Partnerships Allow AVEVA (and others) to Scale

I wrote about the Microsoft and AVEVA announced extension to their partnership a couple of weeks ago to focus on Microsoft cloud services—especially Microsoft Azure (infrastructure, data and AI services). Key focus areas include the connected worker and building a common Asset Strategy (Asset Performance).

Mario Joao, vice president of AVEVA charged with developing these partnerships and alliances, took some time to chat about the Microsoft partnership.

“The companies have had a long history of working together,” he told me. “Partnerships and alliances are the only way forward to scale our offerings to customers. The relationship was solely based on technology. Now, it encompasses more than that by adding sales and focusing on results.”

  • Transforming Industrial Workforce–much of the work is geared toward workforce, the user experience, use of Microsoft Teams, and workforce safety,
  • Microsoft Azure Cloud AI–enhancing cognitive search, working with Asset Performance Management,
  • Further adoption of cloud with Azure–many companies have adopted an industrial cloud strategy, but many are still evaluating with many astute questions regarding security, geo-location of the servers, safety of operations data,
  • Emphasize business value–especially to both OT and to IT teams,
  • Foster sustainability,
  • Note: Microsoft is hiring people with industry expertise,
  • Microsoft provides a platform; AVEVA builds on top with applications that add value to customers.

Rockwell Automation Announcements From Automation Fair at Home

I posted overall thoughts from the opening day of Automation Fair at Home yesterday. It’s not that all is rosy in Milwaukee, but the company keeps making strides forward and yet goes its own way not bothering to emulate any competitors.

Several announcements have accumulated that I thought would fit along with Automation Fair thoughts. We have an acquisition, a partnership, and a new product series.

First, the acquisition. 

Rockwell Automation Acquires Fiix Cloud Software for Maintenance Solutions

Rockwell Automation announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire Fiix, a privately held, AI-enabled computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) company. Fiix, founded in 2008, is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Fiix’s cloud-native CMMS creates workflows for the scheduling, organizing, and tracking of equipment maintenance. It connects to business systems and drives data-driven decisions. The company’s revenue grew 70% in 2019 with more than 85% recurring revenue. Fiix has more than 2 million assets under management and creates more than 6 million work orders a year.

“We believe that the future of industrial asset management is performance-based,” said Tessa Myers, vice president, product management, Software & Control, for Rockwell Automation. “With the addition of the Fiix platform and expertise, our customers will benefit from a 360-degree view of integrated data across automation, production, and maintenance, helping them to monitor and improve the performance of their assets and optimize how maintenance work is done.”

James Novak, Fiix CEO, said, “From the beginning, Fiix has been on a mission to connect maintenance and operations teams to the tools, resources, and technology they need to modernize and join the future of maintenance. Joining Rockwell Automation will allow us to help even more companies modernize maintenance and increase asset performance by connecting to industry-leading data, automation, and production systems.”

Fiix will be reported as part of Rockwell Automation’s Software & Control operating segment. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the 2020 calendar year, subject to customary approvals and conditions.

Second, the partnership.

PlantPAx 5.0 Running on ztC Edge by Stratus

Stratus Technologies announced a “Solution in a Box” process control architecture for fast, easy deployment at edge locations that require 2,000 I/O’s or less. The solution runs Rockwell Automation PlantPAx 5.0 software on Stratus ztC Edge. The solution is performance tested, characterized, and validated by Stratus and Rockwell Automation to ensure reliable, rapid deployment by operations teams and systems integrators using a single industrial-grade, panel mounted Edge Computing device.

“Whether it’s control in Water and Wastewater management, Machine Builders innovating for their customers, or managing remote assets in Oil & Gas, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving operational excellence. Enterprises require plant-wide data and control solutions with high availability that can both scale up and scale down based on the use case and location, while being cost effective and easy to implement,” said Dave Rapini, Business Manager for PlantPAx at Rockwell Automation.

The ability to bring mission-critical applications to where they’re needed most via Edge Computing delivers the scale and real-time data acquisition for operational excellence. Stratus’ simple, protected, and automated platform with fault tolerance and zero-touch operation is powering the disaggregation of large process architectures, traditionally deployed at level 3 and 4 of the Purdue model. The combined Stratus and Rockwell Automation “Solution in a Box” architecture provides a flexible approach to scale Industry 4.0 capabilities across a range of environments that was not previously possible.

PlantPAx is a plant wide distributed control system (DCS) that utilizes a common automation platform to integrate both process and discrete control as well as plant-wide information. ztC Edge is an industrial-grade Edge Computing platform that offers built-in redundancy and meets Class 1 Division 2 requirements to operate in hazardous environments. 

Architecture Details

The tested Solution-in-a-Box architecture includes:

  • Rockwell Automation PASS-Consolidated Image 
  • PASS (Process Automation System Server) – FactoryTalk View
  • FactoryTalk AssetCentre
  • FactoryTalk Historian
  • FactoryTalk VantagePoint
  • Rockwell Automation Application Server -OWS – ThinManager remote desktop server (RDS) for remote, mobile, and tablet access 
  • Stratus ztC Edge 110i (single system with a redundant option) – tested in fault tolerant and high availability modes

And thirdly, a new product series.

High-Performance, Scalable Kinetix Integrated Motion Drives

Rockwell Automation’s motion business has expanded its Kinetix line of servo drives with intelligent and scalable solutions.

The new Allen-Bradley Kinetix 5300 servo drive is a fully integrated, CIP Motion solution for global machine builders looking to increase performance and leverage a single-design environment for control and motion. When paired with the new TLP motors, customers get a coordinated platform as they extend the power of the connected enterprise into simple machines, an approach that positions Rockwell Automation to accelerate growth in emerging markets throughout Asia and mature markets in Europe. The new product line, combined with the rest of the Kinetix family, provides a complete range of servo drive offerings from Rockwell Automation for everything from small, standalone machines to large, complex systems. 

The Kinetix 5300 servo drives are designed for diverse machine applications such as electronics assembly, packaging and converting, printing and web (CPW). The new drives also feature capabilities that can help simplify machine design and optimize performance throughout the machine lifecycle. Like other Kinetix integrated motion drives, Kinetix 5300 leverages Studio 5000 as a single design environment. Using a single family of servo drives allows machine builders to program all their drives in this one design environment and reuse code across drives, streamlining the design and commissioning process. Kinetix 5300 native integration with Logix control enables smart tuning capabilities that adjust for changes in inertia and resonances automatically, helping to optimize machine performance and simplify machine maintenance over time. 

“Our expanded portfolio provides machines builders a complete family of scalable servo drives for diverse applications,” said Bill Kegley, director, product management – motion control at Rockwell Automation. “Now with the addition of the Kinetix 5300 to our family of servo drives, we are in a position to deliver truly scalable and intelligent motion solutions that help our customers achieve productivity and sustainability for a wider range of applications.”

[Note: I have been asking for a few years for a working application of CIP Motion at a customer site. If anyone reading this has one, please contact me. If you don’t want mentioned, just say so. In 20 years, I have yet to violate a confidence. But enquiring minds want to know…. Thanks.]

AVEVA Strikes a Couple of Strategic Partnerhships

Partnerships are all the rage these days within the manufacturing technology market. Here are two from British software supplier AVEVA—one with Shell and another with Microsoft. As for the Microsoft announcement, this is not unusual or new. Microsoft has penetrated the industrial software market over the past 20+ years indirectly through aligning with suppliers. Most suppliers even maintain engineers in Redmond to ensure early knowledge as well as feedback.

AVEVA and Shell for workforce

First up,  AVEVA has signed an agreement to help accelerate Shell Global Solutions International B.V’s  digital transformational strategy. it will provide Shell with its Engineering Data Warehouse technology, which is one of the building blocks of the digital twin. This will enable a common digital thread across Engineering, Operations, and Maintenance and the ability to securely deliver information in context from a single source to decision makers across these critical functions.

This solution is expected to drive asset reliability, enhance efficiency, and reduce unplanned downtime. It also supports Shell’s ambition to empower staff across Shell’s manufacturing sites and to keep frontline industrial workers safe while ensuring business continuity and operational resilience.

“Empowering workers requires access to all the information as today’s new normal entails remote access to monitor, manage and optimize production facilities,” commented Johan Krebbers, GM Digital Emerging Technologies / VP IT Innovation at Shell. “We are already witnessing the benefits of our strategic collaboration with AVEVA through our fully aligned vision for digital transformation”. This has enabled us to conduct operations remotely as well as seamlessly access the necessary applications to provide the insight, guidance and tools to ensure safe, effective and consistent work output, specific to each role.

“We are delighted that Shell has chosen to extend its long and robust existing strategic partnership with AVEVA to support in enabling the digital twin cloud-based services,” commented Ravi Gopinath, Chief Cloud Officer and Chief Product Officer, AVEVA. “This deployment is part of Shell’s recently announced strategy to deploy digital twin technology across its manufacturing sites. Implementing new technologies like IIoT, extended reality, and artificial intelligence has huge advantages with the digital twin of an operating environment and this cutting-edge technology is guaranteed to deliver immediate improvements for Shell’s operations.”

AVEVA and Microsoft Focus on Cloud and AI

AVEVA will be extending its long-standing strategic collaboration with Microsoft to focus on Microsoft cloud services—especially Microsoft Azure (infrastructure, data and AI services). Expected benefits include helping customers achieve implementations quicker, connect teams more readily, and drive growth opportunities.

Key focus areas include the connected worker and building a common Asset Strategy (Asset Performance).

Over the past few years, digital transformation has been changing the way the manufacturing and energy industries approach business sustainability while seeking robust technologies to run their operations efficiently. As the sector transitions to working differently in a digital-first new normal, AVEVA is collaborating with Microsoft to support its customer vison of creating profitable business outcomes that will enable them to thrive in today’s challenging macro environment. AVEVA may also explore opportunities to collaborate on environmental sustainability in the future.

According to an AVEVA survey, 86% of organizations agree that digital transformation is a key component of their company’s strategic plan today. While almost all industrial companies know that cloud adoption is a key element of their digital transformation, a large portion did not have concrete plans to execute their cloud strategy before the pandemic. AVEVA is working with Microsoft to help customers explore new ways to leverage the value of cloud technologies as well as Azure AI, Azure Machine Learning and Big Data Analytics.

PAS Global to be Acquired by Hexagon AB

PAS, now known as PAS Global, has succumbed to the acquisition trend having taken venture capital money to fund growth as it is acquired by Swedish company Hexagon AB. I figured it was but a matter of time a year ago that this was the end game, just as for the recent acquisition of OSIsoft by AVEVA.There remain a few other plums to be picked by larger companies, I believe.

The news from the Point of view of PAS:

PAS Global LLC (PAS) announced it has agreed to be acquired by Hexagon AB (Hexagon), a global supplier of sensor, software, and autonomous solutions.

With the combination of PAS and Hexagon, customers will benefit from a comprehensive software portfolio to manage the industrial lifecycle from plant design and maintenance, to real-time situation awareness in the control room, cybersecurity risk management, and industrial digital transformation. PAS also complements and significantly extends Hexagon’s global customer footprint in the process industries.

“Since 1993, PAS has delivered solutions that help industrial organizations improve process safety and profitability,” said PAS Founder and CEO Eddie Habibi. “As cyber risk in the industrial sector has grown, we have remained true to our mission by expanding our capabilities to further protect operational technology (OT) and have been recognized as a leading cyber asset management company. Now, PAS and Hexagon together will be a powerhouse solution provider for managing the entire industrial lifecycle.”

“Hexagon is committed to a mission of empowering the autonomous future by putting data to work to boost efficiency, productivity, and quality across industrial, manufacturing, infrastructure, safety, and mobility applications,” said Hexagon PPM President Mattias Stenberg. “The strategic acquisition of PAS will expand our owner operator market presence and broaden our capabilities by extending Hexagon solutions to operational risk management and operational technology cybersecurity.”

“We have long admired Hexagon’s technology portfolio and team,” Habibi added. “There is strong technology and cultural fit across our two organizations, and we are excited to join forces with Hexagon to deliver more value to customers and empower the autonomous future.”

The acquisition represents a new cybersecurity-focused business segment within Hexagon’s PPM division, which will also provide opportunities with other Hexagon divisions. The process safety solutions brought to Hexagon from PAS will be integrated into the PPM owner operator line of business.

Completion of the transaction (closing) is subject to standard regulatory approvals.

Stifel Global Technology Group acted as exclusive financial advisor and Vinson & Elkins LLP provided legal representation to PAS Global in connection with this transaction.

And a few comments from the Hexagon press release:

OT computing systems are critical to managing the performance of physical devices, machines and essential processes – from controlling temperatures to triggering emergency shut-offs. These historically stand-alone, closed systems are becoming increasingly connected in the face of IoT and digitalisation and therefore, more vulnerable to cyber manipulation and attacks. Building upon its commitment to helping industrial organisations improve production safety and reliability since its founding in 1993, PAS has, in recent years, expanded its expertise to helping customers identify and reduce OT cybersecurity risks, ensuring OT integrity from the sensor to the cloud.

“Combining PAS’ OT expertise with our PPM division’s digital twin and data integrity capabilities creates a powerful combination for industrial lifecycle management. Our customers can now manage the lifecycle from plant design and maintenance, to real-time situation awareness in the control room, cybersecurity risk management, and industrial digital transformation,” says Hexagon President and CEO Ola Rollén. “PAS’ highly skilled and experienced staff serve more than 500 customers across more than 1,450 sites and 70 countries, significantly expanding our owner operator footprint across the oil & gas, chemicals, power generation, mining and metals, and pulp and paper industries. Their highly complementary solutions provide expansion opportunities into verticals such as agricultural processing, water treatment, and renewables, as well as synergies with our Manufacturing Intelligence and Mining divisions.”

Headquartered in Houston, Texas, USA, PAS will operate as part of Hexagon’s PPM division. Completion of the transaction (closing) is subject to regulatory approvals. 2020 revenues are forecast to be around 34 MEUR.

Partnerships, Wireless, and Cloud—Megatrends of the Moment

A staple of industrial technology and business news has incorporated partnerships. Sometimes an acquisition is simply out of the question, but each company needs something from the other. The trouble with partnerships rests in assuring that each side benefits. When one partner feels like managing the relationship is more work than the benefit gained, then things go south. Likewise, when the partnership is consummated at a high level and the executives don’t get along like they thought they would.

However, the potential drawbacks fail to impede companies from trying. 

This story is the tale of two partnerships involving two other megatrends of industrial technology—wireless and cloud.

Telit and Sequans

Telit announced the availability of two new modules designed and built to support CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) networks in the USA. The modules are based on Sequans’ Cassiopeia LTE Cat 4/6 chipset technology and are optimized for the design of devices for private LTE IoT and broadband applications. The collaboration will benefit both companies by leveraging Telit’s strong position as a module supplier and Sequans’ expertise in 5G/4G cellular connectivity.

The Telit LTE Cat 4 LE915A4-P CBRS module, based on the Sequans Cassiopeia SQN3220SC chipset, is pin-to-pin compatible with the Sequans CB410L module, and the Telit LTE Cat 6 LE915A6-P, based on the Sequans Cassiopeia SQN3220 chipset, is compatible with the Sequans CB610L module. Both are the industry’s first cost-effective LCC (leadless chip carrier) modules designed from the ground up to enable easy and massive deployment of IoT devices on private LTE CBRS networks. The modules can support a wide range of applications — including industrial IoT and M2M devices, gateways, and broadband consumer devices — and the very small form factor LCC package enables easy mounting into small and thin devices or mini-PCI or M.2 NGFF carriers.

CBRS Module Features

  • Available in two versions:
    • LTE Cat 6
    • LTE Cat 4
  • All-in-one standalone module solutions
  • 3GPP Release 10
  • Small LCC (leadless chip carrier) package, 32 x 29 mm
  • Supports CBRS networks in USA on LTE band 48, and MNO networks worldwide on LTE bands 42/43
  • Includes drivers for all major host operating systems
  • Includes comprehensive set of interfaces

Microsoft and Rockwell

Rockwell Automation and Microsoft today announced a five-year partnership expansion to develop integrated, market-ready solutions that help industrial customers improve digital agility through cloud technology. By combining each company’s expertise in the industrial and IT markets, respectively, teams can work together.

The goal is to deliver edge-to-cloud-based solutions that connect information between development, operations and maintenance teams through a singular, trusted data environment. This will allow development teams to digitally prototype, configure and collaborate without investing in costly physical equipment. This unified data environment also enables IT and OT teams to not only securely access and share data models across the organization, but with their ecosystem of partners as well.

To date, the companies have co-developed over 20 use cases across Food & Beverage, Household and Personal Care and Life Sciences industries. The solutions developed from this partnership will augment and enhance their current offerings.

3 Cognitive Biases Perpetuating Racism at Work — and How to Overcome Them

Life is a series of paradoxes. We’re living in a time of many people either temporarily or permanently losing their jobs while other companies are struggling to find qualified people to hire.

When we dip into the labor pool, are we limiting our searches through something called Cognitive Bias?

I ran across this article at the World Economic Forum by Adwoa Bagalini, its Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion Lead. He identifies three cognitive biases and shares some ideas for overcoming. Not to give away a punchline, but most of us should be students of W. Edwards Deming and/or Taiichi Ohno and should have learned about changing the process, not the individual.

From the paper.

We do know is that lasting, positive change is difficult to achieve without deliberate, sustained effort informed by reliable data that is free from bias. And it’s important not to underestimate the role cognitive bias can play in undermining these efforts – and to stay vigilant in spotting and mitigating it.

What is cognitive bias?

Human brains are hardwired to take shortcuts when processing information to make decisions, resulting in “systematic thinking errors”, or unconscious bias. When it comes to influencing our decisions and judgments around people, cognitive or unconscious bias is universally recognized to play a role in unequal outcomes for people of colour.

1. Moral licensing

This is when people derive such confidence from past moral behaviour that they are more likely to engage in immoral or unethical ways later. In a 2010 study, researchers argued that moral self-licensing occurs “because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard”, and future problematic behaviour does not evoke the same feelings of negative self-judgment that it otherwise would.

Moral licensing may help explain the limitations of corporate unconscious bias training in creating an anti-racist work environment, an effect which has already been observed when it comes to tackling gender inequality.

2. Affinity bias

This is our tendency to get along with others who are like us, and to evaluate them more positively than those who are different. Our personal beliefs, assumptions, preferences, and lack of understanding about people who are not like us may lead to repeatedly favouring ‘similar-to-me’ individuals.

Many hiring managers have a hard time articulating their organization’s specific culture, or explaining what exactly they mean when they say “culture fit”, leading to this being misused to engage employees that managers feel they will personally relate to.

3. Confirmation bias

This is the tendency to seek out, favour, and use information that confirms what you already believe. The other side of this is that people tend to ignore new information that goes against their preconceived notions, leading to poor decision-making.

Many people’s perceptions of others with different identities and with whom they have limited interaction, is strongly influenced by media depictions and longstanding cultural stereotypes.

For example, a 2017 study published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people tended to perceive young Black men as taller, heavier, and more muscular than similarly sized white men, and hence more physically threatening.

How to overcome unconscious bias

1. Change systems, not individuals

The main reason unconscious bias training programmes fail to have the desired effect in creating lasting change, is that they are focused on changing individual behaviours while leaving largely untouched the systems that enabled those behaviours to thrive.

2. Slow down and act deliberately

Bias is most likely to affect decision-making when decisions are made quickly, according to Stanford University psychology professor Jennifer Eberhardt, who studies implicit bias in police departments.

3. Set concrete goals and work towards them

Data is essential to making real progress on diversity goals, and especially important when it comes to mitigating the effects of bias because it provides an objective measure of what has improved – or worsened – over time.