Schneider Electric Foxboro and Triconex Innovation Days 2019

Schneider Electric Foxboro and Triconex Innovation Days 2019

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.

Nathalie Marcotte Official Picture  jpg

“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.

Industrial Automation User Conference Week

Industrial Automation User Conference Week

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.

Industrial Automation User Conference Week

Emerson Adds PLCs Expanding Control Capability

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.

AI For Process Control Boosts Cement Plant

AI For Process Control Boosts Cement Plant

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is quite the buzz word. Mention in general conversation, say if you are Axios or The New York Times, and public response is that it is something evil that will take all our jobs away.

Of course, like all technology from the beginning of human history AI can be good or bad depending upon who uses it for what reason.

Now, let me add a second stream to this brief essay. Advanced Process Control, or APC. There are some excellent APC products on the market that I’ve written about over the years. The problem I’ve heard about over those same years relates to keeping the model updated. Too many people (read managers) seem to think you set it up once and then it lasts forever. That could not be further from reality.

Yesterday I had a conversation with Pervez Choudhry, Vice President for Business at Petuum. This is a company started through AI research at Carnegie Mellon University by Eric Xing. He hired a number of Ph.D.s and post-doctoral researchers in AI along with domain experts in industries he targeted for markets and went to work.

My BS antennae always activate at the sound of AI in a press release. So, I asked Choudhry what Petuum meant by the term. That’s when he told me about the research and researchers. AI relates to machine learning. Getting a data set from a process and self-learning from new data feedback from the process.

I’m more impressed by the business model than the technology. The company hosts the application in the cloud deployed as “AI as a Service”. This system addresses the problem so many have run into about maintaining the model as the process morphs over time. A company worth watching. They could well disrupt (in a good way) this particular market.

The press release that provoked my curiosity promoted a new use case—supervised autonomous cement plant operations for CEMEX—a global building materials company.

The two companies entered into a global agreement where CEMEX can implement Petuum “Industrial AI Autopilot” with “autosteer” in all cement plants worldwide for autonomous cement plant operations. The Petuum Industrial AI Autopilot product for cement plant operations are being deployed at select CEMEX USA and Mexico plants, and will continue to be rolled out globally in 2019.

The Petuum Industrial AI Autopilot suite of products deliver real-time precise forecasts for key process variables, prescriptions for critical control variables and supervised autosteer aligned with business objectives for all cement plant operations including clinker cooler, preheater, rotary kiln, pyro process, ball mill and vertical mill processes to achieve lowered energy consumption, optimized fuel mix and increased throughput while maintaining stable operation and high product quality. Additionally, the fuel mix optimization Autopilot enables alignment of global operational excellence initiatives with local site priorities.

The joint CEMEX and Petuum teams achieved a cruise-control-like supervised “autosteer mode,” where the AI Autopilot could run operations with full engage/disengage control available to the operator.

“Petuum Industrial AI Autopilot helped us achieve something we didn’t think was possible at this time,” said Rodrigo Quintero, operations digital technologies manager at CEMEX. “We expect our yield improvements and energy savings to be up to seven percent, from the connected AI-based autopilots, which is game changing for our industry. Additionally, this is a giant step in digital transformation towards safe, highly standardized operations, that will help us strengthen our high-quality products portfolio while also ensuring we meet our operational and sustainability goals, and to minimize costs.”

The Autopilot products deployed at CEMEX for the rotary kiln and clinker cooler systems are integrated with plant control systems and OSIsoft PI data infrastructure for scalable, standardized and rapid deployments across multiple lines and plants globally.

The Autopilot products, developed and operationalized on the Petuum AI platform, can ingest data from a variety of sources including unstructured, images, structured, time series, CRM, ERP and others. The Petuum platform provides sophisticated data processing, cleansing and machine/deep learning pipelines used to implement advanced AI that is sensitive to linear, temporal, long range and non-linear data patterns in a range of industrial use cases.

“Our collaboration with CEMEX has allowed us to demonstrate that resource and skill-intensive advanced AI technologies, previously used to address complex problems only in limited settings, can now achieve tangible business impact in a wide range of real-world industrial environments,” said Dr. Eric Xing, CEO of Petuum. “We are able to achieve new levels of automation, accelerating the journey to Industry 4.0. Our vision is to bring AI benefits to a wide range of businesses in a highly cost-effective and fast manner, solving challenges that can’t be addressed by traditional techniques.”

CEMEX and Petuum will continue close collaboration to deploy additional Autopilot use-cases such as emissions reduction, fuel-mix (alternative fuel) optimization, kiln refractory, preventive maintenance, etc. for global cement plants and expand Petuum Industrial AI Autpilot to other operations worldwide.

Industrial Automation User Conference Week

ABB and Dassault Systèmes Partnership Unleashes Digital Twins

Yesterday I tweeted ABB Chief Digital Officer Guido Jauret’s keynote at ABB Customer World that included the digital roadmap ABB is on including digital twin technology with a partnership with Dassault Systèmes. Then I realized I have not put the news on the blog.

This is an important step on ABB’s digital journey—something that has made impressive strides in two quickly moving years. Here is the news.

ABB and Dassault Systèmes announced a wide spanning global partnership to offer customers in digital industries a unique software solutions portfolio ranging from product life cycle management to asset health solutions. The two companies will provide customers an end-to-end offering of advanced open digital solutions, enhancing competitiveness of industrial companies, while increasing flexibility, speed and productivity of their products’ lifecycles, manufacturing and operations.

The partnership will combine the strengths of ABB Ability digital solutions and Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform, and build on both companies’ strong installed base, deep domain expertise, and global customer access. ABB has already adopted the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to model and simulate its solutions before delivering them to its customers. With this partnership, ABB will develop and provide customers with advanced digital twins, enabling customers to run ABB’s solutions and their operations with improved overall efficiency, flexibility and sustainability.

The companies will, in a staged approach, focus on factory automation and robotics, process industry automation, as well as electrification solutions for smart buildings. The first joint solutions will be showcased at the upcoming industrial Hannover Messe trade fair in Germany, April 1-5, 2019.

“This game-changing partnership will serve our customers to lead in innovation and growth, fundamentally transforming their entire value chain to tap the vast opportunities of industrial digitalization. Together, we are offering an open, end-to-end digital portfolio – from digital twin to asset health – that gives our customers a competitive edge, building on our combined offering, domain expertise and global reach,” said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer. “ABB is adding Dassault Systèmes to its strong partner network for industrial digitalization, including Microsoft, HPE and IBM. We look very much forward to working with the entire global Dassault Systèmes team to drive innovation and customer value.”

“The Industry of the 21st century is no longer determined simply by the ability to manufacture goods. Today’s leaders will be determined by superior mastery of technical know-how. This is the new competitive differentiator and it’s happening now due to a convergence of digital technologies that are transforming every aspect of industrial business,” said Bernard Charlès, Vice Chairman and CEO, Dassault Systèmes. “In this industry renaissance, a platform approach enables the real and virtual worlds to inform and reinforce one another. Our partnership with ABB will draw from decades of combined expertise to help customers make the most of this powerful and dynamic trend.”

In today’s highly automated industries, digital factory modeling and flexible, robotized manufacturing systems help businesses to generate more design iterations at a quicker rate with more robust designs. This, in turn, helps to accelerate the shift from mass production to mass customization, where goods are manufactured in a greater variety and in smaller batches and in shorter product life cycles. For many manufacturers, the cost of downtime has dramatically increased in recent years as just-in-time delivery has become the norm. An hour of downtime at a modern production site can cost more than $1 million.

ABB has already a strong digital solution offering within the industry through its offering ABB AbilityTM. It was launched in 2017 and offers more than 210 digital solutions to plan, build and operate industrial operations with higher productivity and safety at lower costs.

Dassault Systèmes works with companies of all sizes in 11 industries to help them meet new challenges in today’s Industry Renaissance. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform integrates all the technologies and capabilities that leverage knowledge and know-how into one cohesive digital innovation environment that delivers digital continuity from concept to manufacturing to ownership and back. Industrial companies can integrate the platform’s 3D applications to create a digital twin that captures insights and expertise from across their entire ecosystem, to measure, assess and predict the performance of an industrial asset and help optimize its operation in an intelligent way.

The ABB – Dassault Systèmes partnership will initially focus on:

Factory Automation and Robotics

Digital twin experiences for end-to-end optimization of processes and systems, combined with the flexibility of robotics automation, will give factories the agility to adapt to increasingly dynamic markets. This includes ready-to-operate manufacturing solutions and services, along with joint consulting for industrial business transformation, to optimize and speed the launch of new products. Electronics makers can increase the production of new but short-lived products quickly, while food processors can alternate between locally tailored seasonal offerings while producing at high speed. In highly automated industries such as automotive, the digital twin experience of factories allows an integrated design and manufacturing environment to support new assembly processes with flexible and reconfigurable cells. It also makes it possible to link separate systems, such as connecting logistics automation systems to robots at work on manufacturing lines that rely on precise parts delivery for optimal production performance.

Smart Buildings

The digital partnership between Dassault Systèmes and ABB around digital twin systems will enable a seamless workflow during design, engineering and operation of buildings, as well as connected sustainable transportation solutions. The available information, in combination with Dassault Systèmes’ virtual universe 3DEXPERIENCE, will also allow greater customer interaction during the design specification phases and operation.

Process industries: Mining example

Competitive pressure in process industries, such as mining, requires companies to continuously look for new ways to increase safety, productivity and energy efficiency of sites, while reducing costs and risk of daily operations. A digital model of the underground environment, in connection with mine planning and control systems, would allow to optimize energy consumption and mine automation, as well as enable mine operators to monitor and optimize production in real-time, while running virtual simulations of future scenarios.

Industrial Automation User Conference Week

Open Process Automation Forum Update

Our schedules finally aligned and I was able to catch up with Ed Harrington, director of the Open Process Automation Forum for The Open Group. A few months ago I talked with Gary Freburger and Peter Martin of Schneider Electric’s process automation unit. We discussed the OPAF and what had been going on since the ARC Forum in Orlando last February.

OPAF has laid out an ambitious agenda moving automation toward an era of open connectivity and interoperability.

The original plan broached a couple of years ago at ARC Forum by representatives of ExxonMobil and Lockheed Martin was to prod suppliers into reducing the problem of upgrading systems in the field without the huge expense of rip-and-replace. Considerable industry jockeying ensued. Schneider Electric (Foxboro) eventually taking a leadership position in the effort with assistance from Yokogawa and to a degree Siemens. Other suppliers are watching and evaluating.

Smaller suppliers such as Inductive Automation have become involved along with some of the major automation systems suppliers.

The OPAF specification is really a standard of standards. The group wishes to build upon existing standards, assembling them in such a way as to advance the cause of open automation.

Harrington told me that so far this year, the group has published three items (that are open to the public). One is a business guide, The Open Process Automation Business Guide: Value Proposition and Business Case for the Open Process Automation Standard.

The industrial control systems that manufacturers use to automate their processes are critical to the company’s productivity and product quality. To increase the business contribution from control systems, manufacturers need:
1. Increases in operational benefits from improved capabilities
2. Improvements in cybersecurity compared to currently available systems
3. Reductions in the system’s capital and lifecycle costs

The organization has also published The Open Group Snapshot—Open Process Automation Technical Reference Model: Technical Architecture and a white paper Requirements for an Open Process Automation Standard.

Harrington also told me to expect an announcement of further work at next week’s Open Group Quarterly Meeting in Singapore.

I have seen a number of these initiatives in my career. Few succeed in entirety. However, the thinking that goes into this work always moves industry forward. I don’t know if we’ll ever see a truly OPAF control system. Anything that brings more rationality to the market keeping in minds the goals of OPAF will do much for helping manufacturers and producers improve performance. And that’s what it’s all about.

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