16 Apr

Is There Potential for Google Glasses in Process Industries?

This photo, “Glass Magic” is copyright (c) 2014 Erica Joy and made available under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license

For a short time this week, the public was offered the chance to purchase Google Glass. These glasses have the ability to display information, like GPS, emails and weather, right in front of you without blocking vision. The price of $1,500 might seem like a lot for fancy glasses, but they quickly sold out. The world is paying attention, including the worlds of manufacturing, automation and integration.

Perhaps the idea of having a display in the corner of your eye seems superfluous for everyday life, but Google Glass could provide a great addition to safety within process plants. Plant engineers often work with delicate and hazardous machinery. Safety is a top priority because it would often be far too easy for something to go horribly wrong. There has been a lot of talk about mobile devices, such as tablets and smart phones, being used in manufacturing environments, but they still demand the attention of our hands.

The technology that could evolve out of Google Glass removes the need for hands, allowing a person to work with both while still reading information transmitted by the glasses. In a temperature sensitive environment, workers could always have the temperature displays before them. While performing time sensitive work, a time display could sit just on the edge of their vision in the glasses.

Following the tablets and smart phones that came before, it’s only a matter of time before technologies like Google Glass make their way into manufacturing and process plants. While the current model is a bit limited, with the potential to display only one set of information at a time, it’s not that much of a stretch to consider the possibility of safety glasses with displays. Removing the need for engineers to have to leave a task and check a display could even take a step beyond safety and establish a new standard for optimizing personnel within plants and process systems.


17 Jul

Tablets in the Workplace


This photo, “Tablets stacked on the desk” is copyright (c) 2014 Intel Free Press and made available under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license

Tablets have turned into the latest tech tool, from the Samsung Galaxy note to the Microsoft Surface. Speculation has been around for a while about how these easily transportable devices may change the way we use technology in the workplace. We’ve all seen the commercials showing data, graphs and emails displayed on tablets. How accurate are those commercials, though? Synergy set out early this year to answer that question.

 Over the Christmas holiday season, we obtained an iPad, a Microsoft Surface and a Galaxy Note to see how our expert engineers were able to use these tablets in the workplace. While they all had their advantages and disadvantages, we recently decided to purchase Samsung ATIV Smart PCs for the rest of our engineers. This tablet runs Windows 8 on it and also has a detachable keyboard, much like the Microsoft Surface does.

The biggest benefit we have seen so far has been in our day to day note taking tasks. Whether it’s stepping into an office and jotting down a quick note or participating in project meetings, these tablets are great for note taking. Even more important to the engineers in the office, these tablets allow you to write just as you would on paper, meaning they can sketch their drawings and easily save them. No longer do we waste time flipping through a ton of notebooks trying to find that one special page. Instead, each set of notes can be saved and given a name, making them easy to find later.

While this certainly helps organization, it also has the fantastic benefit of reducing paper use. The result is similar to what we provide our clients through our solutions and services. Not only will we save money by needed fewer office materials, but we are also aiding the environment by using far less paper.

That is not the end for these tablets, which live up to the idea of mini computers in many ways. It’s extremely easy to access the internet or email through a tablet. While these are things you can do on many smart phones, the tablets allow larger views which can be important when view professional documents.

In the future, we intend to use the tablets for remote access to desktops in the office and on client sites. With this ability, we will be able to work on process control from wherever we are and without the need to have a laptop or desktop.

While we have found tablets to be a great asset to our work environment, with plenty of potential to grow in importance, the bigger question has yet to be answered. Can a tablet replace a computer? The answer really depends on the type of business you run. If you need something to type documents, check email and access the internet, a tablet may very well replace a computer. However, if you are doing heavy work with coding, drawings and large files, a computer is still necessary.

We look forward to the future of tablets. While they may not be at a point yet to replace computers, there is certainly great potential. Who knows what kind of powerful technology we’ll be carrying in our pockets 10 years from now.

17 Apr

10 Years Into Manufacturing’s Future


Manufacturing Executive has published an article highlighting the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s predictions for the next decade of manufacturing. The council, which is an invitation-only network of executives who work to design and shape a better future for manufacturers around the world, noted five different areas of change.

  •  Factory Network Models
  • Key Technologies
  •  Energy Sources
  • Design/Production Digitization
  • Workforce

While the changes in these five areas largely reflects how our world is changing in terms of education, energy production and technology.

Currently, the majority of manufacturing executives (39%) favor having a few large factories that produce for the global market rather than have a network of many small factories. This trend is expected to continue through the next decade, although the gap between those who favor large factories to those who favor small is expected to shrink. Only 31% of manufacturers are expected to follow the model of large factories.

The reason for favoring large factories may, in large part, be due to technological advances that make it easier to keep track of every important section and measurement in a factory. Intelligent technologies, which allow for simplified conversion of data into usable information, predictive alarming and the fine tuning of every factory compensate, are a key technology in the optimization of the plant. These technologies, when first installed, can result in large monetary savings since they can regulate energy consumption based on demand.

Energy itself is also expected to see a change in the future. More than 90% of factories currently use electricity from the electric grid. In a decade, that number is expected to drop to 84% as manufacturing executives continue to incorporate more and more renewable sources of energy into their factories. Wind energy, in particular, is expected to make a big impact. While only 7% use this source today, in 10 years, it is expected that 97% of manufacturers will be incorporating the renewable source into their energy usage.

The growth of renewable energy is especially exciting in terms of Synergy’s goal to work towards an energy independent America, an idea reflected in our Energy Patriot pilot program.

New technology also plays a part in the further digitization of the design and production process. While only 13% of manufacturers have completely digitized these processes, in a mere 10 years, 53% are expected to have completely digitized design and productions processes. Digital manufacturing allows the transfer of relevant product information between design and manufacturing groups in a plant. This kind of technology can be a huge asset in the optimization and profitability of a plant.

With all the new technology swirling around, a future of growth and development can be seen for manufacturing. The one wrench in the machine is related to the skilled workforce, or the lack thereof. Manufacturing executives cited finding skilled workers as their biggest challenge to success in the future. It is a bit ironic, considering there is plenty of news about how difficult it is to find a job. The Manufacturing Leadership Council has created a group dedicated to this issue. Just like other industries, attaining a skilled workforce means getting involved with high school and college students, making sure they know the opportunities that await them in manufacturing.

Synergy offers opportunities for college students interested in part-time or internship work in the automation industry. Interested applicants can apply through our career page

Regardless of the challenges that await the manufacturing industry, most numbers point towards a growing, high-tech and energy conscious future, with the continued growth of technology at the forefront of change.