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The Second Industrial Revolution

The Second Industrial Revolution

By Jan Niehaus

Perched on eight acres in a northern Detroit suburb, less than 20 miles from the international headquarters of Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler, the McNaughton-McKay Electric Company has served the auto industry since the company was founded in 1910, just two years after the first production Model T Ford rolled off the factory floor. Auto manufacturing has fueled McNaughton-McKay’s success ever since. Ten of McNaughton-McKay’s 24 branches are located in Michigan and Ohio, the number one and number two states, respectively, for auto manufacturing, according to MLive Media.

When Andy Martin, director of sales and engineering for the Michigan region, says, “The Industrial Internet of Things—IIoT—is a reality inside manufacturing. It’s here already,” he knows what he’s talking about. For McNaughton-McKay, which has formed a primary relationship with Rockwell Automation, Rockwell’s marketing tag “The Connected Enterprise” pretty much says it all.

“Our customers can pull production and tooling data off their machines, analyze it real-time, and immediately send that data through an Ethernet network to the mobile devices of the people on the floor who are responsible for production,” says Martin. “If machines are out of tolerance, they can make immediate adjustments, maintain product quality, prevent downtime, and mitigate possible problems downstream.”

But the “enterprise” is larger than a single factory, added Greg Chun, vice president of marketing. “We are going beyond the four walls of the manufacturing plant. We’re inside the walls of multiple manufacturing facilities and on to corporate headquarters.”

Once the very real security issues are addressed, which McNaughton-McKay also handles, manufacturers are bringing their industrial supply chain partners into the network. “Manufacturers can allow outside people to pull data from inside the plant. You can imagine the gains in productivity and efficiency. A service tech can dial into the process using a secure-access code, into the machine that’s having problems and diagnose and troubleshoot the problem remotely. This system can potentially include cameras, too,” Martin explained.

To the southwest 2,400 miles, Elon Musk, mastermind behind Tesla Motors, SolarCity, and SpaceX, blogged on July 20, 2016, “…Tesla engineering has transitioned to focus heavily on designing the machine that makes the machine—turning the factory itself into a product.”

This is not an exaggeration. It’s happening in Fremont, California; Detroit, Michigan; and manufacturing facilities across the country.

In addition to the sensors engineered for specific machines in Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler plants, auto manufacturers have also invested in wireless beacons and robotic garments for workers, the Wall Street Journal reported in June.

In beacon-equipped factories, when an employee enters a hazardous area, a beacon emits a warning signal that the individual’s smart phone or tablet picks up. The newer Bluetooth devices can activate the safety application on the worker’s mobile device if it happens to be turned off when the worker encounters a beacon. Even more sophisticated beacons carry instructions for the customization of high-end autos. Attached to car bodies as they move down the production line, the beacons calibrate the tools that customize specific features to buyers’ unique specifications.

Enhancing worker safety, a robotic glove originally developed by NASA, and a “power thumb” multiply workers’ strength for heavy tasks and minimize repetitive stress injuries. Augmented-reality hard hats place statistics and instructions in workers’ direct line of vision, allowing them to keep their hands and eyes on equipment, reducing the possibility of injury.

When industry experts describe our current era as “The Second Industrial Revolution,” these advanced-technology solutions to manufacturers’ challenges—all elements of the Industrial Internet of Things—illustrate the logic behind the label.

Niehaus, president of Communication by Design (communicationbydesign.net), serves the electrical industry by creating marketing communications and custom training programs, often applying her extensive knowledge of sustainability. Jan writes regularly for tED and designed and scripted NAED’s “Selling Green 101” curriculum. She can be reached at 314-644-4135 or Jan@CommunicationByDesign.net.

 

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