GE Digital Ends Not Invented Here Syndrome

GE Digital Ends Not Invented Here Syndrome

GE Digital initiates a huge turnaround in its attitude toward software and Industrial Internet development. GE invested large sums to build a Silicon Valley presence for its software. Hired many engineers. Took its industrial software base up a notch or two with its Predix platform. Tried to build its own cloud infrastructure. The mantra—not invented here.

[Late Breaking News: I was wrong. There will be another Minds + Machines. San Francisco, October 30-31. That’s an expensive trip. Anyone want to fund me? 😉 ]

During the last Minds+Machines conference in San Francisco new CEO John Flannery, barely two months into the job, said that GE Digital needed to work more closely with partners. Soon thereafter came the axe.

That is the context for this major announcement (this one came from Microsoft, so within it may be a bit of its bias) of a partnership. Following report is based upon a media blog from Microsoft.

GE and Microsoft announced an expanded partnership, bringing together operational technology and information technology “to eliminate hurdles industrial companies face in advancing digital transformation projects.” GE Digital plans to standardize its Predix solutions on Microsoft Azure and will deeply integrate the Predix portfolio with Azure’s native cloud capabilities, including Azure IoT and Azure Data and Analytics. The parties will also co-sell and go-to-market together, offering end customers premier Industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions across verticals. In addition, GE will leverage Microsoft Azure across its business for additional IT workloads and productivity tools, including internal Predix-based deployments, to drive innovation across the company.

GE also plans to leverage Azure across the company for a wide range of IT workloads and productivity tools, accelerating digital innovation and driving efficiencies. This partnership also enables the different GE businesses to tap into Microsoft’s advanced enterprise capabilities, which will support the petabytes of data managed by the Predix platform, such as GE’s monitoring and diagnostics centers, internal manufacturing and services programs.

According to Microsoft, leveraging Azure enables GE to expand its cloud footprint globally, helping the companies’ mutual customers rapidly deploy IIoT applications.

The global IoT market is expected to be worth $1.1 trillion in revenue by 2025 as market value shifts from connectivity to platforms, applications and services, according to new data from GSMA Intelligence. Note: I find this a very interesting comment.

As part of this expanded partnership, the companies will go-to-market together and also explore deeper integration of Predix IIoT solutions with Power BI, PowerApps and other third-party solutions, as well as integration with Microsoft Azure Stack to enable hybrid deployments across public and private clouds.

Process Solutions Evolving

Did Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) short-circuit the Open Process Automation work? Inquiring minds wonder. Once again, some news and analysis of a conference that I couldn’t attend—three of these the same week in June.

HPS and ExxonMobil sent this release. Subsequently, I talked with some sources at competitor companies who broached the question to me—did this news short-circuit the ExxonMobil-led effort for a new process control solution? An interesting caveat is that there is more than one group within ExxonMobil—and they don’t necessarily agree.

From the first release:

The Open Process Automation group was initiated by ExxonMobil who was trying to find a better (less expensive) upgrade path for its control systems that had fallen behind that of its competitors. The oil & gas supermajor still has in operation a significant number of older systems installed as far back as the 1980s—systems that have served the company well for more than 30 years, but as older electronic components have been replaced by more modern alternatives, spare-parts shortages and looming obsolescence put ExxonMobil and other owner operators in a difficult place.

When facing obsolescence, rip-and-replace is clearly the option of last resort—incurring high costs, protracted downtime and the loss of all the intellectual property invested in developing a system’s displays, databases, control strategies and third-party interfaces, according to David Patin, distinguished engineering associate – control systems, ExxonMobil Research & Engineering.

The company’s installed base of Honeywell TDC 3000 systems, in particular, looked to be facing a critical shortage of spare parts in the year 2025, Patin explained. “So in 2011 we met with Honeywell regarding the future of TDC 3000,” Patin began, addressing a plenary session of the Honeywell Users Group Americas 2018 conference this week in San Antonio.

Challenge issued

Unwilling to settle for rip-and-replace, “We challenged Honeywell to develop and prove a method to migrate TDC forward,” Patin said. The two companies established a joint task team to investigate the problem.

ExxonMobil’s wish list of deliverables included avoiding wholesale system replacement (especially the I/O); preserving the company’s intellectual property investment; allowing for on-process migration of system components (meaning without shutting down the process); enabling new capabilities not currently possible with TDC; and unifying TDC with Honeywell’s current state-of-the-art Experion platform.

This last item encapsulated a desire for a solution that would “be usable by a younger workforce, yet stand the test of time,” Patin said. “I picture a third-grader who’s also a future TDC engineer,” he said. “They just don’t know it yet.”
Also implicit in ExxonMobil’s requirements were continued “rock solid” reliability and security, Patin added.

Solution identified

Since the technical obstacles to bringing TDC forward hinged on hardware obsolescence, notably controller microprocessors and communications chips that would no longer be available, the team settled on an emulation approach that would effectively abstract TDC system functionality from the specifics of the older hardware.

And in February 2018, seven years after that first meeting of the minds—and two years ahead of schedule—Honeywell answered ExxonMobil’s challenge with the release of Experion LCN R501.1. The Experion LCN, or ELCN, effectively emulates the TDC system as software. “It’s 100% binary compatible and interoperable with the old system,” Patin explained. “Current TDC code runs unmodified in this virtual environment, greatly reducing the technical risks. Intellectual property such as application code, databases and displays are preserved.”

In the end, the Experion Station, Server, ACE and APP nodes can take the shape of Windows-based “physical” applications or virtual machines. Application Modules, Network Gateway and Network Interface Module functionality is redeployed on Universal Embedded Appliances or as virtual appliances. Only the Enhanced PLC Gateway cannot be readily virtualized because the emulation of serial network connectivity is not well behaved, Patin explained. “This means you can build an almost 100% virtualized or 100% physical system—or somewhere in between.”

With the new solution, LCN and UCN messages are now encapsulated in standard Internet Protocol. “All the old networks now exist as logical constructs on Fault Tolerant Ethernet,” Patin said. “We’re no longer locked into proprietary networks.”
And to address the challenge of on-process migration, Honeywell has also introduced several bridge devices that effectively facilitate the virtualization of TDC system node functionality—without the need to interrupt the process under control.

Benefits achieved

Virtualization of the TDC environment has come with some added benefits, including the ability to use Honeywell’s cloud-based Open Virtual Engineering Platform to engineer TDC solutions; lower cost, smaller footprint training simulators; peer-to-peer integration of virtualized HPM controller nodes with current-generation C300/ACE nodes; support for OneWireless (ISA 100 and WirelessHART) connectivity; and integration with ControlEdge and Unit
Operations Controllers.

“It’ll be a game-changer,” said Patin. “We don’t know all that’s possible as yet.”
Other benefits include a drastic reduction—or elimination—of spare parts, as well as reductions in cabinet space requirements. “We’ve gone from two nodes to six in a single cabinet,” Patin said. “We’ve not fully realized unification with Experion, but that process has begun.”

Overall, Patin gave high marks to the Honeywell team for its response to ExxonMobil’s needs. “The challenge was met, and expectations exceeded,” he said. “The need to replace an entire system is eliminated, future component issues are virtually eliminated (pun intended), intellectual property is preserved and on
process migration is supported.

“ELCN technology essentially resets the odometer on your TDC 3000 investment,” Patin added. “It’s the best example of Honeywell’s commitment to continuous evolution that I’ve ever seen. And if it were a final exam, I’d give Honeywell an A on this one.”

<End of release>

Safety Manager

HPS also announced Safety Manager SC, the next generation of its flagship Safety Manager platform. Its modular, scalable design enables it to function as a single platform for all enterprise safety applications, allowing customers – who are often using four or five different safety systems – to consolidate and reduce their training and engineering costs, and spare parts inventories.

Safety Manager SC incorporates a new Series C-based controller and Honeywell technologies such as LEAP, Universal Safety IO, offline simulation and Experion integration, which collectively simplify safety system engineering, development and testing.

“Our customers increasingly want integrated safety and control solutions and the simplicity of partnering with one supplier for all their needs,” said Tim LeFevre, global customer marketing manager for safety systems, HPS. “We deliver exactly that by combining unrivaled expertise in distributed control systems (DCS) and safety systems with deep integration know-how. Honeywell is one of the few vendors that can support the full safety lifecycle.”

HUG

The ability of Honeywell Connected Plant’s offerings to deliver higher levels of safety, reliability, efficiency and profitability will continue to be the primary discussion point at the 43rdHoneywell Users Group (HUG) Americas symposium. More than 1,300 delegates from across the oil and gas, chemical, pulp and paper, and metals and mining sectors are attending the event, which features numerous displays of the newest technologies along with dozens of Honeywell- and customer-led sessions and technical discussions.

Throughout the conference, Honeywell will showcase how turning data into actionable insight requires more than just upgrading technology; it requires a system for capturing, retaining and sharing knowledge that allows both the plant and its workers to perform at their best every day.

“Digital transformation has to be about more than just moving data into the cloud,” said John Rudolph, president of Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS). “It ultimately has to be about the outcomes, including driving increased productivity and savings for our customers while allowing them to increase knowledge capture, knowledge sharing and knowledge retention among their employees.”

Rudolph was named president of HPS on May 31, 2018, succeeding Vimal Kapur, who was named president and CEO of Honeywell Building Technologies. Rudolph led the Projects and Automation Solutions, and Lifecycle Solutions and Services businesses for HPS over the past six years, driving significant growth. Rudolph also has held leadership roles with TAS Energy, General Electric and Ingersoll Rand.

Here is a revealing comment from the press release about HPS’s strategy and direction—something we’ve all been wondering about. “HUG attendees will be able to see and experience the Company’s ongoing transformation into a software-industrial provider.”

Announcements in brief:

  • Thermal IQ – Enables maintenance engineers and plant managers to more effectively monitor and manage their thermal process equipment, minimizing unplanned downtime and maximizing uptime.
  • Uniformance Cloud Historian – This software-as-a-service cloud hosting solution for enterprise-wide data capture, visualization and analysis helps customers improve asset availability, optimize processes and increase plant uptime.
  • Asset Performance Management – Integrates asset and process data for actionable insights to improve asset performance and plant profitability.
  • Immersive Competency – This cloud-based simulation offering uses a combination of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to train plant personnel on critical industrial work activities, empowering them to directly improve plant performance, uptime, reliability and safety.
  • Personal Gas Safety – This solution integrates with Honeywell’s leading plant control system to protect workers and speed emergency response in case of hazardous leaks or worker injury.
  • Intelligent Wearables – This hands-free, wearable technology allows industrial workers to more safely, reliably and efficiently accomplish their tasks in the plant or the field. It uses a head-mounted visual display that responds to voice and brings live data, documents, work procedures, as well as health and safety information into view and can connect field workers with remote experts in real time.
  • Experion Batch – Combines Experion distributed control, batch automation, and new visualization technology for improved efficiency, quality and throughput.
  • Measurement IQ for Gas – Provides measurement under control by transforming metering operations with 24/7 real-time condition-based monitoring.
Salesforce Another Meeting of IT and OT

Salesforce Another Meeting of IT and OT

Here I go to yet another IT conference to talk convergence and platform. Salesforce invited me to its summer marketing conference in June and promised an interview with a Vice President. I could take my wife out to a good anniversary dinner, visit family, and go to a tech conference with a good interview all on one trip. Too good to pass up.

This was the Salesforce Connections conference. Not as big as Dreamforce in San Francisco, but still quite large by our standards in manufacturing.

Salesforce is more than the CRM company it was. Many acquisitions later, it has assembled an array of technology. Like all tech companies, it has a platform. In fact due to its open APIs, you could use it, too. Some time ago, I interviewed the CEO of a manufacturing ERP company called Kenandy that was build upon the Salesforce platform. Rootstriker, another ERP company build on the Salesforce platform, recently acquired Kenandy.

Featured in one keynote was an application by MTD, a manufacturer of lawn tractors (Cub Cadet, etc.). No, Salesforce doesn’t run machines. It does help connect the manufacturer with its end customers and then with its dealers with feedback to the manufacturer.

The idea is that customers do online research and so need to be reached in many ways (thus Salesforce marketing). MTD erected an online store on the Salesforce platform (in simplified terms) for direct to the consumer interaction. An order is fulfilled by the local dealer. The dealer still gets margin and relationship and as an extra added bonus, the opportunity for service business. Linking all back to MTD, it gets to know the customer, satisfies the dealer, plus receiving data from the service business feeds back into product development.

Achyut Jajoo, Salesforce VP automotive/manufacturing, told me industry is moving from product centric to system, e.g., autonomous vehicles, mobility services, digital signals; factory automation, geographic expansion, intelligence, vehicle sales. Mobility services lead to transaction service—over air updates, location based services.

He noted that people start online and mostly know what they want before visiting a dealer. Other manufacturing customers tying their whole sales systems back to manufacturing include John Deere and Ecolab.

“State of the Connected Customer” report

Before I went to the conference, Saleforce sent me this interesting report—a survey of over 6,700 consumers and business buyers worldwide that looks at the ever changing landscape of customers’ expectations, the emerging technologies influencing these expectations and the role trust plays in the customer experience.

Customers today are energized by tech innovations — but also plagued by deepening distrust of the companies that provide them. They have high expectations about what makes a great customer experience, and not a lot of patience for companies that fail to deliver.

These trends impact every company, regardless of whether they sell to consumers or business buyers purchasing on behalf of their companies. In this research, “customers” is an aggregate of both consumer and business buyer responses.

The report dives into the nuances of this tricky customer landscape. Here are five of the high-level findings our research brought to light:

1. Customer experience matters even more than you think

Eighty percent of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services. A majority take this sentiment a step further by voting with their wallets; 57% have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience.

2. B2B expectations mirror B2C standards

The concept of “B2Me” isn’t new, but it’s gathering steam. Eighty-two percent of business buyers want the same experience as when they’re buying for themselves. But only 27% say companies generally excel at meeting their standards for an overall B2B experience, signaling ample room to improve.

3. Companies face new connected mandates

For 84% of customers, being treated like a person — and not a number — is very important to win their business. Another 70% say connected processes are very important to win their business (such as seamless handoffs between departments and channels, or contextualized engagement based on earlier interactions).

Even before a purchase, personalization is hugely important; 59% of customers say tailored engagement based on past interactions is very important to win their business.

While they buy, 78% of business buyers seek salespeople that act as trusted advisors with knowledge of their needs and industry.

4. Technology sets new benchmarks for innovation

Real innovation, not lip service, is a deciding factor for most customers. 56% of customers (including 66% of business buyers) actively seek to buy from the most innovative companies.

While some emerging technologies are only starting to take root, a majority of customers say these technologies have transformed (or are actively transforming) their expectations: the Internet of Things (60%), voice-activated personal assistants (59%), and AI (51%).

5. Facing a crisis of trust: finding the balance between personalization and privacy

Sixty-two percent of customers say they’re more afraid of their data being compromised now than they were two years ago — and nearly half of customers (45%) feel confused about how companies use their data.

82% of customers will share relevant information about themselves in exchange for connections between their digital and in-person experiences.

81% of customers will share relevant information about themselves in exchange for more consultative help from salespeople.

85% of customers will share relevant information about themselves in exchange for proactive customer service.

For 92% of customers, the ability to control what personal information is collected makes them more likely to trust a company with that information.

Digitalization and Largest Electric Motor Test Bed Top Siemens Motor News

Digitalization and Largest Electric Motor Test Bed Top Siemens Motor News

There are electric motors and then there are electric motors. On my recent trip about an hour south to the Siemens electric motor manufacturing plant in Norwood, OH (a suburb of Cincinnati) I was often thinking about the line from Crocodile Dundee when the main character pulled out that child of a sword and Bowie knife and said, “Knife? That ain’t no knife. This is a knife.” When we start talking Medium Voltage motors at greater than 10,000 HP, that’s a motor.

Note: the one in red is a motor under test. Note the size versus the size of the person.

I’ve visited the plant a time or two before but wrote the news for magazines. Only a mention on my blog. When I was there in 2012, they talked about the transformation of the plant from a traditional old-school heavy manufacturing plant to a modern, lean, clean place to work putting out quality products.

The occasion for this visit was to view results of some significant investments by Siemens in maintaining Norwood as a state-of-the-art motor manufacturing plant. There are several new machines for precision machining of large parts. The pièce de résistance however was a new test bed and “Test Center Observatory” where customers can witness the testing of their motors in comfort with a dedicated Ethernet connection so that they can continue working during downtimes in the test process. A complete test regimen can last for several hours or even longer. Some customers come from other countries. Speaking as someone with experience traveling to witness tests on my products for certification, I’d have really appreciated this facility back in the day.

Before I get to the test bed, a brief discussion of digitalization and vibration.

Siemens has developed a digitalization methodology for motors called Drive Train Analytics. They are sensoring more and more in order to monitor and analyze a more complete virtual picture of the motor. Not surprisingly, they use Siemens Mindsphere sending data to the cloud using a variety of analysis tools. Customers have access to these tools in the observatory. Actually, customers could receive a complete virtual runoff of their motor back home. But engineers being engineers, they love to see the hardware in person. So they get both.

Aside from heat, the main killer of motors is vibration. Siemens has taken steps both to reduce vibration in the motor and to reduce ambient vibrations in the test process so that more accurate readings of the motor itself.

Working with customers who provide feedback from their use cases, Siemens developed a new shaft requiring new machining techniques. Some of the advantages of the new shaft include:

  • Eliminates variation due to fabrication and spider bar tolerances
  • Reduces required balance weight applied during rotor balance
  • Removes heat-treatment process
  • Improves rotor thermal stability
  • More predictable rotor lateral stiffness
  • Reduces stress concentration of weldment

The News-Test Observatory

With its celebration of more than 120 years of innovation, market and product leadership, technology and quality, Siemens’ Norwood Motor Manufacturing plant recently opened a new Test Observatory.

Opened in 1898, the Norwood facility has undergone a century of change, as the process to manufacture motors and the technology behind them has improved. Norwood has stood the test of time through three industrial revolutions and is one of the longest continuously operating Siemens’ plants globally. With Industry 4.0 upon us, the mechanical motor of old is now a connected device, a valuable plant floor asset capable of providing vast amounts of data with preventative and predictive analytics to ensure more productivity, efficiency and uptime.

With the largest motor test base in North America, Siemens can combine its century of industry leadership in motor manufacturing with an enhanced customer experience.  The new equipment extends Norwood’s testing range from 10,000 horsepower (HP) to 20,000 HP at frequencies from 10 Hz to 300 Hz, thus addressing the market’s increased use of variable frequency drives.  The new test observatory, akin to an executive suite, allows customers to participate by observing testing through bay windows, direct cameras and mirroring computers, which display real time critical data being gathered by sensors attached to their motor.

The project, which began in 2016, required the removal of 550 tons of soil and concrete from the site, excavating a 13-foot deep hole, driving 114 pilings for stability and building a huge concrete vault to securely support a fully loaded test stand.  The test stand weighs 360 tons and rests on a self-leveling air spring system designed to support 500 tons when loaded with motors and drives.

The testing equipment includes two Sinamics Perfect Harmony GH180 drives and two dynamometers.  Generating power to test a 20,000 HP motor requires significant amounts of electricity, and by recycling power to the grid, the new equipment reduces power loss by 90 percent.

“At Norwood, we test every motor that we produce or repair – some 30 to 50 tests per week – and these new facilities give us the ability to conduct as many as five motor tests at a time.” said Tim Bleidorn, Manager, Manufacturing Excellence. “We expect the customer witness tests to average two to three per week and as many as 120 per year.”

In addition to the new test base and observatory, the multi-million dollar investment in Norwood also includes WFL high-precision shaft making equipment and a high-speed balancer, key for two-pole applications at higher speeds and the ability to balance a rotor at up to 12,000 rpm.

“It’s exciting and I’m proud that Siemens is investing in the North American market. We have the No. 1 market share in AboveNEMA motors right now and these new capabilities send a strong signal to our customers and competitors that we intend to maintain that position,” says Ryan Maynus, AboveNEMA Product Manager.

With more than 100 patents, the 350,000 square-foot facility is a cornerstone to Siemens AboveNEMA motors.  The ISO-9001 certified plant has produced more than 150,000 high voltage motors since 1898. The Norwood plant produces horizontal AC induction motors up to 20,000 horsepower and voltage ranges from 460 to 13,200 volts. The plant also manufactures a complete line of large AC vertical motors up to 8,000 horsepower.

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