Bringing Manufacturing Data to the Cloud

Bringing Manufacturing Data to the Cloud

This press release is more than a little puzzling. GE Digital announces its Predix Manufacturing Data Cloud—apparently its own cloud platform. I would swear that I heard 18 months ago about a change in direction where it would leave behind its “not invented here” syndrome and rather than building its own platform from scratch using one of the several available cloud services.

Realistically, IT meets OT in the cloud. Predix Manufacturing Data Cloud exists to fulfill that promise.

Used in concert with a traditional Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Predix MDC gives manufacturers operational analysis in the cloud and greater flexibility of deployment, helping reduce the size of on-premises systems and make them run more efficiently.

“Most companies are only just scratching the surface of realizing their data’s potential. In fact, today manufacturers are losing the value of 70 percent of collected manufacturing data,” said Matt Wells, Vice President of Product Management for GE Digital. “Predix MDC delivers the power of cloud computing to manufacturers, taking the burden of heavy compute loads out of the plant, enabling users to aggregate data from across the business and run analytics that can uncover new insights and unlock even greater efficiencies.”

According to the company, Predix MDC provides next generation cloud functionality to GE Digital’s manufacturing execution system offering, Plant Applications, used by organizations around the world to track and analyze production execution and workflow, as well as manage production data and quality control. Predix MDC provides manufacturers with a secure, reliable way to ingest and store data in the cloud, speeding process implementation by up to 50 percent and giving users rich views into information captured at individual sites as well as the ability to run analytics and comparisons across various locations and data types, including manufacturing, enterprise and asset data. Additionally, MDC can reduce on-premise storage and maintenance costs, freeing up computing systems to focus on core capabilities. Furthermore, moving and storing manufacturing data in the cloud provides an additional level of certainty around data retention regulation compliance and auditing purposes.

It is built to support manufacturing across industries from discrete to process, across sectors like food and beverage, packaging, pulp and paper, automotive, chemical, pharmaceutical and life sciences.

P&G, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of consumer packaged goods (CPG), has been a long-time customer of GE Digital’s Plant Applications Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and is leveraging Predix MDC capabilities by moving manufacturing data and running analytics in the cloud. P&G has already gained a detailed, data-supported view into its manufacturing processes. The new offering is helping the company meet data compliance regulations and significantly increase the speed of its on-premise MES.

Predix MDC is compatible with any third-party application that supports REST APIs for data sourcing, user interface, visualization, analytics and reporting. General availability is expected in Q2 2019.

Emerson Acquires KNet Software

Emerson Acquires KNet Software

The acquisition pace within the industrial technology space continues. Some companies pursue partnerships, but most are growing their portfolios through acquiring. Emerson has been aggressively on the acquisition path. This action is another step.

Emerson has acquired KnowledgeNet (KNet) software from Tunisia-based Integration Objects. KNet’s unique analytics application software accelerates digital transformation initiatives for process and hybrid industries.

KNet is used to extract, clean, transform and analyze operational and manufacturing data. Using libraries of advanced statistical and machine-learning algorithms, the software consumes large quantities of diverse information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) data into actionable knowledge that drives real-time decisions to improve process and asset performance.

“Emerson has had a long-standing alliance with Integration Objects and has used KNet to solve complex operational challenges for its customers,” said Pat Fitzgerald, vice president and general manager of Emerson’s reliability solutions business. “We are excited to leverage KNet’s easy-to-use advanced analytics and automated root cause identification to provide differentiated insights into operational health to improve uptime and performance.”

KNet will be integrated with Emerson’s Plantweb digital ecosystem, which helps customers deliver measurable business outcomes from digital transformation initiatives. Combined with Emerson’s extensive Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) Library and consulting services, KNet will enhance the comprehensive analytics solution Emerson offers to customers.

“Integration Objects is proud of KNet’s industry impact and excited to see the future of this unique software,” said Samy Achour, CEO and founder of Integration Objects. “The integration of KNet into Emerson’s Plantweb ecosystem will help companies continuously improve their operations by making informed decisions with the latest real-time data and expert knowledge, and migrate from reactive to proactive operations.”

“The acquisition of KNet’s application software will further enable Emerson to deploy our industry expertise and solution capabilities to help customers decrease energy use and increase safety, asset availability and production,” said Jim Nyquist, group president of Emerson’s systems and solutions business.

In addition, Emerson will hire several team members from Integration Objects and open a new branch office in Tunis, Tunisia, to support the integration of KNet.

New HMI SCADA IIoT Software

New HMI SCADA IIoT Software

There’s something new for venerable HMI SCADA IIoT software applications? While discussing HMI SCADA announcements at last February’s ARC Industry Forum, a friend observed, “I didn’t think it was possible for there to be something new.”

Ignition 8 from Inductive Automation saw its release April 8. We got a glimpse at the Ignition Customer Conference in September and again at the ARC Forum. Now it’s ready to go. My first training class on this type of software was probably around 1994. Looking at this release, I’d have to say that great advances have been made.

This is a major update to Inductive’s signature software platform that addresses industrial organizations’ needs for expanded architectures, enhanced security, and first-class mobile solutions. This version gives users a powerful new view of their industrial processes that is more mobile, customizable, scalable, and secure than ever before. Ignition 8 arrives along with the new Ignition Perspective Module. Ignition Perspective is a visualization system that brings new capabilities to mobile devices.

“We’re very excited to be sharing Ignition 8 with the world,” said Carl Gould, co-director of software engineering for Inductive Automation. “I can’t wait to see what people build with Ignition Perspective, which was built from the ground up to be a first-class, pure-web, fully mobile solution for industrial applications.”

Ignition Perspective provides full SCADA control from mobile phones, and drag-and-drop capabilities for designing mobile-responsive screens that are ideal for mobile devices. Applications built with the Ignition Perspective Module adapt to fit any size screen, from cellphone to desktop. It also enables users to leverage a phone’s GPS, camera, Bluetooth, orientation-sensing, and more. It runs in any web browser with HTML5, and requires no plug-ins. Perspective allows people to enhance their SCADA systems in new and creative ways.

Ignition 8 provides new capabilities for building enterprise-scale architectures. A faster tag system aids very large deployments, such as those with one million tags or more. Improved concurrent design allows projects to move faster. Project inheritance allows corporate standards to be used in addition to local modifications. Full compatibility with industry-standard source-control tools makes it easy to restore previous versions, resolve code conflicts, and track changes to codebases. And Ignition 8 was built with cybersecurity as a key pillar. It supports industry-leading encryption protocols, uses two-factor authentication, and also includes single sign-on.

“With all the new features in Ignition 8, along with the new Ignition Perspective Module, this is a big leap forward for users of Ignition,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “This software is really going to open up a lot of creative opportunities for people.”

  • Unlimited Licensing Mode–Add unlimited clients, screens, tags, connections & devices.
  • Server-Centric Web-Deployment–Easily deploy at one or more sites or in the cloud.
  • Modular Configurability–Use integrated modules to build the exact industrial application you need.
  • Cross-Platform Compatibility–Ignition works with any major operating system, even iOS and Android.
  • Run Web-Clients on Desktop or Mobile–Launch runtime clients in any web browser with no plugin required.
  • Based on Open Technology Standards–Built on HTML5, SQL, Python, MQTT & OPC UA.
  • Instant Installs and Updates–Install on a server in just 3 minutes, push updates to clients everywhere, instantly.
  • One Universal Platform–Build SCADA, MES, IIoT, alarming, reporting applications and more.
  • Mission-Critical–Add fault tolerance for mission-critical systems by adding redundant servers.

Industrial Control System Security

Industrial Control System Security

I booked a vacation several months ago that conflicted with Hannover Messe. I missed the usually chilly and damp north of Germany in favor of the definitely chilly and damp Pacific Northwest.

Many announcements from Hannover reached me anyway, though, so I’ll be going through a few this week. First up concerns using the new CIP Security protocol from ODVA. This one from Rockwell Automation.

This release talks about Rockwell’s developing solutions toward closing a cybersecurity opening within industrial automation communication.

“As the world’s leading company focused on combining industrial automation with digital technology, we’re uniquely positioned to help close security gaps in connected operations,” said Megan Samford, director of product security, Rockwell Automation. “Our new offerings with built-in security deliver the industry’s best available protection of control-level traffic. This can give users confidence that the integrity of their systems and their device-to-device communications are protected from day one.”

The Allen-Bradley ControlLogix EtherNet/IP communication module is among the first industrial devices to use the CIP Security protocol from ODVA. The protocol helps make sure only authorized devices are connected in industrial operations. It also helps prevent tampering or interference with communications between those devices. CIP Security is the first industrial automation protocol to support transport layer security (TLS), the most proven security standard available.

Also, the newly enhanced Allen-Bradley ControlLogix 5580 controller is the world’s first controller to be certified compliant with today’s most robust control system security standard, IEC 62443-4-2. The standard defines the technical security requirements for industrial automation and control system components. This certification builds on the 2018 certification of the Rockwell Automation Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) to the IEC 62443-4-1 standard.

Robots and AI Spell Change Not Replacement for Workers

Robots and AI Spell Change Not Replacement for Workers

Here, finally, is someone who writes sensibly about automation. Dystopian writers about a robot apocalypse get lots of clicks and attention, but reality will be far different.

Elliot Dinkin, president and CEO of Cowden Associates: What automation appears to have in store for the job market is not massive downsizing, but changes in job description and reallocation of some repetitive chores.

I don’t know how I got on the mailing list of this PR firm, but the following article is worth it.

In late 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute released a report estimating that the relentless march of automation could eliminate up to 73 million jobs in the U.S. by 2030. “Automation is certainly a factor in the future of the workforce,” says Elliot Dinkin, a nationally known expert in actuarial, compensation, and employee benefits issues. “There are indications, however that its effect on downsizing may be less than what has been predicted. The largest corporate layoffs of this century to date, for example, seem primarily to have been caused not by advanced technology, but by market changes, mergers, and plain old bad business decisions.”

This assessment was echoed by participants in a recent conference on the future of the worker held at the Stanford School of Business. In 1950, the U.S. Census Bureau listed 250 separate jobs; of these, the conference noted, only one, that being elevator operator, has been completely eliminated. (And some of the elevator operator’s tasks, like greeting visitors and guiding them to the right office, have been redistributed to receptionists and security guards.) Conferees also pointed out that automation has its limits. Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of Tesla Motors, said, “Excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.”

One reason automation and computerization may loom so large in near-future predictions, industry experts suggest, is the spectacular increase in availability, and decrease in cost, of computer power. Given the capabilities of even an average smartphone, it is easy to forget that the underlying procedures—the algorithms that drive functions like big data and machine learning—have not changed significantly in more than 40 years.

It is also, Dinkin notes, easy to forget that under the right circumstances, automation facilitates business growth and thus stimulates employment rather than threatening it. The Ford Motor Company introduced the auto assembly line in 1913, reducing assembly time from 12 hours per car to about one and one-half hours—and enabling an enormous upsurge in production.5 Since then, the auto industry has continued to embrace automation, along with job-changing concepts like lean manufacturing. It has also continued to hire people; between 2011 and 2017, auto making and auto supplies employment increased by almost 50%, adding nearly 130,000 jobs in the U.S.

Another too often overlooked aspect of the future labor market, says Dinkin, is worker availability. Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, points out that while most popular discussions of technology center around replacing people with machines, current demographic trends point to a coming substantial drop in the supply of labor. According to Varian, the demographic effect on the labor market is 53% larger than the automation effect—meaning that when both are considered, both employment and real wages are more likely to increase than decrease.

“In the future as in the past,” says Dinkin, “workforce reductions will always be a possibility. In the future as in the past, automation will play a role in these decisions—but only as one of a number of factors, all of which need to be taken into account. What matters is to understand the situation, and to handle it in a manner fair to all parties. In our own business practice, we urge both labor representatives and corporate management to approach workforce decisions with as little passion and as much analysis as possible.”

Cowden Associates, Inc., headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, was created in 2001 by the merger of Halliwell and Associates and MMC&P Spectrum Benefits, which was founded by Jere Cowden in 1986. Currently led by President & CEO Elliot Dinkin, Cowden Associates specializes in helping corporate clients find the best solutions, both for the enterprise and for its employees, with regard to compensation, healthcare benefits, retirement and pension issues, and Taft-Hartley fund consulting. Winning Workplaces and The Wall Street Journal have recognized Cowden Associates as a “Top Small Workplace,” a lifetime designation awarded to executives for their ability to build and lead savvy organizations. For more information, visit www.cowdenassociates.com

Sources:
McCarthy, Niall, “Automation Could Eliminate 73 Million U.S. Jobs By 2030,” Forbes, November 30, 2017.
Whiteman, Doug, “The Biggest Corporate Layoffs of the Century (So Far),” Moneywise, February 11, 2019.
Snyder, Bill, “Our Misplaced Fear of Job-Stealing Robots,” Stanford Business Insights, March 7, 2019.
Kosko, Bart, “What Do You Think About Machines That Think?,” Edge Foundation, 2019.
Boisset, Fabrice, “The History of Industrial Automation in Manufacturing,” kingstar.com, May 9, 2018.
“State of the U.S. Automotive Industry,” American Automotive Policy Council, August 2018.
“Productivity, Technology, and Demographics,” International Monetary Fund IMF Blog, May 5, 2017.

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