NPT Takes Part in Pin Crushing Classic

On March 25th, 2017, staff of North Point Technology and a member of the ACHIEVE family participated in a yearly fundraising event called the Bob Warner Pin Crushing Classic. The bowling tournament, named after former Assemblyman Bob Warner,  benefits ACHIEVE which is a non-profit organization serving over 2,200 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families in the surrounding counties.  In its 22nd year, the tournament was sold out and raised over $20,000.  Our team had a great time as always!

 The Team

The Team

 Lisa and Bob Warner, for whom the tournament is named.

Lisa and Bob Warner, for whom the tournament is named.

 
 Department of team cheerleading-founding members!

Department of team cheerleading-founding members!

 Resting between frames.  It's exhausting throwing all of those strikes.

Resting between frames.  It's exhausting throwing all of those strikes.

 Lisa concentrating on yet another strike!

Lisa concentrating on yet another strike!

Here's to Good Luck!

A double-rainbow was spotted over our office building yesterday and several more throughout the region late in the day.  Here's to some good luck for the rest of the year!

FIRST Robotics Team 2053

North Point sponsored Tigertronics Team 2053 has completed their robot design for the upcoming competitions, and per FIRST rules, the robot is not accessible until the competition next month.  Fortunately, the team built a near twin robot (as they always do) so they can continue driving and practicing and even testing mechanisms, so that when the competition robot is unwrapped, they are ready to make some last minute improvements in the competition pit area.  '

Designing, building and testing this robot is a huge undertaking- kids and mentors put in a lot of hours to get it done.  It is truly impressive, and if you want a quick look at how impressive, see if there is a competition near you.  The entry is free, the events are a lot of fun for everyone.  You can walk the pit area and be truly stunned by what these teams of kids from around the country and around the world can do, and watch the exciting competition rounds concert-style, with a lot of entertainment thrown in.  Especially if you have kids, GO to a competition.  At minimum they will be entertained, and just maybe they will see something awesome they want to participate in.

Here is a list of regional competitions...check it out!  And remember FIRST is not just for the high school kids...click below for the FIRST website and more information.

Inductive Automation Ignition Certifications

North Point Technology is pleased to announce updated certifications for Inductive Automation Ignition SCADA.  Our engineers passed the version 7.9 certified and Gold certified tests, maintaining our Premier Integrator status with Ignition.

In case you missed it, v7.9 is the current version of Ignition introduced this past October.  It brings some significant new features to this already feature-rich platform, including:

  • Substantially expanded and improved system diagnostics pages.
  • Multi-monitor support.
  • Extensive communication options between nodes for large deployments.

Contact us for a no-obligation discussion of how Ignition might work for you.

FIRST Robotics Club season kickoff

North Point has been a sponsor of the local FIRST Robotics Club- Team 2053- for several years.  This year, we join the team as official mentors, too- advising and helping the high school student members on topics ranging from the technical to fundraising.

For any reader unfamiliar with FIRST, check it out here.  FIRST teams design and build robots to compete in tournaments held around the world each Spring.  The tournament- the rules of play, the objectives, etc- are established by FIRST in secret and released to all teams around the world simultaneously in early January each year.  Once these specs are released, the teams enter into an intense 2+ month sprint to conceive, plan, design, build, program and test a new robot that will meet the challenges of this year's game.

FIRST is a well designed program that not only generates excitement in the important STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, but teaches kids through experience about the realities of their future careers- they must employ strategic thinking, data collection, negotiation and other soft skills in order to succeed.

Plus, they have a lot of fun in the process!

Team 2053 is named Tigertronics, and is made up of students from Union-Endicott and Vestal high schools, and their mentors (like ourselves) that come from local industries.  The team's website can be found here.  Check out the videos of last year's competitions, and if you have a chance to just go to a competition and watch with your kids, GO.  It is a lot of fun.  A couple thousand smart kids in a friendly competition- being kids and having fun, and lots of sound and lights and live competition.  It's worth seeing!

NOW FOR THE MYSTERY!  FIRST has called given only the name and logo's for this year's game, and this teaser video.  What could it be??  Team 2053 and all the other robotics teams around the world will find out on January 7th!

The View from the New Office

The new office has a great view from the hilltops overlooking the Susquehanna Valley and the towns of Johnson City, Vestal, and Endicott.  The sunsets and scenery give a nice distraction from the computer screens once in a while, too.

We Are Moving!

That's right-we are moving our office location on Friday, October 21, 2016.  We heard the coffee was better at the new building, so we decided to change things up a bit.  The short move down to the new building allows us to freshen our look, focus our goals and strategies, and improve our work space collaboration.  The first day of operation in the new office will be Monday, October 24th.  Our phone number will not be changing, but please take note of our new address below:

520 Columbia Drive
Suite 105
Johnson City, NY 13790

 
Moving-clip-art-animations-free-free-clipart-images-2-image.jpg

A good sign for our first day in the new office- double rainbow in our new view!

2016 Made in New York Expo

North Point will have an exhibitor booth at the upcoming Made In New York Expo, organized by the Business Council of New York.  This is our second year attending this Expo.  Last year it was held in the Buffalo area; this year the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is hosting the event at their Center for Excellence in Advanced & Sustainable Manufacturing, on the campus.

 

The event will run from 8AM to 2PM on Wednesday October 19th.  In addition to exhibitors like ourselves, there will be a series of speakers addressing topics of interest to manufacturers.

Panel Discussion topics include:

Advanced Manufacturing Resources

The focus of this panel is on federal and state programs and partnerships focused on helping manufacturers gain competitive advantages through advanced technology and innovation.

International Business Development Resources

The focus of this panel is on international sales, export assistance and business development resources as a growth strategy.

Manufacturing Workforce Development Resources

The focus of this panel will be on manufacturing job recruitment and best practices in manufacturing workforce skill development.

Access to Capital

Visit the Expo website here for more information.  We hope to see you there!

North Point earns MWBE Certification for the City of Albany

North Point Technology, LLC is proud to announce our official certification by the City of Albany, New York as a Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE), as a supplier of Industrial Automation and Control Systems Engineering services.  We look forward to working with the City directly and with its vendors as a subcontractor on upcoming projects!

Acronym Translator: OEE

If you are in a manufacturing business, you have probably heard of or read about OEE.  You might even know what OEE is and what it stands for.  If you do, this post is covering old ground and you can skip to the pictures.

If not, we are here to break it down- what does it mean, why do you need it, what will it do for me, and how do I get it?  

OEE is an acronym for Overall Equipment Effectiveness......ok, but that didn't quite break it down, did it?  In short, OEE is a singular measure of the efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity of your production line or entire factory, or possibly your entire multi-factory organization.  One simple, easy to understand number that tells you how you are doing today versus yesterday, versus last week, or versus last year.  Moving that number up means you are making positive changes in the workings of your business- you are making more money!  

So, clearly, just publishing a number doesn't make your line or plant more effective all by itself.  What is key is looking deeper to see the processes that feed into that number.  Those varied and layered processes measure key data from your machines and lines, and extract from those machines and production cells the causes of productivity loss.  OEE works along the principals of "Big Data"- it collects masses of information and by analyzing it along with all the other factors it has access to, it can detect patterns that would be hard to detect manually.  Perhaps it may find the unnecessary extra 5 minutes for job changeover that is inconsequential to a single machine but is huge when you have many machines.  It could find that a machine or process is 20% more likely to suffer a breakdown when running at a certain speed, or when the ambient temperature is higher than 80 degrees.  Or, it may find that isolate quality problems to raw materials from a certain supplier.

The point is that the business process applications that contribute to the calculation of the OEE number isolate and identify problems with the three factors that impact your bottom line- AVAILABILITY, PERFORMANCE, and QUALITY.  

AVAILABILITY measures how much of the scheduled time each machine/cell/process/line/plant is ready to run.  Downtime tracking and cause identification is a key component- is it down because there is no product to run?  Because of a changeover?  Because of an unplanned downtime event?  What are the extenuating factors surrounding the unplanned downtime?  How long did it take to get resolved?

PERFORMANCE compares the speed or production rate that should be possible for the product being run with the actual rates or speed.  Do you have a bottleneck in your process?  Has wear and tear or maintenance issues caused systems to not perform as expected?  Are expectations reasonable?

QUALITY measures what percentage of the product is acceptable or 'good'.  If your quality numbers are low, does it correlate to a particular product line?  Or, does it correlate to the temperature or humidity in the facility?  Or, do quality issues correlate to certain operators or machines?

These are only examples. OEE works best when you can collect large amounts of contemporaneous data that it can analyze and sort, to seek out the ways to improve operations and therefore drive that single OEE number upwards.  And when that number goes up, so does your profit. 

OEE projects can have very short ROI's.  Contact us to discuss and explore how OEE might work for you!  Our software partner, Inductive Automation Ignition, provides a flexible, powerful platform upon which we can build your OEE one area or cell at a time, in a cost effective manner and in accordance with the needs of your organization.  There is no obligation to talk and brainstorm ideas.  

Who doesn't like Raspberry Pi??

For those who don't know, a Raspberry Pi is a brand of very small, very cheap and yet powerful computers.  These Pi computers come in a few flavors, from the $5 Pi Zero to the $40 Pi 3 Model B.

These little computers run Linux, and if you plug in a keyboard, a mouse, and an HD monitor, you have a full blown WIFI enabled PC that comes with LibreOffice, Python programming, and more.  The Arduino is a similar low cost computer that you may have heard of.  So, all of this sounds pretty much like hobby material and for sure these little computers are parts of a lot of hobby projects.  They even find their way into projects like the Union-Endicott Tigertronics FIRST Team 2053's competition robots (Find out more about Tigertronics here). 

So, what does that have to do with industrial automation?  In addition to running the sprinkler systems for engineers with too much spare time, they are also an excellent proving ground for the advancing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).  Powerful, cheap, and small is the perfect description of an "edge device".  An "edge device" in IoT can be a sensor mounted under a manhole somewhere, or a gateway that brings in a number of smart sensors, or something like the Pi that can perhaps bring in sensor data and preprocess it before transmitting it to the IoT system in the cloud.

North Point has a Pi computer in our lab (ours is a Pi 3 Model B), and we have successfully connected it to our Google cloud-hosted MQTT broker (Inductive Automation Ignition in this case).  The Pi is performing calculations and receiving user input via buttons, and the cloud hosted system is turning on outputs at the Pi.  This simple demo is powerful in what it implies- a $40 hobby computer that can run on batteries can connect with cloud SCADA without pre-configuration of the SCADA.  Shipped with the proper programming, hundreds or thousands of these devices could connect from anywhere in the world.  Hundreds or thousands of other edge devices or gateways at the same time, all feeding data to analytical programs and allowing two way communication and control.  That's the Internet of Things.  

The Raspberry Pi may not be the right edge device to deploy in industrial or critical IoT situations.  It is not industrially hardened in any way.  But, there are industrial versions of this same technology out there and we met many of them at the recent Inductive Automation ICC2016 conference.  But, the Pi proves it's point.

ICC 2016 Conclusion

Yesterday Inductive Automation's Ignition Community Conference (ICC) 2016 concluded at the Harris Center in Folsom.  The final day's programs included a presentation by the Inductive Automation lead developers, Colby Clegg and Carl Gould, about the planned future direction of Ignition, followed by a question and answer session on that topic.  They laid out the tentative plans for Ignition 8.0- the highlight being HTML5 page rendering for improved mobile experience- and a tentative schedule for the fall of 2017.  

Other programs attended included a technical seminar on the use of OPC-UA technology in the Internet of Things, cyber-security in control systems, and advanced python scripting.   It should also be mentioned that several vendors had tables at the conference for the entire week, showing some very interesting products that fit into the Ignition eco-sphere and work in the real IIoT world.  The vendors included Bedrock Automation, Moxa, Magnetrol, Advantech/B+B, Kepware, Opto-22, and Hilscher.

The conference was a success, especially in regard to the interactions with Inductive Automation staff and the networking opportunities provided.  This year, North Point Technology was recognized publicly for reaching the status of Premier Certified. We plan to return for ICC 2017 next year with a project to enter in the Showcase Gallery.

If you are interested in seeing what the Ignition platform can do for you, contact us!  We will set up a discussion and live demonstration, over the web or in your facility.

Ignition Conference Day 2

On Tuesday, September 20th, Bob Lee attended the second day of ICC 2016 in Folsom, CA.  Highlights of the day included the Keynote Speech on Ignition 7.9, information sessions on Ignition's extensive interconnection capabilities and MQTT technology, and then a tour of Inductive Automation's headquarters followed by a dinner outdoors.

The Keynote introduced Ignition 7.9, which brings some impressive new features to the platform, including greatly enhanced diagnostics and groundbreaking support for multi-gateway enterprise-level systems, as well as a bevy of smaller improvements.

The other sessions emphasized what we system integrators already know- Ignition is a platform not just a SCADA.  It is a communications hub for the new information economy.  It is impressive and gets more so with each release.

Inductive Automation's offices are located in the Palladio complex in Folsom- a beautiful, high end shopping complex complete with restaurants and a variety of stores.  Not a bad place to be for a lunch break!  Dinner was "Farm to Fork"- foods sourced from the surrounding counties- and was held outside in a fountain courtyard in the shopping complex.  It was very nicely done and proved to be a successful networking event.  Check out the pictures.

Tomorrow's agenda includes a session about the future direction of Ignition- what to expect for next year's version 8.0.

Ignition Conference Day 1

A successful first day at the ICC in Folsom, California.  The first day was primarily educational programs, focused on seminars and workshops.  Bob Lee, Principal of North Point Technology, attended three- one on Module Development and the use of the Ignition SDK, one about explaining the new features of Ignition 7.9, and one focusing on the consumption of RESTful and SOAP web services from within Ignition.  

 

 Bob is looking forward to tomorrow's keynote at 10AM, introducing the newly released Ignition 7.9.

North Point Technology participates in charity golf tournament

North Point Technology sponsored a team in the St. Francis Ministry charity golf tournament held Saturday, September 17th, 2016, at Endwell Greens Golf Club in Endwell, NY.  

The St. Francis Ministry, founded by Sister Anisia Muthoni with the support of the pastors and parishioners of St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Endicott, NY, works to support children in Sister Anisia's native Kenya by providing them with a place to live, receive medical care, and obtain an education. The Ministry's Mission is as follows:

To give orphans and poor children of Africa the opportunity to receive quality education and other basic needs so that they may become productive members of their community and help to reduce or eliminate the cycle of poverty in which they live. “Education Creates Better Lives” 

The Ministry's work in the U.S. is carried out by a large group of volunteers and supporters, including a dedicated Board of Directors.  This group arranges for fundraisers, among other things, such as this weekend's golf tournament.  North Point personnel worked closely with the Board of Directors for the Ministry and were instrumental in soliciting prizes from local businesses as well as donations of various items, which they made into attractive baskets to be raffled off.  We are proud of our association with the St. Francis Ministry and pleased to be a supporter of this fundraiser.  We had a great time too!

More information about St. Francis Ministry is available on their website: http://www.savekenyakids.org/

North Point participates in United Way Day of Caring

Lisa W. Lee, Principal and CEO of North Point Technology, led several of the projects that made up the United Way Day of Caring in Endicott, NY on Friday September 9th, 2016. The teams worked on various activities to beautify the Washington Avenue and Union Shopping Districts as well as the Little Italy section of Endicott.

NPT attending 2016 ignition community Conference in California

Bob Lee will be traveling to Folsom, CA to attend this year's Ignition Community Conference (ICC) hosted by Inductive Automation.  The conference runs from Monday September 19th through Wednesday September 21st, and includes workshops, classes, demonstrations, and the opportunity to network and learn from other Ignition users.

Bob will be participating in advanced workshops on the use of Web Services in Ignition and in Module Development.

If you are also attending ICC, we hope to see you there!

Information about the ICC can be found here.

North Point Technology, LLC is a Premier Certified Integrator for Inductive Automation Ignition.