Conversations At Conferences

I don’t travel like I used to. There is no pressure from sales to see and be seen in the faint hope of selling advertising.

However, I will be at Siemens Realize in Las Vegas June 12-15 and Honeywell User Group in Orlando June 19-21. I am curious to find out how people are using all of this technology, what they see with future applications, and perspectives on future job roles and functions.

You can schedule a time by pinging me at [email protected] or just stop me if you see me around. The pictures on the website are a bit dated, but I still pretty much look like them.

Deep How Uses AI For Skills Training

What workforce problem has populated every industrial trade press issue for the past 10-15 years? Baby Boomers are retiring taking decades of knowledge with them. How can the new workforce of engineers and technicians be provided the skillset quickly?

Actually, new people have come into the industry continually for years. Recall the conferences you’ve attended (except during the pandemic) over the past several years. The demographic has been trending younger and diverse.

However, the search for better ways to train new workers is, and will be, never ending. We’ve traveled the simulation path. Better virtual reality technology may improve that experience.

Another solution comes from a new company formed in Detroit with former Siemens executives. (The press release says, “with a vision to use AI to accelerate skills training for shop-floor and other highly technical skilled trades workers.”) DeepHow utilize generative AI to enable teams to capture their know-how using a smartphone, turning expertise into step-by-step how-to videos that can be translated into multiple languages in a matter of minutes, to create a unique and extremely valuable library of organizational knowledge that can be effectively transferred to every worker.

This looks like one of many cool uses of technology that may not translate as well into practical everyday use as might be desired. But…it may, if it is easy to use, find widespread usage among industrial engineers.

The recent news concerns funding of the startup. DeepHow has closed $14M in Series A funding. Owl Ventures, a specialist in education technology investing, led the round, with participation from another new investor: LG Technology Ventures. Existing investors Sierra Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Osage Venture Partners, and Foothill Ventures also participated in this round.

DeepHow plans to invest in go-to-market initiatives to accelerate its business growth, and to ramp up its investments in product, engineering, and generative AI innovation. In response to customer demand, DeepHow has already fast-tracked development of powerful product enhancements that leverage the power of generative AI to accelerate SOP video creation, multimodal workflow generation, AI chat assistance, and strategic knowledge mapping.

A Step Forward for Modular Manufacturing Control

While I see companies that are predominantly American rushing to capture open technology initiatives and make them as proprietary as possible, here is another predominantly German initiative pushing for using standards to move manufacturing technology forward.

This news came to me indirectly from the PI (Profibus and Profinet standards organization). Check it out. Do you find this potentially useful?

What is MTP?

By now, we all know OPC UA is really good at supporting the use-cases for not only horizontal integration like machine to machine, but also vertical integration like device to cloud. Now, most recently, OPC UA is being applied to those industries considered to be process control or hybrid industries with factory automation. 

PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI) is leading the way with a technology called Module Type Package (MTP). For its runtime, MTP applies OPC UA information models to create standardized, non-proprietary, application level descriptions for process automation equipment. OPC UA Client/Server technology is used for communication. Offline engineering utilizes the AutomationML markup language. 

Rather than have every single I/O point controlled by one large distributed control system (DCS), MTP seeks to modularize the process into more manageable pieces. The point is to construct a plant with modular equipment to ease integration and allow for better flexibility should changes be required. With the help of a Process Orchestration Layer (POL), MTP-enabled equipment can “Plug & Operate” reducing the amount of time to commission a process or make changes to that process… pretty cutting-edge stuff.

The POL is the superordinate software into which an MTP file is imported. When an MTP file is imported into the POL, offline service engineering (orchestration) is performed along with communication configuration (OPC UA).  Note: if recipe/batch engineering is applicable, MTP utilizes the ISA 88 standard here. The next step is an Orchestration Test (“Plug”) and then to begin (“Operate”). It is truly “Plug & Operate”.

Why should you care?

MTP files describe Equipment Assemblies. These are individual automated units providing the functionality to realize a step in a process. They have their own mechanical equipment, sensors, actuators, and controller. A great example would be skid integration. Here, an end-user can quickly integrate skids into their plant DCS to reduce engineering effort. The MTP file describing the skid is employed to shorten the time-to-market. According to ZVEI the benefits from first pilot projects can be summarized as follows:

  • Reduce time to market 50%
  • Reduce engineering effort 70%
  • Increase flexibility 80%

Litmus Adds Digital Twin Support

There were a couple of process automation news items. Now, let’s switch to the industrial edge and talk data. Litmus announced the availability of digital twins for users of Litmus Edge and Litmus Edge Manager. Now manufacturers have a streamlined way to collect, contextualize, normalize and analyze data with visual representations of purpose-driven digital twin models.

Litmus’ infrastructure supports:

  • Asset and site twins
  • Use case driven models like energy monitoring, predictive maintenance, production optimization and quality control
  • Flexibility to support various digital twin models
  • Easy modeling of collected data
  • Real-time decision-making and simulation of different scenarios

Festo Connects To Emerson DCS

Quick news update from Festo—who is certainly keeping their PR machine busy. 

Festo now offers CPX valve manifold configuration to Emerson DeltaV DCS systems for fast, simple, and effective programming, commissioning, and validation of Festo-based pneumatics for skids and machines.

This first-of-its-kind third-party commissioning solution brings one of the world’s most versatile valve manifold control platforms, CPX, to the DeltaV DCS ecosystem. Fast commissioning enables system integrators to speed up time to market, lower engineering overhead, and design new, innovative, and unique distributed control solutions. Simple CPX configuration commissioning is available for the Rockwell ecosystem as well.

            The CPX electric terminal is a modular peripheral system for valve terminals. System integrators and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) adapt CPX to a wide range of applications. The modular design of the CPX enables a virtually endless range of pneumatic system configurations.

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