PRE-TEC Sales Manager Rufus Burton is featured on RIA’s Certified Integrator Spotlight!

“PRE-TEC’s management feel the RIA certification program is a positive step towards assuring current and future customers that the market for automation is bigger than any one provider. In addition it goes a long way towards demonstrating that the robotic community understands this fact. In the end, the Certification program benefits all participants – customers, and suppliers”. -Rufus Burton

Rufus-BurtonRufus Burton, Sales Manager for PRE-TEC (WVCO’s Robotics Division), sat down with RIA Robotics Industry Association (RIA) to share the company’s vision and experience on how becoming RIA certified has helped to improve our business and operations.

RIA Certification is an invaluable way for our robotics integrators and inventors to highlight their experience, capabilities, and aptitude to users, suppliers, investors, clients, and partners alike. It demonstrates that they’ve met the critical criteria determined by the RIA, which in turn means they’re an expert in best practices. In his interview, Rufus touches on this very topic.

“PRE-TEC’s management feel the RIA certification program is a positive step towards assuring current and future customers that the market for automation is bigger than any one provider. In addition it goes a long way towards demonstrating that the robotic community understands this fact. In the end, the Certification program benefits all participants – customers, and suppliers.”

Despite the industry itself going through tremendous growth and advances in recent years, RIA certification also serves as a means to address a very real issue currently facing the industry: a measurable standard of quality for vendors and robotic integrators.

“Today there are not enough accomplished integrators to serve the market, given the rapid pace at which companies are identifying their needs for automation. Complicating matters is the unfortunate fact that too many integrators have come and gone, leaving customers to question whether the vendor they select will complete the project let alone assure them of a successful result.”

riaCert

RIA certification goes a long way for those looking to hire vendors and create a working relationship with inventors and integrators to know that they person they’re meeting with has met a standard of critical criteria. This is the very reason PRE-TEC is RIA Certified. Our vision is one where our customer’s expectation is not only met, they know in entering a relationship with us they are achieving high quality.

“Because success comes when we deliver a system that meets the customer’s expectations; every time we enter into a business relationship we work hard to be certain our customers understand ‘why’ we work the way we do, and ‘how’ it benefits them. Each project is evaluated to determine if a flexible automated solutions will solve the targeted manufacturing problem of today, and help the customer prepare for the challenge of the future.”

Visit robotics.org to learn more and read the full interview. You can also read other testimonials on the RIA certification program page.

Spotlight on the reThink Wood Initiative

USACE Federal Center South Building 1202 - Photo Source: Architect Magazine

USACE Federal Center South Building 1202 – Photo Source: Architect Magazine

As new timber products gain in use and application as a mainstream construction production, they will—like any other popular building material—require ongoing research to remain useful in the ever changing construction landscape. This is the reason for the reThink Wood initiative was founded, a body of research striving to bring timber to the forefront of the construction world.

Formed in 2011, the reThink Wood initiative is a collective of interests working to represent North America’s wood industry: Cross-laminated timber (CLT), nail laminated timber (NLT), and glued laminated timber (glulam). The initiative strives to present a unified message of wood performance, sustainability, and cost.

Greater Texas Foundation - Photo Source: Architecture Magazine

Greater Texas Foundation – Photo Source: Architecture Magazine

reThink Wood offers a publicly accessible research library for anyone looking to be informed on the latest news and studies in the field of wood building products. More importantly, reThink Wood highlights where research is lacking in these given areas, thus encouraging more studies in those areas.

As previously mentioned, one of reThink Wood’s guiding principals is the advocacy and education of all things timber; such an example can be seen below in one of their educational videos on the benefits of wood construction.

Everyone with an interest in the latest advances of timber and wooden constructions should take advantage of the ever-updating research and resources that reThink Wood has to offer; we know we will be!

Source:
http://www.rethinkwood.com/

http://www.architectmagazine.com/

http://www.archdaily.com/

A Look at Mass Timber Conference 2017

Photo Source: Mass Timber Conference

Photo Source: Mass Timber Conference

Last month one of the wood industry’s most important expos, Mass Timber Conference, took place in Portland, Oregon. The event provided attendees with 3 days worth of international experts and presentations on the advancement and possibilities of the mass timber industry, cross-laminated timber, and high rise wooden constructions the world over.

80 speakers, over 60 exhibits in an expo hall, receptions, and 4 educational tracks were some of the draws that awaited attendees this year. These attendees included: Architects, Engineers, City planners, Construction companies, Sawmills, Mass timber manufacturers, Mass timber equipment manufacturers, Designers, Fire officials, Mass timber equipment suppliers, Economic developers, Policy makers, State and federal agencies, and many more.

These are just a few of the many notable and captivating lectures that took place during this year’s Mass Timber Conference:

Steve Marshall, Assistant Director of Cooperative Forestry, USDA Forest Service State & Private Forestry presented Changing the Way America Builds, a look into the strategic investments and decisions made by the Forest Service towards education, research, and outreach regarding mass timber construction.

Andrew Waugh, Principal, Waugh Thistleton Architects spoke on The Future of Mass Timber Buildings. Waugh Thisleton Architects are building Dalston Lane, a contender for the world’s tallest CLT building and previously built Murray Grove; the World’s first all timber residential tower.

Robert A. Luoto, President and CEO, Cross & Crown Inc spoke on Modern Logging in a Mass Timber World, a panel discussion that explored the sustainability, standards, and regulations of modern logging practices, and how they relate to mass timber.

Adam Taylor, Associate Professor and the Forest Products Extension Specialist, University of Tennessee’s panel on Biological Durability Considerations in Mass Timber explored the biodeterioration of wood, as well as existing techniques to address the issue.

Tall Timber in Portland, Oregon: The Future of Tall Timber in the United States was presented by Thomas Robinson, Founder of LEVER Architecture, and discussed the progress of the Framework Tower project, the West Coast winner of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Competition.

Thomas Tannert, BC Leadership Chair in Tall Wood and Hybrid Structures Engineering, University of Northern British Columbia spoke to the Recent Developments, Research and Code Implementations Related to Cross-laminated Timber in Canada and gave an in depth look at several research projects and advancements in CLT.

It would be difficult task to faithfully address every one of the fascinating lectures, panels, and exhibitors at this year’s Mass Timber Conference, and our effort only scratched the surface of what this event had to offer. The best way to experience it is to take part, thus it’s never to late to start planning for Mass Timber Conference 2018.

Sources:

http://www.masstimberconference.com/

http://waughthistleton.com/

 

The “Robot Taxation” debate carries on

Robotics

As breakthroughs in the fields of automation and robotics become more common, so do debates into the realities of a changing workflow. The topic of taxation of robots — specifically the taxation of firms that utilize robots for automaton purposes — is one such example of these ongoing discussions, though one without a clear solution.

Last month, Bill Gates spoke to Quartz on the subject of robot taxation, stating “right now, if a human worker does $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think we’d tax the robot at a similar level. You cross the threshold of job-replacement of certain activities all sort of at once. So, you know, warehouse work, driving, room cleanup, there’s quite a few things that are meaningful job categories that, certainly in the next 20 years, being thoughtful about that extra supply is a net benefit. It’s important to have the policies to go with that.” This opinion, however, met its share of criticism; similarly a proposed measure in Europe to tax corporations that utilize robots was quickly shot down.

Robot taxation raises several hard to answer questions and difficulties. One such obstacle is the clarification of what constitutes a robot. Is a robot defined as a piece of software that automates a complex process? Is it a physical piece of automated technology? The nebulous nature of this definition creates an obstacle in the adoption of such a tax. Where is the line drawn?

A common argument made for taxation of robots is job loss — if a robot is doing the job a person could then that will result in a lost job. Though this is certainly true with any automated process, economists and other experts view the net-growth possibilities as a worthwhile investment. Economist James Bessen wrote in his response to Bill Gates’s interview “although automation will lead to further job losses in manufacturing, warehouse operations, and truck driving, the overall impact of automation across most industries will be to increase employment,” going on to compare the impact on productivity to the introduction of the bar-code scanner or ATM.

Further complicating the discussion of robot taxation is that many view it as a superficial solution to a complex problem. Robots and automated processes are not going away, after all. To this end many sides of the discussion would prefer a long-term solution to the changing workforce, such as the adoption of a universal income in order to adequately prepare for a future with growing number of automated processes.

The debate of robot taxation currently has no clear answer and will undoubtedly carry on in the near-future. One thing is clear: automated processes are not going anywhere, be they robotic manufacturing assembly or self-driving automobiles. What solutions and measures are adopted with them, however, remain to be seen.

Sources:

Quartz

Forbes

The Guardian

Fortune

 

The world’s tallest CLT building will soon be overshadowed.

“Steel was the 1800s materials, concrete 1900s. Now we are in the 2000s and it is time for timber.” – Susanne Rudemstan, head of the Swedish Wood Building Council

“The Tree,” the aptly named 173-foot wooden Norwegian apartment block leads the way as timber buildings —or “plyscrapers” as they are affectionately called— grow in popularity the world over. It currently holds the title as the world’s tallest Timber Building,— but it may not hold it for much longer.

Come May 2017, the University of British Columbia will finish Brock Commons student residence, 17-story tall and the soon-to-be tallest wooden construction in the world.  Of course, who knows how long that title will hold? With such proposed constructions as the 80-story timber tower to be built on Chicago’s waterfront, the very next contender may be coming sooner than we think.

Tallwood-Design-Institute-Logo (1)

Just this month, Oregon State University announced the TallWood Design Institute, structured around the advancement of wood constructions and the research, education, and teaching towards the development of wooden buildings. Thomas Maness, dean of the College of Forestry, describes the institute: “Oregon’s forest products industry and sustainable design profession are recognized for their products and progressive leadership internationally. The TallWood Design Institute works to link these two together in order to grow and leverage the use of new wood products in sustainable building design.”  As institutes like the TallWood Design Institute grow in number along with initiatives like the Timber Innovation Act, we can expect a bright future for the “plyscraper.”

Sources:

Daily Mail

World’s tallest wood building completed at UBC

Woodworking Network

Construction Dive

2017 sees growing number of CLT-based classrooms

Photo Source Yakima Herald

Photo Source Yakima Herald

Adams Elementary School of Wapato, Washington will soon have its first Cross-Laminated Timber-based classrooms, thanks to a five-school-district initiative to use CLT in elementary school classrooms. Washington Department of Enterprise Services project manager Debra Delzell says “It’s a very up and coming product that is used in Europe and has been used there for over 20 years.”

She’s not wrong, CLT constructions are on the rise both in Europe and the United States. With such initiatives as the Timber Innovation Act, the United States may very well soon see more CLT constructions in the very near future. When considering the Benefits of Cross-Laminated Timber – such as reduced carbon footprint, heat insulation, faster construction, lower costs – it comes as little surprise that the state pushed for its use.

Another school undergoing a Cross-Laminated Timber construction project is Jefferson Elementary of the Mount Vernon school district. The four-classroom building is part of an ongoing initiative to lower the number of students per classroom. Thanks to the quick construction time of CLT projects, these classrooms are expected to be sitting students in the 2017/2018 school years.

Affordable, environmentally friendly, and quick to produce; as more institutions embrace this innovative building material, we expect to see more CLT constructions in educational institutions like Adams Elementary in the very near future.

Sources:

GoSkagit

ForestBusinessNetwork

KimaTV

YakimaHerald

Railroad Day on Capitol Hill

Capitol_at_Dusk_2

In a few short weeks, advocates and representatives of the Railroad Industry will make their annual journey to Washington DC to make their messages heard by lawmakers. This important annual event, Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, is taking place on March 2nd, 2017, at the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown, 999 9th St, NW, Washington, DC.

With the ever-shifting political climate, it’s more important than ever to be heard.  As anyone who has taken part in the event before knows, it’s the most effective way for the railroad industry’s message to be reached by Congress and can only succeed if everyone turns out in order to present a unified industry.

New Dome Railroad Day Logo - 2017

The event takes place over the course of one day with appointments, meetings, and events all organized in order to communicate the important role that the railroad industry plays in America’s economy, improving our country’s role in global marketplace, and our ongoing success in helping the environment.

Attendees of Railroad Day will have the opportunity to speak directly with decision makers and help promote real change. “Railroad Day is our single most impactful day of the year with Congressional leaders,” said Linda Darr, president of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, of 2016’s Railroad Day. “We had the opportunity to address issues of importance to our industry and the shipper customers we serve.”

Attendance is open to all Class I, II, and III railroad personnel, shippers, state and local government representatives, as well as members from the supplier community with an interest in furthering the political goals of the railroad industry. To learn more, please visit www.aslrra.org.

Photo Credit: By Martin Falbisoner – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, www.commons.wikimedia.org

NRC-REMSA 2017 Wrap Up

NRC-REMSA2017

Photo Source: REMSA Twitter

Last month, a team from Willamette Valley Company’s Railroad Division had the privilege of traveling to Boca Raton, Florida to meet with industry representatives and officials at the NRC-REMSA 2017 Conference and Exhibition. This year’s event proved once again to be an unparalleled opportunity for WVCO and other railway businesses to connect directly with professionals representing all segments of the industry. We appreciated the opportunity to listen to your questions and concerns about the growing number of challenges this industry faces and introduce you to our wood-tie remediation and other repair products.

NRC-REMSA

The annual NRC Conference and NRC-REMSA Exhibition encompassed more than 1,000 attendees, 150 exhibitors and over 25,000 square-feet of meeting space. It was a pleasure to join the many other members of the railroad industry; including service firms, manufacturers, suppliers and contractors to answer questions about our railroad products and POLYQuik Roadway Repair materials, Joint Fillers and Light-Rail Grout. Other participants of the conference/exhibition included: Union Pacific, SANDAG (San Diego), Genesee and Wyoming, Caltrans, CSX, California Rail, LA Metro, Alaska Railroad, Norfolk Southern, Canadian National, New York MTA, Watco, OmniTRAX and many others.

Speakers

Event-goers had the chance to take in seminars from key individuals in the railway and transportation industry. Rob Castiglione, the Staff Director of Human Performance Program for the Office of Railroad Safety FRA presented “Overview of FRA Part 243 Minimum Training Standards Final Rule,” where he expanded on training requirements for all railroad employees and contractors who perform safety related work, the history of the rule, and the role of associations like NRC.

John Zuspan of Track Guy Consultants presented “Means and Methods for Direct Fixation, Low Vibration Track & Embedded Track,” a seminar on the means and methods for embedded track construction.

Jerry Power’s seminar on “Overview of FRA Part 219 Drug & Alcohol Regulation for Maintenance-of-Way Workers Final Rule”  covered  the scope of FRA’s alcohol and drug regulations to cover employees who work in railroad maintenance.

Lastly, Lesa Forbes, Senior International Trade Specialist, U.S. Commercial Service, spoke on new opportunities abroad and how US Commercial Services can help your firm expand your international business.

HallOfFame

Photo Source RT&S

The event also saw the induction of new members into the NRC Hall of Fame, Ron Brown, John Zuspan, and Rick Ebersold. The three were honored for their work in NRC, REMSA, and the railway industry as a whole.

Below are some photos of NRC-REMSA 2017, courtesy of REMSA’s Twitter page.

NRC-REMSA2017

Photo Source: REMSA 2017

NRC-REMSA2017

Photo Source: REMSA Twitter

WVCO was proud to take a part in NRC-REMSA 2017 and look forward to taking part once again next year!

Sources:

Railway News

NCRMA

RT & S

Nora Ayanian sees a future of autonomous robot coordination

Nora Ayanian

Photo Source Tumo

“Teams of humans are exceptionally good at coordination. Teams of robots, however, are clumsy at coordination, requiring extensive communication and computation.” – Nora Ayanian

There’s no denying it, robots are incomparably skilled when carrying out a specific given task, even if that task requires some light improvisation. The same can’t be said, however, when robots are forced to worked together; the overlap in work either results in extra work on the programming side or redundant/ineffective task management on the robot side. But what if robots could coordinate themselves autonomously depending on what the other robots are currently doing? It may sound like something out of Westworld, but this is exactly the question that Nora Ayanian is working to answer.

Nora Ayanian, assistant professor and Director of the ACT (Automatic Coordination of Teams) Lab at USC, endeavors to make robots and robotics a very real part of everyday life. “I want to make robots easy to use and have them everywhere,” said Ayanian, “they should be accessible, user-friendly and interactive so you can have them in your house and in your car. Right now, robots are really difficult for novices to use.”

Despite her passion for the robotic, her goal to achieve robotic automation would require researching a much less predictable source: people. By developing an online multiplayer game with funding from the National Science Foundation CAREER award, Ayanian was able to study the ways that humans can coordinate together when presented with very little information or communication tools. This research would prove invaluable in defining an automated coordination system for robots and allow to them to “think” of solutions for problems based on the activities of the greater robotic team.

Though automated coordination could certainly be applied to groups of identical robots with identical programming, Nora Ayanian believes that diversity, both in terms of team and of the robots themselves, is the key to solving complex tasks.

“The way we solve multi-robot problems right now is to uniformly apply one control policy to all of the identical robots in the team. For example, imagine we’re trying to monitor air quality with a team of physically identical aerial robots. If we considered all the factors that could affect the problem, the robots, and their capabilities, we might have too many factors to consider and our problem would be intractable,” wrote Ayanian in a blog post for Justmeans.com. “Imagine that same team of aerial robots assisted by robots on the ground. The robots on the ground could provide additional information such as temperature, position, topography, and satellite communications via hardware the aerial robots might not be able to carry. They could also perform computation, telling the aerial robots where to go and mapping the air quality, allowing the aerial robots to use more of their on-board energy for sensing.”

The contributions Nora Ayanian has made to the field of robotics don’t just end with the vast potential of her research, they are also every present in the new generation of roboticists she inspires and works alongside in her role as Director of USC’s ACT lab. We are incredibly excited to see what Ayanian’s work means for the future of robotics and dub her our “Featured Innovator of the Month.”

Note: Nora Ayanian does not work for Willamette Valley Company nor is she affiliated with our company.

Sources:

https://www.technologyreview.com/lists/innovators-under-35/2016/

http://www.justmeans.com/blog/diversity-in-the-it-industry-is-key-to-solving-global-problems

USC News: New USC Viterbi professor sees robots in future

USC News: Two USC Viterbi researchers named among top ‘Innovators Under 35’

Spotlight on the Timber Innovation Act

Tham & Videgård Arkitekter's Wooden Highrise apartments for Stockholm

Tham & Videgård Arkitekter’s Wooden Highrise apartments for Stockholm

It’s a new year and time to look towards the future of the timber industry and examine the potential for positive change with upcoming initiatives such as the Timber Innovation Act.

The bill, currently finding bipartisan support from both political parties and the backing by the wood industry, would promote research and labor in the timber industry and create initiatives to drive the construction of tall wooden buildings. Furman Brodie, Vice President of Charles Ingram Lumber Company and SLMA (Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association) chairman of the Board, outlines the benefits of the bill:

“We are pleased to see Congress recognize the potential environmental and economic benefits of increasing wood use in tall building applications through the ‘Timber Innovation Act.’ Our mills are large drivers of the rural economies in which we operate, and expanded markets will help to bolster and grow these economies. Encouraging the use of wood products also benefits the environment, as increased wood demand encourages landowners to continue planting trees instead of converting their land to other purposes,”

Bridgport in London - Photo source: Portland Tribune

Bridgport in London – Photo source: Portland Tribune

As the name implies, the bill would bring forth incentives and measures to create innovation in the timber industry and to help further development of CLT structures in the USA. TimberInnovation.com states that the bill would:

•  Establish performance driven research and development program for advancing tall wood building construction in the United States;

•  Authorize the Tall Wood Building Prize Competition through the U.S. Department of Agriculture annually for the next five years;

•  Codify the Forest Service’s Wood Innovation Grant program and expand it to facilitate Centers of Excellence and provide grants to states to fund education, outreach, research and development, including education and assistance for architects and builders, which will accelerate the use of wood in tall buildings.

The House bill also includes language allowing the Wood Innovation Grant program to support proposals to use and/or retrofit existing sawmill facilities in areas with high unemployment to produce mass timber materials.

The U.S. Senate introduced the Timber Innovation Act (S. 2892) and a House companion bill (H.R. 5628). Both measures have been led by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) for the Senate, Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) for the House. You can read the bill here.

Though the bill has still not yet passed, things are looking good for the Timber Innovation Act. We hope 2017 will see its implementation and lead to a bright, productive future for timber!

Sources:

www.timberinnovation.org
www.awc.org
www.agriculture.senate.gov