Rockwell Automation Announces Edge-to-Cloud and Upgraded Asset Management

Here are two interesting announcements from Rockwell Automation this month. DataOps and asset management subscription service—both technologies for the future.

Edge-To-Cloud

IT companies have been touting edge-to-cloud architectures for several years. I’ve followed several of those companies until they decided there’s not enough revenue from the industrial market to satisfy them. Industrial technology suppliers have been notoriously slow to adopt new technologies. But the pace is picking up. 

In my next post after this one, I’ll discuss another industrial company who has discovered edge-to-cloud as a promising architecture of the future. Rockwell Automation beat them by few days. I have two announcements from Rockwell from last week revealing that company’s continued advance into software and IT-related technologies. Some executive sources in the industry have told me that Wall Street is driving much of this strategy by valuing software companies over hardware companies. 

Check out Rockwell’s investment in and subsequent partnership with PTC that enhanced its software connectivity of automation to IT. Then acquisitions of Plex and Fiix to get into the cloud. Now a partnership with Cognite for a data hub—yet another key component.

  • Strategic partnership to develop a unified, edge-to-cloud industrial data hub offering
  • Combines Rockwell’s FactoryTalk software with Cognite’s Industrial DataOps platform Data Fusion [Note: I’m on record somewhere predicting DataOps as a cool tool for the future.]

My Equipment Subscription

I always forget that often when Rockwell talks asset management, it’s not the same thing as when a process automation company discusses it. In Rockwell speak, this means keeping track of Rockwell assets in a manufacturing company.

  • My Equipment Digital enables digital collection and updating of industrial automation asset data through the use of network-based devices. 
  • The digital collection method includes firmware information and a one-time vulnerability assessment.
  • Customers can self-manage and track their installed base automation assets
  • The self-manage feature can be added to an Installed Base Evaluation (IBE service) and is included in the My Equipment Digital and My Equipment Managed offerings.
  • Mitigate network risks if legacy products and/or unmanaged switches are found
  • Review modernization potential to determine risks and productivity improvement opportunities by identifying which older products may be less expensive to repair than to buy new
  • Provide adequate remote support coverage by confirming that the most prevalent technical segments are covered
  • Reduce costs through the optimization of asset and spares strategies by comparing storeroom data to the installed base, and the identification of warranty savings

Schneider Electric to Invest $46 Million to Modernize Manufacturing Plants in Kentucky and Nebraska

For those US-based readers interested in investment in manufacturing here, this news provides a bit of good news. I’ve visited the Lexington plant discussed here. It is an impressive operation. Glad to see Schneider Electric putting some additional money there.

Schneider Electric announced it will invest about $46 million in its Lexington, KY and Lincoln, NE manufacturing plants to modernize their operations and increase circuit breaker and related electrical product output for its customers in the U.S. and Canada.

In addition, company officials said: 

  • Construction of its El Paso, TX manufacturing plant is progressing on schedule. The 160,000 square foot plant is projected to be operational by the end of 2022.
  • Expansion of Schneider’s Tlaxcala, MX operation continues as the company seeks to meet demand for the circuit breakers and electrical panel boards produced there. The 150,000 square foot operation will employ about 600 workers and will provide the company with the capability to manufacture and ship products in-region should the need arise.
  • Schneider will expand its manufacturing operation in Monterrey, MX with a 185,000 square foot manufacturing plant that will build and ship customized switchgear products used to transmit power most often in commercial buildings. The company expects to employ about 325 workers and begin shipping products before the end of 2023.  
  • The Lexington, KY plant is recognized by the World Economic Forum as both an Advanced Lighthouse and a Sustainability Lighthouse for its adoption and use of 4IR technologies and for achieving sustainability and productivity breakthroughs, respectively. Schneider Electric was ranked No. 2 in the Gartner Supply Chain Top 25 for 2022. It recently ranked eighth on the 2022 Best Workplaces in Manufacturing & Production list by Fortune magazine.  

A Pair of Rockwell Automation Announcements

Rockwell Automation Expands Threat Detection Offering through Managed Services

In many ways the tech industry—consumer and industrial including even Apple—is moving from product-centric to finding ways to promote continuing revenue through service offerings. This example comes via Rockwell Automation. 

Rockwell Automation launched the new Threat Detection Managed Services offering in early 2022 providing customers with application-level, real-time monitoring, and response services to help detect, identify, contain, eradicate, and recover from a cyber incident. This is a cloud-based service focusing on both Cisco and Claroty threat detection software.

  • 24/7 security alert monitoring
  • 24/7 hardware health monitoring
  • System tuning
  • Software update administration
  • Backup administration
  • Value reporting
  • Training

Rockwell Automation Simplifies Sizing, Selection of Motion Control Components with New FactoryTalk Motion Analyzer

I appreciate the efforts of companies to automate and optimize everyday activities such as all the work involved with designing and implementing motion control. This is a new release from Rockwell Automation.

FactoryTalk Motion Analyzer software enables users to select, analyze and validate their system components using new intuitive workflows and comparison tools. It is now available for download on the Rockwell Automation website.

FactoryTalk Motion Analyzer consists of a comprehensive component library that allows the analysis of a wide-variety of user-defined applications. Designers can select their system using a combination of Kinetix motors, Kinetix drives, select PowerFlex drives and third-party components such as gearboxes from Rockwell Automation Technology Partners. They can choose from pre-built application templates or by start with a blank template adding components and motion profiles to define the ideal machine.

ABB Rebrands Autonomous Mobile Robot Portfolio

A little marketing news plus a note about ABB extending its robotic reach.

  • ABB is the only company with a comprehensive and integrated offering of robots, AMRs and machine automation solutions.
  • ASTI Mobile Robotics’ solutions are now rebranded and integrated into ABB’s portfolio, grouped under the Flexley name. The first models to be released, Flexley Tug and Flexley Mover.
  • Building on ASTI’s use of laser scanner-based 2D SLAM navigation, the future ABB autonomous mobile robots will also benefit from pioneering VSLAM technology of Sevensense Robotics – a Swiss start-up in ABB’s portfolio of partner companies – that enables mobile robots to navigate complex and dynamic environments.
  • ABB has worked with strategic partner Expert Technology Group in the UK to deliver a complete assembly line based on AMRs for a technological. Transporting products between robotic automation cells and manual assembly stations, ABB’s automation solution combines the use of ABB robots, vision function packages and AMRs.
  • The integration of ASTI into ABB includes a complete rebranding of all its offices and facilities, as well as the launch of a new look web site at amr.robotics.abb.com
  • Continuing to use the ASTI name is the ASTI Foundation, which was founded in 2017 to educate and equip young people with the skills to thrive in an age of digital transformation. 

New IoT Services

Two announcements from HiveMQ.

HiveMQ Accelerates IoT Data Ingestion into Google Cloud 

Aligning your IT infrastructure with a major supplier can be not only expensive, but also it can leave you vulnerable to corporate decisions made far away. For example, Google recently announced plans to retire Google IoT Core, leaving customers with less than a year to migrate their IoT applications to a new service.

The latest Rework podcast from 37 Signals features co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson (@DHH) and Operations Director Eron Nicholson discussing leaving the cloud. They address this issue and others.

If you are caught by this shift in Google strategy, there is one possible solution just announced. HiveMQ has developed an MQTT broker that bypasses Google IoT Core to send up to billions of messages per day directly to Google Cloud for advanced analytics.

HiveMQ Enterprise Extension for Google Cloud Pub/Sub, is a new feature that seamlessly integrates MQTT data into Google Cloud. Organizations can now benefit from HiveMQ’s flexible, standards-based platform to send IoT data reliably and securely to Google Cloud enterprise services such as monitoring, advanced analytics and machine learning. 

HiveMQ can replace IoT Core’s MQTT data ingestion service to connect MQTT clients using HiveMQ’s MQTT broker and then map the MQTT message into Google Pub/Sub.

HiveMQ Enables Real-Time IoT Observability from Device to Cloud 

New feature traces MQTT data in real-time to give users better visibility into their IoT applications.

HiveMQ, a global leader in enterprise MQTT solutions, announced the availability of the HiveMQ Distributed Tracing Extension, a new feature that makes it possible to trace and debug MQTT data streams from device to cloud and back. Complete IoT observability requires insight into three pillars: metrics, traces and logs. HiveMQ has added distributed tracing to help organizations achieve end-to-end observability and make their IoT applications more performant and resilient. 

Distributed Tracing is a way to trace events and achieve a high-level overview of a message’s journey through multiple, complex systems. With the Distributed Tracing Extension, HiveMQ is the first MQTT broker to add OpenTelemetry support to provide complete transparency for every publish message that uses the HiveMQ MQTT broker. OpenTelemetry is an open standard for instrumentation that allows for interoperability across all services so organizations can achieve visibility over their entire system.

Lenovo Celebrates 30th Anniversary of ThinkSystem Innovation with  Broadest Portfolio Enhancement in its History

My knowledge of Lenovo stopped not long after its acquisition of the ThinkPad line of laptops and other personal computing devices many years ago. I accepted an invitation to a press event recently. Good thing. I’ve been attending IT company conferences for a few year. Turns out that Lenovo is a strong competitor in this market. They amazed me with the depth and breadth of their product line.

Celebrating the 30th anniversary, they announced many new products. You can find several summarized here and check the website for more complete information. 

  • Lenovo Infrastructure Solutions V3 delivers advanced ThinkSystem, ThinkAgile, and ThinkEdge servers and storage with next-generation AMD, Intel and Arm-based processors, NVIDIA AI Enterprise software and enhanced Lenovo ThinkShield security
  • New Lenovo XClarity One, a cloud-based, unified software management platform, provides an industry-first integration of TruScale Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Management-as-a-Service and Smarter Support analytics to simplify orchestration, automation and metering from edge to cloud 
  • Next-generation Lenovo Neptune warm water cooling and CO2 Offset Services help customers achieve their sustainability goals
  • Supported by next-generation AMD EPYC, Intel Xeon Scalable and Arm-based processors, as well as AMD Instinct and NVIDIA GPUs and NVIDIA AI Enterprise software 
  • Lenovo’s next-generation of ThinkAgile V3 hyperconverged infrastructure solutions are pre-integrated with an open ecosystem of partners, including Microsoft, Nutanix and VMware software capabilities
  • Three new Lenovo Microsoft Azure Solutions: SQL for AI and Machine Learning (ML) Insights, Backup and Recovery and Azure Virtual Desktop. 
  • The new Lenovo Open Cloud Automation (LOC-a) version 2.5 securely authenticates and activates leading ThinkEdge AI servers on site via a phone, accelerating business insights with a fully operational edge system within minutes or hours. 
  • Lenovo’s Modular Root of Trust helps protect, detect and recover from cyberattacks and digital compromises with bolstered tamper-detection and monitoring embedded into the chip design
  • Lenovo System Guard ensures heightened security between manufacturing, delivery and deployment with advanced hardware monitoring

Avnu Alliance Expands TSN Test Tool Ecosystem

A few years ago I thought Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) had potential benefits for industrial networking. This IEEE standard would do the synchronizing that only custom chips do now. As a standard, commercially available chips should be plentiful and inexpensive. Technical snafus ensued. We are still waiting. There are advances.

  • Avnu Alliance, the industry forum driving deterministic capabilities into open, standards-based networking, announced expansion of its time sensitive networking (TSN) Test Tool program by opening the test tool ecosystem to new vendors. 
  • 3rd party vendor test tools can be verified and validated through Avnu’s rigorous process, which is designed and maintained by experienced certification management professionals and TSN subject matter experts to ensure that it meets the interoperability standards of Avnu’s Global Certification Program.
  • The Avnu Express Test Tool is a low-cost, entry-level evaluation test tool that allows members to internally verify if a device will pass certification tests before submitting to testing. The Avnu Express Test Tool provides valuable insights into the product that can be used to optimize and debug product development, increasing the probability of certification success.

IoT Bridge Connects OT Data to Microsoft Azure

MQTT is a de facto standard transport protocol in the IT world for communications. Cirrus Link and partners have been expanding the use for IoT in industrial applications. Along the way the Sparkplug information model was developed to assist the communication. This announcement adds Microsoft Azure to the portfolio.

  • Automatically connect MQTT Sparkplug models to Azure to accelerate industrial IoT time-to-value
  • Cirrus Link announced availability of the IoT Bridge for Microsoft Azure available on the Azure Marketplace, which connects standard MQTT Sparkplug data models to Azure Digital Twin and updates data changes to Azure Data Explorer for time series data. 
  • Cirrus Link developed the IoT Bridge, a software widget based on Sparkplug that converts OT data to IT data automatically with zero coding required. 
  • Without the IoT Bridge, companies have typically spent thousands of consulting dollars building customized coded solutions that are not scalable and end in catastrophe as a lost cause.
  • Consumes MQTT Sparkplug data (data model and tags)
  • Auto-creates data models to Azure Digital Twin
  • Auto-discovers data assets
  • Pushes tag data to Azure Digital Twin and Azure Data Explorer
  • Requires no programming or code
  • Customers can download and install the IoT Bridge software and within 30 minutes they can automatically have data in Microsoft Azure. The IoT Bridge takes OT data and points it to IT quickly and easily with an open standard approach.

Skills Gap Threatens to Stall Industrial Digital Transformation

This one shouldn’t surprise anyone. Hitachi Vantara commissioned a study by 451 Research to determine if there is a skills shortage that could inhibit industrial digital transformation.

Competing priorities and skills shortages in IoT, AI/ML data science and robotics undermine potential progress in IT/OT convergence and security.

Research found a lack of digital skills is jeopardizing industries’ digital transformation initiatives. The report “Industry 4.0: Maturity of Adoption and Its Impact on Sustainability and ESG”1 surveyed more than 600 IT and OT leaders engaged in Industry 4.0 initiatives across the manufacturing, transportation, and energy and utilities sectors. 

  • While 100% of companies surveyed are engaging in or planning digital transformation projects for their operations or supply chains, more than half of companies said they lacked sufficient skills in key areas. 
  • The most critical gaps cited are in data science (42%) defined as artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics; IoT deployment and development (48%), or robotics deployment and operations (60%). 
  • Given the technology skills gap, at least 37% of respondents indicated that they had no plans to implement IoT-led initiatives. 
  • Once viewed as a potential barrier to Industry 4.0 and digital transformation initiatives, IT/OT convergence is happening with 95% of respondents saying the two departments collaborate adequately or better for IoT projects. 

Realtime Robotics Integrates Robot Motion Planning & Control Software With Siemens Process Simulate

Integration and collaboration are the name of the current game in the industrial technology market. If only there were more pervasive interoperability. But this one is interesting.

Realtime Robotics announced that it has teamed with Siemens to integrate its RapidPlan software with Siemens Process Simulate in the company’s Tecnomatix portfolio.

The programming, deployment and control of industrial robots is automated, autonomously generating and choreographing all robot movements. Users create a digital twin simulation of their workcell and then simply point and click on robots and target points to create and visualize collision-free task plans, saving weeks to months of programming time per project.

  • Streamline Cell Commissioning.
  • Improve Decision-Making .
  • Quickly Evaluate and Validate Options.
  • Work Directly in Siemens Process Simulate.
  • Automatic Viapoints and Interlocks.