As manufacturing shifts towards smart factories, with interconnected production systems and automation, engineers at the University of Nottingham are leading a £1.9m project to develop a predictive toolkit to optimise productivity and communication between human workers and robots.
This research fits in with much other reporting I’ve done including the work of Dell Technologies on “human-machine partnerships.”
DigiTOP is one of seven national projects to create novel digital tools, techniques and processes to support the translation of digital capabilities into the manufacturing sector, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
It comes following the industry-led Made Smarter review, chaired by Siemens Chief Executive Juergen Maier, which stated that industrial digitalisation could be worth as much as £455bn to UK manufacturing over the next decade.
DigiTOP officially started on 1st July with the first month dedicated to project set up activities culminating in our internal kick off meeting at the end of the month, after which we should have a more outward focus. The project will take 39 months and complete on 30 September 2021. The twitter account @DigiTOP_Project will be regularly updated, and they are in the process of setting up a website to aid dissemination of progress.
A digital toolkit for the optimisation of operators and technology in manufacturing partnerships, DigiTOP will be led by Professor Sarah Sharples at the University of Nottingham in collaboration with Loughborough University, Cranfield University, University of the West of England, BAE Systems, Babcock International, Synertial Labs Ltd, Artinis Medical Systems B.V., High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult and Jaguar Land Rover Ltd.
The toolkit will focus on using human factor theories and data to digitally capture and predict the impact of digital manufacturing on future working practices. Demonstrators will be used to test the implementation of sensing technologies that will capture and evaluate performance change and build predictive models of system performance.
The project will also provide an understanding of the ethical, organisational and social impact of the introduction of digital manufacturing tools and digital sensor-based tools to evaluate work performance in the future workplace.
DigiTOP’s findings will help companies that are planning to implement digital manufacturing technologies to understand how it will alter working practices, and how to optimise workplace designs to take these changes into account.
The tools developed within DigiTOP will help industry to design future work which might take place with a human and robot working in collaboration to complete a task or help with understanding how to design a data visualisation which shows how current parts of the factory are performing, and where maintenance or systems change might be needed in the short or long-term future.
Professor Sharples said: “The manufacturing industry, with the drive towards ‘Industrie 4.0’, is experiencing a significant shift towards digital manufacturing. This increased digitisation and interconnectivity of manufacturing processes is inevitably going to bring substantial change to worker roles and manual tasks by introducing new digital manufacturing technologies to shop floor processes.
“It may not be enough to simply assume that workers will adopt new roles bestowed upon them; to ensure successful worker acceptance and operational performance of a new system it is important to incorporate user requirements into digital manufacturing technologies design.
“New approaches to capture and predict the impact of the changes that these new types of technologies, such as robotics, rapidly evolvable workspaces, and data-driven systems are required,” adds Professor Sharples, who is Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange for Engineering at Nottingham.
“These approaches consist of embedded sensor technologies for capture of workplace performance, machine learning and data analytics to synthesise and analyse these data, and new methods of visualisation to support decisions made, potentially in real-time, as to how digital manufacturing workplaces should function.”
The EPSRC investment arose out of work conducted by the Connected Everything Network Plus, which was established to create a multidisciplinary community focussed on industrial systems in the digital age.
EPSRC’s Executive Chair, Professor Philip Nelson, said: “The adoption of advanced ICT techniques in manufacturing provides an enormous opportunity to improve growth and productivity within the UK.
“The effective implementation of these new technologies requires a multidisciplinary approach and these projects will see academic researchers working with a large number of industrial partners to fully harness their potential, which could generate impact across many sectors.”
Gathering data, visualization on many devices and screens, and connecting with standards including OPC UA and BACnet attracted a crowd of developers and users to the Iconics World Wide Customer Conference this week in Providence, RI.
“Connected Intelligence is our theme at this year’s summit and it has a dual meaning for us,” said Russ Agrusa, President and CEO of Iconics. “First, it refers to our extensive suite of automation software itself and how it provides out-of-the-box solutions for visualization, mobility, historical data collection, analytics and IIoT. The second point is that Iconics, over the last 30 years, has built a community of partners and customers who will have the opportunity to meet our software designers and other employees and have one-on-one discussions on such topics as; Industry 4.0, IIoT, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and the latest advances in automation software technology. It is truly a high energy and exciting event.”
Key technologies showcased at the Iconics Connected Intelligence Customer Summit included:
1. Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things
2. Unlocking data and making the invisible, visible
3. Secure strategies and practices for industrial, manufacturing and building automation
4. Predictive AnalytiX using expert systems such as FDD and AI Machine Learning
5. Hot, warm and cold data storage with plant historians for the cloud and IIoT
Integration With AR, VR, and Mixed Reality Tech
The recent v10.95 release of GENESIS64 HMI/SCADA and building automation suite includes 3D holographic machine interface (HMI), which can be used with Microsoft’s HoloLens self-contained holographic computing device. This combination of Iconics software with Microsoft hardware allows users to visualize real-time data and analytics KPIs in both 2D and 3D holograms. When combined with Iconics AnalytiX software, users can take advantage of additional fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) and Hyper Historian data historian benefits, providing needed “on the spot” information in a hands-free manner.
“These new hands-free and mixed reality devices enable our customers and partners to ‘make the invisible visible’,” said Russ Agrusa, President and CEO of ICONICS. “There is a massive amount of information and value in all that collected and real-time data. Data is the new currency and we make it very easy to uncover this untapped information. We welcome this year’s summit attendees to get a glimpse at the future of HMI wearable devices such as Microsoft’s HoloLens and RealWear HMT1, HP and Lenovo Virtual reality devices.”
Mobile-Head-mounted tablet-style device
The V10.95 release of GENESIS64 HMI/SCADA and building automation suite includes Any Glass technology, which can be used with self-contained head-wearable computing devices. HMT-1 from RealWear demonstrated the visualization of real-time and historical data KPIs with voice driven, hands-free usage.
Featuring an intuitive, completely hands-free interface, the RealWear HMT-1 is a rugged head-worn solution for industrial IoT data visualization, remote video collaboration, technical documentation, assembly and maintenance instructions and streamlined inspections right to the eyes and ears of workers in harsh and loud field and manufacturing environments.
Support for multiple OSs and devices
Iconics has always been Microsoft Windows application and will continue to do so. However, IoTWorX Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) software automation suite includes support for multiple operating systems including Windows 10 IoT Enterprise and Windows 10 IoT Core, as well as a large variety of Linux embedded operating systems including Ubuntu and Raspbian.
Users can connect to virtually any automation equipment through supported industry protocols such as BACnet, SNMP, Modbus, OPC UA, and classic OPC Tunneling. Iconics’ IoT solution takes advantage of Microsoft Azure cloud services to provide global visibility, scalability, and reliability. Optional Microsoft Azure services such as Power BI and Machine Learning can also be integrated to provide greater depth of analysis.
The following Operating systems are currently being certified for IoTWorX:
• Windows 10 IoT Enterprise
• Windows 10 IoT Core
• Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7
• Ubuntu 17.04, Ubuntu 16.04, Ubuntu 14.04
• Linux Mint 18, Linux Mint 17
• CentOS 7
• Oracle Linux 7
• Fedora 25, Fedora 26
• Debian 8.7 or later versions, openSUSE 42.2 or later versions
• SUSE Enterprise Linux (SLES) 12 SP2 or later versions
Hot, Warm, Cold Data Storage
Hyper Historian data historian integrates with and supports Microsoft Azure Data Lake for more data storage, archiving and retrieval.
When real-time “hot” data is collected at the edge by IoT devices and other remote collectors, it can then be securely transmitted to “warm” data historians for mid-term archiving and replay. Hyper Historian now features the ability to archive to “cold” long-term data storage systems such as data lakes, Hadoop or Azure HD Insight. These innovations help to make the best use of historical data at any stage in the process for further analysis and for use with machine learning.
Among the new analytical features are a new 64-bit BridgeWorX64 data bridging tool, a new 64-bit ReportWorX64 reporting tool, several new Energy AnalytiX asset performance charts and usability improvements. In addition, Iconics has introduced a new BI Server.
• AnalytiX-BI – Provides data aggregation using data modeling and data sets
• ReportWorX64 – Flexible, interactive, drag & drop, drill-down reporting dashboards
• BridgeWorX64 – Data Bridging and with drag-and-drop workflows that can be scheduled
• Smart Energy AnalytiX – a SaaS based energy and facility solution for buildings
• Smart Alarm AnalytiX – a SaaS based alarming analysis product that uses EEMUA
One of my customers back in the 90s established an OEE office and placed an OEE engineer in each plant. OEE, of course is the popular abbreviation for Overall Equipment Effectiveness—a sum of ratios that places a numerical value on “true” productivity. I’ve always harbored some reservations about OEE, especially as a comparative metric, because of the inherent variability of inputs. Automated data collection and modern data base analytics are a solution.
A press release and email conversation with Parsec came my way this week. It sets the stage by pointing to the pressure to increase quality and quantity, while reducing costs, leading manufacturers to seek a deeper understanding of trends and patterns and new ways to drive efficiency. The very nature of OEE is to identify the percentage of manufacturing time that is truly productive. It is the key metric for measuring the performance of an operation, but many companies measure it incorrectly, or don’t measure it at all.
In the latest example of its efforts to help manufacturers maximize performance while reducing costs and complexity, Parsec launched its real-time Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) Performance Management solution.
Most OEE measurement systems capture data from a single source and offer reports that may be visually appealing but actually contain very little substance. Other OEE systems capture lots of data but fail to give operators the necessary tools to act on that data. The TrakSYS OEE Performance Management solution collects and aggregates data from multiple sources, leveraging existing assets, resources and infrastructure, and provides insight into areas of the operation that need improvement with the tools to take action.
“We are challenging manufacturers to go beyond OEE measurement and to begin thinking about performance management,” said Gregory Newman, Parsec vice president of marketing. “Our TrakSYS OEE Performance Management solution pinpoints the root causes of poor performance and closes the loop by providing actionable intelligence and the tools necessary to fix the bottlenecks and improve productivity.”
The Power to Perform
When designing the TrakSYS OEE Performance Management solution, Parsec took into account three key criteria for measuring OEE: Availability, Performance and Quality. Availability, or downtime loss, encompasses changeovers, sanitation/cleaning, breakdowns, startup/shutdown, facility problems, etc. Performance, or speed loss, includes running a production system at a speed lower than the theoretical run rate, and short stop failures such as jams and overloads. Quality, or defect loss, is defined as production and startup rejects, process defects, reduction in yield, and products that need to be reworked to conform to quality standards. As part of the solution, Parsec created a variety of standard dashboards and reports as well as the ability to customize reports through powerful web-based configuration tools.
“Our goal is to empower manufacturers to unlock unseen potential with their existing infrastructure,” added Newman. “Even small tweaks can save a plant millions of dollars each year.”
TrakSYS is an integrated platform that contains all of the functionality of a full manufacturing execution system (MES) in one package. The modular nature of TrakSYS brings flexibility to deploy only the functions that are required, without a major software upgrade. TrakSYS business solutions include OEE, SPC, e-records, maintenance, traceability, workflow, batch processing, sustainability, labor, and more.
Rockwell Automation has announced acquisition of Automation Control Products (ACP), a provider of centralized thin client, remote desktop and server management software. ACP’s two core products, ThinManager and Relevance, provide manufacturing and industry with visual display and software solutions to, as the Rockwell press release put it, “manage information and streamline workflows for a more connected manufacturing environment.”
I met Matt Crandell, ACP CEO, years ago at a trade show touting Linux, as I recall, to a Microsoft crowd. He and his team had developed a thin client technology (“dumb” terminals connected to a server) that brought 1970s and 80s era corporate computing into the modern age. He had good relations with Wonderware but I’ve noticed increasingly strong partnership with Rockwell Automation. This exit was probably the best he could hope for. Congratulations to Matt and the team for a good run and a good exit.
The press release gives us Rockwell’s justification, “This acquisition supports the Rockwell Automation growth strategy to help customers increase global competitiveness through The Connected Enterprise – a vision that connects information across the plant floor to the rest of the enterprise. It is accelerated by the Industrial Internet of Things and advances in technologies, such as data analytics, remote monitoring, and mobility.”
“Today’s plant engineers turn to our technology innovation and domain expertise to help improve their manufacturing quality and reliability while increasing productivity,” said Frank Kulaszewicz, senior vice president of Architecture and Software, Rockwell Automation. “With ACP’s industry-leading products now in our portfolio, we can provide new capabilities for workers as the manufacturing environment becomes more digital and connected.”
ThinManager centralizes the management and visualization of content to every facet of a modern manufacturing operation, from the control room to the end user. It streamlines workflows and allows users to reduce hardware operation and maintenance costs. Relevance extends the ThinManager functionality through proprietary location-based technology, enabling users’ secure mobile access to content and applications from anywhere.
“We are a perfect addition to Rockwell Automation’s industrial automation offerings that aim to increase reliability, productivity and security as well as lower energy and maintenance costs while implementing sustainable technology for leading global manufacturers,” said Matt Crandell, CEO of ACP. “We are confident that our customers will quickly see the value from our two organizations working to address their needs together.”
Plant operators have been isolated in remote control rooms for decades. They tend to lose intimate knowledge of their processes as they monitor computer screens in these isolated rooms. The sounds and smells are gone. Everything is theoretical.
This system has worked. But, is it the best, most efficient, most effective use of human intelligence?
Not likely. Technologies and work processes are joining to allow plant managers to change all this.
Tim Sowell, VP and Fellow at Schneider Electric, recently shared some more of his prescient thoughts on this issue–spurred as usual by conversations with customers.
He asks, “What is the reason why users have been locked to the desk/ control room, why has this transition not happened successfully before? It is simple, the requirement to be monitoring the plant. A traditional control room is the central place alarms, notifications were traditionally piped.”
Diving into what it takes to change, Sowell goes on to say, “The user needs to empowered with situational plant awareness, freed from monitoring, shifting to the experience of exception based notification. As the user roams the plant, the user is still responsible, and aware, and able to make decisions across the plant he is responsible for even if he not in view of that a particular piece of equipment. Driving the requirement for the mobile device the user carries to allow notification, drill thru access to information and ability to collaborate so the dependency to sit in the control room has lifted.”
Two streams join to form a river. Sowell continues, “The second key part of the transformation/ enablement of an edge worker is that their work, tasks and associated materials can transfer with them. As the world moves to planned work, a user may start work task on a PC in the control room, but now move out to execute close action. As the user goes through the different steps, the associated material and actions are at his finders tips. The operational work can be generated , assigned and re directed from all terminal.s and devices.”
The first generation of this thinking formed around the rapid development of mobile devices. Before plant managers and engineers could come to grips with one technology, the next popped up. Instead of careful and prolonged development by industrial technology providers, these devices came directly from consumers. Operators and maintenance techs and engineers brought them from home. Smart phones–the power of a computer tucked into their pockets.
Sowell acknowledges it takes more than a handheld computer. “It requires the transformation to task based integrated operational environment where the ‘edge worker’ is free to move.”
The information must free them to navigate with freedom, no matter the format, no matter where they start an activity, and have access to everything.
“Siri, what’s the weather in Bangor?”
“Alexa, buy some toilet paper.”
“Zelda, check the status of the control loop at P28.”
Operator interface is many years removed from its last significant upgrade. Yes, the Abnormal Situation Management Consortium (led by Honeywell) and Human-Centered Design used by Emerson Process Management and the work of the Center for Operator Performance have all worked on developing more readable and intuitive screens.
But, there is something more revolutionary on the horizon.
A big chunk of time last week on the Gillmor Gang, a technology-oriented video conversation, discussed conversational interfaces. Apple’s Siri has become quite popular. Amazon Echo (Alexa) has gained a large following.
Voice activation for operator interface
Many challenges lie ahead for conversation (or voice) interfaces. Obviously many smart people are working on the technology. This may be a great place for the next industrial automation startup. This or bots. But let’s just concentrate on voice right now.
Especially look at how the technologies of various devices are coming together.
I use the Apple ecosystem, but you could do this in Android.
Right now my MacBook Air, iPad, and iPhone are all interconnected. I shoot a photo on my iPhone and it appears in my Photos app on the other two. If I had an Apple Watch, then I could communicate through my iPhone verbally. It’s all intriguing.
I can hear all the objections, right now. OK, Luddites <grin>, I remember a customer in the early 90s who told me there would never be a wire (other than I/O) connected to a PLC in his plant. So much for predictions. We’re all wired, now.
What have you heard or seen? How close are we? I’ve done a little angel investing, but I don’t have enough money to fund this. But for a great idea…who knows?
Hey Google, take a video.