Three essays on major trends in a slow clockspeed industry : the case of industrial automation


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Three essays on major trends in a slow clockspeed industry : the case of industrial automation
Tunkelo T.
Hameri A.-P.
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté des hautes études commerciales
Faculté des hautes études commerciales (HEC) Université de Lausanne UNIL - Dorigny Internef - bureau 317 CH-1015 Lausanne SUISSE
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The motivation for this research initiated from the abrupt rise and fall of minicomputers which were initially used both for industrial automation and business applications due to their significantly lower cost than their predecessors, the mainframes. Later industrial automation developed its own vertically integrated hardware and software to address the application needs of uninterrupted operations, real-time control and resilience to harsh environmental conditions. This has led to the creation of an independent industry, namely industrial automation used in PLC, DCS, SCADA and robot control systems. This industry employs today over 200'000 people in a profitable slow clockspeed context in contrast to the two mainstream computing industries of information technology (IT) focused on business applications and telecommunications focused on communications networks and hand-held devices. Already in 1990s it was foreseen that IT and communication would merge into one Information and communication industry (ICT). The fundamental question of the thesis is: Could industrial automation leverage a common technology platform with the newly formed ICT industry?
Computer systems dominated by complex instruction set computers (CISC) were challenged during 1990s with higher performance reduced instruction set computers (RISC). RISC started to evolve parallel to the constant advancement of Moore's law. These developments created the high performance and low energy consumption System-on-Chip architecture (SoC). Unlike to the CISC processors RISC processor architecture is a separate industry from the RISC chip manufacturing industry. It also has several hardware independent software platforms consisting of integrated operating system, development environment, user interface and application market which enables customers to have more choices due to hardware independent real time capable software applications. An architecture disruption merged and the smartphone and tablet market were formed with new rules and new key players in the ICT industry. Today there are more RISC computer systems running Linux (or other Unix variants) than any other computer system.
The astonishing rise of SoC based technologies and related software platforms in smartphones created in unit terms the largest installed base ever seen in the history of computers and is now being further extended by tablets. An underlying additional element of this transition is the increasing role of open source technologies both in software and hardware. This has driven the microprocessor based personal computer industry with few dominating closed operating system platforms into a steep decline.
A significant factor in this process has been the separation of processor architecture and processor chip production and operating systems and application development platforms merger into integrated software platforms with proprietary application markets. Furthermore the pay-by-click marketing has changed the way applications development is compensated:
Three essays on major trends in a slow clockspeed industry: The case of industrial automation 2014
freeware, ad based or licensed - all at a lower price and used by a wider customer base than ever before. Moreover, the concept of software maintenance contract is very remote in the app world.
However, as a slow clockspeed industry, industrial automation has remained intact during the disruptions based on SoC and related software platforms in the ICT industries. Industrial automation incumbents continue to supply systems based on vertically integrated systems consisting of proprietary software and proprietary mainly microprocessor based hardware. They enjoy admirable profitability levels on a very narrow customer base due to strong technology-enabled customer lock-in and customers' high risk leverage as their production is dependent on fault-free operation of the industrial automation systems. When will this balance of power be disrupted?
The thesis suggests how industrial automation could join the mainstream ICT industry and create an information, communication and automation (ICAT) industry. Lately the Internet of Things (loT) and weightless networks, a new standard leveraging frequency channels earlier occupied by TV broadcasting, have gradually started to change the rigid world of Machine to Machine (M2M) interaction. It is foreseeable that enough momentum will be created that the industrial automation market will in due course face an architecture disruption empowered by these new trends.
This thesis examines the current state of industrial automation subject to the competition between the incumbents firstly through a research on cost competitiveness efforts in captive outsourcing of engineering, research and development and secondly researching process re- engineering in the case of complex system global software support. Thirdly we investigate the industry actors', namely customers, incumbents and newcomers, views on the future direction of industrial automation and conclude with our assessments of the possible routes industrial automation could advance taking into account the looming rise of the Internet of Things (loT) and weightless networks.
Industrial automation is an industry dominated by a handful of global players each of them focusing on maintaining their own proprietary solutions. The rise of de facto standards like IBM PC, Unix and Linux and SoC leveraged by IBM, Compaq, Dell, HP, ARM, Apple, Google, Samsung and others have created new markets of personal computers, smartphone and tablets and will eventually also impact industrial automation through game changing commoditization and related control point and business model changes. This trend will inevitably continue, but the transition to a commoditized industrial automation will not happen in the near future.
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10/04/2014 12:00
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20/08/2019 16:55
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