Acquisitions, Standards, Blockchain, And More

This is the longest I have gone without posting in many years. It has been a busy week around the Manufacturing Connection office, though. I have been assigning soccer officials to games for 33 years. There were more schedule changes, injuries, and dropped games than any previous year. Not to mention several cases of Covid taking referees out for up to three weeks. Today is the last day of my season, so it’s back to normal. Further sign of back to normal comes from using my United and Marriott apps to book a trip to Houston for Rockwell Automation’s Automation Fair. I will be down there November 9-11. If you’re there, ping me. Perhaps we can meet for a coffee or something and some conversation.

Naturally, much news accumulated. Following are some snippets of information. I will follow up with more detailed essays next week.

Schneider Electric Innovation Summit

Schneider Electric held a world-wide Innovation Summit in October. The company’s overall focus seems to be electrical power. But it has a significant automation portfolio. The Summit theme was Powering The Digital Economy and CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire discussed the many benefits of digitalization. Spokespeople discussed four new offers.

Under the broad theme of Efficiency Chief Marketing Officer Chris Leong discussed  Automation Expert. This universal automation solution actually launched last year. It “breaks dependency of hardware and software” with its virtualized controller. Leong noted that the IT world has recognized this architecture for years; it is time for the operations world to adopt.

Under the broad theme of Resiliency, she introduced SmartUPS the Ultra 5Kw. It comes in a 2u form factor with a lighter weight than previous models.

With the broad theme of Sustainability, Leong introduced RM Air Set Medium voltage switches. These gas insulated switches are insulated with pure air and include a small footprint. Also introduced were solutions for electric vehicles. EcoStruxure for emobility includes electric vehicle charger system called pro charger. Also included are Charging Expert that varies charging depending upon time and energy usage, EV Advisor, a cloud based monitor and control of a fleet of chargers.

Emerson Acquires AspenTech, Sort Of

Emerson and AspenTech announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement to contribute Emerson’s industrial software businesses – OSI Inc. and the Geological Simulation Software business – to AspenTech creating a new company called New AspenTech.  

The transaction accelerates Emerson’s software investment strategy as the company continues to build a higher growth, more diversified and sustainable portfolio, by creating an industrial software company with immediate scale and relevancy. Emerson expects the usual synergies (which realistically never materialize) and flexibility to strategically deploy capital for growth. Software businesses have different financials than hardware ones, and this financial structure may help Emerson in the way a similar financial structure has helped Schneider Electric with AVEVA. New AspenTech will be fully consolidated into Emerson financials and is expected to be accretive to adjusted EPS after year one.

Time Sensitive Networking

Things have been quiet in the Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) area for some time. So, it is refreshing to see the results of some activity. Avnu Alliance announced globally-scaled testing capabilities and a comprehensive update of its certification testing procedures at newly authorized, commercial test houses around the world. This advanced global certification program will streamline certification testing of devices with Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) capabilities, including devices implementing the Milan network protocol (using TSN) for professional media, making testing easier and more convenient for Avnu members around the world. 

Blockchain–A New Look

Blockchain has been highly touted as a useful technology for tracking transactions, supply chain, and even IoT. It failed to live up to expectations. In October, I talked with David Iseminger Founder and CEO, Upheaval LLC and developer of Ironweave blockchain. This new technology holds promise for fulfilling blockchain application in manufacturing. This new blockchain technology was built to scale ensuring business continuity, efficient collaboration, and meeting regulatory compliance with automated data creation. Its strength lies in technology that its data is immutable, locked by multiple hashes in each block. It allows millions of interactions per second, and it requires no risky or volatile coins. Finally, each block is independently encrypted with unique keys, it is immune to ransomware, its multiple backups are immediate and automatic, and it allows blocks of any size, any data from small IoT updates to medical images.

Dell Technologies at the Edge

And a few bullet points from Dell Technologies I have lifted from a press release. I once talked with Dell people when they developed the Edge Gateway and had an IoT group. That group has long since dispersed. Everyone I knew is gone except for two who moved into other groups. But, the company still provide some products at the edge.

  • Dell EMC VxRail satellite nodes extend automation and lifecycle management capabilities to smallest configuration to date for edge workloads 
  • Dell Technologies Validated Design for Manufacturing Edge with Litmus helps manufacturers make quick decisions to improve quality and reduce costs 
  • Dell EMC Edge Gateway connects multiple edge devices across operational technology and IT environments to deliver real-time data insights 
  • Dell EMC Streaming Data Platform optimizes GPUs to ingest streaming video and supports real-time analytics on Dell EMC VxRail and PowerEdge systems 
  • Dell Latitude Rugged laptops can withstand harsh edge environments while maintaining high levels of performance and connectivity 

NI Appoints Thomas Benjamin as Chief Technology Officer

NI (formerly National Instruments) has been making some intriguing moves in the last year or so under CEO Eric Starkloff. I wrote recently about Software as a Service and other “as-a-Service” business models. And more recently how HPE is continuing to pivot from primarily a hardware supplier to serious software and as-a-Service model. And a recent post discussed some radical moves at Rockwell Automation in these same software lines. So, NI is rapidly building out a new business model. Which is good. I wondered how they’d grow a business out of (admittedly excellent) hardware. Pay attention to what is happening here. 

NI’s release points out that this news, “Underscores company vision to connect test data through software to optimize product development lifecycle.”

NI announced October 6 the appointment of Thomas Benjamin as Executive Vice President, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Head of Product Analytics. Thomas will lead NI’s development of software-driven business models essential to the test and measurement market, while driving disruptive technology innovation. The CTO role will be pivotal in driving new and long-term growth opportunities for the company, including new areas tied to data, product analytics, and enterprise software. 

Additionally, the company announced the promotion of Scott Rust, an experienced NI leader, to the role of Executive Vice President, Platform & Products. In this role, he will lead NI’s global development teams responsible for building the products required to meet customer needs and the platform capabilities to create differentiation and leverage across NI’s business. 

“Thomas joins a strong team of NI leaders and will accelerate our ability to use software, data, and new business models to drive growth across our business,” said Eric Starkloff, NI CEO. “The combination of Thomas’ external experience and software knowledge with Scott’s deep understanding of NI’s platform and customers will enable us to reach an even higher degree of customer and business success.”

Thomas comes to NI with extensive experience building software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud native solutions powered by APIs, data, and insights. Most recently he was the CTO and SVP of Technology at SAP Ariba. His career has also included CTO and VP roles at General Electric and Emirates Group, and technology leadership roles at Visa, Walmart, and Oracle.

“NI’s position as a leader in automated test and measurement software and hardware is an excellent match for my track record of implementing robust business models based on a strong technology foundation,” said Thomas Benjamin, NI CTO. “I’m passionate about providing value to customers through the right blend of people, process, innovation and products, and I’m confident that the talent at NI enables limitless possibilities to change how we engineer the future.”

At NI, we bring together the people, ideas and technology so forward thinkers and creative problem solvers can take on humanity’s biggest challenges. From data and automation to research and validation, we provide the tailored, software-connected systems engineers and enterprises need to Engineer Ambitiously™ every day.

35th International Maintenance Conference and Reliability Digital Transformation Conference

Now that I’ve attended one in-person trade show and conference, I’m ready for a few more. I met Terrence O’Hanlon almost 20 years ago at a conference he assembled in Chicago at Rosemont. It was impressive for a small-ish magazine called Maintenance Technology. I didn’t know that I had met the real Terry, though. That came later after my brush with trying to revitalize that magazine and conference.

Since that time, O’Hanlon has brought together an association, website, magazine, and some awesome conferences. His annual large one is coming up in December at Marco Island in Florida. I keep threatening him with coming down and attending. This may be the year. My interests intersect with his in a Venn Diagram sort of way. I’m interested in exploring how IT technologies intersect with industrial technologies in order to improve operations and profitability solving tough problems in production and manufacturing.

If you are coming down, and you should, ping me and let’s meet for a coffee or other adult beverage while discussing the changes impacting us and how we’ll solve tomorrow’s problems.

Following is information about the two conferences held concurrently.

35th International Maintenance Conference

The 35th International Maintenance Conference (IMC) provides a fresh, positive community-based curated experience to gain knowledge and perspective for advancing reliability and asset management through people, their managers, the processes, the data and the technology.

Using examples from the world’s best-run companies and leaders who provide a new view of maintenance, reliability and asset management that results in attendees discovering new ways to advance their organizations that had not occurred to them in the past. 

It is about learning how to knock on the door of the “don’t know what we don’t know” knowledge domain and being open to important ideas from others with a mindset of inquiry and discovery.

Mission: Providing opportunities for attendees to discover ways to advance safety, sustainability and success in the workplace aligned to organization objects and aims.

Vision: Connect the people, the knowledge, the technology and the experience of the International Maintenance Conference community and nurture that learning opportunity 365 days per year.

Foundation

Much of the context, structure and ideas for the International Maintenance Conference is based on the Uptime Elements Reliability Framework and Asset Management System which is in use at over 6,000 organizations with more than 3,700 active Certified Reliability Leaders and practitioners.

WHO PARTICIPATES IN IMC?

Asset Managers, Reliability Leaders, Maintenance Professionals and Operational Managers from the world’s best-run companies.

Attendees are invited to set a goal to create an activated asset management strategy and plan to be executed in an engaged, cross-functional, culture of reliability [leadership] based on what you learn and who you meet at IMC.

The RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference

The world’s best run companies are connecting the workforce, management, assets and data to automate asset knowledge that can be leveraged for huge and beneficial decisions.

According to a 2021 Reliabilityweb.com Digitalization Study for Asset Management and Reliability, less than 40 percent of organizations have a formal policy, strategy or plan for digital transformation in the context of reliability and asset management. When combined with data that shows that 70 percent of digitalization projects fail to generate sustainable business success when missing a formal policy, strategy and plan, the RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference exists to amply digitalization success.

Using examples from the world’s best-run companies and leaders who provide a new view for leveraging technology to connect asset data, information and knowledge with the workforce and their managers to make better maintenance, reliability and asset management decisions for a better operation tomorrow.

It is about being open to new ideas with a mindset of inquiry and discovery.

Mission: Providing opportunities for attendees to discover ways to enhance reliability and asset management opportunities by creating new digital business models built on elastic, evergreen connected data environments, digital twins and metaverses in new ways that had not occurred to them in the past. 

Vision: Connect the people, the knowledge, the technology, and the experience of the RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference and nurture that competency development opportunity 365 days per year.

Foundation

Much of the context, structure, and ideas for the RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference is based on Uptime Elements IT/OT Knowledge Domain and Digitalization Framework, originally created through a virtual Special Interest Group (vSIG). There is a revised body of knowledge currently being created by the Reliability Leadership Foundation (RLF) Digitalization Consortium, who will be actively involved in contributing to the RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference.

WHO PARTICIPATES IN THE RELIABILITY 4.0 DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION CONFERENCE?

Professionals who collaborate across operational technology [OT], information technology [IT] and engineering technology [ET] from the world’s best-run companies to advance reliability and asset management.

RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference attendees are invited to set a target to create the foundation of an activated asset management strategy and plan executed in an engaged, cross-functional, culture of reliability [leadership] enabled by digitalization business models based on what you learn and who you meet at RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference.

Smooth is Fast

Time out for a personal development moment.

Slow is smooth; smooth is fast.

Navy SEAL Saying

I heard a story of a guy who got into fitness, bought a bicycle, and began riding a route as fast as he could. One day he was somewhat more tired and rode at a little slower, yet more comfortable pace. His time for that route went from 43 minutes to 45 minutes.

I’ve noticed over the time of my life that I’ve stopped trying to do everything in a great rush. When driving I consciously stop and pause at stop signs (unlike the guy I saw this morning who blew through a stop sign making a right turn in front of oncoming traffic not far away–guess he trusted the other guy to slow down). Yes, I still commonly drive at speed limit + 5, but I no longer tempt more speeding tickets like 30 years ago.

Take a moment several times a day to pause, breathe, relax, refocus, then return to work. And accomplish more. 

This season of the year finds me with the pressure of finding referees for soccer matches. This year has been especially hard. Before the season even began, I lost 20% of the officials on my list due to health, retirement, jobs, or moving away. I gained one person. Not a good long-term trend.

I could sit there and stare at my screen that said 90+ games lacking a referee and panic. Or, I could just breathe and tackle them one at a time. Solve this one and move to the next.

Slow is smooth; smooth is fast.

More gets accomplished; my attitude remains calm.

Try it, you’ll like it.

Automation Makes Today’s News

Today, I have two product releases in the automation space. Collaborative robots (cobots) were the hit of Fabtech a couple of weeks ago. I was wondering about SCARA robots—those that I first learned to program and use back in the 80s. ABB came through with some SCARA robot news. Then comes news from a new Danish company that is applying automation to CNC machine loading problems.

Made4CNC Launches World’s First Completely Automatic CNC Door Opening Solution for Robots

A new Danish company has solved a well-known and previously unsolvable challenge in the metal industry; Made4CNC has developed the world’s first completely automatic door opening solution for robotic machine tending, fitted to any robot and CNC machine in under an hour.

Currently only a small percentage of the industry’s CNC machines are automatically fed components. Most of the world’s CNC machines rely on either the operator or the robotic arm having to physically open and close the machines’ heavy doors every few minutes. Investing in a new fully automatic CNC machine or upgrading an older model can be a tall order, both in practical and financial terms.

Made4CNC’s first official product, the new Safedoor SD100 removes the barriers to the automation of component feeding at machine shops. Safedoor SD100 opens CNC doors that are up to 1 meter wide and weigh 400 kg, at a speed of 500 mm/s. The door opener can connect to any robot and CNC machine make via galvanic insulated digital inputs and outputs.

Several end users and distributors have already caught the scent of a killer app and have started deploying the solution. The team behind Made4CNC, Thomas Visti, Lasse Kieffer and Peter Nadolny are three professionals well-known for disrupting the robot industry, having played integral roles in the success of Danish robot companies Universal Robots, OnRobot, Purple Robotics and Mobile Industrial Robots.

When automating CNC machines today, integrators often build “homemade” door opening solutions. But that risks errors, stoppages, and hazardous situations because the solutions typically require compressed air and are neither standardized nor tested. These challenges are overcome with Made4CNC’s fully electric Safedoor SD100 with built-in safety functions that enable the integrator to adjust the speed of the CNC door, making risk assessments easier to conduct.

“Around the world the need for faster and greater automation is a major trend, and for it to succeed, less time must be spent on each installation,” said Peter Nadolny Madsen, CEO at Made4CNC. “With the SD100, we have integrated safety and robustness in a user-friendly solution, which we believe is the key to optimal productivity,” he said, adding that integration of collaborative robots or light industrial robots together with existing CNC machines makes a lot of sense, since the automation of existing machines generate low risk and a short payback period for the customer. 

Together with investors Thomas Visti and Lasse Kieffer, Peter Nadolny Madsen established Made4CNC in January 2021. Investor Lasse Kieffer has contributed with his deep technological expertise, while investor Thomas Visti has provided market insight: “Made4CNC has understood what is required to make the process easier,” said Thomas Visti “It’s win-win-win for the end customer, employees, distributors and the manufacturer. I therefore expect that Made4CNC will have established itself via robot distributors and integrators around most of the world in the next 12 months.”

Integrator Nordelektro has installed two Made4CNC Safedoor SD100 door opening solutions at Randers Tandhjulsfabrik. “It took less than an hour for each CNC machine and they are good and stable door openers,” reported Lars Bo Nielsen, factory manager at Randers Tandhjulsfabrik. For Nordelektro, it makes a huge difference that they can provide customers with a standardized solution designed as a solution-in-a-box:

“Safedoor SD100 is a complete solution, which makes it simpler to work with automation,” said Jesper Storm Simonsen, sales manager at Nordelektro.  “It is a huge advantage for us as an integrator. We don’t need to invent something complicated and expensive. We have minimum project risk.” 

Made4CNC has just entered into agreement with their first American distributor, Thinkbot Solutions: “Safedoor SD100 makes having a job as a machine feeder much more pleasant and easy-going, while the employer will be able to optimize and get a better work flow,” said President of Thinkbot Solutions, Philip Courtois. “Others have tried unsuccessfully to develop a user-friendly door opener. Made4CNC has completely succeeded. I have chosen to distribute SD100 because attention is given to all of the details in terms of the mechanics, software and safety,” he stated, adding that SD100 is certified by the world’s most popular collaborative robot company Universal Robots (UR). “The UR+ certification ensures completely seamless integration with robots from Universal Robots. All operation can be done through the robot’s teach pendant.”

ABB expands SCARA robot range for faster, high precision assembly

ABB expanded its range of SCARA robots with the launch of the IRB 920T. Designed to meet the requirements of the electronics industry for high-speed production in increasingly complex manufacturing processes, the IRB 920T provides the highest levels of speed, accuracy and repeatability for assembly, picking and handling tasks.

“The need for companies to respond quickly to changing consumer demands is making SCARA robots a popular choice for production lines where fast and accurate performance is key to ensuring maximum product quality,” said Antti Matinlauri, Head of Product Management for ABB Robotics. “Together with ABB’s OmniCore controller, the IRB 920T is part of a new generation of robotic solutions from ABB that help manufacturers stay one step ahead of changing market demands.”

With a cycle time of 0.29 seconds, the IRB 920T is faster than other SCARA robots in its class and up to 14 percent faster than ABB’s current IRB 910SC SCARA robot, enabling more products to be produced per hour. With a maximum payload of 6kg and available in a choice of variants offering reaches of 450, 550 and 650mm, it can be installed throughout production lines to handle a variety of items, from single components through to assembled products.

Key to the performance of the IRB 920T is its excellent repeatability. Offering class-leading consistency, the IRB 920T can work quickly without the risk of errors, making it possible to achieve the highest levels of manufacturing quality with minimal or zero wastage. This flexibility is further supported by its lightweight and space-saving design. Weighing just 24kg, the IRB 920T is 10 percent lighter than other SCARA robots in its class, reducing cell design costs by eliminating the need for extra materials to support the robot. With all cables routed internally to remove cable interference, it also offers a compact footprint, enabling optimization of available production space.