important role in this as they help enterprises transition to a world where everything is connected.
More than ever, integrators must strive to address customers' pain points today while keeping an eye on what tomorrow may bring. Where do the biggest opportunities lie? Which solutions will best fit their customers' changing needs? Which skills do they need to develop for the future?
This webinar will bring together experienced system integrators from a variety of industries for a compelling discussion. Learn how integrators are approaching some of today’s biggest challenges and helping customers realize the full potential of automation.
Get integrators' insights on:
- "Brownfield" vs. "Greenfield" projects
- Trends in HMI, SCADA, and MES
- Cloud vis. edge computing
- The importance of open standards
- The future of manufacturing jobs
- And more
Don: Good morning everyone, and welcome to today's webinar, Innovative Round Table Discussion Facing the Future of Automation: Opportunities and Challenges in a Changing Environment. My name is Don Pearson. I'll serve as the moderator today, and make a few comments along the way with our panelists who I'll introduce in a couple of minutes. A look at the agenda, on the agenda today, we'll introduce you to Inductive Automation for those of you who aren't familiar with ignition software platform, and we'll have a wide-ranging discussion with the panelists about trends and technologies that are really affecting industrial automation today and get a variety of perspectives on that. Those include, as you see on the slide, ground field opportunities, HMI, SCADA, and MES trends, the IIoT, the Cloud, Edge computing, open standards, and of course, technology's impact on manufacturing, and we'll end, as we always do with a question and answer period. A little bit of company back on Inductive Automation founded in 2003. We're really very pleased with the response we've had from enterprises now in over 100 countries that have chosen Ignition for their HMI, SCADA, MES and IIoT needs. We have over 1500 integrators that have joined our integrator program, and actually, it's used and trusted by thousands of companies, including 44% of Fortune 100, and I think it's about 26, 27% of the Fortune 500 now.
Don: If anyone wants more information on us, our company, just go to Inductive Automation to the About section, and you can get a lot more detail on that. I mentioned we're in a lot of different industries, but really, I think it's virtually every industry from oil and gas to water and wastewater, food and beverage, government, transportation, packaging and the list goes on and on. I think one of the reasons for that is 'cause we really are the first universal platform for SCADA, MES and IIoT. Ignition is an industrial applications platform. It's got a number of bullet points that I put here just to give some of the things that I think are strengths and differentiators for the ignition platform. The unlimited license model certainly is there, when you can have unlimited tags, clients, projects, device connections, makes it actually perfect for scaling out into IIoT solutions where you may have, I don't know, hundreds of thousands of sensors, thousands of PLCs that you're connecting to. It's got cross-platform compatibility, IT standard technologies. It's really scalable to server-client architecture, web-based, web managed, web launched designer and clients, modular configurability. Just to take the modules and use those that you need, and really has tools for rapid development and deployment.
Don: I know analogies are less than perfect, but to make an analogy, I guess you could compare ignition to an iceberg, because most customers initially see it as a really efficient solution for SCADA, MES and IIoT, but as the saying goes, that's just the tip of the iceberg, because people are doing amazingly or varied solutions with this platform. A whole range of other functionalities under the surface. It's been successfully used for things as wide-ranging as full alarming systems, reporting, logic engines, dashboards, ERP middleware, web services, servers and clients for OPC UA and MQTT, and more, much more. So, when we think of Ignition, we think that its flexibility and its versatility is one big reason why it really has caught on with many integrators who have a variety of needs they need to serve for their customers around the world. With that, as a little bit of background, I'm very excited to have some amazing integrators on the panel today. So, let's meet them. Wright Sullivan is the President of A&E Engineering, and he is an Ignition premier certified integrator, headquartered in South Carolina. Greg Ratliff is a software engineer for INS, an Ignition Premier certified integrator, headquartered in Texas. And David Pitzer is an electrical engineer and the Director of Automation at Tyrion Integration Services, which is based here in California, the Bakersfield area.
Don: So, that's my brief introduction, but I wanna give each of them a chance to introduce themselves. So, a little bit about your company, a little bit about what you specialize in, and let's start with Wright Sullivan.
Wright: Thank you, Don. I'm really honored to be here. I appreciate the opportunity and I hope we can share some good information today. A&E Engineering is a 65-person systems integrator. We are headquartered in South Carolina, but we have offices in Alabama and North Carolina as well, and our industries are wide and varied, ranging from food and beverage to automotive, to chemicals, and just to name a few. We're in many diverse industries, and we've been using inductive automations platforms, including the predecessor to Ignition since I believe 2007. So, we're really glad to be here. Thanks.
Don: Thank you, Wright, and I definitely appreciate you taking time out to join the panel and share some of your perspectives today. Let's go to Greg. Introduce yourself and a little bit about INS.
Greg: HI there. Great to be here. My name's Greg Ratliff. I'm a Software Engineer for INS. INS is primarily a distributorship that deals in networking, cellular, traditional IIoT, video, wireless, etcetera. I'm part of the Services Group, we have several guys that do services from audit, certifications, consulting, design and installation. We also do enterprise data integration. The piece that I'm involved in is the software services where we use Ignition to do data integration. So, that's what we do.
Don: Great, Greg. Thanks and welcome, and as I said, we appreciate your participation today, most definitely. David, introduce yourself and Tyrion.
David: Hello. Thank Don. Yeah, it is. It's a pleasure to be here today. My name is David, as Don mentioned, Tyrion Integration is based in Bakersfield, California. The company grew out of the oil and gas industry. The owner worked in a large oil producing company here in the area for about 20 years. He worked in the contractor side of things, and the two of us came together in an effort to evaluate the industry and try to introduce today's latest technologies into the industry. So the big pushes around our company are IIoT and Cloud services. So the two things that set Tyrion aside is, one, we offer a full SCADA package as a service, and it's a Cloud-based, pay-as-you-go, SCADA system. And then with that, we developed and created our own hardware called Nucleus, which puts into one box everything you would need to take advantage of all of those Cloud services that we have to offer, or use as you need to in your own systems.
Don: Great, David, thank you. And thank all of you also for being here with us, with us this morning or afternoon, depending on where you are in the world. As you can see from the introduction of the panelists, there's a variety of different perspectives of how the businesses are being built and the business model that people are using. So really that was intended so that we could get different perspectives on this real transformation that's occurring in the industrial space, it's being driven by the increase in data, increase in smart devices. Industrial organizations, actually, they expect a greater degree of mobility now, interoperability in their control systems, and they're starting to see that we're moving into a world where everything is connected, and that means tomorrow's plants and factories should be more connected to the enterprise as a whole. Of course, systems integrators are playing a huge role in this transformation, and I think we see and would like to focus our discussion on some of the biggest shifts that we're seeing, and how integrators can help customers adapt to them successfully, and thereby, of course, ensure their own success.
Don: So I think that's really something that's gonna be a part of the discussion as we go forward this morning. First topic I'd like to get into is brownfield because it's an overarching theme and pretty much everything else we're gonna talk about here. Brownfield, as you most likely know, refers to a plant or a facility, where there's existing equipment and software, in some cases, that equipment could be 20-years-old, in some cases, it can be older. By comparison, a greenfield facility is one where there's no existing equipment or software, where they're pretty much starting from scratch. And in theory anyway, you could build a smart factory or a digital factory from the ground up in a greenfield situation. The fact is manufacturing is mostly a brownfield world, there're still about billions in legacy PLCs and devices in use, each with their own protocol, and in some brownfield situations, equipment is more modern, but it can still be isolated or siloed and not connected, and so they're not feeding information into an enterprise approach to big data or analytics to help with decision making for that enterprise.
Don: There are a lot of different needs depending on the project, but in the very general terms, these are some of the needs that you run into with brownfield projects. Organization needs to migrate to a new technology infrastructure, and the migration has to be gradual, not some rip and replace, they need to build their new infrastructure in parallel to the existing one, because if you end up trying to switch over to a new technology, rapidly there can be a risk of failure and losing revenue and some other barriers obviously, so they need to invest in new hardware to make a gradual migration, they also need to invest in tools for standardizing their data into a well-known interoperable format, so it could be used throughout the enterprise. And last but certainly not least, on a human level, it can be pretty hard some time for users to change from old ways of doing things to a new way of approaching how the operations technology folks and the information technology folks begin to work together as one integrated enterprise.
Don: So there's a lot of different ways to approach brownfield projects. And we're seeing some interesting Ignition brownfield applications recently. I'm gonna mention just a couple as we go into this discussion. In one case, we had a grain company that implemented the Ignition system, it uses MQTT instead of PLC in their traditional pull response, pulling methodology, and they use MQTT to remotely monitor the moisture and temperature of stored grains, while still using their legacy sensors and cables in place. In another case, a natural gas company had an aging SCADA system, with their integrators help to upgrade their SCADA system in phases, without upgrading its legacy hardware, and they're now able to visualize the entire system at the client level. So, there are many opportunities and ways that one can take a brownfield situation and migrate to a more effective automation strategy. So I'd like to hear your kind of viewpoint and experiences on this subject. So maybe I'll start with you, David, what are some of the challenges with brownfield projects and how have you met those challenges?
Don: Yeah, thank you. Brownfield, as you said, is and continues to be, and I think will always be a real issue dealing with legacy equipment. There's so much out there now and technology is changing so rapidly. I believe that we'll always be in a situation where we'll need to interface with the last round of technology. And I think the real key to that is having a system that can bridge the gap, that is able to communicate to the existing equipment, but then allow you to interface with that equipment in a manner consistent with the new technology. I know Ignition is phenomenal at that, being able to support the long-standing protocols that are still in the field today, yet making it really simple to communicate with those devices on the front end, and you almost forget the complexities and intricacies of that back end communication, I think that's definitely key to moving forward and having successful brownfield projects.
Don: Thanks, David. Greg, give me your thoughts in terms of the world of brownfield and how you approach projects, both to the receptivity of your customers and how you approach moving forward with the project?
Greg: Yeah, I'm certainly from a challenge stanDonoint, one of the biggest challenges we run into is just connectivity. You've got, like David said, all these legacy protocols and devices out there. Getting everything connected together, whether that be through traditionally through MQTT protocols or the like, putting together an infrastructure so that these devices can talk amongst themselves and pull information from them so they can make better decisions on their business.
Don: Thanks, Greg. Wright, give me your perspective as someone who's basically been running an operation that has to meet those needs over the years, and I know a variety of different industries that they need focuses on.
Wright: Yeah, Don, interestingly, I think brownfield, there's sort of an opportunity and a challenge. I think the opportunity is that you can add a lot of value to the existing plant by getting information out of equipment. And really, usually the upgrades involve a lot of technical challenges of communicating with all their equipment, but I would say there's just a great opportunity with existing sites to truly give a big return on investment for the manufacturing customer by letting them see into their equipment. So that's the opportunity. The challenge is that upper management in these manufacturing customers so often and very reasonably so wants to have pure, real-time information from every machine and device. Some of these devices are from the 1980s. So really living up to the expectations with 30, 40, 50-year-old plants living up to the expectations of the senior management and having everything be real-time and instantaneous remains very challenging.
Don: Thanks, Wright. Let's move on a little bit to another area just to take a look at the world of trends in HMI. And I appreciate you guys' different perspectives, so that's one of the reasons we have this mix of you guys as panelists is, how you're approaching these different trends and how it affects your business from the ownership to how you approach the service you delivered, as in the case of what David, you guys do at Tyrion. So feel free to just kind of branch off into how you have your own individual perspective on it. Let's look at HMIs for a minute. They're certainly a staple in control systems, they've been changing with the times. A recent report of the Global HMI Software Market, forecast that HMI software is obviously gonna continue to grow over the next five years. This growth is propelled by a lot of technological developments. The report points out, "Most vendors are developing user interfaces to adapt to gesture-based solutions that will replace traditional HMI-based panels."
Don: This innovation is expected to improve user experience, and of course, create even more demand for HMIs. However, the report also says, one of the major factors hindering the growth of this market is lack of standardization, especially for a small and a medium business, what are called the SMEs, there's really a high cost of switching HMI software, there's an incompatibility challenge with the software of older machinery, and these present a lot of challenges for the changes that are occurring in that industry. The executive editor, just to comment, Jim Montague, who's the executive editor of the Control Magazine wrote: "No doubt the most significant trend in HMIs is they're moving to mobile devices and mobile apps. And not only are the types and sizes of HMIs increasing, they're also gaining greater mobility, following their users and applications into settings where they haven't served before in enabling the latest data to decision-makers.
Don: There's a couple of comments in this article about two Ignition installation customers and examples of this HMI evolution. One example is Baze Chemical and the system integrated was Coherent Technologies on our program. He built them a virtual annunciator that was a flexible, independent Ignition system with its own server, PLC and display, and able to add a second annunciator later. And they said, "It was easy to expand because of Ignition's platform independence and unlimited client licenses." The second example was an oil company, Enerkem. They had a plant with an HMI that was outdated, hard to manage, hard to access, etcetera. Their integrator, Chimera Systems, migrated them to a flexible system, easily connects with multiple networks and PLCs, shares live plan information between facilities and provides easy access to all the data and has remote access, so management can get the information they need.
Don: So I think this trend is really moving also. Another angle of the trend is moving to the edge of the network HMIs. More users are asking for local visualization and control at the edge, and this year we released a new product line called Ignition Edge, which is a limited, lightweight version of Ignition. And it's made to be used at the edge of the network. And one of the products, Ignition Edge Panel, is a dedicated solution for creating local HMIs for field devices that can scale out rapidly as part of an IIoT infrastructure. So as we look to the evolution of HMIs and the evolution at the edge, what are thoughts about these HMI trends? And how would you like to see the HMI trends evolve? David, let me ask you that. Let me bring you on the question first.
Don: Yeah, I think the biggest key is the accessibility, just being able to see and access any of your data from anywhere, whether that be on the plant floor or whether that be at home on your couch. I have had the unique opportunity to see a shift in the workforce in our local industry here, where there were many, many people that had been involved in the industry for decades, and it was time for them to hang up their hats and retire. And in came the new workforce, and we're seeing more and more engineers that are in that Millennial workforce, and it's a different perspective on work and life. I think there was a real attitude of work is work and you work hard there, and then you go home and you play hard there. I think that's becoming blurred where you are always at work and you're always doing what you want, you're identified with that. And with that, I think comes the demand to be able to see your plant, to see your information at any given time. And so naturally the mobility and having cloud applications, these are all gonna be key to meeting those new demands of this new workforce.
Don: Yeah, that's actually a very good point. The what's called the silver tsunami or Boway of retirement of us baby boomers is moving forward to 8000 a day. So, the millennials will be moving over rapidly into this new... And they have a new set of standards of how they wanna work. So, the technology and the mobility and the blurring of that, as you describe, I think is an important component for that emerging workforce. Wright, what's your perspective on as far as what innovative HMI projects your team has done, or what are your customers asking for in the HMIs? Share your perspective on this.
Wright: Don, I see a couple key things happening. One that is a little bit of a surprise is the use of Ignition to get information where it's only very intermittently needed, but because of the licensing model, it let's management put information in the hands of people, real-time information, in the hands of people that would ordinarily have it. We had one customer that had silos, and wanted a... That had a crane operator that sat up in a crane house all day, and only a couple of times a day, did that individual need to see information on the levels in these silos. It wasn't required, but very rarely, but they were very cost-conscious and did not want to install an HMI up in the crane cabinet and pay a lot of licensing costs for that. And so, with Ignition, we're really able to get information to users who only need it once in a while. That's been interesting. And then another angle is just having... Taking the HMI information and showing it to people when they're not on the plant floor. Obviously, you don't want them to control equipment when they're not on the plant floor, but just being able to proliferate it all throughout the organization, because it's remarkable how many people really want to see this information. That's been a surprise to me.
Don: That's great. Thanks Wright. I think that was... Certainly it is interesting when you can give people access to information in ways that they maybe didn't have access to it before. It really does open up the game a little bit more. So, I think that's a big change. Let's move over a little bit now and talk about related, but also different, trends in SCADA, because there's certainly a rising demand for SCADA in industrial, automotive, power, oil and gas, all across industries. The global SCADA market is also growing. There's a rising demand for SCADA across these different industries that isn't gonna slow down, and as with HMIs, the demand for mobility is increasing and there is increasing adoption of Cloud computing in SCADA systems. And so, I think the trend of what do you do on-site? What do you do in the Cloud? How do you balance this out? As you build out, your architecture becomes pretty important in the discussion about trends in SCADA. So, let's take a few minutes to discuss what's happening in the world of SCADA. Are the trends consistent with what you are seeing, in the industries that you work in, and are there other ways that SCADA should change, if you will, to stay relevant? Greg, why don't I give you a chance to sort of comment on that from your viewpoint with INS?
Greg: Yeah, one of the things... Well, there's a couple of things. One thing is the use of mobile. I mean, like David mentioned earlier, just having all the time access to information or control is huge. Another thing is, for instance, with Ignition being such a good front end for a database, we've seen applications where people are doing what I call the non-traditional SCADA, is capital expenditure systems, where a company can manage their project budget and approvals for method of chain systems. So, stacking these dashboards on top of their control, of their SCADA control, just seems to be something we're seeing more of.
Don: Great, thanks, Greg. Wright, what are your thoughts in the area of the trends in SCADA from your perspective?
Wright: I would just highlight it from an integrator business point of view, SCADA has really taken off as a practice area of combining information from customers, Oracle, SQL, other databases, and we're seeing a lot more blurring of where the information systems end and where the plant floor begins. Ignition is one of the key tools that we use to address those types of projects. For years, if we look back 15 years ago, the integration world was PLCs and HMIS, and it was interesting, but it was... The things that we've seen now that you can do with a full-featured SCADA system are remarkable. And so, integrators can really develop a whole practice around that type of work.
Don: That's a great point, and I think I'm gonna... Because I happen to know a little bit about your background and the folks at your company, that you also do a pretty good chunk of work in the MES world. So, let me make just a comment or two about MES, and then let you make some comments about how you're seeing it with the evolution over your, not to date you, Wright, but over your 20 plus years at the helm of your organization, 'cause HMI and SCADA markets are certainly growing and expanding, but the MES market's also growing. A recent report on the Global MES market says, "The low deployment cost, increasing industrial automation and importance of regulatory compliance are the key influencing factors of the MES market." In North America, also, the report also goes on to say that there is a heavy demand for MES, and wastewater, food and beverage, power and power industries, and there's basically a need for tracking real-time data, improving visibility and control of production activities. So, of course, reducing downtime, this continues to be a concern of pretty much every company. That enemy of the organization of downtime has to be handled. So, as you look in the MES world and the projects you do, how much have you seen the MES grow or change or adjust in the industries that you specialize in? Is it increasing, staying the same? What's your perspective on it?
Wright: Don, I would say that MES is one of our largest growth areas, and one interesting thing we're seeing is much more movement of MES solutions to the mid-market for customers, in other words, not the largest manufacturers who could always afford to spend a lot of money on information systems around their production, but more manufacturers with maybe five plants that are not... But they need to look at the production information, understand how their equipment is running, what products run well, what ships run well, what locations run well, and normalize the data across all of these. I think MES is one of the great opportunities out there in automation because there are so many factories and the entire customers with multi-site customers that can get a lot of efficiency out of their equipment. And one of our key focus areas is food and beverage and a lot of that is driven by both regulatory needs, as well as, performance, wanting to have better financial performance. So we're seeing customers, they used to be satisfied with sort of knowing what went in and knowing what went out of a line and then all of the HMIs handled the stuff in the middle, but now we see customers wanting to compare equipment and unit operations in the middle of their production line and say, "How does the site in the Northwest, how does that site compare to the site in Georgia?" That's the type of thing we're seeing now.
Don: On that note, just a side question, as you mentioned the regulatory side and regulations like the Food Safety Modernization Act, is this driving an escalation of demand going faster for MES, you see, because of that pressure on regulatory, is it speeding up people's decision-making?
Wright: Yes, I would say without a doubt, the FSMA regulations require much faster response now than in the past, so to put it very simply, when there's a food safety challenge, regulators want to know immediately where did the product come from and where did the product go? To put it in very simple terms and, of course, what are the characteristics that might affect food safety? And so you're really taking a system that five or 10 years ago was slow to act and that was okay for certain food products and recalls, but then they're realizing some products have a very short shelf life, so the response time of an MES and a regulatory system has to be much, much faster today than 10 years ago.
Don: Thanks Wright for your comments on that. Let's shift a little bit, something I had mentioned before in opening up at the IIoT, the cloud, edge computing, talking industrial software to increasing, how it impacts the increasing movement towards cloud computing and edge computing, so manufacturers clearly have been at least gradually migrating to the cloud or at least a hybrid cloud on-premise solutions, to point where they are leveraging hosted applications, networking and or storage resources over the internet in the last year automation world and it's really coming on a clear shift away from cloud computing toward edge computing for IIoT applications. There's kind of different approaches one can take as one architect, one solution, one approach is to send data back to a centralized cloud for processing, the other approach you're processing data at the edge of the network close to where it originated from and take a little different approach to that.
Don: So for discussion purposes, then, I guess my question to you as integrators would be, in your view, what are the pros and cons of using edge computing? Cloud computing? Hybrid? What do you do on-premise? Where do you push the cloud? How does that stack up in regards to this migration towards IIoT? And maybe commenting, do you think it's more likely that it will shift and migrate more to the edge or eventually be replaced by computing or are we just gonna have a complimentary blend of those two approaches? David, why don't you take a shot at that first.
Don: Sure, yeah, I can definitely see the strengths of each, both of cloud computing and of edge computing. The edge has the advantage of speed, immediate reaction and somewhat guaranteed communication, however, cloud has a great advantage of perspective that might be a lot broader than what the edge can see. So I really believe it will be a hybrid of the two long-term. Just as an example, Tyrion Integration was able to implement a project that is exactly a hybrid for an oil well testing company called PROS Incorporated, here in California. They have some well testing units that they put on trailers, they will drive out to a client's oil well and test various metrics on that well, having some sort of automation right on on that unit is able to respond and react to control locally with or without communication at any given time, as these could be very remote locations. However, there's no guarantee that a particular well would be tested by the same testing unit one day or the next week or the next month, so all of this data was then brought into our cloud services, so we had the nucleus device that I had mentioned earlier that we created, doing local control and edge computing and sending all this data as it came in up to our cloud services and then we could combine that data from one unit or the other and be able to monitor it real-time when there's communications and be able to compare data from different units on the same well.
Don: And also with the cloud, gave the opportunity to offer that same data to PROS clients, so the owner of the well could then log in and see this information real time or over the past, however many months or years they've been testing. So again, there's that strength of local control and speed and edge computing, and then there's this great advantage of perspective and accessibility that comes with the cloud, so I definitely believe there will be places for both going forward.
Don: Thanks David. Greg, share your perspective in this area.
Greg: Yeah, I agree with David, I think hybrid solution is the path forward. How did the edge, a lot of this data is suddenly needed at the edge, sometimes it makes more sense to just send, let's say for instance, a tank level, you don't need to send the tank level up to the Cloud constantly to decide whether there's a higher, low situation. You can just send the fact that the higher low situation happened, one of the reasons I think that's important, speed certainly like what David's mentioned, but also a lot of these systems we see are on some sort of private cellular network, and there's a cost associated with this bandwidth, so keeping the data as close as possible without having to use bandwidth for other systems. As well as even on other types of networks, just the more infrastructure people put in, the more data they can gather and the more systems they can put on top of that infrastructure to compete for bandwidth. So keeping data where it belongs and being more efficient with it, it just seems like the right path.
Don: Great, thanks Greg. Hey David, I'm gonna come back to you just 'because I was noticing a question that came up in the queue, it might be a good time for you to comment on it, in the world of cyber security. The question is about how far cloud service is secured and reliable in the context of cyber attacks and cyber security? Can you maybe make... And Greg and Wright can chime in too, but I know this came up in our drive yesterday, so maybe I'll ask you to comment a little bit on the world of cyber security and relationships to edge, cloud and new architectures that people are bringing together for their enterprises.
Don: Yeah, absolutely. Cyber security is an ever present conscious thing that we deal with on a daily basis, and sadly... So I'd say IIoT in a lot of ways is the industry adaptation of IoT, and unfortunately IoT did not really consider cyber security as much as it should, and a lot of what we hear was just out of blatant not being careful, not realizing, recognizing the threat. We were fortunate to be able to learn from that and as we enter into IIoT, we have a better idea of the kinds of threats, the ways that attackers are coming in, and then usually once a threat is known, to implement some sort of defense against it, is relatively simple. So if the threat is known, we can protect against it, that would imply that the unknown threats is where the real danger would be in cyber security, and our answer to that has really been number one, close monitoring to make sure that if a threat is detected is detected quickly, and there's a quick reaction, and then being able to limit the effects of that. And that comes down to really, really putting a lot of thought into your network structure, into your encryption layers, into your certificates, how you manage usernames and passwords, what ports you're allowing on what traffic, what machines do what? Just a lot of care, and thinking and considering ahead of time to really organize what's in charge of what to optimize the reaction time to any sort of threat.
Don: So another issue I wanted to bring up now is the issue of the future of automation in interoperability and open standards, end users are starting to call for open standards in architecture. ExxonMobil has been pretty vocal in asking vendors to collaborate on open architectures, they gotta be module, they gotta be scalable, gotta be interoperable, standards-based. And Exxon and a number of other prominent companies have gotten together and started the open process automation forum, and really what they're trying to do there is, is run by the open group. It's focusing on developing a standards-based secure interoperable process control architecture that can be leveraged across multiple industries and the supplier community is working collaboratively in this open standards area for developing this process control standard, is working with end users to arrive at sort of, the idea is a win-win outcome. They're currently about 100 companies involved in that, and Inductive Automation is just one of them. So as one looks at the area of open standards, what do you think about these big companies and vendors working together in open architectures, and what role does an integrator play in that effort as it evolves? Wright, you wanna comment on that for starters?
Wright: Sure, I'd be glad to. I think these efforts are welcome and hugely important, for a long time some major suppliers, especially in the DonS market space, in the process industry, have really created a bit of a walled garden. Where they had very, very strong products that they did not often support the integration channel and the system integrator working on those because they wanted to keep services revenue, so I think that these types of approaches like the OPA group are very important to the future of system integration. You know, we work with companies, suppliers that are truly supportive of the integration channel, and there's a handful of suppliers, really a small number, that we work very closely with, and Inductive Automation is one that is just dedicated to the value add of the system integrator, and that's what we're looking for and that's what we get with Inductive. So, I think Integration has a great future because customers want, they want us to be able to add value, and they wanna get value wherever it lies, so this is a really good thing.
Don: Thanks, Wright. Greg, and David, let me ask you first. Greg, I'm not saying you have to have comments on it, but I wanna open the mic to you and let you comment and interrupt early in open standards. Greg, you first.
Greg: Yeah, I agree. It's kind of a good time. If you just think back to a few years ago when everybody's communications from the big guys was some proprietary fieldbus of some type, and Ethernet has gotten so ubiquitous now, just the opportunities that's given everybody to build better systems and do more. With ignition and its open architecture, being able to connect to so many different things, I think the openness of systems just affords the integrator more opportunities to solve problems for their customers better.
Don: Thanks. Great, David, any comment you wanna make on this one?
Don: Yeah, thanks. I totally agree, but just real quick, I wanted to add... I've been able to help various companies develop some standards of their own, and unfortunately, the one thing that tends to happen is that once a standard is put in place, there's somebody who doesn't quite like exactly everything about it. So, I really believe that the "open" part of open standards is gonna be key going forward. That people can take it and then customize it to exactly what they need, and I believe there will be a lot more adoption of said open standards that way.
Don: Thanks, David. Just before we go into Q&A, Wright, maybe I'll just ask you to come on this briefly, if you have anything. I'm not throwing it up here at some major trend, but it comes up often, is there gonna be an impact on manufacturing jobs? What's the impact of technology as it evolves? Do you have any comments you wanna make on this debate of technology impacting manufacturing jobs?
Wright: Sure, Don. On the simplest level, sometimes robots and other automation eliminate what were formerly human jobs on the plant floor, but I would just say in general, the jobs that are being created are much more interesting jobs. The jobs that are going away tend to be jobs that are very repetitive, and we end up, as a society, moving the effort, I think, into areas of reaching... Being able to reach out to customers in different ways. So, really, the jobs are gonna be there, they're just not going to be doing things that are bulk and repetitive in nature. That's how I see that debate.
Don: Sure. Just thanks for your comments, I just wanted to get a little perspective on that. So, last question to you, and they're gonna move into Q&A. We have a queue of questions here that I wanna get to. Maybe I'll start with you first, Greg, and then David, and then Wright. Just a comment from the viewpoint of the integrators, the integrators role, your business, how your business looks? Are you excited about the future? Are you optimistic? Do these trends tend to be a negative from the opportunities that you have? How do you see that? As the final question. Greg, you first.
Greg: Yeah, like I said before, I'm very optimistic. Just for Ignition, for example, the openness of your architecture and being able to run on multiple platforms, it also alloWright us to do different projects that we couldn't do before. I couldn't be more excited about just the changes I see in technology and what that does for us and the customers.
Don: Thanks, Greg. David, your final thoughts? Last question.
Don: Yeah, I'm very excited about the future. I mean, as we discussed, all of the new devices, sources of information, the ability to do things we couldn't do before, and the desire for accessibility. As a systems integrator, there is a need more than ever to integrate. And so, I think there's a very bright future.
Don: Thanks, David. Wright?
Wright: I will echo that. I am hugely optimistic. I think we're in a great time when customers have big needs, the need for information and to better understand their operations on a more micro level and to understand the impact of plant floor events on the business. And so, whereas, 20 years ago, as I said earlier, it was PLC and HMI. Now we're looking at a much more exciting world for an integrator where the problems you can solve for a customer are many and varied. I think one of the biggest challenges is that you have to have... In the old days, you didn't want C players, you wanted B, A and A plus players. Well now, a lot of these projects are so complex that your team has to be all A and A plus players, and finding those people and dealing with the challenges of the job itself, it's all... The people side is where I see the challenges. Working with great people, it's amazing what they can do for a customer. So, I'm pretty wildly optimistic.
Don: Thanks, I had a sneaking suspicion that I had three optimists on the phone with me today. So, that's good. So, hopefully, our audience here also notices that there's some optimism going on and the role of the integrator is not going away, as we're transforming architectures in a very fundamental way, and bringing OT and IT together. We certainly have the viewpoint that this operations technology needs to lead the charge of bringing OT and IT together, 'cause you are the ones there dealing with how to make things work on a daily basis. And the connectivity issues and the new architectures really begin from that plant floor foundation, up. And I noticed looking at the number of people here, signed up today, that a number of you are new, you don't know. You're not on our integrator program. If you're interested in knowing more about Inductive Automation's Integrator program, please. It's our roots.
Don: Our founders, Steve Heckman, had 25 years experience as an integrator and we go to market to integrators, so we have a lot of benefits from no upfront costs, significant discounts for certified people on software, free support, a lot of stuff. If you wanna know about it, go to inductiveautomation.com/integrators, and you can learn more about it. If you haven't played around with Ignition, please go there, it's a three-minute download, you can use it free and trial mode as long as you want, the designer never times out, you can sort of try before you buy and design an entire project. If you are, you could also just reset the two-hour time as many times as you want, so go to inductiveautomation.com and take a look at it, and you can also get a demo if it's new to you. If you wanna understand it better, we have over 700 videos on free Ignition training website called inductiveuniversity.com, you have challenges, you earn a credential, you can train anywhere in the world on Ignition. You can also search it if you're doing some project on alarming or something, just search for alarming and you'll get the videos one to four minutes long related to just an alarming solution.
Don: Let me get into some Q&A here, and I'm just gonna throw this out and you guys, maybe one of you can do a quick answer to it. What is the approach to putting data in the cloud, are you seeing this is hazardous plan operations, petrochemicals, refineries, nuclear chemicals, etcetera? Or what kind of data are people putting into the cloud versus not? Anybody wanna take a shot at that? David, you wanna answer that from your perspective?
Don: Yeah, sure. I've seen a lot of different things from the oil and gas industry, I see a lot of high level information and maybe low proprietary information that is put in the cloud very readily with no hesitation, and I see a little more hesitation on some of the lower level detailed information. However, in different industries, we see the full gamut of every last little detail and even control going into the cloud, and the key is really just gonna be proving the security systems and gaining comfort, 'cause I do believe there is a lot to be gained in having that accessibility in the cloud.
Don: Good, thanks for that question. There was a question here, I think Joe asked about whether you can use... I'm just getting to it again, will the ignition edge be able to run on a Linux machine like a Raspberry Pi? Joe, the answer to that question is, yes. So it definitely can. Has the advent of IoT, big data, cloud, eliminated control modules, RQs, PCs, etcetera, and is it just reducing the dependence on system integrators or lowering their involvement or value? So the question is, with all this evolution, is it gonna have a negative impact on US system integrators? Wright you wanna comment on that?
Wright: Yeah, I would say quite the opposite. There's a kernel of truth in that, which is that we're not... The basic work does not take as much to do, so in that it's absolutely yes. But then when the customers have so many challenges and so many areas, we can improve their business, that instead of doing the simple work which takes less time, now you're moving on to more business critical challenges of theirs and figuring out what information is critical for them to better make decisions within their manufacturing operations. Interestingly, you would think that the needs for integrators are going down, what I see is the needs are going up significantly 'cause we're moving to a whole another layer of work.
Don: Yeah, absolutely. I think I'm gonna comment on this one here, the question says, there are a finite number of brownfield systems in the world, and the given integrator only works on a few of them. Does an integrator risk coming into the end of an upgrade opportunity situation? Do their clients ever come to the point where everything that can be automated has been automated, as in thanks for all your help, but we don't need you anymore, there's nothing else? I guess my comment would be, we've worked with hundreds and hundreds of integrators here and lots of end users, the evolution in the automation strategies of organizations has so much work to be done to bring the OT and IT together. So much work to realize the promise of what might be called The Digital Factory or The Digital Oil Field or whatever, that our feeling is that skilled integrators who understand these architectures and the technologies that support them, are gonna become like... They're gonna become more automation partners with their end users, not just someone who does a project, moves to the next project and then moves on, and projects are done and see you later Charlie. We believe that the role of the integrators should really be elevated into someone with the seat at the table in the whole automation transformation of a company.
Don: So I guess my comment would be, I don't see that as a problem in any near future that I can envision, there's gonna be plenty of work for a long time. I think I want to with the... I wanna say this 'cause we had a lot of questions in the queue, I wanna repeat what I said at the outset. We will get to all of the questions with follow-up, you see on your screen, Wright, David and Greg have contact information, Melanie is our director of sales here and the account executives here are more than willing to do demos of ignition edge, ignition 7.9. Anything you would like to have us do, just give us a call, we'll help out, and since Wright, David and Greg put their numbers up here and their emails, that means they're willing too. I think if I can maybe ask with 30 seconds or less, I'm gonna ask if there's any final comment first from you, David, then Greg, and then Wright, and then we're gonna finish off and we will follow up and get answers to all your questions that we didn't get to. So with that, David, final thoughts.
Don: Yeah, I just wanna reiterate my excitement. The future, I think is becoming more and more of a community, and I know Inductive has really captured that community of integrators and end users as well. And all of this accessibility we're looking at and integration, open standards, I think the future is one where we're all moving forward together, sharing ideas and really advancing just the collective knowledge and abilities, and I'm very excited to see what the future holds.
Don: Yeah, thanks, David. I really just wanna echo that we're so committed here at Inductive Automation to the integrator program and to you as integrators, because you really are that face to the customer that can really move this ecosystem and this community forward. So thanks for sharing today. Greg, your final thoughts?
Greg: Yeah, I agree. I love working with Inductive Automation, just from the great people, the great support. I wanna follow up on your message about Inductive University. For those people who are somewhat new to Ignition or maybe you're not and you have personnel that are, I'm not seeing a better way to come up to speed on a product than Inductive University. I use it all the time. I've been through all of the videos, several of them, several times. If I have a thing I haven't done in a while, it's always great to just real quickly go watch a refresher video, it only takes a minute or two. It's really awesome, and it's a great way, in my opinion, to get customers on board if they're not sure about training. We've put in systems across the board for across the enterprise for customers, and letting them know that maintenance budgets don't have to pay for that training, necessarily really helps sell the product.
Don: Thanks, Greg. And thanks again for participating today, and then Wright, why don't you bring us home, give us your final thought?
Wright: Sure. It's funny, I enjoyed the Q&A because when you think about, "When is our work done as integrators?" Well, the priorities of our customers keep shifting in positive ways. David did a great job diving into cyber security a few minutes ago. Well, five years ago, that wasn't top of mind of our customers. It was more budget, technology, schedule, all that stuff. Cyber security was something that was out there, but it was handled more on the IT side than out on the plant floor. That's gonna change. We've talked about food safety and the Food Safety and Modernization Act. The priorities around that for that particular industry have changed tremendously, and I think each industry has a corresponding more critical priority that wasn't top of mind five or 10 years ago. So I think these are the things that are gonna drive us over the next decade, two decades. Maybe at some point, our work is done, but boy, I don't see it for 30 or 40 years, frankly. And it's great, and it's great to have partners like Inductive Automation that truly get our mission and support our mission. And then David also mentioned the community, and I think that's a great aspect of the Ignition community of people sharing, and it's pretty cool. So it's been a pleasure, David and Greg to be with you all. And thanks for the opportunity, Don.
Don: Wright, thank you. Thanks, David. Thanks, Greg. And with that we come to the conclusion of today's webinar or discussion. Wish everyone a good day. Thanks so much. We're done for now.