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Cracking the Wireless Growth ConundrumIndustrial Wireless is shaping up to generate big new markets, stimulating visions beyond past slow-growth automation trends.
Press releases continue to center on selected major customers and applications that demonstrate strong viability and fast return on investment. But behind the scenes, a buzzing beehive of brisk brainstorming continues to look for breakthroughs.
The standards committees remain focused on the "conservative" nature of industrial markets, emphasizing security and reliability of wireless networks that could replace supposedly secure hard-wired systems. In my opinion, that's the tail wagging the dog.
In fact, the biggest industrial markets remain hidden in plain sight. There are huge varieties and numbers of things that industrial applications want and need to monitor. Many were previously not accessible because costs were prohibitive - the "if only we had this" measurements. Then there are the vast previously "un-measurable" categories, the unreliable "rat's nests" in difficult environments.
Millions of unmonitored measurements are waiting to connect wirelessly to industrial automation networks. While wireless monitoring keeps getting cheaper and easier, wired systems keep getting more expensive and difficult to install,
With truly step-change technology like wireless, there'll eventually be all kinds of new markets that were not initially considered. You don't know what they are and you can't think them up. That's the conundrum.
Business Lessons from BiologyAs the world accelerates, serious problems keep occurring again and again because of old thinking. What's needed is a profound shift in how we see the world and how we behave.
As we move from a mechanistic to an evolving "biological" view of business, we begin to see that adaptation and flexibility are important for continued success.
In an article in the Sept/Oct 08 issue of World Future Society's "Futurist" magazine, Arnold Brown compares biological adaptation with traditional business mechanisms. An insightful 1999 book, "The Biology of Business" shows how top-down management methods no longer work in an age of fast technological change and world competition.
Capitalism has two primary goals: Growth and Profit. The lessons of the dinosaurs demonstrate that Growth becomes a burden - the things that can sustain growth quickly run out. Efficiency (profit) is also elusive in fast-changing environments. Success through making things more efficient comes only if the world doesn't change. But, there's ALWAYS change.
Efficiency has an unfortunate tendency to de-generate into bureaucracy. Doing everything by-the-book can become farcical. Yesterday's rules for efficiency may be counter-productive for tomorrow. Focusing on efficiency makes "process" more important than it should be.
In a changing world, striving for efficiency dissipates energy. Throw away your archaic process and procedures manuals - by the time they're written, they're obsolete. Instead, people must be free to manage themselves and come up with new solutions. Flexibility and adaptability are the best ways to gain the competitive edge.
Growth & Profit by Slash & BurnIn a completely new, global business environment, stalwarts from growth companies are imported into flailing organizations as CEOs, to work their magic and re-generate past successes. They proceed to destroy established cultures as they drive to meet impractical growth and profit objectives to earn big bonuses for themselves.
The 2000 takeover of Honeywell by Allied Signal is an example. After flailing around, CEO David Cote was hired (2002) to generate new growth and success. Cote made changes and Honeywell stock did well. But, consider the behind the scenes "slash and burn" from the long-term employees' perspectives.
The JimPinto.com weblogs record comments, mostly from disgruntled employees because they have no other ways to vent. Just this week, one eloquent blogger sent in comments, worth reading, about what is happening at Honeywell Sensing & Control - formerly Honeywell Microswitch. This provides interesting insights into how companies like Honeywell are run. I am publishing this weblog here, mostly un-edited.
"I have no information about other acquisitions, but the situation is typical, and it will only get worse. The only future investment will be in China. If you are an employee from an Emerging Region, you are part of the answer. If you are not, then you are part of the problem, and your facility will be allowed to wither on the vine. The worst thing that can happen to any US-based company is that it is purchased by Honeywell.
"Whereas an enlightened owner would acknowledge that their new acquisition must have some expertise and is somewhat good at making money, and therefore allow them free rein to continue to do so, Honeywell is different. Their model assumes you must be stupid, because after all, you got bought. Therefore, being wiser, Honeywell will enforce its operating model on you. And ultimately you will be "improved" right out of existence.
"I work at Sensing and Control in N.W. Illinois. This division once was described as a "crown jewel of Honeywell". What used to be a robust, operationally excellent, supple and resilient organization has been eviscerated. When changing circumstances require the ability to flex and respond (which is all the time) the old organization was able to quickly shift and accommodate. The current organization is brittle, breaks down, and does so frequently.
"Senior leadership continues its blind love affair with India and China despite neither location having successfully brought in a new program. Indeed, the present track record is failure after failure. One would expect enlightened leadership to develop contingency plans to mitigate the risks encountered; but alas, this isn't the case. Instead, this leadership takes us to the edge of the cliff with a blindfold on and promptly steps off into space. The Nanjing facility has been officially declared as "expert" despite having no experience whatsoever. The only thing they have developed is a swagger as a result of their unearned "expert" status.
"Leadership may know something about making money, but they know nothing about running a factory. Decisions are made strictly for short-term gain, not what's good for long term factory operations. One wonders what technical information leadership uses to make decisions, because they never ask for any. Only endless fill-in-the-blanks economic information. This is what happens when you have kids with an MBA degree trying to run an organization.
"The stream of technical talent either being laid off, or walking out the door, is staggering, and morale is lower than ever. Clearly, a company that wishes to remain viable would address the ongoing loss of personnel. Instead, nothing happens and the only conclusion left is that the plan is to milk profit out of Sensing & Control until none is left, and then dump it. Leadership simply does not care about long term viability.
"What is deeply disturbing about this is not that we can't be profitable. No, the problem is that we aren't profitable enough and we're not given the tools to be more profitable because the preconception is "we're the problem, not the answer." Apparently it requires selling a lot of additional switches and sensors to pay all those bonus checks.
"Since Allied took over, nothing works as well as it did before. The department eliminations and cuts are portrayed to represent cost savings. This works only because the inefficiencies that result from these losses are offset by spreading new responsibilities out among "surviving" employees. This results in lower overall productivity, but the metrics of course cleverly don't track this.
"Instead, the amount of productive work per employee drops below the bean-counters magic cutoff point and then it's time to reduce headcount to "adjust" the number back into balance. Of course, it's only a matter of time before plummeting productivity causes the exact same thing to happen again. But in the meantime, someone made their metric and got their bonus.
"This is a company with no future, at least for non-leadership U.S. employees. The smart ones bailed out as soon as the Allied buyout went through. Hats off to them. The rest of us naively anticipated better times. Boy, were we fooled.
"Unless you're among leadership, and then it's a different story. Live it up, and host your all-employee meetings like Cote did, from Monte Carlo. It's a great life, ain't it?"
ISA - International Society of AutomationWith strong management, enlightened volunteer leadership and new focus on international automation, ISA is headed for significant new growth and success. Today, one can sense a spirit of new drive and determination within the Society, making it much more than it has been for several years.
Executive Director Pat Gouhin joined in January 2006, experienced with the dynamics of volunteer-driven organizations, bringing a new spirit of leadership. Pat Gouhin has clearly developed a strong relationship with the volunteer chain-of-command, which includes past president Steve Huffman and current president Kim Miller Dunn. This group has a consistent vision and leads a unified Executive Committee and Executive Board that is focused on the future.
ISA was formed in 1945 as the Instrument Society of America, and the name was changed in 2000 to Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society. In my opinion, this name was an uninspired, lack-luster acronym which did nothing to promote the society's ambitions as an international organization and its championship for the Automation profession.
As a symbol of the new expanded focus, it is anticipated that, subject to review by society delegates, the name will be changed to International Society of Automation. This name reflects two important differences in focus: "International" and "Automation".
While originally an "instrumentation" society, ISA is now focused on the broader aspects of "automation" and aims to be a catalyst for creation and promotion of the Automation Profession of the future, marketing the society's core competencies to automation professionals around the world.
Total ISA Membership is still about 30,000. The original name was reflected in membership being overwhelmingly American - 65% US, 10% Canada. If ISA is to truly be a successful global organization the membership percentages should be the inverse of the current ratio, about 75% from outside North America.
If one makes the reasonable assumption that membership has stabilized in N. America, then international membership should generate growth of at least 300%, to over 100,000 members. Stimulated and rejuvenated by its new name, ISA expects and intends to expand world membership and become truly "international".
To the many ISA delegates that have been friends and associates over many years, please support the name change. Help make ISA the International Society of Automation.
America's Palin PredicamentI've always liked John McCain. However, as a candidate for President, I'm a little uncomfortable about his age - he's about a year older than I am, and I cannot really see myself running a company now, much less a country. Besides that, I can't imagine a President who doesn't even browse the Internet or use email....
Well, John McCain has now put the country in a predicament. After his first two choices for VP - Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge - were turned down by GOP bosses and the religious right, he picked a relatively unknown young woman, the popular Governor of Alaska for just two years, and before that mayor of a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Sarah who? And just a heartbeat away from being President?
After the initial surprise, the Republican convention came alive with the contrast. John McCain introduced his "soul mate" (yes, those are his words) - a mother of five (her youngest born just this year), an ultra-conservative, gun-toting hunter, and self-styled "pit bull with lipstick".
This week, several days after the convention, all John McCain's rallies feature him standing, twiddling his thumbs in the background, while the pretty hockey-mom energizes the crowd with aggressive one-liners. Without Palin John McCain can only attract his usual half-filled, half-bored town-hall audiences.
When Joe Biden meets Sarah Palin for the one-and-only VP debate, he'll be in an awkward predicament. If he attacks, he'll be called a bully (but, how can one bully a pit-bull?). On the other hand, if he's too soft, he'll be accused of being patronizing. But, of course, in any case he'll be accused of one or the other, or both.
There are strange twists in this election process. The really important issues are hard to understand. When the candidates try to discuss solutions, they become boring. Crisp one-liners are crowd pleasers.
We Americans admire and even idolize intelligent people - the likes of Bill Gate, Warren Buffett and Lee Iacocca. But, when it comes to electing a President, we glass-over at concepts we can't really grasp. We look for over-simplified, rabble-rousing rhetoric.
Strange also are the reversed roles of the political parties. Republicans once represented the ruling, land-owning, and educated classes. Democrats were the illiterate, working classes. Not so anymore. Democrats now control the wealthy coastal areas, the urban elite. Republicans now control the poorer and rural interior and the bible belt. When Blacks got the vote during the 60's and 70's, they all registered Democrat, causing White voters to bolt to the Republican party.
45 years after Martin Luther King's stirring speech, a black man was nominated as a candidate for President. I've talked with many other American voters. No one admits to NOT wanting to vote for Barack Obama because he is black. But there's a dark undercurrent with some; they don't really like a black man who's smarter than they are.
Both the Democrat and Republican Conventions were crass displays of enthusiasm with very little substance - funny hats, dancing, noisy cheering at sweet nothings. The rest of the world watched with amusement, mixed with disdain. The "most powerful country on Earth" was electing a President.
And that's because everyone in a free democracy is allowed to express their opinion. And sadly, by sheer numbers the Lowest Common Denominator usually makes the loudest noise.
Oh well, show me a better way. Democracy has been called the worst form of government in the world; except for all the others.
eFeedbackJoe Tauser [firstname.lastname@example.org] writes on technologies which will minimize our oil dependency:
"At the end of the day, all our gadgets can be powered by electricity and if we can figure out how to get that electricity from other sources we can continue to move civilization forward on the amazing path we've been on for the past 100 years. As an electrical engineer, I know it's possible.
"Until recently oil was cheap, and you can't beat the energy density of gasoline. We'll never get completely away from oil, because it's needed to make plastic.
"Solar panels are still very inefficient and very expensive. Wind turbines are best implemented in a wind farm in a desirable location - T. Boone has the right idea. Wave energy harvesting is still in it's infancy. All of these technologies require microprocessor control, which has really only come into the mainstream in the past ten years. They also require batteries to ride through the times when Mother Nature is being fickle.
"The current oil price has provided motivation to accelerate R&D on the above technologies to the point of mainstream integration. Just like the PC, the businessmen of the world will figure out a way to make it better and cheaper if there's a market. I believe that the market has been born, but it's going to take a few years to get the products into manufacturing."
"People often tell me I must be saving a lot of gas money by using the Segway. Although the electrical costs are only about 1 cent a mile, owning a Segway is not inexpensive. Besides the initial $5000 I have spent the following. At about 2500 miles the original nickel metal hydride batteries were worn out and I replaced them with lithium ion batteries at a cost of $1500, along with new tires for $200. A replacement (used) handlebar was $400. My Segway has a present value of about $1500 so at this rate the Segway is costing me about $1.70 per mile.
"I am very satisfied with the Segway experience and expect to have many more years of fun."
"I think Al Gore missed the most important point about energy independence when he addressed the nation: We need a substitute for petroleum fuels. The plug-in and all electric cars that he suggested as the solution will take a long time to penetrate the market. More than 50% of car owners do not have electric outlets near where they park their cars at night, because the cars are parked in the streets. And the battery technology for mass markets is not yet developed."
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