All in the Community

As I walked the packed halls of PackExpo 2012 in Chicago’s McCormick Place with a colleague, she asked me a very insightful question. “So, Barry you have been coming to PackExpo for the past few years. What changes you seen over three or four years?”

This made me stop in my tracks as I mulled over the various conversations and machine overviews I had had with OEM’s over the week to formulate a response. “Well,” I replied, “not an awful lot,” and from a walking the halls perspective, that’s quite true.

Now before I upset anyone, yes there have been a number of incremental shifts, an expansion of more intelligent and networked devices, more “spider” pick and place machines, a move towards servo-based control from pneumatic-based on the drop in price of that technology, but overall more of a slow evolution rather than any dramatic paradigm shift.

In fact the biggest change I have seen for OEM’s is not on the end product they produce, but how they produce the product in the first place.

Back in the day, companies would have had dedicated plants building machines and dedicated programmers developing the logic. In today’s connected and agile manufacturing world, parts for machines may be developed in one location and assembled in another. The OEM software development community is virtual; multiple developers may collaborate on a single project from multiple countries. In fact, one of the biggest challenges I recognized across multiple OEM's was the complexity and cost of managing this global community to support shared development of a common goal.

It’s at this point that it hit me that a huge value the collaborative development environment our team has been working on would bring to this community. Yes, the ability for multiple users to work on the same code at the same time is important, and the way you have cloud-based archive of the logic in the controllers reduces risk. But to me, the big thing is this changes the whole way we can approach developing automation logic.

My simple analogy is the way I get content from an App store; I no longer buy a large application for my device. I pick pieces and parts, and use the validation of the community to choose the best offering. I see the same thing happening for logic development, moving from huge logic files to assembling best for use “apps” from the community to reduce cost and accelerate development.

Would you like to be part of a community like this? Let us know.

Barry Lynch

Barry, Global Marketing Director – Automation Hardware at GE's Automation & Controls business, passionately believes that connected machines, mobile data analytics and workforce enablement don’t have to be hurdles in business today. He leads the strategic direction of the company’s automation and information systems programs to help customers apply the power of the Industrial Internet to their businesses. By connecting machines, data, insights and people, our technology solutions deliver critical insight for greater operational efficiency, effectiveness and optimization. Learn more about how Barry works at GE on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter at @BarryLynchGE.

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