Technology

 

 

SEI Dispels 9370 Criticism -- Mainframe helps save financial services firm from ruin

InformationWeek, 04/03/1989, 758 words.

 

Photo Processors Aided by New Technology

Focus, 06/17/1987, 2538 words.

 

Holding the Line, for Now: Electronics manufacturers contend with changing industry demand

and Japanese manufacturers

Focus, 04/29/1987

 

Cutting Costs: Computerized Systems Cut Down on Office Supply Costs

Focus, 04/01/1987

 

Dictation Systems: Only too Happy to Take Orders

Focus, 04/01/1987

 

Space Age Materials: Fast-Moving Business in the Area

Focus, 02/18/1987, 2087 words.

 

Facsimile: Downsizing for Smaller Users

Focus, 02/18/1987

 

Future Energy Needs Well Within Utilities' Capacity, Experts Note

Focus, 11/26/1986, 1553 words.

 

High Tech Terrorism Breaks Down Traditional Corporate Security Measures

Focus, 05/14/1986

 

Profile of a Computer Criminal: Corporations should take a hardline to computer crime.

Focus, 05/14/1986

 

Zoo's Computer System Keeps Tigers Cool and Reptiles Warm

Focus, 02/19/1986, 1976 words.

 

Society vs. Technology: Interview with ‘Engineer of the Year’ John S. Kemper

Focus, 02/19/1986

 

Must Office Worker Comfort Clash with the Needs of Technology?

Focus, 10/17/1984 (ghostwritten for client)

 

It’s Still PSOT! Philadelphia School of Office Training changes its name to Philadelphia School

of Office Technologies

Focus, 10/17/1984 (ghostwritten for client)

 

 

 


SEI Dispels 9370 Criticism -- Mainframe Helps Save Financial Services Firm From Ruin

Thomas Derr, Philadelphia

 

04/03/1989

InformationWeek

CMP Communications File

24

 

 

In 1981, Wayne, Pa.-based SEI Corp. found itself in trouble. After eight straight years of steady growth, changes brought on by banking deregulation threatened the financial services firm's very future.

 

The problem was twofold. First, with the massive changes taking place in the banking industry, SEI officials knew they had to change accordingly-such as diversifying the firm's trust business products-just to keep pace. Second, the demands of SEI's clients were outgrowing the capabilities of its Prime minicomputer-based system.

 

"As we looked at our market, we saw all our clients growing," explains D. Bruce Peterson, executive vice president of SEI. The company, however, was not.

 

According to Peterson, the choice SEI faced was to continue with Prime and risk becoming obsolete in the larger marketplace, or retool the technology to create a new environment and then try to filter that technology down to its core bank markets.

 

To some observers, however, the option eventually decided upon may have appeared just as risky. SEI's choice involved a complete changeover-from 70 Prime systems, representing about 500 clients, 1,000 circuits, and 3,000 ASCII terminals-to an IBM 9370 mainframe system.

 

The changeover cost SEI about $40 million, with $20 million being spent on retooling and the surrounding process technology, and another $20 million on making the actual transition from Prime to IBM. SEI continues to spend $7 million each year on additional technology enhancements. Was it really a $40 million gamble?

 

While Peterson acknowledges the 9370 has been the subject of controversy among some users, he feels most of the problems are not the fault of the machine itself.

 

"From the technology point of view, the 9370 is a tremendous machine," Peterson says. "We were able to put our product in that environment in less than six months. In addition, we've found that every networking capability available to us in the 3090 is also available to us in the 9370. We also can support some incremental functions with cards in the back of the 9370 locally."

 

The 9370 has been criticized for lack of available application software to create a demand, Peterson explains. Without the proper software tools, the end user will not be able to achieve maximum benefit from the 9370 system.

 

Moving To The Mountains

 

"To alleviate that problem, we moved our software from MVS to the VM environment, which is better suited to the 9370," he says. "Instead of the mountain coming to Mohammed, Mohammed came to the mountain.

 

"The 9370 is great technology," Peterson says. "IBM uses a 3725 front-end control on the mainframe. Basically they took all the functionality from that and packaged it into a 3270 board that sits inside the 9370. So we lack nothing in that small box. From upload to download to communications, they really thought out the environment."

 

The only problem area he sees involves the 9370's inability to accommodate the MVS software found on the mainframe.

 

"MVS just doesn't fit down there yet," Peterson explains. "So what they have done is left this wealth of software that runs on the mainframe up on the mainframe. It would be nice if they could package all that software down at the 9370-but that involves many other problems, too." Still, SEI found a way to benefit.

 

"Once all the functionalities are on the MVS, we just redo the compilations and download the object codes into the 9370 system. That's what the clients run. So we only maintain one system," Peterson says. Because most of the new functionality SEI has developed for the environment is

based on a PS/2 with a pathways board, the firm has also adopted the PS/2 as a standard distributed PC front end. This has advantages from the client's perspective.

 

"Now we are beginning to download data to the PS/2 so the front-end users can write their own reports, and we'll soon put in functionality so the PS/2 stands by itself," Peterson says. "So from the point of view of the total resource, our clients can now take data off the 9370 or our mainframe, and download it to a PS/2. That way they can add more value of their own, from the point of view of how they service their clients."

 

SEI's first 9370 client was Central Bank of the South. According to Fred Murphy, VP and senior trust officer of operations and investments for the bank, the new 9370-based system will improve productivity within the bank's trust department, as well as provide "greater flexibility in meeting customer needs."

 

If all continues to go well, IBM shouldn't do too badly, either.


 

 

 

Photo Processors Aided by New Technology

By Thomas Derr

 

06/17/1987

Focus

Pg. 70

 

 

Philadelphia, PA, US -- IN recent years, a number of nationally prominent educators have criticized the fact that our society's intake of information has come to rely too much on visually-oriented means at the expense of the written word.

 

The situation may place certain educators in a quandary, but for those in the professional photographic processing field, it has meant an absolute boom.

 

As Ron Kane, vice president at Burton Photo Industries, Inc., Philadelphia, notes, "Businesses have become much more visually oriented. We've become much more of a visual society overall. So companies like ours and industries like ours can only benefit as long as they do a good job."

 

According to Kane, Burton has expanded dramatically during the past several years, with the company's most recent quarter providing it's biggest one year jump ever. Kane attributes part of that success to simply doing a good job. But another important factor is the growth in the overall customer market, he says. Of course, like any phenomenon, that advantage also carries with it an important disadvantage.

 

"There is also a lot of competition that has sprung up lately," Kane notes. "As the market itself has expanded, competitors now are coming out of the woodwork."

 

THE COMPETITION: Many of the new competitors actually are smaller operations, some of whom will last and some of whom will quickly fall by the wayside. In the long run, those that survive will be the ones who are able to provide the kind of quality and service that the business and professional marketplace has come to expect from photo processors, he adds.

 

Thomas J. Cancelmo, marketing Manager for Vi-Tech Corporation, Camden, calls the photo processing business "the last of the cottage industries."

 

"It's not like barbers, or plumbers, or electricians -- who need a license or certification to go into business," says Cancelmo. "Almost anyone can go into photo processing as long as they have the money to buy the necessary equipment."

 

At the same time, though, that is becoming a very expensive requirement as each day goes by, he adds. For example, the last processor Vi-Tech purchased was of a German-make and cost in the neighborhood of $70,000. Today the same piece of equipment would cost well over $100,000.

 

"Luckily we bought it before the dollar went down and the deutschemark went up," Cancelmo says. "Actually, the biggest problem with getting into the business today is having enough money to buy the necessary equipment. It's getting more and more expensive every day, especially given the sophistication of the new equipment.

 

According to Cancelmo, most of the major professionally-oriented photo processors in the area -- including Vi-Tech, Burton, Quaker Photo, RichArt and Berry & Homer -- have basically the same types of equipment, although they may use it for different purposes depending on the lab's own specialty.

 

LITTLE NICHES: "Everyone has unique equipment that they need to do their own particular type of work although it is more or less interchangeable," Cancelmo explains. "You could take a processor out of Vi-Tech and put it in one of the other labs and they could use it equally as well. And there are some things we have that those labs don't have -- all of us have kind of settled into our own little niche for which we utilize our own equipment."

 

Most of the smaller photo processing firms in what Cancelmo says "is euphemistically called the professional processing field" also use much of the same type of equipment and personnel. These firms consist mainly of photo finishers and candid finishers who basically are geared for the kind of mass production work called for by interests such as school portraits and wedding photography.

That is not to imply that the major professional processors don't deal in quantities.

 

Quaker Photo, for example, has had clients of a corporate nature who have ordered 50,000 or 100,000 prints at a time for press kits on a new product line or publicity releases, explains Robert Merion, Director of Marketing for Quaker Photo, Philadelphia, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Black and white processing, despite oft-repeated rumors that it would soon be

phased-out by color work, also remains a major area of service for Quaker, he says.

 

"I remember for years, people saying that color is going to take over, and people won't want black and white anymore," Merion says. "But today we get more black and white than we ever did. It's used in advertising, displays, internal publications, public relations and many other areas. For example, it is very common for large corporations to send out press kits or large volumes of prints that are black and white for newspaper pick-up. That's a very strong market."

 

SPECIAL NEEDS: Other clients will order strictly large prints for store displays or backlit transparencies, or they may have some other unique need that may require a service or special attention which Quaker offers, he says.

 

Not all client needs are relegated strictly to the advertising or marketing field, either. Richard Antner, president RichArt Graphics, Philadelphia notes that photography is finding a greater acceptance within the art field as a legitimate art media -- with unique ramifications for the corporate marketplace.

 

"Photography is coming to join painting, lithography, and watercolor as a legitimate art form," says Antner. "And as such, we are noticing an increased demand for photo prints for interiors of corporate offices as a legitimate form for photo decor purposes."

 

In fact, the needs are countless.

 

"We all have our own little techniques which we use," says Vi-Tech's Cancelmo. "Berry & Homer, for example, over the last few years has geared up to do these large, super big prints. We haven't. We can do them up to four foot by eight foot, and we do them on a routine basis. But we have geared up more for the production type of job and meeting service demands because people want things in two or three days, overnight. We do an awful lot of rush work."

 

According to Kane, Burton Photo has, over the years, invested heavily in specialized equipment which will produce large prints and transparencies in high quantities.

 

"We can knock out duratran transparencies, six feet by fifteen feet, in volume, and at a speed and cost that is much less than anyone else in town," Kane claims.

 

RECENT TREND: According to Kane, this ability to go larger is a more recent phenomenon which came about only in the past few years with the introduction of larger processors to process such larger materials. Burton, for example, has two 80-inch wide processors which can be used in that capacity.

 

In addition, Burton is one of the only labs in the country to employ continuous roll paper process paper transparency processors, Kane says. He describes the roll-to-roll process which Burton uses to a gigantic automatic film advance which can be used to process mural-size photo images both quickly and cost-effectively.

 

Before the introduction of the new equipment, if a photo processor wanted to print 50 six foot by ten foot color prints/murals he would go to a six foot roll of paper, cut off a ten foot sheet, tack it to a wall, expose it, untack it, roll it up, take it to the end of the processor, and feed it in, Kane explains. Then he would go back, cut another sheet off and repeat the entire process. It was an assembly line kind of process, he says.

 

"What we can do now with our easel is set it up, set up the pin registration on a vacuum-backed easel which we have -- which is like an automatic film advance -- program in through the keyboard the exposure time, and hit a 'go' button," Kane says. "It will then expose it, blow up the exposed film on a takeup spool, roll out fresh film, expose it again, roll it up, and so on."

 

ALL AUTOMATIC: All this activity is done automatically until the number of exposures that was programmed in has been completed. Then the entire roll is taken to the end of a processor, fed in, and processed continuously and automatically.

 

"The bottom line is that one person can do the work of what it took several to do, and it takes much less time because of the sophistication of the equipment we use," Kane says.

 

These large size pieces usually are produced as part of advertising and signage for bus shelters, airports, and for retail displays and often on behalf of national chains where the quantity is very high. Most other area firms deal only locally or regionally, he adds.

 

"We've positioned ourselves to be a quantity lab for large work, which puts us in a select few on a national basis," Kane says. "We're competing nationally for that, in addition to competing locally for other services anyone else offers."

 

Another area of recent growth in the photo processing field is image composition, says Quaker's Merion. According to Merion, Quaker is the only photo lab in the Delaware Valley to have an HK closed loop enlarger, which he says is the "most accurate, even and repeatable color enlarger there is."

 

"This becomes especially important when you're doing image composition and you have pastels or even tone backgrounds," he says.

 

The enlarger light sources that most enlargers have -- and which run edge to edge -- tend to be inconsistent, he says. Quaker has three to five color enlargers per dark room, simply because it is dangerous, from a composition standpoint, to take negatives out of the enlarger until they are corrected.

 

"Repeatability on most of your mechanical enlargers is a problem," Merion says. "You take a negative out, put it back in, and 60-60 may not be 60-60. It may be 61-60 or 62-60. With an HK, it is repeatable to within half a cubic centimeter."

 

COLOR WORK: At Burton, the emphasis is on color. Kane notes that his firm has some of the most sophisticated equipment available for computer generating colors for photocomposition.

 

"Because it is computer generated and it can be put into memory, we can get 100 percent repeatability on specific colors that are being photocomposed," Kane says. Very simply, photocomposition is the art of exposing several images on the same negative without borders between them.

 

That capability, for example, enables Burton to produce a specific color of a logo for a corporate client time after time with 100 percent repeatability. Kane notes that the number of businesses using photo composition has increased tremendously in recent years because they realize that the new technology has allowed images that can be made photographically to be extremely striking and

competitive with any other graphic art. And according to Vi-Tech's Cancelmo, that emphasis on graphics will likely mushroom even further in the years to come.

 

DIGITIZING: "What you have coming along is the interface between electronic media and the photographic media -- digitizing information," Cancelmo says. "Today everyone's running around with their handy dandy video cameras. What 35mm cameras were five years ago, the video cameras are today. Everyone is getting them."

 

What the interface between photography and the electronic media will mean in the next few years, is that it will become commonplace to select a specific shot from a videotape, and turn it into a still photograph.

 

"It's fine to sit in your living room watching TV, with the kids up there on the screen, but if you come to a shot you might want to send to relatives -- there is now a system being developed to take that videotape, put it up on an editor, frame it up, push a button, and in about ten seconds out comes an ektacolor print," explains Cancelmo.

 

This process will become increasingly commonplace in the professional market as well, simply because people will be demanding more of that, he says.

 

As a result, the computer graphics business is growing by leaps and bounds. Electronic design for photographic application is becoming a major part of the photo processing business, Cancelmo says. For example, there are a number of systems in the future that will enable an operator to digitize a photo, input it in the system, combine it with a certain type of artwork, output it to a

negative and then print it photographically.

 

IT'S EXPENSIVE: Some systems already exist which can produce much of that work, but the cost of the equipment is expensive -- at around one million dollars, Cancelmo says.

 

"But if you have that type of work and can support it, it's just like anything else," he says. "If you have enough work to go on it, and you can make it profitable, you'll get the equipment, because that's the way the industry is run. Now all of that is done by hand."

 

The watchword for the industry, says Cancelmo, is "service." "It doesn't make any difference how inexpensively someone can supply something, or how great someone can supply something," he explains. "But if they don't get it, or if it's late -- if a vice president is getting on a plane at four o'clock in the afternoon and doesn't have the prints or transparencies he needs, then you could produce the material for free and it would not be any good to him. It's just that simple."

 

Quaker also recognizes that aspect of the industry, and has responded with a 24-hour lab operation. In addition, the firm maintains a computerized pick-up and job tracking system, and its customer service personnel staff the facility from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm each weekday and 9:00 am to 1:00 pm on Saturdays.

 

According to RichArt's Antner, the basic difference between his firm and the other photo labs is the multiplicity of services which RichArt Graphics offers. "Other photo labs are pure, out-and-out photo labs. They offer camera services, photo lab services, and mounting services," Antner explains.

 

In addition to a wide variety of photo lab services, RichArt Graphics offers extensive airbrush and retouching services, extensive fabrication services for the construction of 3-dimensional structures, and silk screen printing, he says.

 

"It's more or less one-stop shopping," says Antner. "If a client would come to RichArt and want large color prints, mounted on stiff board, framed out with lumber, contour cut, air-brushed, retouched and silk-screened with graphics on top of it -- we could handle that entire project in-house."

 

MULTIPLICITY: It's that multiplicity of services which RichArt offers that can produce an end-product with all of those services built into it that no other company can do, he claims.

 

"You have to take care of people," Cancelmo declares. "Everyone has to service clients or they won't be in business very long. That's why service is a big part of my personal philosophy."

 

"If you gave enough chimpanzees enough photo chemistry, paper and equipment, they could make all the color prints in the world," Cancelmo says. "Of course, it would be by accident, and you would have to wait forever -- but you could get it done. But to getting it done efficiently takes people who are interested in all aspects of the photo processing industry. The management, sales, lab people -- all have to be interested in providing service to the customer."

 

 

 


Holding the Line, for Now: Electronics manufacturers contend with changing industry demand and Japanese manufacturers

By Thomas Derr

 

04/29/1987

Focus

Pg. 25

 

 

Philadelphia, PA, US -- In recent months, newspapers and business periodicals have featured tales of how the American electronics industry had been hard-pressed to compete with the government supported Japanese manufacturers. From a national perspective, the voluntary restraints that were agreed to by the U.S. and Japan last fall have been ignored, and the situation has deteriorated to the point that trade wars are now looming.

 

Is the situation really as dire as the press generally makes it out to be? The best answer probably was given by a Washington-based spokesperson for an electronics trade organization. His response amounted to a "hard, definitive, maybe."

 

HEALTH OF OEMs: One of the major areas of concern, especially for the local electronics industry, has involved electronics firms that supply products and equipment to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). But as one industry spokesman notes, it's impossible to assess the health of that industry without first assessing the health of its customers -- the OEMs.

 

For example, the Philadelphia area is the central headquarters for most of AT&T's integrated circuit purchasing, notes Anthony Cucchi, president of Almo Electronics Philadelphia, and president of the National Electronic Distributors Association.

 

"What that means is that all the integrated circuits that AT&T uses around the country are purchased in this marketplace, and that was a big plus for the market a few years ago," Cucchi says.

 

Such a substantial buyer in the Philadelphia market bodes well for electronics suppliers to OEMs. But not all the signs are especially promising.

 

"Burroughs, for example, has moved a major division out. GE has moved a major division out, and RCA has just shut down one of its divisions over in New Jersey," explains Cucchi. "So from an electronics manufacturing standpoint, there has been something of a demise in some of the large local firms. But on the other side of the coin, you have other smaller companies who have moved in

here."

 

Cucchi notes that his company is a relatively small ($30 million) distributor of electronic parts, and his business has been basically flat from year to year. At the same time, Almo Electronics' clients also have been both up and down -- thereby indicating a tendency toward an equally flat level of business growth, he says.

 

But that doesn't mean it has to stay that way.

 

COMPUTER INDUSTRY: "Generally we see that the trends are fairly good," says Craig Silver, spokesman for General Electric. "I wouldn't say they are extraordinary, or that we are seeing any major upturns, but there are some companies in the Pennsylvania area -- especially those in the personal computer market -- that seem to be fairly strong."

 

He notes that IBM's latest announcements regarding its personal computer products have left many area OEM suppliers somewhat high and dry. What Silver fears is that the ultimate effect will be similar to what happened following previous IBM product announcements -- that is, a large number of customers will refuse to purchase IBM clone and other compatible products (one of the major

markets for many OEM suppliers) and instead wait to see what happens to IBM.

 

"That's what I'm afraid of -- that there will now be a stall," Silver says. "People will stop buying. It's not that they are going to buy IMB, because IBM is not ready to deliver. But people are just going to wait and see again, for what's coming out."

 

The IBM compatible market is much larger than IBM's own market, and that's where the majority of other OEM suppliers have major interests -- in these other clone-type manufacturers, Silver explains. Nevertheless he adds that it is still far too early to be sure of what really will happen in that market, which he says is more of a localized marketplace.

 

There has been something of an upturn in the actual computer industry -- disk drive manufacturers and things like that, Silver says -- especially for certain firms such as Franklin Computer and other board manufacturers that produce add-ons to the PC market, many of which are located in the Northern Philadelphia area.

 

FLAT OUTLOOK: A similar generally "flat" outlook was observed by Thomas F. Luce, associate director of the Wharton Economic Monitoring Project, who together with his colleague Anita Summers, produced a report entitled Economic Development within the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area.

 

The Summers/Luce report looks at specific data from various industries by SIC code, and pays particular attention to employment trends. In electronic components, the report's regional and national findings show similar results. According to Luce, 1975 employment totals for electronic

components in the eight-county area amounted to 5,165. By 1980, that total had increased to 8,172. But by 1985, the rate of increase slowed, reaching only 8,978.

 

The growth rates regionally were, for 1975 to 1980, 9.3 percent, and 1.7 percent for 1980 to 1985. This amounts to good and bad news when compared to national growth rates for the same time period: 9.3 percent a year for 1975 to 1980, and 2.6 percent for 1980 to 1985.

 

"So at least up through the third quarter of 1985, they are showing growth, although it is lower growth in the 1980s than in the 1970s," explains Luce. Furthermore, Luce notes the fact that the growth rate relative to the nation got worse is atypical, both of regional growth patterns in general -- for all employment and in high-tech as well. So there are some marginally negative indications, although the fact that there is growth at all must be viewed in a positive light, Luce says.

 

EIGHT-COUNTY GROWTH: Changes in the number of people employed in the electronics components field in the eight-county Philadelphia metropolitan area from 1975 through 1985 were as follows:

 

According to Luce, the figures show that much of the growth the counties experienced tended to be employment that already exists, with the possible exception of the city, which has all the pressures on manufacturing that are typical across all sectors, whether they are high-tech or not.

 

GROWTH OF SMALL FIRMS: As Almo's Cucchi notes, in spite of the fact that some important divisions of major corporations have drifted away, there still have been a number of little companies that have cropped up in the computer business that were in the million to five million dollar range of operations to take their place. Much of the growth also has come not only from the new startups coming in, but also the smaller companies that are growing, Cucchi adds.

 

"That's where we're seeing a lot of our growth -- in the smaller to medium-sized companies, in the computer field, doing specialized things," Cucchi says. This increased specialization may have helped undermine the larger companies to some extent, but just as important has been the movement offshore, and that continues to be a major concern of the electronics community, he adds.

 

As Cucchi notes, there is a trend nationally for electronics manufacturers to send their manufacturing offshore. But the important question, he says, is whether or not it is happening more in the Philadelphia area than in other geographic markets -- and that doesn't seem to be happening to any significant degree.

 

Statistics show that the overall electronics industry was up mildly in 1986 over 1985. Projections for 1987, meanwhile show a further modest increase of about seven percent gross -- down from compounded annual growth rates that the industry had been experiencing in prior years, which were upwards of 20 percent.

 

OVERLOOKING COMMERCIAL MARKETS: Part of the reason for this fall in the growth rate might be attributable to U.S. manufacturer's reluctance to develop their technological breakthroughs for domestic purposes.

 

"U.S. producers gave up the manufacture of 35mm cameras a long time ago, or VCRs, where we developed the technology, but our industry didn't commercialize it at the consumer level," notes Ago Ambre, senior economist in the Office of the Undersecretary for Economic Affairs, U.S. Department of Commerce. Instead, it was done only as a studio apparatus.

 

In the meantime, Japanese manufacturers were moving into micro-miniaturization, and using transistors to develop small hi-fidelity speakers for small radios and other consumer products. The simple fact is, in so many ways American industry failed to go that route, Ambre says. In addition, he notes that Secretary Malcolm Baldridge has made statements to the effect that U.S. industry's top management could have performed better in that regard.

 

"Part of what we are experiencing now is the lack of any CB craze. We don't have a calculator craze. The PC craze is there, although I don't know where it is going," explains GE's Silver. "Domestically, we basically missed out on the VCR, and the compact discs, which are sort of the next wave type generations. So I don't really know what's going to happen domestically to spur on this particular industry."

 

For the moment, it seems unlikely that American manufacturers will be catching up with their Japanese counterparts any time soon, either. And the reasons why are only partially related to unfair tariffs and import quotas.

 

According to one trade association source, it would be virtually impossible for U.S. government officials to provide the same kind of support which the Japanese government gives to its industry.

 

TWENTY PERCENT MARKET SHARE: After World War II the Japanese government paid for

new, state of the art U.S. machinery. These pieces were later taken apart in Japanese facilities, redesigned to avoid patent infringement laws, then reconfigured and sold to U.S. consumers at lower prices. Meanwhile, tax incentives encouraged Japanese businesses to buy home-grown equipment instead of American imports. Other government subsidies helped foster the development of the Japanese export market.

 

According to the source, Japan's social-economic character also helped to encourage that country's investment in new, promising technologies. For example, a Japanese manufacturer's first goal is to capture a strategic market share, even if it means sacrificing short-term profitability, explains the trade association source. That strategy is possible because the Japanese government and financial institutions will underwrite the firm's activities until it is able to achieve its goal of 20 percent market share, by which time it will also have become a profit-making company.

 

Such a strategy would be virtually impossible in the American economic system, because American investors banks would not be willing to put up the money needed to underwrite an operation that is not realizing a successful return on profits.

 

"If you take a look at our industry, I don't think we ever get done paying for the equipment," says GE's Silver. "We are constantly putting in new facilities and new types of equipment to catch up with the next technology. As a result, we keep changing, but we never quite get there."

 

SHORT-TERM, SHORT-SIGHTED: Furthermore, the promise of new trade barriers against Japanese imports probably won't mean that American manufacturers necessarily take advantage of the lull in competition to rebuild their competitive edge.

 

"If the Japanese stopped shipping into this country, U.S. manufacturers simply would start sending more assembly offshore, where labor is cheaper," Silver says, noting that American investors traditionally have not liked investing capital where the best chance of a significant return would only be found in the long-term.

 

Instead of dealing forcefully with the domestic situation, the American manufacturers' approach tends to be -- "what is our rate of return, and what can we return to investors this month?" he says. "It's not -- what is my capital investment over the next five years going to do for me in the business."

 

"One of the things that does scare me about putting some embargoes against the Japanese is that it would be inflationary," Silver says. "I simply don't believe the majority of the American manufacturers are going to be able to come up to speed fast enough to produce the products -- the price will just be higher.

 

"So the real question is -- what is the real commitment from individual investors to invest in long-term businesses in this industry? And I don't know what that answer is."


 

 

 

Space Age Materials: Fast-Moving Business in the Area

By Thomas Derr

 

02/18/1987

Focus

Pg. 112

 

 

Philadelphia, PA, US -- For thousands of years, ancient alchemists employed magic potions, exotic

chemical experiments, and even some supernatural incantations as they ardently search in vain for the secret of turning ordinary materials into gold.

 

Nowadays gold seems to have lost a little of its luster, but that hasn't stopped some modern scientists from trying to turn a profit by creating vast new arrays of exotic materials and advanced processes.

 

Broadly speaking, the field is known as advanced materials processing, and as explained by the people at JACA Corp., a management, engineering, and management consulting firm in Fort Washington, that broad title can include any number of revolutionary and innovative products and applications.

 

COMPREHENSIVE STUDY: JACA Corporation recently announced that it was making available, for a fee, a comprehensive study of the work of 150 of the nation's hottest companies involved in advanced materials research.

 

According to JACA executive associate Chuck Marshall, these firms can be divided into three categories: advanced composites, high performance ceramics, and high performance metals.

 

Much of the advanced composite business is related to the aerospace industry, where high strength and durability, as well as lighter weights, and consolidation of parts are always major concerns. These attributes are gained through complex combinations of ceramics, metals and polymers to create a variety of resins, fibers, fabrics, adhesives, prepress and shapes for specialized uses. In fact, the aircraft Voyager, which recently completed the first nonstop flight around the world, is made largely from advanced composite materials.

 

But other applications of advanced composites are quickly being developed, as well -- for use in such diverse areas as radar, ballistics, and the construction of golf clubs and tennis rackets.

 

AUTOMOTIVE AND BIOMEDICAL USES: At Drexel University's Fibrous Materials Research Center, Dr. Frank Ko is working on new applications for use in automotive and biomedical fields as well. Dr. Ko says his main focus is on the design and create three-dimensional, net-shaped structure composites, which have an extremely high level of resistance to damage.

 

"For example, I-beams are metal now, and we are trying to make them lighter, stronger and more durable," Dr. Ko explains. "So if you want to make an I-beam today, you have to go through all this laborious hand-layer process. The first thing we have done is to address that problem by trying to make it directly through integrating the fibrous material into a net shape in one process."

 

Near net shape manufacturing involves creating a product as close to its final shape as is possible, thereby eliminating costly production steps.

 

"If you want an I-beam, we design it using the computer, demonstrate it in our laboratory to actually produce that article and eventually concentrate the fibrous material into a matrix," he says.

 

DRAWBACK OF LAMINATION: However, Dr. Ko notes that there are two problems confronting the composite industry. The first involves lamination. Because most of today's composites are laminated composites, there is often significant weakness between the layers of the laminate.

 

That prevents conventional composites from being used in structural applications such as direct replacement of metal for items such as I-beams, and other structural members, as well as what might be the next generation of space planes. The existing composite material simply would not be able to withstand the stresses such applications would involve, Dr. Ko says.

 

"The other problem confronting the composite industry, and the reason we do not use composites as much in the engineering area, is that they are too damned expensive," says Dr. Ko. "It's also too laborious and not precise enough. But we still want to get away from hand layering so we can make this structure as nearly net-shaped manufacture as could be adaptable for computer control, robotic control, and that sort of thing."

 

The benefit is that the material created will have a high damage tolerance and once the laborious process is solved, industry eventually will be able to scale up for large quantity manufacturing.

Currently the most common uses for such items include turbine components for industry, as well as aerospace applications, helicopter shafts and shafts and connecting rods for automobiles.

 

REPLACING HUMAN PARTS: "On the other hand, the same principle can apply to biomedical applications," Dr. Ko says. "For example, for bone replacements -- hip joints, hip implants -- it's a completely untapped area in the next decade or so, and as we live longer and we get more old people, and people exercise more, there is a tremendous need for body part replacement. So we are doing something in that area, using, again, these fibrous structures."

 

Some of the specific applications on which Dr. Ko's team is \\ing include the development of artificial finger joints, simulating the fibrous structures to ligament prostheses, and artificial ligaments, and composite that will replace the metal plates that are currently used in some bone reconstruction and which are not very compatible with the human body.

 

"The human body is all fibrous material," says Dr. Ko. "And who knows better than nature? The tree is also all fibrous materials. Now we are just trying to learn from nature, in combining the contribution of fiber -- and the matrix can be plastic, metal, ceramic, or perhaps something more common.

 

"So when you integrate that fibrous network. You can combine the best of the two worlds -- the fibrous members have tensive strength, while the matrix can give you the compressive property, the thermo property, and all those other properties that the fibers sometimes may not have. Thus, when you put the two together, then you have a composite."

 

STEEL ANOTHER BENEFICIARY: According to Dr. Barry Stein, director of research programs for the Advanced Technology Center at the University City Science Center, America's steel industry is another potential beneficiary of advanced materials research.

 

"The steel industry of course is having economic troubles, and they need help in making improvements," says Dr. Stein. "It turns out, steel making is beginning to change in this country, and a process called continually-cast steel is starting to develop. That is, you pour in into a hopper at one end, and out comes the steel from the other end -- without doing batches."

 

Anyone who has gone through a high school social studies class probably has seen photos of the large ladles that are used for mixing batches of steel. According to Dr. Stein, instead of mixing the steel in the ladle, and pouring it in separate batches, the new technique is much simpler, and more efficient. Basically, material is poured into the top of the processing system, and steel comes out the bottom.

 

EFFICIENT PRODUCTION: "The Europeans and the Japanese are well advanced in this, and the United States has been going into it because of the competitive situation," Dr. Stein notes. "The project we have been funding is to develop a certain material which allows this process to happen efficiently, because when you are pouring all this material into the top, if it's not homogeneous, if it sticks to the walls of the hopper, if it somehow segregates in some complicated way, you get lousy steel."

 

Dr. Stein says the process makes use of materials called mold powder releases, which allow the steel to pass from top to bottom through an intermediate vessel in a smooth way without any unusual things happening.

 

"Our project was to help this small company in Philadelphia that was expanding its plant to develop these very specialized types of powders to allow them to compete with the Japanese," Dr. Stein says. "It's a big item in this country. And they are just coming on line this month to use the powders and the improved materials that were developed for the project. It's an older industry, but it's really a good situation, and it may have ramifications for the rest of the steel industry."

 

According to Dr. Stein, the academic project leader was the head of Drexel's materials engineering department, Dr. Diran Apelian.

 

SOLIDIFICATION PROCESS: Dr. Apelian has been involved not only in powder metallurgy, but in solidification processing as well.

 

"Those are both processes that lead you to a final component," says Dr. Apelian. "With powder metallurgy, you start with powders of a metal, like sugar on your table. You pour this powder into a cavity, which is a replica of the final product that you want, then you compact it so that it is physically being held. Then you have to thermal treat it so that diffusion takes place, and before you know it, you have your final shape."

 

In the solidification area, Drexel possesses the world's only Osprey pilot plant which measures approximately 40 ft. x 30 ft. in space, and contains nearly a half million dollar piece of equipment. That equipment is used to melt down as much as 80 pounds of metal, which is then atomized at very high pressures with nitrogen gas. The atomized droplets, which measure about 40 microns in diameter are then sent cascading downward toward a special cavity.

 

"The reason we don't just pour liquid metal is that the small droplets solidify much quicker, so we can control the microstructure," says Dr. Apelian. "It's not just the shape.

 

"When you are talking about near net shape manufacturing, it's also the whole business of materials and engineering science working to design and create products that have a direct, practical application."

 

PRODUCING SPECIFIC STRUCTURES: According to Apelian, the challenge for him and his coworker is to use their technical know-how to produce components that have a specific set of properties or even, specific structures.

 

"The Osprey is one thing under solidification processing which is very active," says Dr. Apelian. An additional subheading under solidification involves plasma processing of materials for making ceramic materials or intermetallic materials by reacting the melt with plasmas, he adds.

 

"There are many companies that are working with us in exploratory programs," he says. "There are research programs, with the Navy, the National Science Foundation, and a lot of projects. And the thrust is not just taking a material that somebody has made at Argonne National Labs, putting it under a microscope and characterizing it. Rather our thrust is how to make it, and what are the processes and variables, and what are the models. In any given model, you have a

bunch of input variables, and whatever models that the industrial sector is going to need to take this, implement it, and use it."

 

That practical approach serves as the primary guideline for much of the advanced materials work taking place in the Philadelphia area, especially those programs which are being conducted under the auspices of the Ben Franklin Partnership, of which the Advanced Technology Center is a part, says Dr. Stein.

 

CONNECTIONS BETWEEN INDUSTRY AND UNIVERSITIES: "This program has enabled us to start making these connections between the universities and industry," says Dr. Stein. "At the same time, it has helped educate both parties. It has helped the industrial person, because he sees he can work with the university, whereas before there may have been a prejudice about that. And it has made the university researcher more appreciative of the fact that there is interesting work going on in industry, and that they can also work with industry."

 

"It's pretty obvious that what is now happening in the U.S. is that there are shortages," he adds. "People realize that resources are limited, and so consortia type activities are getting more popular. And this working with universities, with government support, forming centers of excellence for groups to focus on particular problems. And I think one of the big benefits has been in addition to the job production, which is the main goal of the state, more investment in companies, company expansion, job creation, more hiring, and so on."

 

ENTREPRENEURIAL-TYPE FIRMS: Philadelphia is particularly well suited to accomplish this feat, because of the impressive array of university resources, and the growing number of new entrepreneurial type companies that are springing up, says Dr. Apelian.

 

"Look at what's happening on Route 95 -- in Newtown, and what's happening in that area," he says. "There are robotics-related companies coming along, and materials-related companies coming along. Look at the number of universities between Princeton and Philadelphia, and throughout the whole region -- Princeton, Rutgers, Drexel, Delaware, Penn, and lots of companies."

 

"So you really have a chance to focus in on the market niches and see where the opportunities lie. And there is a vast number of different market niches. I think we're sitting on a gold mine here."

 

 

 


Future Energy Needs Well Within Utilities' Capacity, Experts Note

By Thomas Derr

 

11/26/1986

Focus

Pg. 26

 

 

Philadelphia, PA, US -- A few years ago, one of the most important questions facing Delaware Valley planners was not necessarily how to supply the energy needs of future industries, businesses and residential customers. Instead, most people seemed to be concerned with how to hold on to those major industries the area still had. After all, if the industries were closing down and leaving the area, why worry about how to supply them with energy?

 

Now, for the most part, the economic problems which the greater Philadelphia area experienced several years ago seem to have bottomed out. As we return to the road to recovery, perhaps now it is time to raise that question again: Are our local utilities prepared to handle the growing residential and commercial expansion that is taking hold in the area?

 

The answer, in a word, seems to be: "Yes."

 

GRADUAL GROWTH: "For a while during the 1970s and early 1980s, we saw a decline in the area's manufacturing and commercial capacity, which tended to decrease the energy demands placed upon Philadelphia Electric Co.," says Richard Kindt, supervisor of market research for PECO.

 

But over the past few years, that erosion in the industrial market place has been replaced by a period of gradual growth. As a result, PECO is now forecasting a period of "modest growth" which should amount to approximately one percent per year over the next 10 years.

 

That might not seem like much, Kindt admits, but it is better than many other localities in the rust belt northeast, particularly areas such as Western Pennsylvania, where severe economic problems have been chronic and the shutdown of major industrial and manufacturing facilities has helped bring about a steady decrease in the energy demands placed on the utility which once served them.

 

Kindt says that PECO's energy producing capacity will be more than adequate to supply the needs of its Delaware Valley customers. To supply these energy needs, PECO will continue to rely primarily on its nuclear and oil power plant facilities.

 

"We have virtually no coal generation plants anymore," notes Kindt. But that statement is not meant to imply that PECO is producing its electricity via a series of brand-spanking new generating facilities.

 

"One of the biggest concerns facing us right now is the age of our generating equipment," Kindt explains. "Our newest plant is located at Eddystone, and that was completed in 1965. That makes it 21 years old. When you consider that the usual life of a generating plant is about 35 years old, you can begin to see just how close we are coming to reaching a time when some positive action will

have to be taken."

 

NUCLEAR TO THE RESCUE: At the same time, however, Kindt notes that some of the electrical demands that are now being placed on the aging plants will be picked up by the Limerick 2 nuclear generator when it comes on-line in 1990.

 

A similar situation exists in Southern and Central New Jersey, where Public Service Electric and Gas is charged with satisfying much of the energy needs of Camden, Princeton, and nearly 300 other municipalities throughout the region. In all, PSE&G services approximately three-fourths of New Jersey's total population.

 

To meet this extraordinary energy demand, PSE&G primarily relies on a mixture of nuclear and coal generating facilities to supply electricity to residential, commercial and industrial customers throughout the region. And, like PECO, PSE&G should have no trouble meeting their foreseeable energy needs, according to Ed Anderson, general manager of PSE&G.

 

"Aside from our current operating facilities, we will have a major nuclear generating facility coming on line near the beginning of 1987," says Anderson. That nuclear facility is located at Hope Creek, in Salem County. "Once that comes on-line, we don't anticipate having to build another major generating station until after the year 2000," he adds.

 

So even with the tremendous business growth and commercial development that is happening in areas such as Princeton and the Route One Corridor, PSE&G will have no problems supplying whatever electrical and natural gas demands its customer may have, Anderson asserts.

 

He also notes that additional energy could be obtained on an as-needed basis through the Mid-Atlantic Connection, which is an agreement with other power companies in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, which enables utilities to purchase economical electricity from one another if it is required.

 

COGENERATION: Not all of the problems facing utilities can be solved so easily, however. In recent months, several large educational and health care institutions have announced that they would investigate cogeneration options in order to save on their enormous energy bills.

 

For example, the University of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with Amtrak, has undertaken a study involving a plan aimed at converting its energy supplies away from the existing steam loop which is currently supplied via PECO generation. The plan would probably utilize natural gas-driven turbines to create both electricity and heat for its two huge customers. According to Walter T. Senek, vice president of rates for the Philadelphia Gas Works, Amtrak seems interested in the electricity that would be generated, while the University of Pennsylvania would use the heat.

 

In any case, such a plan would mean an important loss in the customer base for PECO, and that loss of revenues would probably have to be made up via higher premiums for the rest of the customer base.

 

There is another drawback, as well, says PECO's Kindt. Should Penn and Amtrak decide to go ahead with its cogeneration plan, they would run the risk of becoming susceptible to uncertain oil and natural gas prices, he says. In other words, if the price of oil should suddenly shoot up once again -- and that is certainly not beyond the stretch of the imagination, given the experiences of

the late 1970s and the recent shakeups in Saudi Arabia's petroleum affairs -- then energy costs for the two large consumers could be higher than ever.

 

TRASH-TO-STEAM: Other plans that are in the offing in the Delaware Valley may also eventually take their toll. In Montgomery County, a new trash-to-steam plant is being planned that will come on-line in 1989.

 

According to Jerry Hoff, the director of Public Works for Montgomery County, the facility is not being developed as an answer to increased energy needs. Instead, it is an answer to the growing trash disposal problem that is afflicting not only the City of Philadelphia (which may or may not ever construct its own trash-to-steam plant -- but also equally hard-pressed suburban municipalities.

 

Still, PECO is obligated by law to buy back the electricity which the trash-to-steam plant creates, Hoff says.

 

According to PGW's Senek, cogeneration plans such as that being studied by the University of Pennsylvania and Amtrak demonstrate the growing recognition of the high cost of energy.

 

"What we are seeing is a greater emphasis on replacing older, less efficient equipment with more modern and efficient equipment," says Senek.

 

NEW TECHNOLOGIES: In view of the greater effort being placed on energy savings

over the past few years, there also has been more emphasis given to the investigation of new technologies and new avenues for using existing services, he adds.

 

For example, Senek notes that PGW is receiving more and more requests for natural gas-powered air conditioners which would cool homes and offices by using an absorption process, instead of relying on expensive electrical power during summertime peak loads. A significant growth in consumer demand for such a product would mean additional revenues for PGW, which usually sees its peak demand period during the winter months. In fact, Senek estimates that PGW's load factor ratio between winter and summer months is currently about seven or nine-to-one.

 

"In view of that, we are constantly exploring new areas for increasing our summer load," Senek explains.

 

PGW would also stand to gain somewhat from the University of Pennsylvania's cogeneration plan. The new turbine would be powered by natural gas. It would be driven to generate electricity for Amtrak, and the heat that would be produced as a result would serve the University's needs.

 

Another area of aggressive competition between PECO and PGW is in the center city office construction business. Senek notes that electric company technicians have been proposing plans that would use lighting as a part of the new buildings' heating sources. And at the same time, PGW has been pushing its natural gas-powered air conditioning/heating proposals.

 

"One plus for us is that more and more people are beginning to look at their energy needs from a nonconventional perspective," Senek says. That has developed gradually over the past 10 to 15 years. Back when oil was a few cents a gallon, it didn't pay anyone to fix the steam traps in their buildings, so that the steam would not be released into the air, he explains. As a result, Philadelphia's skyline offered a myriad of vapor colonnades every chilly winter morning.

 

"Now people realize they can't afford to waste that energy, and we have developed new technologies that take advantage of many of the things that once were left as waste," Senek says. "And you can see that in our absorption air conditioning and our cogeneration technologies.

 

"It's like making sausage. We take that pig and we use everything but the squeal. These days, it's the same for energy."


 

 

 

Zoo's Computer System Keeps Tigers Cool and Reptiles Warm

By Thomas Derr

 

02/19/1986

Focus

Pg. 96

 

 

Philadelphia, PA, US -- THE intelligence level at the Philadelphia Zoo keeps getting higher and higher. It has nothing to do with how smart the animals are. And no one is casting aspersions on the keepers, either.

 

For the past year and a half, the zoo has been entering the computer age by installing the first phase of a new, high-tech facilities management system. This self-monitoring environmental control system makes sure the warm-blooded lions are allowed a comfortable 68-70 degrees, while the cold-blooded reptiles in the basement are quarantined at 90 degrees.

 

Michael Barford, whose Cherry Hill, N.J. firm, Michael Barford & Associates, installed the new system says the computerized maintenance program also tracks purchase of maintenance items, thus controlling inventory and overhead.

 

PROBES IN CAGES: To give each animal the environment it lives in naturally, a series of probes, including temperature sensors, are mounted in animal cages and in other key locations. The system also uses input status sensors and input pulse meters. Information about the environment in each cage or office area is relayed over low voltage 'control' wires to a centrally-located microcomputer.

 

The microcomputer is continually diagnosing the environment in the cages and automatically dials out instructions to the boiler, to the HVAC equipment and to the electric generators over power line carriers. Those devices in turn regulate the temperature and electricity in the cages as needed. The power lines are actually electrical wires, on which radio frequency signals are imposed.

 

REDUNDANT COMMANDS: Not all the electrical devices in the zoo's new building intelligence system are controlled via power line carrier modules, however. The power line carrier inputs have a reliability factor of about 95 percent, which means that five percent of the time, the initial command to turn on a heater will be missed by the system.

 

"That could happen if there's some noise on the line, or if someone is running a power saw, for example," says Barford. "We compensate for that five percent by issuing redundant commands. If I say 'turn on the heater', then five minutes later say 'turn on the heater', and five minutes after that say 'turn on the heater' -- the device may miss the first command but it will pick up the command

the second time."

 

For critical devices, such as boilers and pumps, whose continued operation are essential to ensure that the animals are kept warm, the system uses direct-wired input and output devices which, Barford says, are 100 percent reliable.

 

"We know if the command is going to come in, that it's going to come in accurately," he says, "So when we're talking about temperature monitoring of areas where we have an animal worth $50,000 -- I don't want to deal with that five percent of unknown. I would never want one of those animals on my conscience."

 

BRAIN IN BASEMENT: The brain of the system is on the wall in the basement of the lion house. It's an unobtrusive piece of equipment and seems at first glance to be little more than a gray box -- similar to an ordinary fuse box or circuit breaker box.

 

"Different types of systems are available," says Barford. "Some have lights on the front. You can even get some systems with flat screens and a keypad so you can operate them from that point. But no one ever needs to come in here."

 

The basement provides a good, central location from which to communicate with the zoo's other facilities that are nearby and on-line -- the elephant house and the tree house. The system features an electric meter which can be read either at that location or on the screen of a Kaypro personal computer about 500 yards away.

 

Here, Chris Winter in the maintenance department can monitor the system. The computer in the basement of the lion house is continually storing historical data, which Winter can call up on his screen any time to check if the system is working smoothly.

 

"Now all of the buildings are under the same control system. They can talk back to us and tell us what's happening. So it really becomes an incredible diagnostic tool -- because as soon as a problem occurs, bingo, there it is on the computer screen," notes Barford.

 

He offers a possible scenario with discernibly dire consequences: "Suppose the boiler misfires -- goes off on reset, the boiler temperature starts to drop. If the temperature in the offices doesn't drop noticeably by 5, when the staff starts to leave for home, no one reports the problem. That building will go through a whole night with no boiler, and by the time someone comes in the next day, it could be freezing cold. Only then will someone call up and complain. But with this system, if something goes down, the system will tell us it's down, and we'll fix it. Nobody will even know it went down, because we found out first."

 

HELPS BREEDING: The beneficiaries of this system will be the animals. Not only will this system help ensure an environment for everyday living, but also for breeding purposes.

 

"This is a breeding zoo," notes Barford. "I've seen all kinds of births here. For instance, we have a baby rhino that's fourteen weeks old. It's only the eighth rhino bred in captivity. That makes it a very special animal."

 

Should that rhino be exposed to freezing temperatures, its life would undoubtedly be placed in danger. In fact, according to Barford, the Philadelphia Zoo lost a rhino several years before the system was installed and the cause was attributed to temperature. So Billy, Jr.'s home is warmed up to 74 degrees, while his family is comfortable at 68 degrees.

 

"The fact that they've been able to breed some rare animals makes this a special zoo," says Barford. "Statistics show that one species every week becomes extinct. That means breeding in captivity becomes that much more important. And the more critical breeding gets, the more critical environment gets. That's why it is so important that we be able to reproduce each animal's natural environment. Now with this environment control system, we can do that."

 

MONEY SAVER: Besides maintaining the right comfort level for the animals, zoo officials save on fuel. According to Barford, combined savings last year for the lion house (with its natural gas heat system) and the rare mammal house (oil systems) totaled about $23,000.

 

"That's only two buildings," notes Barford. "Now we're at four buildings, and soon we'll be at seven buildings. So the potential for savings here is a quarter of a million dollars a year. That's total savings in all the buildings -- and that represents about 28 percent of the zoo's total energy bill, which is about $700,000 a year."

 

Barford says before he was hired as consultant, the zoo had a lot of redundant heating systems. The zoo is really a place to show animals off in their homes, not a laboratory. Unless the animal is sick, there is no need for controlled conditions," he says.

 

Much of the savings is actually a result of a little savings in a lot of different places, according to Barford. For example, the kangaroo houses had no thermostats to control the heat. The doors to the houses were left wide open before the new system was installed. Now there are curtains across the doorways, which allow the kangaroos to enter and exit easily, and the new thermostats control heat level.

 

"It's not a big deal by any means," Barford explains. "These buildings didn't use that much energy to begin with, but you're still talking about saving maybe 35 percent of the total electricity used in these three tiny little buildings. That probably comes out to a couple of hundred bucks a year. But it's that couple of hundred here, and a couple of hundred over there -- and all of a sudden those couple of hundreds becomes a couple of thousands. And that's where it really counts."

 

And what about the cost of the system itself? Ten years ago, a system to do what this does would have been quite expensive and not as technically refined as this one, notes Barford.

 

"To get half the power I get out of this little box (the 'main brain') would have cost $60,000 to $200,000 for the computer hardware in 1976," says Barford. "Today I can buy this system for $3,000. It has twice the power, and it's much more reliable. It has battery backup -- it has everything you could desire in a system at a fraction of the cost."

 

Ten years ago, sensors cost in the neighborhood of $85 to $90 each, compared with $15 to $17 today, Barford points out. "It's like an IBM-AT computer today with the capacity and memory of a ten-year old computer that cost $50,000. You can buy that capacity and memory now for $5,000," he adds.

 

EASE OF USE: In addition to being relatively cost-effective, the intelligence system appears to be particularly user-friendly, as well. This is welcome news to the zoo's maintenance department, as well as to anyone else who may have the opportunity to use the system.

 

"You don't need to know anything about computers to operate this system," says Barford. "It's really very simple -- like a MAC machine. It's just a matter of talking with the guy who is going to run the personal computer, and finding out how he wants the information presented. In some residents owners like to have outlines of blueprints of the house, with everyone's bedroom marked, and with the information overlaid right on the blueprint. Here at the zoo, they just want the information in tabular form -- like you would if you were writing out a sheet."

 

"I can design a display screen anyway they want," Barford continues. "It's just a matter of finding out how they want it designed so that they don't get intimidated, and so that they will use the system. And that's what's important, because if they don't use the system, then you've lost the battle."

 

That, in the long run, is the most important aspect of the new building intelligence system, according to Barford -- the fact that the people at the zoo will have greater control over many aspects of the operation that previously were largely uncontrollable.

 

SHARING WITH EMPLOYEES: To give this system at the zoo an element of excitement and anticipation, management has developed a way to share savings realized in energy costs with employees. He reveals that last year, $23,000 was saved and 25 percent of this was distributed among 140 employees. The effect of this has been electrifying.

 

"The people operate the building as if it were their own," notes Barford, who is often waylaid on the zoo grounds by employees who want to draw his attention to minor problems in their building.

 

Compared to the $35 per employee in 1985, next year's savings are expected to yield $50 to $60.

 

"The savings are great, but it's really one of the incidental benefits of an automation system," says Barford. "An automation system is installed to run a plant -- to make it clear and efficient. When you drive a car, everything about that car -- all the information you need to drive that car -- is right in front of you. In the cars today, you have an onboard computer which monitors this and it monitors that -- everything is in one place. You're the driver, and you've got everything at your reach. Everything is coming back to you at a central location.

 

“Yet we build $75 million buildings -- and where's the dashboard? There is no centrally-located means of controlling many of the important functions of today's modern buildings. So essentially, that's what we're doing. What it comes down to is we're putting in the dashboard."