One conference I’m attending from the comfort of my office this week is Honeywell Virtual Technology Experience. Thanks to the pandemic, no Honeywell User Group (HUG) this year.
This remote conference technology constantly improves. This is my fourth of the season. Technical glitches have been rare. Speakers overall have ranged from good to outstanding. Jason Urso, Honeywell Process Solutions Chief Technology Officer gave his usual great technology roundup even dialing in demos from Australia.
Interesting that I used the word remote, because that is the word of the year. Any of us who can work from home are. That includes process control where many engineers can work from home and avoid getting sick.
Urso pointed to disruptions in the economy including disturbances to supply chains, postponed maintenance checks, and restricted travel combining to increase operational risks for critical manufacturers. Simultaneously, demand for key products like toilet paper for hygiene, filter paper for purification products, and packaging materials for shipping is peaking, making reliable, high-quality production even more important.
“Living in this new reality, manufacturers are faced with having to find new ways of operating, balancing the need to keep critical processes and plants running while ensuring the safety of their employees,” noted Urso. ”Here are three critical steps manufacturers can take to navigate this unprecedented situation:
Focus on essential work onsite to minimize the potential exposure of workers
Adopt proven and secure remote solutions for operations
Receive aid remotely through collaboration with on-call experts”
The bulk of the keynote reviewed three remote solutions Honeywell Process has developed for situations just like this.
Remote Project Engineering
Honeywell is continuing project operations by using software and digital twin technology. Project engineers from around the world continue working on Honeywell projects from home or in locations where offices are still operating with social distancing.
“We do so by utilizing digital twin technology that makes a digital replica of the customer’s equipment and processes which allows our project engineers to work on the ‘digital copy’ of the project versus on the actual equipment itself,” says Urso. “Critical infrastructure projects in oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, and power can proceed without interruption.”
Customers increasingly have fewer individuals working onsite to follow stay-at-home orders. In some cases, quarantines of key individuals are also affecting the availability of skilled resources at the site. In response, Honeywell has issued new software that enables process operations to be monitored or even executed from remote locations outside of the facility. Remote support staff in other facilities or at home can be utilized as if they are working directly at the process location.
We recently deployed remote operations solutions to one of our own specialty additives plants in Orange, Texas, that produces polyethylenes, allowing us to operate and ensure business continuity even with reduced onsite staffing. A virtual remote-control workstation duplicates the operator’s distributed control system stations in the main control room and can fully take over in case of further restrictions or illness. Our engineers can now support operations and execute essential tasks from remote locations, maintaining social distancing while keeping the same number of eyes on the plant.
According to Urso, “software was up and running in less than two hours and is protected by the highest levels of cybersecurity protocols and best practices.”
Remote Services and Support
Our customers are also looking for Honeywell to provide remote support in light of restrictions on personnel traveling and entering a site. Honeywell has deployed multiple remote service options to continue providing expert support via remote connectivity to our equipment. These remote options also use the power of Honeywell Forge offerings to proactively detect issues and bring them to the attention of both the customer and Honeywell experts.
Because our remote offerings help our customers in essential industries maintain critical activities in a safe manner during this crisis, Honeywell Process Solutions has trained all service technicians to build awareness of this capability and collaborate with our customers through this challenging time.
There is nothing like a crisis to spur innovation. The Covid-19 pandemic is not an exception. My Inbox runneth over with announcements—all good. Many are safety related, but this innovation reminds us that the controls and automation sector—both suppliers and manufacturers—plays a vital role in bringing vaccines and new therapies to market.
Honeywell announced Fast Track Automation, a combination of proprietary technology innovations for the life sciences industry that enables vital vaccines, treatments and therapies to move from regulatory approval to full production in as little as two months depending on process requirements. The solution incorporates process automation elements that can be configured in a virtual environment, then implemented rapidly once a therapy is approved and ready to be produced for public distribution.
By the way, this reflects a trend in the industry toward packaging products and solutions to make implementation easier and bette for the user.
Fast Track Automation is a response to the global COVID-19 outbreak, which has highlighted the need to accelerate delivery of medical solutions and devices to patients by focusing on ensuring more efficient production and testing capabilities along with facilitating strengthened supply chain. Life sciences manufacturers are leading the race against time to overcome the pandemic through innovative science. At the point in time when clinical trials are nearing completion, the ability to rapidly pivot and scale up to meet production demand will severely test existing technology infrastructures.
The most efficient way to ramp up the production of potential therapies is to facilitate development of commercial-scale manufacturing earlier, while treatments and prevention therapies are still in clinical trials. Fast Track Automation has been designed to be used in development applications in as little as two months, and then to help manufacturers scale up to full production immediately after the appropriate regulatory approvals are granted.
“Honeywell has provided the life sciences industry with consistently innovative advancements in automation technologies, systems and services for over 30 years, and Fast Track Automation offering is one of our most valuable offerings to date,” said Cynthia Pussinen, vice president and general manager, Life Sciences, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Our solution allows for end-to-end manufacturing process and data visualization, providing real-time visibility and predictive insights while offering benefits like enhanced audit-readiness and data integrity, minimized regulatory risk, increased operational efficiencies and reduced rejects and waste.”
Fast Track Automation leverages the power of the cloud, virtualization, batch software running in the controller, flexible assignment of computing power, remote asset management from a data center, and efficient, fast-track lean project implementation.
The technology prepares manufacturing automation designs in parallel with clinical trials to ensure production is ready to go once a medical therapy is approved. Manufacturers can even use the system to digitize manual steps during clinical trials to better consolidate and analyze data and more seamlessly prepare electronic submissions for regulatory body review and approval. Manufacturers can then use that data to prepare the final production automation design. Additionally, the system can be quickly scaled up or down depending on needed changes and demand.
I have known Eddie Habibi, founder and CEO of PAS (now PAS Global) for about 20 years. So I’ve followed the development of his company for that long. There was alarm management, and process safety, and process asset management. And the company grew at a typical pace for the market.
Then he went all-in on process control system cybersecurity. He accepted some investment money, hired some pros in the field, and combined security with what the company was already known for.
The results are in the latest press release from PAS Global LLC where it announced a 45% increase in term revenue year-over-year and increased market recognition of its solutions.
In March 2019, the company introduced an expanded Cyber Integrity offering with risk analytics for continuous operational technology (OT) endpoint security. Following this milestone, the company marked record growth in the adoption of this solution across multiple geographies and verticals including the United States, Europe, and the Middle East with leading organizations in the chemicals and oil & gas industries, in particular.
A Fortune 50 independent petroleum refiner was challenged with increasing cybersecurity risks as they deployed connected technology to achieve faster and more efficient production operations. PAS Cyber Integrity was deployed as the foundation for the refiner’s OT cybersecurity program to create an automated, comprehensive, evergreen OT asset inventory and to more quickly identify and remediate security vulnerabilities. What used to take the company months to assess “critical” or “high” ICS-CERT vulnerabilities can now be done in minutes across all refineries.
A global, integrated oil & gas company operating across five continents is pursuing digital transformation to grow its business, enter new markets, and compete more effectively. Underpinning this initiative is a cloud-based analytics platform. The team chartered with this program sought to leverage their multi-vendor industrial control system (ICS) data and ensure reliable data flows from field-level devices to their data lake. They sought a platform-independent solution that could not only deliver this data, but also provide a topological view of assets and site connections, monitor configuration baselines, and manage change. Additionally, the company’s cybersecurity team sought a solution that could provide comprehensive OT asset inventory and rapid vulnerability assessment capabilities. PAS Automation Integrity and Cyber Integrity were selected to address these needs.
A major electronic materials firm with operations in North America and Asia sought to establish an enterprise-wide cybersecurity program on an aggressive schedule to eliminate gaps in visibility and security controls. Cyber Integrity was selected to automatically build a detailed OT asset inventory for each site, identify patch levels across systems, and implement change management workflows. The company now has the inventory and configuration visibility it needs to support digitalization efforts including data lake, 5G, and artificial intelligence initiatives.
“Industrial organizations are increasing investment in cybersecurity solutions specifically built for OT not only to reduce their overall cyber risk but to ensure they can accelerate their digital transformation efforts safely,” said Eddie Habibi, Founder and CEO of PAS. “We are pleased to be working with a growing list of global companies who are leveraging PAS Cyber Integrity to give them the foundation they need for managing industrial cyber risk.”
The company also saw significant year-over-year growth in purchases of its operations management and process safety solution, PlantState Suite.
“Of equal importance is the work we do to help companies improve process safety through effective operations management,” Habibi added. “We are pleased to have been recognized once again as the market leader for both alarm management and safety lifecycle management. This is a testament to the hard work of the PAS team over many years and the confidence our customers place in our solutions.”
PAS cybersecurity and process safety management solutions are installed in more than 70 countries in over 1,450 industrial facilities for over 535 customers, including 13 of the top 15 chemical companies, 13 of the top 15 refining companies, 7 of the top 20 power generation companies, 4 of the top 5 pulp and paper companies, and 3 of the top 5 mining companies in the world.
I’ve followed Foxboro and Triconex for many years now in my coverage of the process automation business. A great company that, not unlike too many others, suffered now and again with very poor management. The company has now settled in nicely at its home in Schneider Electric and appears to be healthy here.
Much credit must go to Gary Freburger. He provided a steadying hand as the leader before and through the transition, as well as guiding the integration into the new home. He is retiring at the end of the year. I’ve met a number of great leaders and a few stinkers in my 20 years at this side of the business. Gary’s one of the great ones. And his chosen successor (see more below) seems more than up for the task of building on his successes.
Marcotte Succeeds Freburger as Process Automation President
This week’s major announcement revealed that Nathalie Marcotte has been selected to succeed Freburger as president of its Process Automation business, effective Jan. 1, 2020.
“After a long, successful industry career, including more than 15 years serving Invensys and Schneider Electric in various senior leadership roles, Gary has decided to retire,” said Peter Herweck, executive vice president, Industrial Automation business, Schneider Electric. “We thank him for his many contributions and his strong legacy of success. We wish him well, and I congratulate Nathalie on her appointment. She brings more than 30 years of industry knowledge, expertise and experience, as well as a long record of success. I look forward to working with her as we build on the success Gary has delivered.”
Since joining the Schneider organization in 1996, Marcotte has held several positions of increasing responsibility, including vice president of Global Performance and Consulting Services; vice president, North America marketing; general manager for the Canadian business; and, prior to her current position, vice president, marketing, Global Systems business. As the company’s current senior vice president, Industrial Automation Services, she is responsible for Schneider Electric’s Services business and offer development, ranging from product support to advanced operations and digital services. She is also responsible for the company’s Global Cybersecurity Services & Solutions business, including the Product Security Office.
“As we move through this transition, it will be business as usual for Schneider Electric and our Process Automation customers,” Marcotte said. “Gary and I are working very closely together to ensure there will be no disruptions to our day-to-day operations. This ensures our customers have the same access to the exceptional people, products and technology they have come to trust and rely on to improve the real-time safety, reliability, efficiency and profitability of their operations.”
“I thank Gary for his many contributions to Schneider Electric and to our industry in general. Under his leadership, our customers, partners and employees have never been better situated to succeed, today and tomorrow,” Marcotte said. “This transition will have no impact on our technology strategy and portfolio roadmap. We remain committed to our continuously-current philosophy, which means never leaving our customers behind. Now, by leveraging the strength of the full Schneider Electric offer, we can take the next step toward enabling an easier, less costly digital transformation for our customers, while keeping them on the path to a safer, more secure and profitable future.”
Following the opening keynotes, I had the opportunity to chat privately with Freburger and Marcotte. Following summarizes a few key takeaways.
Digitalization and Digital Transformation.
These topics were prominently displayed in the ballroom before the keynotes. In fact the welcome and opening presentation were given by Mike Martinez, Director of Digital Transformation Consulting. These are common themes in the industry—in fact, not only process automation, but also at the IT conferences I cover. Each company has its own unique take on the terms, but it still boils down to data, data integrity, databases, and data security. All of which were discussed.
Key Points From the Presidents.
Integration across Schneider Electric. One priority has been working with other business units (and their technologies) across the Schneider Electric portfolio. This could be PLCs and drives, but power is a huge emphasis. Schneider Electric management wants very much for its process automation acquisition to integrate well with its historic electric power business. This is seen as a strategic opportunity. One thought-provoking observation—is the process engineer/electrical engineer divide as serious as the IT/OT divide? No direct answer. But these domains have historically had little to no collaboration. One to watch.
Close working relationship with AVEVA. If you recall, Schneider Electric bundled its various software acquisitions including the ones from Invensys (Wonderware, Avantis) and used them to buy into AVEVA—the engineering software company. Bringing automation and software together was a constant source of pain for Invensys. Schneider Electric dealt with it through a separate company. Along the way, cooperation seems to be better than ever. Marcotte explained to me that Foxboro combines its domain expertise with the more broadly general software platforms to achieve customer values. See for example my previous post on Plant Performance Advisors Suite.
Cybersecurity. Marcotte has been leading Schneider’s cybersecurity efforts. These are seen as a key part of Schneider Electric’s offer. See especially the establishment of the ISA Global Cybersecurity Alliance. They don’t talk as much about Internet of Things as at other conferences, when I probed more deeply about IT, cybersecurity was again brought up as the key IT/OT collaboration driver.
It’s been a struggle, but the Schneider Electric process automation business (Foxboro and Triconex) seems as strong as ever. And the people here—both internal and customers—are optimistic and energetic. That’s good to see.
My wife’s family took me off for a week-long vacation to the beach last week. Eight days of much needed rest after a bunch of travel and a hectic (meaning wet) spring soccer season.
Last week was also Rockwell Automation TechED. That conference was once open only to distributer and integrator tech people. Several years ago it opened to media and became quite a thing for a few years. Last year I received an invitation to attend but they said that there was no media program. The timing was bad for me, so I passed. This year, there was no word at all. And I saw no news.
There are several industrial automation user conferences this week. PTC invited me to its conference in Boston. Then I was invited to Honeywell User Group (HUG). Then there were other invitations. Busy week. I initially told PTC I would attend, then putting it in my calendar, I realized that the week included my wedding anniversary. It’s big number (as in large). My better sense prevailed and I’m watching both of those conferences from afar.
So far this week, Honeywell Process Solutions has made a big announcement with some innovative product releases. Rockwell Automation, which owns about 8% of PTC and is banking on the partnership to bring its software into the new age, also issued a release. I’m still figuring that one out.
Honeywell Proclaims New Approach to Engineering
• Experion PKS Highly Integrated Virtual Environment (HIVE) significantly simplifies control system design, implementation and lifecycle management while reducing cost
• Market-first solution uniquely decouples the assignment of input/output (IO) modules and control strategies from specific controllers, and leverages IT capabilities in customers’ own data centers
My take on this announcement considers the HIVE product suite part of the growing trend under the umbrella of “digital twin.” Other companies have some somewhat similar products, but what I’ve found is that each company moves the ball forward a little more in a seemingly endless cycle of innovation. Honeywell labels it an evolution of the company’s flagship Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS).
Experion PKS HIVE uses Honeywell’s LEAP project execution principles, software, and networking to unchain control applications from physical equipment, and controllers from physical IO. This enables control systems to be engineered and implemented in less time, at lower cost and risk, and with simpler, modular builds. The solution also transforms the way control systems are maintained over their lifecycle, shifting day-to-day management of servers to a centralized data center, where experts and established protocols mitigate cybersecurity risk, allowing plant engineers to focus more proactively on optimization of their control systems.
Experion PKS HIVE incorporates three elements – IT HIVE, IO HIVE and Control HIVE – which can be used individually or collectively, in tandem with customers’ existing systems and infrastructure:
• Experion PKS IT HIVE centralizes up to 80% of the IT infrastructure traditionally used in project engineering to lower project delivery and lifecycle costs, better leverage skills, and drive consistent physical and cybersecurity management across an enterprise.
• Experion PKS IO HIVE provides flexible IO and control distribution enabling the control system to become a natural extension of process equipment and to facilitate modular and parallel project execution.
• Experion PKS Control HIVE uniquely applies control containers to provide flexibility and standardization of control hardware platform, control location, and control engineering. With multiple physically controllers operating as part of a Experion PKS Control HIVE, control engineering is dramatically simplified through automated load balancing.
“In developing Experion PKS HIVE, Honeywell worked closely with customers across the chemical, refining and oil and gas industries,” said Jason Urso, chief technology officer, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Many of these organizations want a more efficient approach to control system engineering, yet one that can be adopted incrementally and used interchangeably with their existing systems and infrastructure. Experion PKS HIVE provides these benefits and is truly a distributed control as it applies and geographically distributes technology to where it is needed.”
Experion PKS HIVE shifts IO to the field and makes it fully accessible to any controller, taking individual physical controllers and distributing the load so that they appear as a single controller to eliminate complexity. The solution distributes IT compute from onsite to offsite providing a seamless operations experience.
The Experion PKS IT HIVE and IO HIVE can be ordered now, with deliveries beginning Q1 2020. Experion PKS Control HIVE will be available in the second half of 2020.
Rockwell Automation Emphasizes PTC Partnership
Rockwell Automation announces its “unique combination of IT and OT software accelerates customers’ Digital Transformation Initiatives.” It says its solutions-oriented approach simplifies how manufacturers achieve business outcomes that transform operational processes, workforce productivity and efficiency.
Showcasing solutions during LiveWorx this week the company highlights:
Enterprise Operational Intelligence – cuts manufacturing costs and increases flexibility and agility of manufacturing networks by providing real-time manufacturing performance management across the industrial enterprise.
Digital Workforce Productivity – heightens productivity, improves quality, and avoids safety and compliance risk by equipping workers with actionable, augmented intelligence.
Intelligent Asset Optimization – reduces downtime and maximizes asset utilization through real-time monitoring, diagnostics, and predictive and prescriptive analytics into asset capacity, performance, and health status.
Scalable Production Management – lowers cost of inventory, improves quality, and compliance and accelerates time to market with effective planning and control of production processes.
Emerson didn’t let Rockwell Automation’s spurning of its acquisition offer stop it from joining a select few of its peers in expanding its comprehensive control offerings. It went shopping again and found a bargain from the GE garage sale acquiring GE Intelligent Platforms. Now we are seeing the fruits of the combination.
With the addition of the new PLCs, part of Emerson’s acquisition of General Electric Co.’s Intelligent Platforms group, Emerson is bringing more end-to-end automation solutions to its existing process control market. The addition also expands its production optimization and control capabilities in the rapidly growing hybrid and discrete markets, and in industries where PLCs are sometimes preferred or required for faster response and machine control.
The new portfolio of cloud-connected controllers, industrial PCs, and devices for smart plants complements Emerson’s Plantweb digital ecosystem, adding another layer to Emerson’s focus on helping customers leverage automation technologies to pursue digital transformation. The automation and control portfolio will enable more operational performance and efficiency for customers in life sciences, metals and mining, power and water, food and beverage, and packaging, which often blend process and discrete machine control to manufacture and deliver finished products.
“We’ve re-invested heavily in the ability of our control systems to bring new capabilities to help organizations optimize their capital project and operations performance,” said Jim Nyquist, group president of Emerson’s Systems and Solutions business. “With this new portfolio, we’re expanding our automation expertise and bringing new digital solutions to market that will integrate plants seamlessly and accelerate improvements in operational performance, safety and reliability.”
Future interfacing with Emerson’s DeltaV and Ovation process control systems is also planned to help process industries eliminate many of the islands of automation within plants that create data silos in organizations and limit their ability to cost-effectively execute digital transformation initiatives and IIoT-driven capital improvements.
The new portfolio includes a comprehensive offering for machine control and discrete applications with products such as PACSystems, PACMotion, VersaMax IO, and QuickPanel+, which will remain powerful standalone technologies for original equipment manufacturer (OEM) machinery and edge applications.