By the buzz at the event, the 20th Annual ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, FL was a successful show. The conference theme this year was “Industry in Transition: Navigating the New Age of Innovation,” giving attendees a firsthand look at all the industrial innovations that were weaved throughout the sessions.

For me, two of the key areas that perked my attention included prescriptive analytics and cyber security, both of which enable new levels of efficiency, productivity and profitability.

The advent of Industrial Internet of Things, big data and advanced analytics is opening the door to efficiencies and cost savings. Peter Reynolds, of ARC, led a very interesting panel covering the topics of what can be done with the vast amounts of data generated by plant and maintenance operations. But perhaps the most eye opening is the real-world examples of prescriptive analytics, shared by Yousef Abdel Moty of CSX. He showed us how the transition to prescriptive analytics led to significant cost savings that dramatically changed the bottom-line. CSX was able to schedule maintenance and the servicing of locomotives before high-cost replacements and lengthy downtime became a reality.  What a significant transition indeed, to move from a mentality of don’t fix it until it’s broken (or needed) to taking preventive action to maximize uptime and asset value.

Cyber security was the other topic area of interest, in particular the panel led by Sid Snitkin, of ARC. Yes, I am biased, given my role at GE Digital’s Wurldtech. Nevertheless, Nate Kube, Wurldtech’s CTO and co-founder, very eloquently pointed out that security in operational technology environments is now a topic that has moved from the back office into the boardroom.  Clearly, that is the case, especially with the media prominence of cyber attacks on industrial infrastructure such as the German steel mill in 2014, New York Dam in 2015, and the Ukrainian power plant of 2015. Tyler Williams, of Shell, shared a vision of when security is built into the infrastructure and Nate Kube highlighted the need for Digital Industrials to do more … Now! As cyber security concerns grow, I envision significant innovations in this area to help enable and protect new industrial innovations.

To pursue innovation requires people power and the Automation Federation shared the grim reality of the lack of skilled automation professionals including cyber security and engineering across all industries. It is so clear that the government, academic community, and industry must work together to address this critical shortage. And, therefore, it was so refreshing to hear about universities such as Carnegie Mellon Cylab partnering with numerous corporations (including Wurldtech) to bring real-world expertise to the student learning experience.

Michael Carroll of Georgia-Pacific summed it up best in his innovation keynote presentation, “Don’t let what you know become the enemy of what you might learn.”

Together, let’s continue this journey to challenge the bounds of what we know and to bring innovation and the next generation along with us.