Automation, COVID, And The Future Of Work – Forbes

Automation, COVID, And The Future Of Work

Ever since Oxford's Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne published their paper on the potential for jobs to be automated in 2013, a groundswell of concern has emerged about the impact of the various technologies of the 4th industrial revolution might have on the jobs market.

Given that for many, the prevailing narrative has been that the relentless march of digital technology will consume all jobs in its wake, a COVID-19 pandemic that has in many ways expedited digital transformation might have also expedited the automation of the workforce.

It's a narrative that has an element of truth to it.A recent report from Dell highlighted the way COVID has accelerated the digital transformation efforts many organizations had been undertaking before the pandemic, albeit with areas such as cybersecurity getting as much investment as the rebuilding of business models.It's also noticeable that technologies such as AI and robotics were still not a major focus for organizations.

That firms don't appear to be investing in AI to any great extent is shown up for the folly that it is by research from Berkeley Haas, which highlights how beneficial such investments are in terms of productivity, efficiency, and market share.

What is perhaps important to note in discussions around the impact of technology on jobs is that the companies investing so heavily in AI actually grew their workforce by 15%.Whats more, this increase in employment was not just found at the firm level, but across entire industries.So AI-savvy firms were not benefitting at the expense of rivals.The researchers suggest that this is because firms were using AI to become more productive, which helped them to grow.

This expansion was often into new regions or product markets, as firms capitalized on their newfound productivity and efficiency.Obviously, this does tend to feed into concerns about excessive market concentration among a few huge firms, but the researchers believe this shouldnt concern us as it is simply a reflection of market share going to the most productive firms.

It's a finding echoed by additional research from the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI), which found that there appears to be a clear relationship between AI-related jobs and economic growth, which in turn results in greater well-being across society.

This general optimism is not uniformly felt, however.For instance, the Global Attitudes Report from Oxford Universitys Internet Institute reveals a public that is broadly speaking divided down the middle on the impact of AI in public life, with those in the East seemingly far more comfortable than those of us in the West.

The research was based upon the data generated by the2019 World Risk Pollproduced by the Lloyds Register Foundation.Their survey examines the public perception of global risks, with 142 countries participating.

Understanding public confidence in AI and machine learning is vital to the successful implementation of such systems in government,the researchers explain.

This perception of vulnerability was reinforced in the latest report from The Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce's (RSA) Future Work team on how COVID is affecting the automation landscape.

The report attempts to develop a risk register of jobs that are vulnerable to any fallout from COVID-19 and indeed the digital transformation that society is undergoing as a result of the pandemic. The authors suggest that those industries that are most reliant on furlough support from the government are also most likely to be at risk from automation.

They identify young people as the most vulnerable, which is perhaps not that surprising, as research from the University of Western Australia found that young people were most vulnerable to job losses during COVID in general.

The paper highlights how the youth labor market is typified by high levels of consumer-facing roles in sectors such as hospitality, fitness, and retail. Whats more, such jobs are often part-time or casual, and youth unemployment was already extremely vulnerable due to this.

While it's far from clear from the evidence to date that automation is playing anywhere near as big a role as COVID itself in the labor market challenges faced by young people, it is nonetheless crucial that support is provided to young people suffering as a result of the pandemic.

Its well known that in previous crises, such as in 2008 and the early 1990s, unemployment tended to crowd the labor market after the recession, which made it extremely challenging for young people.As such, the authors believe governments should offer support to help young people back into secure work.

Personalised support of our young people that can address multiple barriers to employment such as qualifications, transport, disadvantage, job readiness and communication skills is important, they say.Its also important for policy leaders to address the increasing casualisation of the workforce and ensure they support those who are most vulnerable.

The RSA do provide some solid advice in terms of the nature of this support, especially in terms of helping people to gain new skills and transition into new careers. These are almost certainly going to be hugely important, even if their suggestion that AI is to blame is wide of the mark.

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Automation, COVID, And The Future Of Work - Forbes

Most cybersecurity pros believe automation will make their jobs easier – Help Net Security

Despite 88% of cybersecurity professionals believing automation will make their jobs easier, younger staffers are more concerned that the technology will replace their roles than their veteran counterparts, according to a research by Exabeam.

Overall, satisfaction levels continued a 3-year positive trend, with 96% of respondents indicating they are happy with role and responsibilities and 87% reportedly pleased with salary and earnings. Additionally, there was improvement in gender diversity with female respondents increasing from 9% in 2019 to 21% this year.

The concern for automation among younger professionals in cybersecurity was surprising to us. In trying to understand this sentiment, we could partially attribute it to lack of on-the-job training using automation technology, said Samantha Humphries, security strategist at Exabeam.

As we noted earlier this year in our State of the SOC research, ambiguity around career path or lack of understanding about automation can have an impact on job security. Its also possible that this is a symptom of the current economic climate or a general lack of experience navigating the workforce during a global recession.

Of respondents under the age of 45, 53% agreed or strongly agreed that AI and ML are a threat to their job security. This is contrasted with just 25% of respondents 45 and over who feel the same, possibly indicating that subsets of security professionals in particular prefer to write rules and manually investigate.

Interestingly, when asked directly about automation software, 89% of respondents under 45 years old believed it would improve their jobs, yet 47% are still threatened by its use. This is again in contrast with the 45 and over demographic, where 80% believed automation would simplify their work, and only 22% felt threatened by its use.

Examining the sentiments around automation by region, 47% of US respondents were concerned about job security when automation software is in use, as well as SG (54%), DE (42%), AUS (40%) and UK (33%).

In the survey, which drew insights from professionals throughout the US, the UK, AUS, Canada, India and the Netherlands, only 10% overall believed that AI and automation were a threat to their jobs.

On the flip side, there were noticeable increases in job approval across the board, with an upward trend in satisfaction around role and responsibilities (96%), salary (87%) and work/life balance (77%).

When asked what else they enjoyed about their jobs, respondents listed working in an environment with professional growth (15%) as well as opportunities to challenge oneself (21%) as top motivators.

53% reported jobs that are either stressful or very stressful, which is down from last year (62%). Interestingly, despite being among those that are generally threatened by automation software, 100% of respondents aged 18-24 reported feeling secure in their roles and were happiest with their salaries (93%).

Though the number of female respondents increased this year, it remains to be seen whether this will emerge as a trend. This years male respondents (78%) are down 13% from last year (91%).

In 2019, nearly 41% were in the profession for at least 10 years or more. This year, a larger percentage (83%) have 10 years or less, and 34% have been in the cybersecurity industry for five years or less. Additionally, one-third do not have formal cybersecurity degrees.

There is evidence that automation and AI/ML are being embraced, but this years survey exposed fascinating generational differences when it comes to professional openness and using all available tools to do their jobs, said Phil Routley, senior product marketing manager, APJ, Exabeam.

And while gender diversity is showing positive signs of improvement, its clear we still have a very long way to go in breaking down barriers for female professionals in the security industry.

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Most cybersecurity pros believe automation will make their jobs easier - Help Net Security

ancora Software Partners with HelpSystems for Intelligent Process Automation – Benzinga

ancora Software continues its incredible growth adding HelpSystems to its world-class global strategic partners network.

SAN DIEGO (PRWEB) October 19, 2020

ancora Software, an industry leader in intelligent process automation is very happy to announce today the addition of HelpSystems to our growing world class partner channel.

Automate, a value-leading RPA solution, empowers customers to deploy RPA bots to handle repetitive individual tasks as well as more complex processes across their organization. Customers recognize Automate software for its ease of use and data integration capabilities in streamlining workflows.

ancora Software's artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies let users automate tasks where more critical thinking is needed beyond rule-based process automation. This will allow HelpSystems' customers to further eliminate costly manual steps such as document classification, manual data entry, and document analysis across AP invoice, human resource, mortgage and loan, and sales order processes. Combining Automate and ancoraDocs offers enhanced automation and better control critical information.

"ancora is looking to help its customers by adding world class RPA capabilities and HelpSystems is a perfect fit," said Nick Bova, Vice President of Sales at ancora.

"This is a big step for Automate and our customers," said Dan Laun, Managing Director of Automation, HelpSystems. "Combining Automate with ancora allows our customers to maximize the value they see from RPA with the AI capabilities that let them process and analyze documents with even more speed and accuracy."

About ancora Software

ancora Software, Inc. is an innovative provider of Intelligent Process Automation solutions including Intelligent Document Classification and Data Capture. Businesses using ancora Software achieve faster and less expensive business process automation and better controls over valuable critical information. Headquartered in San Diego, CA, ancora Software maintains sales and support operations throughout North America and the UK. For more information about ancora Software Inc. visit http://www.ancorasoftware.com.

About HelpSystems

HelpSystems is a software company focused on helping exceptional organizations Build a Better IT. Our cybersecurity and automation software simplifies critical IT processes to give our customers peace of mind. We know IT transformation is a journey, not a destination. Let's move forward. Learn more at http://www.helpsystems.com.

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ancora Software Partners with HelpSystems for Intelligent Process Automation - Benzinga

Customer Service: How to Balance AI and Automation with Human Touch – Finextra

If automation is operating as it should, people should not need (or want) to talk to a customer service representative. But what if something goes wrong, or the customer has a complex query?

Take the A-level results mishandling in the UK as an example. In theory, the algorithm should have worked, but it didnt, and hundreds of students had to get in touch directly with universities to solve the problem. Putting that in the context of banking, a similar issue could occur if several people do not get a loan request approved but they dont know why. This could spark a sudden influx in urgent customer enquiries. As banks digitally transform, the use of AI and automation is growing rapidly. This makes the need for AI governance even more important because now a single mistake can have ramifications on a huge scale it is no longer one person making an error in one branch.

How can banks minimise the risk of the algorithms going wrong?

They need to educate both customers and staff to have greater scrutiny over the AI and empower them to weigh in on processes to continually strive for outstanding customer service. To do that, IT and business leaders need an easy system to adapt which must have transparency not a situation where you cannot see what is actually going on in systems where it is impossible to understand the code.

Low-code/no-code platforms are a good way to design and implement processes and be able to easily review and correct them if need be. For example, if it is clear that AI being used to automate a decision in a process for a mortgage application is biased towards one demographic group over another, employees can address that to ensure customers are being treated fairly. For this to work, rules and settings need to be clear and transparent.

Low-code software enables IT teams and business leaders to have a greater understanding over each step and therefore easily collaborate to eliminate unintended bias and make improvements to AI models. With no coding required, development times are slashed too, meaning problems can be solved and goals can be realised faster.

Tools that enable organisations to increase the transparency of any AI model they use to serve customers are also helpful in spotting algorithms that are treating people unfairly. There are tools available that allow organisations to predefine the transparency level using a sliding scale from one (highly opaque models with logic that cant be fully explained) to five (highly transparent models that allow humans to fully understand the decisioning and resulting actions).

One example of an organisation that has got it right is the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. It deployed AI and automation successfully as part of its customer engagement engine, building over 200 machine learning models with 157 billion data points. This helps the bank anticipate customer needs and decide the next best conversation customer service personnel should have with each individual customer in any interaction. Because the customer engagement engine was built in a low-code, model-based design environment, the bank can easily adapt and finetune processes over time to improve customer service with every interaction. During the initial lockdown period, the bank saw a 500% spike in usage of their benefits finder helping customers understand what they are entitled to, and they were able to quickly change communications strategies both outbound and dealing with inbound.

In summary, no different to other parts of a bank like loan decisioning or transaction monitoring, banks must monitor their AI to ensure mistakes dont happen whether through unintended bias or algorithm inconsistency. With a no-code system that uses transparent AI, and proper training of staff, they can strike the right balance between leveraging technology and retaining a human touch. If they are not proactive in reviewing their use of AI and training staff, they could be inviting unnecessary risk, damage to their reputation and loss of customers. To get the right balance, there should be checks and feedback loops from your employees and customers. After all, theres enough evidence that machines make mistakes too

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Customer Service: How to Balance AI and Automation with Human Touch - Finextra

ANZ New Zealand turns to Red Hat for automation & collaboration – IT Brief Australia

ANZ New Zealands quest to become more agile and automated has reported successful results -resulting in increased productivity and time to market, according to the company.

The company worked with enterprise open source provider Red Hat to facilitate a cloud-first approach with automation and site reliability engineering being the two main focus areas.

Some IT business processes such as server patching and provisioning can take time and manual governance, and automation can depend on the technology, tools, and behaviours within any company.

Further, ANZ understood that automation and a culture change towards agile working would be challenging.

ANZ employed a residency with Red Hat Open Innovation Labs and used the Ansible Automation Platform to reduce its end-to-end DNS provisioning from six days down to five minutes.

Red Hat states that the residency programme aims to help organisations integrate people, practices and technology to increase agility in the development of software and products, catalyse innovation and solve internal challenges in an accelerated time frame.

The residency also helped ANZ New Zealands teams to understand how modern automation technologies like Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform can change IT landscapes.

Staff learned about agile development practices, including continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD), culminating in the team finding new ways to connect with other corporate groups for more effective work, establishing a new culture of collaboration and community.

"As with all areas of banking, we need to work faster in order to provide a better service for our customers, explains ANZ New Zealand networks and voice senior manager Neal Meachen.

Meachen says that ANZ now takes an automation-first mindset and automates many processes that were previously manual and time-consuming.

We have worked with Red Hat Open Innovation Labs to make our non-IT processes, including how we connect and collaborate with our business groups, more efficient and productive by leveraging modern agile methodologies and new ways of working.

Further, ANZs project team has expanded its usage of the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform.

Red Hats APJ vice president and head of services Sajeeve Bahl comments that ANZ has embraced the open source way of working.

Learning invaluable tools and processes to help expand the bank's collaborative way of working. Through the focus on automating repeatable tasks, ANZ New Zealand is making tangible, important changes not only to how it uses technology but to the culture of working. We are excited to see what ANZ New Zealand does next.

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ANZ New Zealand turns to Red Hat for automation & collaboration - IT Brief Australia

Circular Edge Customer Success Stories Illustrate the Importance of Automation with Oracle JD Edwards – Benzinga

Circular Edge and its customers to share innovations and best practices for achieving next-generation robotic process automation at the upcoming Oracle JD Edwards INFOCUS conference

SOMERSET, N.J. (PRWEB) October 19, 2020

Circular Edge, an award-winning Oracle JD Edwards, Oracle Cloud Customer Experience (CX), Cloud Service Provider, and a member of Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN), continues its investment in the Quest Oracle Community to support Oracle JD Edwards customers who are adopting next-generation automation solutions and transforming their businesses to overcome challenges and increasing digital demands, which will be highlighted during Oracle JD Edwards INFOCUS, October 19-22.

Circular Edge and its customers will participate in several educational sessions to highlight their success stories in leveraging new product and service innovations along with Oracle JD Edwards tools & technologies to realize digital success across their ERP & Cloud roadmaps:

"There has never been a better time for Oracle JD Edwards customers to future-proof their business by adopting automation technologies and investing in digital," said sAchin cHoudhari, CEO & Founder. "Circular Edge is proud to support the success of Quest for the past 17 years and the many ways Quest brings together Oracle JD Edwards, Oracle CX and Cloud users to share their success stories while helping each other move forward in driving continuous innovation."

To complement this virtual conference experience, Circular Edge has illustrated several of these customer success stories as downloadable digital resources which will be available to INFOCUS session customer attendees.

Another way Circular Edge will showcase customer innovations is through unique customer giveaways featuring innovations in consumer experience and kindness made by companies running Oracle JD Edwards.

Virtual conference attendees can also explore Circular Edge's product and service innovations, along with 160+ Smart Help skills, resources and services that are available for customers to tap into whenever needed for as long as needed.

Learn more about these solutions by scheduling a one-on-one meeting with the CE team and engaging with digital resources and more in CE's virtual exhibit booth: http://www.circularedge.com/infocus

In addition, Circular Edge has made available several complimentary digital resources to further illustrate how customers can drive continuous value from Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.2 and the latest RPA tools and technologies:

About Circular Edge

Circular Edge (CE), started in 2003, is an award-winning, full-service Oracle JD Edwards, Oracle Customer Experience (CX) & Cloud Service Provider. Built from the ground up as a Oracle JD Edwards consulting company, CE employs a direct staff of 160+ functional and technical resources who bring extensive Oracle JD Edwards, Oracle CX & Cloud domain expertise into short- and long-term projects, managed services and staff augmentation engagements. CE also delivers packaged solutions such as AtomIQ, Smart Scheduler (3x OVI), JDESign, AutoXCHNG, Lead2Lease & Oracle CX Add-Ons. Learn more about CE product & service innovations including Smart Help, our 2x award-winning customer success formula by visiting http://www.circularedge.com.

Follow Circular Edge on LinkedIn and Twitter.

About Oracle PartnerNetwork

Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) is Oracle's partner program designed to enable partners to accelerate the transition to cloud and drive superior customer business outcomes. The OPN program allows partners to engage with Oracle through track(s) aligned to how they go to market: Cloud Build for partners that provide products or services built on or integrated with Oracle Cloud; Cloud Sell for partners that resell Oracle Cloud technology; Cloud Service for partners that implement, deploy and manage Oracle Cloud Services; and License & Hardware for partners that build, service or sell Oracle software licenses or hardware products. Customers can expedite their business objectives with OPN partners who have achieved Expertise in a product family or cloud service. To learn more visit: http://www.oracle.com/partnernetwork



Oracle and Java are registered trademarks of Oracle and/or its affiliates.

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Circular Edge Customer Success Stories Illustrate the Importance of Automation with Oracle JD Edwards - Benzinga

Robotic Process Automation: Transforming the world of finance – CNBCTV18

Authored by: Loreal R. Jiles

We are living in a defining moment in history when businesses need a reformed approachwith emerging technology maturing and consumers expecting a faster pace of deliveryteams are overworked, and agility has become a mandatory requirement. As a result, the role of finance and accounting is evolving to support these tremendous changes.

In 2019, the IBM Institute for Business Value published the report The enterprise guide to closing the skills gap in which it indicated a staggering 120 million workers in the worlds 12 largest economies might need to be retrained/reskilled in the next three years as a result of intelligent/AI-enabled automation.

As CFOs implement plans to prepare their teams for the future, finance and accounting professionals are under pressure to enhance their value offering and reduce costs while acquiring new skills.

Emerging digital technologies provide the finance and accounting function with a path to fulfill these objectives while meeting business demand for advanced analytics, efficient operations, and strategic decision support.

Robotic process automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) presents a clear and sustainable avenue to transforming the finance function.

Although several digital tools can be leveraged to automate finance and accounting processes, RPA is currently recognised as one of the few emerging technologies capable of automating a significant amount of finance and accounting end-to-end processes.

The importance

In a recent RPA webinar hosted by IMA, attended by nearly 1,500 finance and accounting professionals from all around the world, 34 percent of participants acknowledged RPA would be the emerging technology with the most significant impact on the profession in the next three years.

In India, RPA is bound to create new sets of job opportunities for people.

According to a recentreport, the RPA market in India will grow at a CAGR of above 20 percent during the forecast period of 2019-2025.

The report says the RPA market in the country is driven by the increasing demand for automated accounting and process management.

Further, to ensure automated transaction processing improves over time, RPA vendors are also focusing on developing best-in-class intelligent process automation bots that learn as they work.

Businesses that have incorporated finance and accounting professionals into their RPA program have reaped the benefits of more robust automation solutions, less costly implementations, and improved employee satisfaction.

Unlike what some might think, RPA at scaleor fully-leveragedcould be a perfect solution for a small or mid-sized business with overworked finance and accounting teams needing relief and leaders seeking to elevate their limited resources offering.

By implementing RPA, start-ups can reassign their teams to more pressing matters once their schedules have been cleared of repetitive work. It could equally serve as a monumentally transformational initiative in larger enterprises where opportunities in other parts of the organisation may be brought to light.

Specific to finance and accounting departments, team members who learn of this technology, proactively train staff on RPA, and/or lead RPA programs, tend to gain more benefits, both professionally and organizationally, than those on the receiving end of automation solutions.

Organizations with finance and accounting functions that are equipped with business professionals who are cross-functionally trained find themselves far ahead of their peers with more time to focus on higher value-added tasks.

The historical nature of the finance and accounting functions role dictates that many of its processes are repetitive and rule-basedtwo of the most critical criteria in identifying good RPA candidates. Therefore, it is not surprising that most RPA implementations begin in the finance and accounting department.

The Impact

Misconceptions about RPA technology cross several extremesfrom It will automate all of our jobs and Only IT can implement it to RPA couldnt possibly do what I do and RPA has no applicability to finance and accounting processes.

Each of these misconceptions can be dispelled through knowledge of what RPA is and the actual capability of the technology.

Most RPA software are made up of three primary components: the bots, a bot manager, and a workflow design module.

The bots perform processes, the bot manager enables scheduling and allocation of developed processes, and the workflow design module is where processes are developed.

Although it is tempting to sayand is widely saidduring an RPA implementation, people do not create bots. The truth is, they develop the processes that bots will perform.

In organizations that have made progress along the RPA journey, they operate in an environment where finance and accounting professionals work alongside human and digital co-workers. They receive data from bots and supply inputs to them for processing. This is a different worldthe technology to make this a reality already exists and is currently in place in many enterprises.


As RPA vendors strengthen their native offerings and progress with integrating technology partnerships, the complexity of the processes digital teammates can perform with intelligent RPA will undoubtedly increase. And even though widespread democratisation of RPAis the concept of a bot for every employee, may still be far off, digital teammates are already on the payroll and leaders are gladly assigning them finance and accounting tasks.

Welcome to the new era of man and machine!

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Robotic Process Automation: Transforming the world of finance - CNBCTV18

Where CFOs might spend more time: How about strategy, automation and data analytics? – CFO Dive

You now have a unique opportunity as a chief financial officer (CFO) to rebuild your business and accelerate growth by making adjustments to financing, strategy, cash flow and technology use.

But where should you focus most of your attention?

To help you make this decision, consider this big picture perspective from an Accenture survey summarized in a report titled Accenture CFO Research Global.

The report finds that 81 percent of all CFOs see identifying and targeting areas of new value across the business as one of their main responsibilities. Over three quarters (77 percent) believe it is within their purview to drive business-wide operational transformation.

With these statistics in mind, it would make sense for you to consider devoting more of your time to three specific areas that will generate new transformational value to your business. The three are strategic planning, automation and data analytics. Lets dive into these three in more detail.

If you start spending more time doing strategic work, you will be in sync with a growing percentage of CFOs.

Forty-two percent of CFOs spent as much as half their time in a strategist role, according to May 2020 survey results from Grant Thornton, an audit, tax and advisory company. Thats a 13 percentage point jump from only four months earlier, February 2020.

Survey results, which are summarized in a report titled Covid-19 Forcing CFOs To Become Change Agents and Strategies, also reveal a sharp decline from 40 percent in February to 9 percent May in the time CFOs spend on handling transactional processes.

To help your business rebuild and come out stronger, its key that your financial strategy tightly aligns with the overall business strategy. A strategy that sets your company apart and delivers unique value to customers will help your business grow.

The simple truth is that the CFO is now a primary decision maker, thought leader and voice of reason, according to the Grant Thornton report.

In your more strategic role, you will become more of a trusted business advisor and visionary leader responsible for larger decisions of relevance to the entire strategic mission of the corporation.

A smart way to free up more time to focus on these important strategic initiatives is to automate your companys processes.

With automation as a foundational objective, CFOs are getting their own houses in order to free up the time they need to branch out and take on entirely new tasks with broader impact, according to the Accenture report.

By automating time-consuming tasks, you will be able to focus on cross-functional collaboration and better communication throughout the business.

There will be more benefits to automating your processes. Youll have more time to analyze the wealth of available corporate data to develop better insights that lead to smarter business and strategic decisions.

The ability to capture, structure and make better use of data in order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their own department and across the organization is the CFOs greatest area of potential strength, according to the Accenture report.

To become even more valuable, CFOs need to be able to synthesize data insights and communicate what they mean in concise and compelling ways. The report finds that 81 percent of respondents believe data storytelling is an essential skill for todays finance professionals.

Still, theres more research that reinforces the need for CFOs to spend more time analyzing corporate data to drive strategic decisions.

A Korn Ferry CFO Pulse Survey 2020 reveals that strategy enablement and operational information, such as reporting and data analytics, are especially important to CFOs now. Almost half (45 percent) say these two capabilities are most important to the future of the finance function.

So whats your next step as a CFO going to be?

It can be straightforward and smart.

Start by substantially increasing the number of hours you spend thinking about strategy. Your company needs your advanced analytical skills and ability to see the big picture especially now in these exceptional times.

Concentrate on automating your companys processes. Its going to happen sooner or later to virtually every business. Now with so much change going on is a great chance to make that fundamental change to help your business operate more smoothly with less friction and lower costs to get work done.

This will open up your schedule to dive deeper into that huge amount of valuable data your company possesses. Within that data are gems of wisdom.

Take the time to find and synthesize them. You will make better decisions that rebuild your business and help you come out stronger.

You may also like: A CFO's Guide to Making Sense of Payment Automation in 2020

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Where CFOs might spend more time: How about strategy, automation and data analytics? - CFO Dive

Laying the Groundwork for a Self-Optimizing Plant – Automation World

In manufacturing the focus is often on decreasing downtime and increasing productivity. But there are other elements that influence operationsincluding safety, reliability, and environmental impact. Its clear that technology can help, especially artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics which can optimize processes and predict disruptions.

But not all AI is created equal. Aspen Technology (AspenTech), a maker of asset optimization software for process industries, recently released a new version of its aspenOne software that embeds its own Industrial-Strength AI across the portfolio. This is not your standard AI, company officials said, as it is not only about the algorithms, but also embedding domain expertise to contextualize AI so that it is specific to the industry, thereby creating insights and knowledge that adds value and can even transform the business.

Its what the company calls Aspen Hybrid Models, which are part of the new aspenOne V12 software release, that applies data science, data cleansing, machine learning, and predictive insight into complicated processes.

We are taking decades of domain expertise and embedding AI into that, said Laura Rokohl, AspenTechs senior director of product marketing. We believe this helps advance our customers digitalization journey, but in terms of our vision as company, its this journey to the self-optimizing plant where things are moving toward autonomy and a closed loop. Its a longer term multi-year journey but we feel this release helps us take initial steps toward the self-optimizing plant by embedding AI, automating things that were previously manual processes or required human intervention, and lowering the barrier to solve complex problems with less expertise.

For example, mining plant data collected over years would previously require a controls expert to build the advanced process control (APC) model and it would take a few weeks to complete. With the embedded AI, the model-building process is shortcut. It takes historical data, mines it, and creates a seed model. We refer to it as expertise-in-a-box. It dramatically reduces the time it takes to build that model as many of the steps are automated and packaged up, Rokohl said, noting that while it doesnt eliminate humans from the equation, it also doesnt require 30 years of APC expertise.

According to Peter Reynolds, a senior analyst, ARC Advisory Group, AI has the potential to enhance many industrial work processes, however, most companies are not well-equipped to bolt on AI themselves. While other technology strategies require asset owners to invest in complex platforms and data scientists, with embedded AI, users can get started right away improving margins and profitability.

And that is the first step to the self-optimizing plant.

AspenTech defines the self-optimizing plant as a facility that can automatically respond to changing operation conditions. The company is now rolling out technology that delivers this next-generation of production optimization, including planning and scheduling, performance management, and adaptive process control that can continuously improve plant processes related to equipment wear, upgrades, feedstock quality changes, and fluctuating economic models. To that end, the aspenOne V12 release includes several new functions that can be added to the companys existing product portfolio, thereby democratizing the application of Industrial-Strength AI.

AspenTech is also going beyond its core industry segments of energy and chemicals and branching out into metals and mining and food and beverage by including in V12 some functionality relevant to those industry, like its MES Collaborative application. MES Collaborative is an enterprise historian that sits in the cloud and can securely access data from sensors, PLCs, or an existing historian, for example, to pull more information into the enterprise view.

New Features of aspenOne V12 software include:

Ultimately, AspenTech recognizes that the way plants work will have to change in the future, and they are laying the groundwork for that paradigm shift.

The process industries and other capital-intensive industries are experiencing new levels of volatility in supply and demand, and the need to be agile in response to all market conditions requires a new approach to asset optimization, said AspenTech president and CEO Antonio Pietri. This next generation of Industrial AI solutions will change how process industries work.

PACK EXPO Connects November 9-13. Now more than ever, packaging and processing professionals need solutions for a rapidly changing world, and the power of the PACK EXPO brand delivers the decision makers you need to reach. Attendeeregistrationis open now.


Laying the Groundwork for a Self-Optimizing Plant - Automation World

Automated ATOs and cybersecurity – FCW.com


In the remote work environment spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic, more flexible, quicker methods of getting systems the authority to securely operate is more critical than ever, said a top IT advisor at the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Machine learning is critical in terms of fighting fire with fire. We can't fight AI [artificial intelligence] or machine learning with spreadsheets or Word documents. You're going to lose that battle" with hackers, said Oki Mek, senior advisor to the agency's CIO and its ReImagine project.

HHS is one of the agencies at the center of the federal government's response to the COVID pandemic. The agency is "getting hit hard" by hackers attempting to penetrate its networks, said Mek. Additionally, hackers and bad actors are leveraging AI to see how network users are interacting with infrastructure and systems, he said.

Mek's made his remarks at an Oct. 14 webinar sponsored by the Institute of Critical Infrastructure Technology.

One area where AI and machine learning technology can provide a targeted lift for federal IT systems is speeding up the processes to obtain mandatory Authority To Operate certifications, said Mek.

The COVID pandemic, with its expanded IT threat vector with remote workforces, has only highlighted the need to speed up ATO processes, according to Mek.

Automated ATOs, leveraging machine learning and AI, said Mek, can shorten review of hundreds of security controls on a system and provide an assessment in hours or days, rather than months.

Automated ATOs, he said, could follow the same model as popular commercial machine learning and AI-based tax filing software. That software draws on previous years data.

For an automated ATO process, the software can ask basic questions, such as 'are you building a new system, moving to the cloud, or making changes to the system?' By asking a series of questions, said that common information can automatically fill in parts of the ATO system security plan.

IT systems operators could also develop a machine learning "confidence score" for cybersecurity.

"When you assess a system for an ATO, there are about 500 600 security controls. You could run machine learning against each requirement," he said. A system owner would use machine learning to compare requirements and policies against the agency's implementation statement to produce a confidence score. If the score is below 50 percent, then the owner should try again, he said.

An auditor's ATO assessment process, which can take up to two months, could be shortened to a week or two depending on the score, according to Mek. The automation would also allow the ATO process to become mostly continuous, providing more timely cybersecurity, he said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [emailprotected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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Automated ATOs and cybersecurity - FCW.com

Strategies for realizing the full benefits of automation – Pet Food Processing

This article was published in the September 2020 issue of Pet Food Processing. Read it and other articles from this issue in our September digital edition.

The potential benefits of combining automated processing systems, where decisions are driven by up-to-date data and a technology-enabled workforce across an entire organization, are vast. Prioritizing where to start, optimizing what is already in-house and truly implementing automation throughout a processing company are key.

Roger Woehl, chief technical officer at SafetyChain, Novato, Calif., said there are two perspectives on where automation offers the greatest benefits.

The first and most obvious is the bottom-line savings from increasing productivity, Woehl said. The second, and maybe less clear, is the value of protecting brands and reputations from recalls or quality issues. These issues, although less common, can be far more damaging to business value. Wholistic systems that drive automation across operations, safety and quality drive a single approach for maximizing immediate ROI while protecting long-term brand quality and reputation.

As the production of food and treats for cats and dogs more closely matches the product formats and processes seen in human food productions, managing quality becomes more complex.

The standard for pet food is rising dramatically, said Aaron Kaiser, supplier quality engineer, Freshpet, Secaucus, N.J. An important factor in ensuring that level of quality is being able to monitor key quality parameters of raw materials and finished product and getting that data to the decision-makers in real-time. This promotes a proactive approach to assuring quality rather than one that is more often reactive and control based. This approach most importantly assures the production of safe, consistent, high-quality food for our pets, but also reduces waste and increases efficiency.

The potential is exciting but the reality of how to realize the full benefits is complex. Selecting what to automate and how to fully utilize available technology to positively impact the overall business can be a challenge.

Already in-house

Pete Ensch, chief executive officer, WEM Automation, New Berlin, Wis., said the low hanging fruit in a processing environment is to fully utilize the automation that is already in-house.

So many times, you see pet food producers not using the automation they have, Ensch said. Often because they have an operator that believes they can run better without it or there was an electrical or mechanical failure that required a short-term bypass that became a long-term fix. Go back, review what you have, fire it back up, use continuous improvement techniques to prove the automation works it will justify doing more.

[Processors] often have a number of automation and control suppliers used throughout the plant in different areas but not much integrated, he added. Pulling data from all of the areas can be a real challenge. Working with an automation supplier that also does SCADA [supervisory control and data acquisition] or MES [manufacturing execution systems] can be a real advantage because these systems can pull all the information into a central location so you can more easily and effectively use the data.

Conquering complexity

The continued expansion of pet food product lines has driven much of the automation investment over the past couple of years. The number of ingredients and the variety of flow rates of those materials have increased the number of bins from which raw materials are pulled to produce the variety consumers want.

The expanded equipment involved, as well as complexity, is perfect for automation, Ensch said. Automation can deal with this complexity well and reduce the number of operator errors.

Packaging is another area that has become more complex in recent years.

Pet food producers and especially the treat processors have so many package types and sizes to deal with and this has not only expanded the number of packaging lines but the need to do frequent changeovers, Ensch added.

Taking automated packaging systems one step further by automating secondary end of line packaging to make it retail ready serves to support and streamline the retail aisle and help brands differentiate themselves on the shelf.Those engaging on a daily basis with automation technology are key to ensuring all the benefits of the technology are fully realized.

Some believe hand-packing [packaged products] is most flexible but that comes at a cost, said Peter Fox, senior vice president of sales, SOMIC America, Eagan, Minn. Hand packing is slower, the cost of packaging materials for hand pack can be 15% to 20% more than materials that run in form-fill machines, plus automation offers shelf-ready, display-ready packaging formats that cant be done by hand. Growth in e-commerce is increasing demand for smaller volume packages, which requires faster machines to maintain or increase capacity.

Packagings influence on automation is also a factor in wet pet food and treat processing applications. The cost savings driving investments in automation in canneries are not only labor savings and production efficiencies, but packaging materials as well.

Automated systems are more efficient at running less expensive, thinner cans with different style openings or different coatings than manual processes allow with these types of materials, said Eric Hanrahan, general manager, Allpax, Covington, La.

Also, with the increased popularity of wet pet foods, the demand for flexibles trays and cups justifies the need to add capability for different containers, he added. This adds complexity that automation is designed to handle efficiently.

Safeguarding resources

In many processing environments including pet food canning facilities, energy usage can be one of the larger costs after labor. Hanrahan said automation and intelligent technology can play an increasing role in energy recovery, reuse and reduction.

For dry pet food and treats, the dryer is typically the most expensive piece of equipment to run in the plant due to energy consumption, explained Brad Stokke, principal engineer, WEM Automation, New Berlin, Wis.

Automated monitoring of inlet and outlet moistures at the dryer, with the ability to make changes of dryer zone temperatures, bed speeds, or both to achieve optimal discharge moistures, can have great return on investment, Stokke said. Not only is it tied directly to product quality, additional process controls can greatly reduce energy cost.

Technology can allow processors to catch the data that identifies trends and allows them to improve their process. It also is key to optimizing and safeguarding limited resources. An example is optical sorting technology that identifies and expels foreign material in pet food product.The challenge for processors is to integrate all systems within a processing facility, from the front office to receiving to shipping and all processing systems in between, to have full visibility of the data available.

Almost no product gets diverted when the foreign material is removed, said Lars Povlsen, global sales manager proteins, TOMRA Food. This preserves the resources used to create the product and also dramatically reduces waste. Todays technology enables a smoother production flow from one recipe to another and safeguards against cross-contamination.

Technology can do what humans simply cant by providing as much control as possible to preserve the investment in production and preserve the brand and the resiliency of the company as well.

Stokke emphasized that tying all of the processes of a plant together from raw material coming in to finished product going out and all the interlinked data in between is becoming more important in managing the complexity of a modern plant.

Data at work

Capturing data along the production route from the moment processes start offers benefits when accessible.

Any step that increases batch production speed while automating tasks will minimize labor and increase plant output, said Joe Lewis, marketing associate, Sterling Systems & Controls, Inc., Sterling, Ill. Product ingredient safety and traceability improves by combining data management with scanning technologies such as barcode or RFID. Advancements in automated batching systems offer improved data management opportunities for lot tracking, ingredient traceability and batch validation in the production process, and is often overlooked.

With new capabilities comes the expanded data allowed by up-to-date processing technology.

For instance, processors may think that retort capacity is the bottleneck to the plants overall efficiency, Hanrahan said. But automation technology can provide the clear overall line metrics that identify the true restriction on capacity.

Most pet food processing environments are already capturing lots of data, however, the data is often locked in silos and the value is lost.

Creating access and context to the data is essential to bringing value to all points on the information value chain, said Roger Woehl, SafetyChain.

Data holds value to many individuals in the management chain, from operators to managers to executives, Woehl said. Creating access and context to the data is essential to bringing value to all points on the information value chain. This means powerful analytics, cloud distribution and visibility on any device, from laptop to tablet to phone. The effectiveness of this data is in direct promotion to its accessibility.

Better visualization, alarming and predictions will greatly help improve preventative maintenance and plant uptime.

Make sure the automation system isnt forgotten in your maintenance schedule, said Matt Lueger, vice president of sales, Northwind Technical Services, Sabetha, Kan. Instruments need calibration and sensors need replacing.

While the benefits of automation can be seen all throughout the industry, implementation is often a long and arduous process.

The heart and soul of a company are the team members who are making the product and will most often be using and interacting with the system or solution for data collection, Kaiser said. The same effort spent on gaining the approval of upper management should be spent on gaining the approval and buy-in from those who will be tasked with using the system daily.

Being able to embrace a solution at all levels requires a solid relationship with the solution provider. Kaiser said Freshpets relationship with SafetyChain has been tremendously helpful long after initial implementation.

Stokke points out that opportunities for processors lie around flexibility.

Change is inevitable, being able to modify existing equipment and controls is key, he said.

Hanrahan has a lot of respect for all that pet food and treat manufacturers are able to accomplish.

Pet food processors are really working hard to produce large volumes of a wide variety of safe pet food and treats, Hanrahan said. Its a leading-edge business that often gets overlooked.

Read more about pet food processing on our Operations page.

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Strategies for realizing the full benefits of automation - Pet Food Processing

Midwest Precision Adds Automated Turning Center to Increase Unattended Lights Out Manufacturing, Improve Process CPK, Shorten Lead Times, and Reduce…

EASTLAKE, Ohio (PRWEB) October 19, 2020

Midwest Precision (https://www.midwestllc.com/), a Tribus Aerospace Company,( https://www.tribusaerospace.com/), recently announced the addition of a Mazak Quick Turn 200MY turning center to its Eastlake, Ohio facility. Midwest Precision will now be able to combine automation expertise with the multi-tasking features designed into the 200MY. This combination of the main turning spindle and the rotary tool milling spindle allow for more operations to be competed with a single set-up, providing faster time to market for Midwest Precisions military defense, energy, aerospace, and precision industrial customers. This latest investment in manufacturing technology helps Midwest improve process CPK, improve cross hole positioning, and maintain difficult-to-achieve finish turning tolerances said Paul Ruley, General Manager for Midwest Precision.

The new Makino Mazak Quick Turn 200MY turning center is automated with lights-out performance. In addition to the automation, the new turning center features:

About Midwest PrecisionFounded in 1953, Midwest Precision (formerly Midwest Screw Products), specializes in close tolerance CNC machining of all types of Stainless Steels, Nickel Alloys, Titanium, Aluminum, Steel and Brass in complex configurations.

Midwest Precision is a world-class manufacturer of precision machined components and assemblies for the Aerospace, Defense, Energy, Fluid Power, and Industrial markets. As an AS9100D with ISO 9001:2015 standards manufacturer, Midwest Precision is also ITAR registered and DFARS compliant. Lean more about Midwest Precision at https://www.midwestllc.com/

View or Download Midwest Precision Capabilities Brochurehttps://www.midwestllc.com/images/Midwest-Precision-Brochure.pdf

About Tribus AerospaceTribus Aerospace is an aerospace, defense and industrial manufacturing company. The company produces components and assemblies for applications in turbine engines, motion control and flow control systems. In addition to Midwest Precision, the operations of Tribus Aerospace include: Precision Aerospace Corp., Precision Micro Mill Corporation and Advanced Machining & Tooling. For additional information, please visit http://www.tribusaerospace.com.

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Faster innovation with automated ATOs – GCN.com

Faster innovation with automated ATOs

When hackers are wielding sophisticated exploits enabled by artificial intelligence, agencies cant be armed simply with spreadsheets or Word documents, said Oki Mek, a top IT advisor at the Department of Health and Human Services. You're going to lose that battle.

Now with the expanded attack surface resulting from the remote work environment, more flexible, quicker methods of getting systems authority to operate (ATO) are more critical than ever, he said.

As one of the agencies at the center of the federal government's response to the COVID pandemic, HHS is "getting hit hard" by attackers attempting to penetrate its networks, Mek said. Additionally, hackers and bad actors are leveraging AI to see how network users are interacting with infrastructure and systems.

One area where AI and machine learning technology can provide a targeted lift for federal IT systems is speeding up the processes to obtain mandatory ATO certifications, Mek said in remarks at an Oct. 14 webinar sponsored by the Institute of Critical Infrastructure Technology.

Leveraging machine learning and AI to automate the ATO process can shorten review of hundreds of security controls on a system and provide an assessment in hours or days, rather than months, Mek said.

Automated ATOs, he said, could follow the same model as popular commercial machine learning and AI-based tax filing software. That software draws on previous years data.

For an automated ATO process, the software can ask basic questions, such as, Are you building a new system, moving to the cloud, or making changes to the system? By asking a series of questions, Mek said, that common information can automatically fill in parts of the ATO system security plan.

IT systems operators could also develop a machine learning "confidence score" for cybersecurity.

"When you assess a system for an ATO, there are about 500 to 600 security controls. You could run machine learning against each requirement," he said. A system owner would use machine learning to compare requirements and policies against the agency's implementation statement to produce a confidence score. If the score is below 50%, then the owner should try again, he said.

An auditor's ATO assessment process, which can take up to two months, could be shortened to a week or two depending on the score, according to Mek. The automation would also allow the ATO process to become mostly continuous, providing more timely cybersecurity, he said.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [emailprotected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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Faster innovation with automated ATOs - GCN.com

Intuit Automated Our Personal Finances. Now Its UX Team Is Bringing Human Helpers Back. – Built In

Over the past decade, the F.I.R.E. movement has gained many vocal adherents. Popularized by financial bloggers like Mr. Money Mustache, a former tech worker who famously retired after just nine years in the workforce, along with websites like Financial Samurai, the movement is grounded in the belief that parsimony, a healthy lifestyle and close scrutiny of ones personal finances can lead to financial independence and early retirement.

F.I.R.E. stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early, and though it has many interpretations, a common thread, as described in a blog post on Dave Ramseys website, is to save and invest very aggressively somewhere between 50 and 75 percent of your income so you can retire sometime in your 30s or 40s.

For Mr. Money Mustache, now 46, whose real name is Peter Adeney, it means extreme frugality, aggressive retirement savings and stock investment and salads and barbells every day.

Andrew Firstenberger, who is a design strategist and leader at Intuit, said the company keeps a close watch on the movement, as a core goal of Intuits AI-powered financial suite, which includes TurboTax, QuickBooks and Mint, is to help consumers and small businesses save money by managing it with greater self-awareness and efficiency.

These toolsserve different ends, said James Helms, vice president of design and product. At the most basic level, TurboTax helps individuals prepare and file their taxes. QuickBooks helps small businesses manage payroll and billings and ensure financial compliance. Mint helps people track their personal spending and net worth. Yet theyre connected by a common thread of helping people, and businesses, manage their finances.

The complexity of modern financial systems and the nagging stressors of peoples everyday lives have presented a challenge for the company, however. Analysis of peoples behavior on TurboTax showed a significant percentage were opening up sessions and quitting before theyd finished, either coming up against the limits of their financial knowledge or getting derailed in the face of extreme life hardships.

And we started to realize that there were key things in somebodys life, Oh, my wife died this year, or I changed states, or something that was just weird enough, just challenging enough that they were, like, You know what, Im not going to be able to do this myself, Helms said.

The design team wanted to keep these customers from leaving, so it started experimenting with possible solutions. When the company created a brick-and-mortar storefront in San Diego, designers met with tax filersand preparersto better understand their in-person experiences. The team tested different methods of software-based document hand-off making it easier, for instance, for a filer to pass along a 1040 EZ to a tax preparer working remotely. The company launched Tada, a limited-run iOS application that allowed customers to speak to a tax preparer through an app or via a chat interface.

These early experiments culminated in the 2017 launch of TurboTax Live a somewhat radical about-face for a company that had built its reputation around the power of artificial intelligence to eliminate taxpayers need to seek outside professional help. But in the context of the companys design framework, rooted in the mantra design for delight, the move is far less surprising.

Traditionally, you could do your taxes on your own using TurboTax. Or, you could go work with a CPA or a tax advisor, but not both.

Diego Rodriguez is Intuits chief product and design officer and a former partner at IDEO where he worked on software and physical products for companies like Apple, Ferrari and Intel. He told me design for delight (as ironic as it sounds as a framework for tax preparation and bookkeeping software) is a natural outgrowth of design thinking. It relies on customer empathy, a broad lens for problem scoping, a strong bias for action, and prototype testing to simplify user interfaces and accelerate what he calls speed to benefit.

The approach also dovetails neatly with one of Intuits core aspirations: never enter data. This idea is so foundational to the companys ethos it is frequently referred to by the acronym NED.

Traditionally, you could do your taxes on your own using TurboTax. Or, you could go work with a CPA or a tax advisor, but not both, Rodriguez said. Its the classic example of design thinking looking at a problem that is seemingly framed a certain way like make better software or make a better CPA and saying, actually, there is a bigger solution out there.

For Intuit, that solution was to re-think the sovereignty of AI in itsproduct lines and design more personalized interfaces that complement automation with live professional support.

We spoke with several members of the companysdesign team to learn more.

More on Design ThinkingWhat Is Design Thinking? It Depends on Your Customers.

One feature of TurboTax Live is live chat support. The format will be familiar to anyone who has used the service to update or cancel a subscription, check on a service interruption, or vent their frustrations to a customer support agent when theyre caught in a seemingly insoluble bind.

Maybe this starts out as Can I help you with something? Or Ive got a question. And so youre going back and forth, Helms said.

Tax experts use the chat feature to help customers identify and upload documents, and wade through the obscurantism of IRS shorthand.

Firstenberger said the decision to offer live professional assistance on the platform was met with a fair amount of skepticism, at first.

One of the interesting, almost emotional journeys on that front, from a design point of view, is that, to some extent, bringing people into the equation can feel like moving backwards a little bit, because we spend all this time automating.

The idea of adding video chat was even more of an affront to the status quo. Yet, spending time with customers, particularly at the San Diego storefront, led to a new way of thinking.

One of the predecessors to Turbo Tax Lives video conferencing feature was a capability called Smart Look, a help button that launched a video feed much like Zooms, except unidirectional. Through it, the customer could see the customer support agent, but not vice versa.

To some extent, bringing people into the equation can feel like moving backwards a little bit, because we spend all this time automating.

And what we realized was that connecting with somebody over video was a huge experience upward for customers, Helms said. To know that there was a person back here.

The success of the release raised new questions: Could we do Smart Look inside our other programs? Is this actually universal? Helms wondered.

User research suggested, resoundingly, the answer was yes. The company began building a stable of tax professionals more than 2,000 as of fiscal year 2019 who could function similarly to customer support agents, but also provide specialized tax knowledge and, more importantly, peace of mind.

Customers didnt just want support gathering and distilling information, the research showed, they also sought the reassurance of trusted advisors who could validate their concerns. Were they really making the best financial choices? Were they staying above board when addressing the complicated, gray-area questions that inevitably arise when doing taxes?

For all my life, as one customer said, when I had financial questions, I asked my dad. This is no different. I got to this point in my taxes this complicated 1099-DIV thing that I didnt understand. So I called my dad.

The team found that face-fo-face video connection could be an effective surrogate for such conversations, bringing humans back into the fold.

And the strategy appears to be working.

In an email shared with Built In, the company reported that TurboTax Live grew Intuits customer base nearly 70 percent in fiscal year 2020. By providing new ways for users to access experts throughout the filing process, first-year retention and conversion rates also increased. Moreover, almost 70 percent of new TurboTax Live customers received tax preparation assistance in the prior year, a higher percentage than TurboTax Online, suggesting the offering may be reaching a new customer base.

With the live support model in place, QuickBooks Live launched in January of this year. Though Intuit saw a dip in demand for its small business and self-employed offerings when the pandemics shelter-in-place orders shut-down many small businesses, a spokesperson reported, the company isnow seeing recovering trends across the platform. Six hundred experts support QuickBooks Live, which has seen 10 percent of franchise customers upgrade to a paid live bookkeeping service.

TurboTax Live and QuickBooks Live are two-sided marketplaces. Tax experts hired by Intuit can leverage Live to find new leads, set up appointments, reach out to customers and sign and file tax returns. Without the need to carve out personal brands, they also can work withpotentially more diverse client bases, and do so on their own schedule.

How you are feeling about doing your taxes?is among the first questions TurboTax asks its customers.

On the flip side, Helms said, clients receive professional guidance. English and Spanish-speaking agents initiate the conversation, upload documents, and field questions directed at the specific circumstances of a customers financial profile.

This is a tennis match, right? It goes back and forth, Helms said.

Automation implicit in the UX design reduces friction, particularly at the document upload stage, by scraping data from documents and applying it to text fields in the tax return, he added. That not only relieves the tax professional of clerical work it supplies the software with information it needs to make high-confidence inferences that can be used to pre-fill much of the return.

But not everybody needs such high-touch care, and thats okay, said Firstenberger. In fact, its preferred. Some customers find the answers they seek in a FAQ or help tab. For those who need more guidance, there is a community support page, and if that doesnt suffice, options for automated chat or live-person chat.

Intuit uses AI to identify when a customer is getting stuck. If they are dwelling at length on an item, a button that asks if they need help and offers a few solutions, including an opportunity to connect to a TurboTax Live expert.

Its almost like a ramp, with graduating steps in terms of how much support a customer may need, he said. What will get them the help that they need as quickly as possible so they can get the job done. And probably go do something else besides bookkeeping or taxes.

Getting to the something else quickly, and, ideally, with the biggest return possible, is where the delight comes in, Rodriguez told me.

The Intuit Design System establishes standards for everything from the color palette, to the operation of buttons, to the way a user logs in and moves from screen to screen. Departments across the company use a one-page customer problem statement as a universal way to define a customers needs. And data integration among QuickBooks, TurboTax and Mint helps preserve customer financial information across platforms, while building loyalty in the parent brand.

But for all the consistency fostered through Intuits design thinking approach, it is personalization recognizing that each customer has unique needs and concerns that has steered the company toward products that balance automation with live support.

How you are feeling about doing your taxes?is among the first questions TurboTax asks its customers, said Firstenberger. Not your income, middle name orfiling status, but:How are you feeling? Its critically important.

More on Design Strategy9 Insights From Googles Material Design Guidelines

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Intuit Automated Our Personal Finances. Now Its UX Team Is Bringing Human Helpers Back. - Built In

Coinrule Launches Its Automated Trading Platform To The Wider Market – Exchange News Direct

Coinrule is, this week, making its automated cryptocurrency trading platform available to the wider market, allowing more people access to automated, algorithmic crypto trading.

Coinrule is a beginner-friendly and safe trading platform enabling you to send automated trading instructions to your favourite exchanges, including Binance, Kraken and Coinbase, etc. allowing you to compete with professional Algo Traders and Hedge Funds.

Between hyper-financialisation and the growth of automation, trading and investments are becoming more and more popular; not just with millennials, but with a growing older population too, who want to take control of their finances and see their investments work for them.

However, the relative knowledge of professionals and hobbyist investors is very different, and therefore so is the access to opportunities.

Coinrule empowers regular people, with little investment knowledge, to compete with professional investors by automating trade investments, without having to learn a single line of code.

By using Coinrule you can design your own crypto currency strategy - or, put simply - a trading rule - and test it in different market conditions. You can tweak your strategy until you are comfortable, then press play and the rule goes live into the market.

67% of Coinrule funds are in profit, despite the COVID market collapse. This is because users can design strategies, with rules that get triggered only in certain circumstances, that secure their profits and protect against losses.

For example, If Bitcoin goes down 2%; buy Ethereum at $700.

Coinrule is built specifically for mass market users: people less familiar with technical terms and financial language. It is both educational and gamified, and aims to level the playing field between hedge funds and normal people.

Coinrule connects to the 12 best digital investment platforms globally and safely runs on top of them. Users choose from four available plans: free, hobbyist, trader and pro plans.

Coinrule has been testing its automated platform with over 13,000 pioneer users across the globe using over 100k strategies. It has $5m in monthly trading volume, more than $10,000 in monthly revenue with consistent 20% growth month on month.

And now Coinrule is opening up to the wider market allowing more people to benefit from its automated trading system. At the same time, the company is opening its second round of fund-raising via Seedrs. https://www.seedrs.com/coinrule/

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Coinrule Launches Its Automated Trading Platform To The Wider Market - Exchange News Direct

Logistics Manager Analysis: Automating conveyors and sortation systems – Logistics Manager

Conveyors and sortation systems are the core of intralogistics operations, and their versatility is meeting increasingly complex demands. Johanna Parsons investigates.

Conveyors and sortation systems are the backbone of the warehouse, connecting all the extremities of the intralogistics operation. But there is far more at stake than just moving stuff from A to B. Escalating requirements are stretching many systems, so this technology needs to be more flexible than ever before.

Investment in such a core component of the intralogistics operation will always require deep consideration. Setting up conveyors and sorters can involve sizeable capital outlay, and will influence every other inbound and outbound process. Likewise, how such equipment works will be dependent on exactly what is being processed. So careful planning is required.

In order to optimise investment, the automation equipment provider has got to spend a significant amount of time understanding a customers business and the processes that help drive it, says Brian Jones, sales director for BEUMER Group Logistic Systems.

Drawing up first-time automation solutions also requires several key factors to be taken into consideration. You have to look at earnings per item as well as the structure of the distribution network and what the means of distribution are. It is also important to understand the operational cost per item that is being sought, says Jones.

Stephen Baker, head of solutions strategy at Dematic says there are three fundamental considerations, sorter function, product type, and the required throughput rate.

He says In most cases the sortation system is there to do one of three things: Distribute received totes or cartons to different parts of a buffer, picking or ASRS system; Enable a batch of picked items to be collated into orders, and then to be packed into parcels, or perhaps loaded onto order pallets; or distribute despatch units to chutes or truck loading docks based on the destination.

Whichever of these is the case, it will affect both the design of the sorter and also the chute arrangement that is used in conjunction with it, so its important to define this up front, says Baker.

When the requirements have been ascertained, you will need to consider the equipment that would be most appropriate. Hilton Campbell, managing director at Interroll gives an overview. The first consideration should be, if you need a circular sorter (horizontal), or a vertical sorter, (up and over). A crossbelt sorter can be delivered in both configurations. Shoe sorters can only be supplied in a vertical configuration and a tilt tray only in a horizontal configuration. These are the only real options when weights exceeding 35 kgs and throughputs above 6,000 per hour need to be processed, says Campbell.

The shoe or slide sorter has been around for many years, it has both a solid design and track record. The sorters offered today can be equipped with different shoes depending on the type of products to sort. This kind of sorter is good for cartons of good quality and plastic bins.

The tilt tray sorter is perhaps a more familiar option, and Campbell explains that this technology can travel at very high speeds, up to three meters per second. It is suited for cartons, totes and better for bags. The design of the tray allows for goods that are not the most stable. In my experience I see mostly a tilt tray in airport applications, and in some larger parcel distribution centres. The loads can exceed 35 kgs. One disadvantage is that such a sorter realizes a passive discharge, it relies solely on breaking friction between the tray and the parcel when tilting to be discharged to a destination or chute.

Campbell says that the third option is the cross belt sorter. Compared with a shoe sorter it can be offered in both a vertical configuration, slightly deeper than a shoe sorter, or in a horizontal configuration, becoming increasingly more popular. In the horizontal option, the design can be omni-directional, including inclines, declines and it follows the contours of the building. The sorters can be used multiple times and therefore when designed into the process can be used in different stages within the complete solution. A crossbelt sorter offers an active discharge, so it gives complete flexibility to the customer.

If you can induct it by a conveyor or even by hand, it will sort it! says Campbell.

He says there are two types of crossbelt sorter, electrical or mechanical. The main difference is how the crossbelts themselves are powered. The mechanical sorter was until recently limited to a speed of 1.8m per second and a weight per carrier of 35 kg. Today, there is now also in additional a High Performance Crossbelt Sorter by Interroll, one that can operate at speeds up to 2.5m per second and can carry loads up to 50kgs. It has maximum throughput of 20,000 items per hour. A mechanical sorter is more cost effective than a electrical sorter, says Campbell.

Sortation has the potential to touch every part of your business, points out Jerome McAllister, technical sales and proposals manager, Conveyor Networks. He says that if implemented effectively, sortation can make the whole material handling operation more efficient and cost-effective. But he reckons this is often dependent on the demands being made by the consumer.

The warehouse will always be shaped by trends in consumer behaviour and technology. When deciding on a sortation solution, its natural for businesses to start with different system applications, but it is more effective to consider the data that will drive the entire sortation design. Analysis of product handled, throughput, unit load, recirculation, budget, space and scalability requirements, will help determine the appropriate sort philosophy and subsequently which sorter you then choose, says McAllister.

Fast and Reliable

In terms of consumer trends, retail is the sector that has seen perhaps more change than any other in recent years, with the development of online shopping. The mega omni-channel e-retailers like Amazon have led the way with enterprising new approaches to fulfilment logistics. But the effect has trickled down to even the smallest retailers whose customers have come to expect a certain level of service and speed.

Consumer shopping habits are now having a large impact on how sortation systems are designed, says Conveyor Networks McAllister. E-commerce fulfilment now dominates space in distribution centres, as retailers need their sortation equipment to be fast and reliable to manage the volume of goods being moved.

And McAllister says that the challenge goes way beyond just sending shipments out fast The cost of returns to a supply chain cannot be ignored. Known as the new battleground for retailers to maintain the competitive advantage, well managed returns operations are shown to have a positive impact on customer loyalty.

Automating your operations improves productivity, traceability and information management. Adding scanning software into the equation, gives the ability to quickly and accurately log the information about the item. The data collected can improve understanding of customer behaviour and drive changes to strategies such as buying, marketing or packaging to improve the cost of sale, says McAllister.

BEUMERs Jones concurs that the challenges are defining new ways of working. Logistics companies already have to deal with a whole raft of individual requirements from different customers. And he says all pose unique challenges.

In terms of inventory passing through different channels, for example, similar items are often differently packaged dependent upon the relevant channel. Furthermore, some retailers adopt distinct approaches to the dispatch of individual items of apparel, depending on whether they are going to their stores or are e-commerce items. In the case of the former, sometimes hangers are preferred to minimise the use of store-side labour, while the latter are commonly polybagged without hangers to reduce costs, explains Jones.

Jones echoes McAllisters feeling that automation is a key way to deliver the extra levels of traceability and speed that customers now expect. Retailers are nowadays prioritising service levels, since customers are increasingly demanding next-day delivery as an absolute minimum. Indeed, the majority of logistics businesses now aim to fulfil around 95% of all orders within at least 24 hours. Such levels of service absolutely demand automated solutions if high volume traffic levels are to be handled both quickly and accurately.

Even the more traditional markets for sortation like postal services are looking to the benefits of integrating automated processes. Nowadays, there is a consensus of opinion that says introducing a higher degree of automation at the interface between the sortation system and the physical transport to and from the distribution centres would significantly improve the efficiency of an entire operation, says Jones.

He gives the example of BEUMERs work with Australia Post at its Brisbane hub. This facility incorporates robotic ULD inverters, automated singulators, parcel pickers, and loose load trailer operations alongside ergonomically designed operator platforms and devices. In addition, there are high capacity sorting and conveying systems able to handle both large and small parcels that also incorporate full dimension weigh and scan capabilities, says Jones.

Jones also points out that the different channels retailers now utilise mean completely different business demands and challenges are often processed through the same facilities. E-commerce fulfilment is totally different to preparing goods to be delivered to a store, let alone for wholesale. But there are conveyor and sortation technologies that can address these challenges of blending or separating streams.

To overcome these differences, larger and more advanced operations can make use of loop sortation and pouch sortation systems. These actively encourage automation and integration of core processes whilst simultaneously sorting multiple flow routes from in-feed through to despatch.

Dematics Baker agrees that the different sortation methods available have decided benefits for particular channels. He says that sorters such as tilt tray (aka bomb bay) or crossbelt sorters are generally ideal for sorting traditional retail orders going to the stores, where the number of destinations is relatively low. However, says Baker, for handling e-commerce orders the sorters will typically have too few destinations to sort an e-commerce batch into individual orders. Each sorter destination therefore has to take a number (say 10-20) of e-commerce orders simultaneously, and an operator (typically a packer) will then manually separate the items into the individual orders ready for packing.

Baker agrees with BEUMERs Jones that sorting systems that use bags suspended from hangers are particularly well suited for online orders. The modern solution to sorting and collation of e-commerce orders consisting of small items is undoubtably the pouch system, says Baker.

In this case all batch picked units are inducted into separate bags or pouches, each of which is hung beneath a conveyor similar to hanging garment conveying technology. The units can therefore be conveyed, buffered and sorted at high throughput rates on the system. Using a series of sortation steps [means that] the units can also be fully sequenced, such that very small orders of two or three items can be linked in the system, and routed together to a packing station. There is therefore no reliance on a specific number of destinations or chutes. In this way no manual separation of orders is required for ecommerce order collation, unlike with more conventional sorters, says Baker.

So it seems there is a sortation style and a conveyor configuration for every task. Automation is certainly creeping in as a useful adjunct to many conveyor and sortation systems, but the unique requirements of each particular business, and each channel stream within it will determine the appropriate mix. As logistics demands become more complex, the versatility of conveyor and sortation systems will keep them at the core of warehouse operations.

Delivering 75% less handling for Yodel

Parcel carrier Yodel has reduced its manual handling by 75% following the installation of an Out of Gauge (OOG) sortation system from Conveyor Networks, at its Sort Centre in Wednesbury in. the West Midlands.

Yodel commissioned Conveyor Networks to undertake the replacement of existing infrastructure with a new automated sortation area, This was to enable it to respond to increasing demand on OOG product sortation.

The new system reduces risk of operator injury, increases efficiency and counteracts potential damages and mis-sorts, which are common when manually handling outsized OOG products.

The system from Conveyor Networks uses Intralox sortation equipment, consisting of Activated Roller Belt technology, providing gentle and precise sorting, which historically would go through a manual process.

Steve Trisic, head of sort operations at Yodel, said: As a leading parcel carrier in the UK, we needed a reliable system that would give us more functionality to sort OOG parcels. Conveyor Networks has been able to deliver a solution that enables us to process bulky and delicate parcels more easily and efficiently, increasing our capacity and improving the flow of parcels through the sort.

The new system also deploys routeR, part of imio Software Solutions suite of applications, which provides real time data tracking of parcel distribution to each chute, ensuring effective distribution performance throughout the system.

Marcus Uprichard, head of business development at Conveyor Networks and imio Software Solutions added: Typically, sortation of delicate/fragile & misshaped products is a manual process, so the automated solution we have provided is rather unique to the UK post & parcel market, and a flagship project for Conveyor Networks.

Covid-19 Response

Leicester-based BS Handling Systems has invested over 100,000 in an electrostatic sanitisation system designed to combat Covid-19 and other bacterial threats.

Known as the Infection Control Preventative Measures Programme, BS Handling says its service uses specialist equipment, training, innovative chemistry and proven disinfection protocols.

The electrostatic spraying technology employed has an electrode in a dispersal gun that atomises the cleaning fluid. On spraying, positively charged particles are attracted to surface areas, including difficult to reach places, all of which receive an even coating of the antibacterial solution.

Robert Brand-Smith, BS Handling Systems managing director claims, Since launching the service we have treated over 160 sites. These include warehouses, offices, hotels, banks, retail premises and nurseries. Looking ahead, we currently have almost 100 additional sites booked in so the demand is clearly out there.

The time taken to complete a site varies on size, but typically, a 5,000 sq ft facility can be completed in two hours with minimal disruption to business. The site is cleared for working around 10-15 minutes after completion of the process.

Both our Covid-19 disinfection services and core storage, conveyor and materials handling businesses are operating fully to support those companies and key organisations still working under lockdown. More importantly, when it is safe to do so, they will be ready to help companies by providing back to work resets to get the economy moving again.

To assist those most in need, we are also in discussion with a local charity to provide the electrostatic sanitisation service at no cost to them, says Brand-Smith.

This feature originally appeared in the September edition of Logistics Manager.

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Logistics Manager Analysis: Automating conveyors and sortation systems - Logistics Manager

Solve Unique Accounts Payable Problems and Learn More About the Importance of AP Automation in Today’s Economy With IntelliChief – GlobeNewswire

Solving Unique AP Problems With Automation for Oracle EBS

The Importance of AP Automation in Today's Economy

Tampa, FL, Oct. 19, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- IntelliChief, the emerging leader in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Workflow Automation solutions, will host two digital events this week for Accounts Payable professionals.

Businesses looking to streamline their Accounts Payable process and take advantage of unrealized cost-saving opportunities can benefit from an integrated solution. With AP Automation, you can reduce or eliminate manual data entry, capitalize on EVERY early pay discount opportunity, and upskill your team while automation handles the repetitive busywork. If you're looking for your chance to kickstart your digital transformation, there's never been a better time than now!

(October 21, 2020, 2:00 PM EST)Solving Unique AP Problems with Automation for Oracle EBS

Attendees will learn how to identify the right AP Automation tool for their company by discussing an array of commonly overlooked AP Automation challenges. Discover:

Register Here: https://www2.intellichief.com/APChallengesinEBS

(October 22, 2020, 2:00 PM EST)The Importance of AP Automation in Todays Economy

Attendees will learn more about the benefits of AP Automation, including:

Register Here:https://www2.intellichief.com/APAutomation1020

About IntelliChief

IntelliChief is the emerging leader in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Workflow Automation solutions. Leveraging advanced OCR, powerful workflows, document management, and analytics, IntelliChief eliminates manual processes and automates repetitive, time-consuming tasks to help businesses secure a decisive competitive advantage.

As a trusted Oracle Gold Partner and Infor Solution Partner, IntelliChief is recognized for its robust, configurable solutions and secure integrations with all ERP systems and applications. Hundreds of customers in every industry depend on IntelliChief as a strategic partner to help them digitize documents, standardize business processes, and automate Accounts Payable, Sales Orders, Human Resources, and more.

The IntelliChief team is committed to serving our customers, community, and country by guiding them through digital transformation and exemplifying what is possible with an ardent dedication to innovation and progress.

Connect with IntelliChief:

IntelliChief Resource Libraryv | Blog|LinkedIn|Twitter|

For more information, visit https://www.intellichief.com/.

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Solve Unique Accounts Payable Problems and Learn More About the Importance of AP Automation in Today's Economy With IntelliChief - GlobeNewswire

Volkswagen invests in automation, thousands of robots ordered for its EV plants – Hindustan Times Auto News

Volkswagen Group's passenger cars and commercial vehicles brands have invested in automation in order to carry out the transformation to the e-mobility era and for conversion of plants to e-mobility hubs.

The automaker has ordered more than 1,400 robots from Japanese manufacturer FANUC for its production facilities at Chattanooga in US and Emden in Germany. Its commercial vehicles brand has ordered another 800 robots for its Hanover plant in Germany from ABB of Switzerland.

These more than 2,200 robots will mainly be used for production of car bodies and battery assembly. The three Volkswagen plants where these robots will be deployed are currently being prepared for the production of electric vehicles using highly advanced facilities. Volkswagen plans to produce its ID.4 electric vehicle at the Chattanooga and Emden facilities from 2022. It plans to manufacture the model known under the show car name of ID. BUZZ at the Hanover plant.

The company says it aims to make these production plants the most advanced ones in the industry. "At Emden and Chattanooga, we are investing in the latest technologies such as digitalization and automation," says Christian Vollmer, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen brand responsible for Production and Logistics.

(Also read | Volkswagen to announce 'important' strategic steps to stay relevant)

Volkswagen Group plans to invest a total of 33 billion by 2024 with a view to becoming the world market leader in e-mobility.

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Volkswagen invests in automation, thousands of robots ordered for its EV plants - Hindustan Times Auto News

Bruker Introduces Routine Gradient Spectroscopy and Robust, Industry-Standard PAL Automation on High-Performance Fourier 80 Benchtop FT-NMR System -…

ZUERICH--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Bruker Corporation (Nasdaq: BRKR) announces the European launch of the high-performance Fourier 80 system, a next-generation, 80 MHz Fourier Transform Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (FT-NMR) benchtop spectrometer, now with major new capabilities.

The Fourier 80 now is routinely equipped for gradient spectroscopy and offers the option of an industry-standard CTC PAL sample changer. The Fourier 80 is suitable for organic or medicinal chemistry analysis, NMR teaching, synthesis verification or routine analysis in any chemistry laboratory. Equipped with a novel, ultra-stable 80 MHz permanent magnet, it requires no cryogens, water cooling, or special lab infrastructure.

The Fourier 80 has been designed for highest data quality and stability at 80 MHz, with excellent line-shape, resolution and sensitivity in 80 MHz homonuclear 1H or heteronuclear 1H/13C FT-NMR experiments. The latest version now offers even greater sensitivity and 20% improved resolution performance. It can be operated by the easy-to-use GoScan software for NMR beginners, or by Bruker's TopSpin NMR software with the extensive TopSpin library of 1D and 2D homonuclear and proton-carbon heteronuclear experiments and pulse programs.

The latest version of the Fourier 80 now includes a pulsed field gradient which has been used in high-field NMR spectroscopy for decades to quickly and conveniently obtain essentially artifact-free spectra. Gradients allow users to enhance solvent or water suppression, perform DOSY experiments, and acquire two-dimensional NMR spectra within minimal experiment time.

Another new feature is the option of an industry-standard, robust and high-throughput PAL sample changer. Fourier 80 users with the PAL sample changer can run up to 132 samples, including 12 reference samples, thereby dramatically increasing throughput and efficiency. GoScan now also operates the sample changer to run samples overnight or over a weekend.

The Fourier 80 offers workflows and protocols for academic, pharma and industrial chemistry research, as well as for forensics and organic synthesis control. It can be incorporated into science education to introduce students to the power of FT-NMR. An optional teaching package with recommended experiments and spectra interpretation guide is also available.

Dr. Falko Busse, President of the Bruker BioSpin Group, commented: "Bruker is proud to offer the Fourier 80 with new, industry-leading capabilities like routine gradient spectroscopy, and a robust, well-accepted PAL sample changer. High-performance 80 MHz FT-NMR can now be used efficiently in any chemistry lab, just like benchtop mass spectrometers or FT-IR systems which have proliferated in chemistry labs for decades. The Fourier 80 is providing education packages to give instructors tools to introduce young scientists to the power of FT-NMR. With the Fourier 80, we further 'democratize' the many applications of NMR."

Join the launch of the Fourier 80 starting on October 19th at http://www.bruker.com/Fourier80. Watch exclusive content describing the new capabilities and hear from experts. Visitors will be able to ask questions and interact with members of the Bruker NMR team.

PAL is a registered trademark of CTC Analytics AG

About Bruker Corporation (Nasdaq: BRKR)

Bruker is enabling scientists to make breakthrough discoveries and develop new applications that improve the quality of human life. Brukers high-performance scientific instruments and high-value analytical and diagnostic solutions enable scientists to explore life and materials at molecular, cellular and microscopic levels. In close cooperation with our customers, Bruker is enabling innovation, improved productivity and customer success in life science molecular research, in applied and pharma applications, in microscopy and nanoanalysis, and in industrial applications, as well as in cell biology, preclinical imaging, clinical phenomics and proteomics research and clinical microbiology. For more information, please visit: http://www.bruker.com.

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Bruker Introduces Routine Gradient Spectroscopy and Robust, Industry-Standard PAL Automation on High-Performance Fourier 80 Benchtop FT-NMR System -...

Automated aerocomposites production: Liquid molding or welded thermoplastic? – CompositesWorld

The DLR Center for Lightweight Production Technology (ZLP) has demonstrated an automated process for an A350 rear pressure bulkhead (RPB) using dry CF fabric (left) and resin infusion with Hexcels RTM6 epoxy. In a separate project, eight petal sections were press-moldedfrom CF/PPS organosheetand ZLPused automated resistance welding to form an A320 RPB (right). Photo Credit: German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Structures and Design

As OEMs and suppliers explore the materials and processes that will enable the next generation of aircraft, two different approaches are being demonstrated. The first is liquid molding of dry fiber preforms seen, for example, in Spirit AeroSystems (Prestwick, Scotland) high-rate resin transfer molding (RTM) line for Airbus A320 spoilers and also in the Airbus-led Wing of Tomorrow (WOT) program which uses automated placement of noncrimp fabrics (NCF) and liquid resin infusion, followed by out of autoclave (OOA) cure in an oven (see High-rate, automated aerospace RTM line delivers next-gen spoilers and Update: Lower wing skin, Wing of Tomorrow respectively.)

The second is thermoplastic composites (TPC) featured, for example, in the Clean Sky 2 Multifunctional Fuselage Demonstrator (MFFD), where stiffened skins are created using automated fiber placement in-situ consolidated for the lower half and autoclave-consolidated for the upper half followed by assembly via welding. These programs use automation to increase production rate and quality while reducing cost. But how do they compare?

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Structures and Design operates the Center for Lightweight Production Technology (ZLP) in Augsburg.Among its many composites manufacturing projects, PROTEC NSR and Fast Lane RPB present a unique opportunity to compare, respectively, a liquid-molded thermoset rear pressure bulkhead (RPB)for the twin-aisle Airbus A350 with a thermoplastic RPB for the single-aisle Airbus A320. Both projects worked with the Tier 1 supplier of these structures, Premium Aerotec Group (PAG, Augsburg, Germany), and demonstrated automation while evaluating cycle time and cost.

We started many years ago with PAG in the AZIMUT project to analyze manual processes for composites manufacturing, says Dr. Lars Larsen, head of assembly and joining technologies at ZLP Augsburg. Our first automation solution was for layup, and then we worked to automate more operations. The main goal for PROTEC NSR was to take these specialized solutions for RPB production and bring them into a single automated process, explains Dr. Marcin Malecha, project manager for PROTEC NSR at DLR.

Dry carbon fiber preform for the liquid-molded PROTEC NSR rear pressure bulkhead.Photo Credit: German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Structures and Design

Preform and grippers. The process steps for creating the vacuum-bagged dry preform are shown in Fig. 1 below. This was infused with RTM6 epoxy resin using the Airbus-patented vacuum assisted process (VAP), which employs a semi-permeable membrane for reduced porosity. The preform layup comprised two sets of 16 plies up to 5 meters long using the full 1.27-meter width of the 5-harness satin carbon fiber fabric. Embedded between these two sets were 25 complex-shaped, reinforcing pieces sized up to 1.5 by 2.5 meters. Eight stringers were placed on top.

Fig. 1. Process steps for resin-infused RPBPROTEC NSR process steps for creating the dry preform: (a) material cutting; (b) (d) material transport to the robotic cell; cut-piece recognition, picking up, draping and application of (c) reinforcing plies and (e) structural plies; (f) stringer integration; and vacuum bagging of (g) tool-side and (h) B-side/outer auxiliary materials.Photo Credit: German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Structures and Design

Developing tools and grippers that could achieve the necessary precision in draping and handling was one of the biggest challenges, notes Larsen. This was partly due to the complex mix of plies that required three different draping mechanisms:

For the cooperating robots, we developed end-effectors that contain six modules connected by spherical joints, Larsen explains. This allows the end-effector to deform, in a manner similar to a snake, conforming to the target geometry of the mold. Integrated heating devices activate the binder in the fabric as it is being transported and shaped, maintaining its 3D shape and position once placed.

The end-effector features a gripper that uses 127 modules equipped with vacuum suction to pick up cut plies of fabric, transform then into a 3D shape and then heat them before placing in the mold. Photo Credit: German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Structures and Design

For the small, shaped plies up to 1.5 by 2.5 meters, a second kind of gripper was developed that uses 127 modules equipped with vacuum suction for pick- up. This gripper picks up material in a 2D state and then bends it to the target geometry, Malecha explains. It must decide which of the 127 modules it will hold firm and which it will let slide to transform the 2D ply to a 3D shape. So, it is very similar to how hands work to drape. We made many experiments and gained experience on where to hold and where to release. Force can be adjusted by how intense the modules grip on the material.

Inline inspection. Optical sensors in the modular grippers monitored the draping process. After placing a ply, an end-effector combining a Leica T-Scan (Hexagon Manufacturing, Cobham, U.K.) and a camera-based fiber angle measurement system by Profactor (Steyr, Austria) inspect for quality. We first measured fiber angles and compared to the CAD file, says Malecha, and then we measured the edges of each piece and checked its position versus the CAD file.

Diagram of the types of cut-pieces and stringers applied to create the preform for the RPB demonstrator manufactured by DLR in the PROTEC NSR project. Source | Fig. 1 from Highly Automated Manufacturing Process of Large Airplane CFRP Structures by Marcin Malecha and Thomas Full, Center for Lightweight Technology (ZLP), German Aerospace Center (DLR).Photo Credit: German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Structures and Design

Stringers and vacuum bagging. After completing the preform, eight stiffeners (stringers) were attached on top. For this task, the Multi Kinematic Gripper was developed and was also used to apply the vacuum bag auxiliary materials. This gripper comprises three small and independent 6-degrees-of-freedom (DOF) robots and a rigid arm, all mounted on the center flange of an industrial 6-DOF robot. Vacuum bagging auxiliary materials peel ply, perforated release film and resin flow media (tool-side auxiliary materials) were precut and prejoined, designed for where they were placed. They didnt have to be draped, just placed, notes Malecha. The prefabricated semi-permeable membrane was applied in a semi-automated way via an end-effector with an umbrella-like mechanism, while placement of tacky tape and outer vacuum bag remained manual but could also be automated.

Cycle time and cost. For Malecha, the largest challenge was building the modular, artificial intelligence (AI)-based manufacturing execution system (MES) to monitor and control the process chain. We had to build data management systems that could bring together quite different processes and then command them via the MES through one data exchange port, he explains. We can use them as they are needed on the fly, enabling more flexibility and wider use versus following a strict manufacturing order.

The PROTEC NSR technology was validated by manufacturing a full-size demonstrator in January 2019, and achieving a maturity level of TRL 5-6 by mid-2019. Compared to the current state-of-the-art at PAG, this automated process chain cuts the cycle time of rolled fabric application by 58% and pick-and-place of cut plies by 50%. Manufacturing costs for these operations were reduced by 11.5% and 31%, respectively.

This project started in 2018 with PAG and Institut fr Verbundwerkstoffe (IVW, Kaiserslautern, Germany) to show what is possible with thermoplastic composites in large parts and primary structures, explains Dr. Stefan Jarka, project manager for Fast Lane RPB and expert on welding technologies at ZLP Augsburg. An RPB is not really primary, because the mechanical requirements are not as high as a wing or fuselage, but it shows what is possible for large, flat, slightly curved structures. In just four months, we developed a demonstrator A320 RPB as an example of how to convert an existing aluminum structure to thermoplastic composites.

This demonstrator used Cetex carbon fiber (CF) fabric/polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) organosheet (Toray Advanced Composites, Nijverdal, Netherlands) and resistance welding. A resistive element between the two surfaces being welded generates heat and remains in the welded structure. GKN Fokker (Hoogeveen, Netherlands) has used this technique for decades to produce aircraft landing gear doors and fixed leading edges. For this A320 RPB, the ZLP team used a CF resistive element instead of conventional stainless-steel mesh.

One of the eight CF/PPS petal sections welded together to form the thermoplastic composite RPB. Photo Credit: German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Structures and Design

The thermoplastic composite RPB was to be the same price or cheaper, but the material is much more expensive, notes Larsen. Thus, lower production cost due to automation was key, as was the use of eight identical petal sections. These sections were needed to form the double-curved shape of the part, Jarka explains. Thermoforming as one single part would require a very large press that would be too expensive. Thus, eight smaller sections were press-molded by the IVW using matched metal tooling and we assembled these usingautomated welding. The automation level for thermoplastic press-forming is higher than for thermoset composites. You are mostly using matched metal tooling, with high but constant temperature being the main issue, but this also makes the automated press cycle very fast.

The overall process steps for the demonstrator RPB are shown in Fig. 2. The welding process we used was not new, says Jarka, but had to be further developed to join the 1.5-meter-long [and 40-millimeter-wide] seams for the 3-meter-diameter part and integrate a quality inspection system. Components were first fixed into the right position using a positioning jig and then electrical energy was applied to generate the plastic melt in the weld zone.

Fig. 2. Thermoplastic RPB process stepsProcess steps used to produce eight sections (bottom) of stamp-formed CF/PPS organosheet that were then joined via resistance welding to form a demonstrator A320 bulkhead.Photo Credit: German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Structures and Design

Integrating QA. We tried thermography, both flash lamp- and ultrasonic-activated, but its not so easy to measure the welding zone with this, Jarka explains. Thermography is very fast, but it doesnt easily tell you if you have good consolidation. Instead, they used a standard test rig to make multiple welded samples, measuring current, voltage and temperature. We then inspected them with ultrasonic testing (UT) and made correlations between process parameters and good consolidation, says Larsen. If we have good parameters, then we have a good part. We have also built a process simulation to compare the data we obtain during welding with the initial baseline we established.

Automation and cycle time. The whole process was very fast, on the scale of automotive parts, says Jarka. We achieved TRL 3 in our 2019 review and have since matured to TRL 4. We will achieve TRL 6 by the end of 2021. Before the pandemic, PAG had indicated it would put the thermoplastic RPB into production by 2021. Though the future is now less clear, the thermoplastic RPB is still seen as enabling the fuselage of tomorrow, reducing weight from 41 to 35 kilograms, process and assembly time by 75% and overall part cost by morethan 10%.

The thermoplastic processes are so fast that you can be cheaper versus aluminum and even meet a production rate of 100 aircraft per month, says Jarka. The RPB is a good application for thermoplastic welding but also for automation, says Malecha. The dry fiber, liquid-molded RPB is more expensive to automate.

But that automation is interesting because you could achieve real gains by automating just some of the sub-processes, says Larsen. For example, with automating the auxiliaries, we could complete the vacuum bagging in about an hour, roughly 10 times faster than the manual process. However, he concedes that cost is a major obstacle to implement such improvement. The cost of the digital tools, robots and development is too much for one single part, such as the RPB. But if we could develop a modular approach where you could use this system for many parts, then this cost could be spread wider, making it affordable when calculated with the reduced time and labor. ZLP has indeed achieved this, as explained in CWs July 2020 feature: Composites 4.0: Digital transformation, adaptive production, new paradigms.

There are not yet many comparisons between thermoset and thermoplastic composite structures, says Malecha. But we are beginning to compare thermoset and thermoplastic processes. He notes the next goal is to show that thermoplastic weld lines have the properties required for aircraft wings and fuselages. And that performance must also be shown for large, integrated liquid molded wings, for example. This is exactly what the MFFD and WOT programs have set out to accomplish. And we await their results, as well as those from many other Clean Sky 2 and EC projects, to show the next steps forward.

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Automated aerocomposites production: Liquid molding or welded thermoplastic? - CompositesWorld