If you’ve been following our LinkedIn feed, you’ve likely seen photos from ICCX, the tenth annual Ignition Community Conference put on by Inductive Automation. We were so excited to be back at this event for the first time since 2019, we got busy on our to-do list.
- Steamed the orange tablecloth
- Ordered orange and blue wrapped Lindor truffles
- Designed a creative way to explore OnLogic hardware on our touchscreen panel PC by clicking through Ignition’s software.
We weren’t the only ones excited to be back at ICC. The entire conference buzzed with excitement and energy. Attedees greeted colleagues, made new friends, and brainstormed ideas to improve automation across industries.
Travis Cox, Chief Technology Evangelist for Inductive Automation, summed up the conference, saying, “This year is all about energy, focusing on being proactive, and concentrating on the things customers need from us.” The OnLogic team confirms his amazement at “the amount of projects people are doing.” Check out the Discover Gallery to see some of the innovations in automation being implemented around the world (think the show, How It’s Made).
Ignition Community Conference Trends
It’s hard to summarize such an action packed show, but the trends that clearly stood out were:
The overarching theme of the conference was innovation. There’s no way to ignore the impact that the pandemic had on everyone, and especially the manufacturing space. Remote work is one of the changes everyone faced beginning in March, 2020 and one that’s still ever present in conversation. Suddenly, digital transformation wasn’t a nice-to-have in a couple years, but a need-to-have right now. Remote access mattered more than ever with the need to connect the plant floor to new technologies and enable remote monitoring and control.
With challenges come opportunities to innovate, and the conference was full of examples. For many companies, adding a gateway like the IGN610 is a low cost entry point for automation in a factory where older machines need to be integrated with newer systems. Figuring out how to transform old processes into new ones while maintaining ROI is a function where small changes can have a big impact on the bottom line.
In his presentation “Changes Towards the Digital Transformation – Turn and Face the Strange,” Peter Photos from Streamline Innovations talked about the value of small leaps forward, how problems drive innovation, and how solutions at each step of the process can lead to the next phase of digital transformation. He outlined how this evolution works this way:
- Tools first require developing in-house software and hardware to deliver the desired outcomes
- An innovation leap then leads to a tool that requires configuration, rather than programming, to get the desired result
- The next leap is autoconfiguration, resulting in plug-and-play technology that autoconfigures itself to optimally deliver results on-demand in a fraction of the time and at lower cost
Streamline Innovations is living this innovation-in-automation story. They are working on a project to convert animal waste into energy. This effort fits in with both the theme of sustainability and with innovation. Peter is quick to point out that there’s huge potential in what he affectionately refers to as #pooptopower. You’ll be able to catch their story as part of the Inductive Automation podcast recorded at the show.
The push to innovate is certainly one reason why our IGN800, a truly industrial Raspberry Pi, was the star of the OnLogic booth at the show. Many people stopped by to tell us that they bought a couple and are experimenting with them, seeing what they can do, and how they will perform in real-life situations. This innovation will become part of innovations around the automation industry, contributing to other advancements in the future. All of that will lead back to sustainability, better ROI, lower operating costs, and growth in the industry.
The in-person Ignition Community Conference experience sold out early. Seating for all the sessions and keynotes was full. The exhibit hall was a constant buzz of conversation. This energy wasn’t just because this was the first in person conference since 2019. The last few years have seen the rapid growth of automation in general. This growth has created new jobs and the need for engineers will only increase.
Supply chain issues, the pandemic, world events – each of these challenges also present opportunities for local manufacturing, more efficient systems, and more automation. There has especially been growth in specific industries, like biotechnologies, energy, and food and beverage.
We see this growth and need for talent in our own open positions as well as busy production lines. It was also evident at the conference with new systems integrators and companies trying out automation in new ways.
That experimentation with new ways to automate brings us to our next theme – going green as much as possible. We chatted with Redwood Materials, a company out of Carson City, Nevada who is transforming the battery supply chain by increasing the domestic availability of recycled lithium batteries.
Redwood Materials is a big example among a myriad of small ones. As mentioned at the session, “Key Trends Helping Industry Overcome Digital Transformation Challenges,” automation plays a vital role in the green initiatives that move companies to “net zero” environmental impact. Like with innovations, baby steps matter. Using automation to save a little bit of energy, to make a process more efficient, to waste fewer materials – those are all baby steps to get industries closer to sustainability.
ICCX was Red Hat Alliance Manager Danielle Speroni’s first ICC, and community was the first thing she commented on. “The show has been amazing. The conference is intimate, so we’re able to create solutions for each person who comes to talk to us. And here, competitors are friends – laughing together, sharing ideas and solutions – all with an interest in creating a better industry overall.”
This community, both within the Ignition ecosystem and beyond, was reflected in the trend of finding the areas of convergence between IT and OT and scaling from there, rather than trying to start with areas of divergence first. Community was also what buzzed at the Build-a-Thon. This fun event began with two companies building a mixing and heating process from scratch. Then they demonstrated their automation live on stage, with tanks that mixed and heated according to their recipe. An HMI provided the needed display of data as the process completed.
Thank you to Inductive Automation for putting on a great event. The OnLogic team enjoyed our conversations with you, Red Hat, industry writers and editors, end users, and system integrators. We learned a lot about the projects you’re working on as well as how we can help you. If you’re looking to build your own solution powered by Ignition from Inductive Automation, check out our line of Ignition hardware, and don’t hesitate to call, email, or send us a chat. We want to help make your innovations possible.