Manufacturing Software: Connectivity and Workflow

GE set up a conference call for a conversation with Matt Wells, general manager of automation software at GE Intelligent Platforms.

The impetus for the call was to flesh out the press release about the development of the Global Discovery Server (GDS) for OPC UA and the first implementation of it into GE’s Cimplicity HMI/SCADA software.

Wells said that GE is really embracing OPC UA as a core technology. Controllers have it embedded within, and in fact, GE actually evaluated it for inter-controller communication. That latter did not work out, but OPC UA remains core to GE’s connectivity program.

But, Wells continued, OPC UA is not always the easiest to implement. So GE worked with the OPC Foundation to define global discovery server to simplify management of systems.

The first advance concerns namespace. If GDS resides on the network, it will first register clients and servers then GDS provide list of namespace. And not only this, it can say who can talk to whom and it can also restrict who talks.

Secondly, GDS acts as certificate store. It is not a traffic manager, bu it checks for a certificate for all OPC devices and it then handles handshaking among them.

GDS is available as independent software that can be installed in an application. GE did Cimplicity first, partly to show it can be done and how useful it is.

GDS Agent, not part of spec, can act as proxy for existing UA that is not GDS enabled.

Using GDS in an OPC network enhancing usability and ease of implementation. This should increase the adoption of OPC UA.

When my contact set up this conversation, she also mentioned we could discuss something called, “automated operator decision support”. This intrigued me. Turns out this is an alternative phrase for automated or digitized workflow.

I’ve only talked with a few companies that have incorporated workflow. I talked with GE several years ago for the first time. This should be an important advance for manufacturing productivity.

Here are some notes about the workflow conversation.

Overall in HMI/SCADA
1-prevent mistakes so minimize abnormal situations
2-can’t always encode everything, so give advance notification, predictive analytics
3-cant predict everything, so enable operators to quickly ID issue and solve, give corrective action procedures
4-“phone a friend”, utilize mobile techs to call SMEs; We found highest adoption enabling support staff, contact experts, decrease downtime

Digitize SOP policy, workflow; work to encode workflows, as it executes SOP solicit feedback from operator, can coordinate acts of operators and people around them. Make every operator the best operator—baked in—originally sold as risk management mitigation tool. It is popular in pharma and water, especially areas where compliance is crucial.

First step, look at compliances and improving process – process

Take written manual–>encode–>provide checklist–>maybe write directly into system for records–>then after compliance, start looking at optimizing.

It is designed to layer over existing infrastructure (HMI/SCADA, WMS, etc.).

Have seen performance improvements of up to 30%.

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