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 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.

20 Mar

Industry Recognition of CSIA Grows

An ever increasing number of industry clients are requesting CSIA certification from the businesses they hire for industrial automation projects, according to Manufacturing Business Technology.

CSIA stands for Control Systems Integrators Association. They audit their members based on 79 criteria. When they meet or exceed these criteria, they receive a certification acknowledging their accomplishment. To further maintain the certification status, CSIA members must face additional audits every three years. CSIA certainly keeps their members on their toes – which is fantastic for businesses who aspire to be at the forefront of industrial technology and efficiency.

The 79 criteria are spread throughout nine chapters that describe everything from client projects to business organization. Chapters like Financial Management and System Development Lifecycle challenge businesses to make sure they not only provide for their clients, but provide for their business a healthy and successful structure. In this way, CSIA chapters act as redundant controls, ensuring that their members achieve only the highest quality of service.

This month, Synergy has been paying special attention to business continuity, going over our plans for various hazards that may arise and how we can deal with them in a way that has little to no effect on our projects and clients. This includes plans for our own business practices as well as plans for common and uncommon natural hazards.

You may have heard radio commercials talking about ready.illinois.gov. FEMA has their own national version at ready.gov, which provides a specific section for businesses. The forms and worksheets they provide have provided us greater insight into our own continuity plans.

Whether you are looking into CSIA or want to improve your own business continuity, we highly recommend using FEMA’s resources. Many hazards happen without warning, but having procedures in place to address them will protect clients and businesses from facing the full force of negative effects.