New Positions at Rockwell Indicate Strategic Directions

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Meanwhile, I spoke at the IoT Workshop of the Precision Metalforming Association and MetalForming magazine virtual IoT Experience on November 17. If you wish to hear a few thoughts about implementing IoT for fun and profit, tune in.

I’ve mentioned that I went to Houston last week to attend Automation Fair. I had a lot of work to clear up this week so far putting me far behind compiling my thoughts.

This article by Keith Larson of Control Magazine (Putman Publishing) summarized one aspect of the press conferences we attended. By the way, I loved the way Rockwell Automation put these together. I’m sure balancing virtual and live was part of the equation, but they kept these to a half-hour speaking to the point while allowing time for questions.

Keith points out three new senior positions that suggest new directions at Rockwell as CEO Blake Moret shapes the company for the future.

First up was Bobby Griffin, the company’s first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. Together with Becky House, senior Vice President and chief people and legal officer (another telling title), he discussed leveraging culture and DEI as competitive advantage. 

Another presenter sporting a newly created title was Sherman Joshua, global competency business director. In his new role, he’s working within Rockwell’s services group to create a more agile and flexible workforce. 

Last up was Tom O’Reilly, newly minted vice president of sustainability. He talked about how Rockwell was leveraging data to drive productivity and sustainability—both within Rockwell and on behalf of its customers. The ability of the Rockwell portfolio of hardware, software and services to increase efficiency and reduce waste on behalf of its customers is clear, but Rockwell itself has also improved energy efficiency and reduced waste of its manufacturing processes and is targeted the increased recycling and reuse of its products.

Keith was the first editor I met after I left manufacturing to become an editor back in 1998. Interestingly, he changed positions for a promotion leaving an opening which I filled. Indirectly, he is responsible for me being here. The people in this market don’t link to each other like the writers in some other technology markets do. But I have no problem linking.

Testing, Artificial Intelligence, Education

The “Subscribe” link on this page goes to a MailChimp sign up page. I have stopped using MailChimp due to its obnoxious marketing tactics. WordPress stopped its service of sending a notice of updated posts. I am now using the Web page and email service of Hey, developed by BaseCamp. Please visit world.hey.com/garymintchell to register for the newsletter. There is no tracking or other privacy-invading tech.

I hauled my ancient butt to Houston this week to attend Automation Fair in person. There were a few brave editorial and analyst souls there joining about 4,000 attendees. It sounded like the combined in-person and virtual event was a success with total registrations (I was told) at 16,000. It was a different experience partly because Rockwell PR set up no interviews. There were five press conferences. But each was limited to a half-hour. They made their point, answered questions, and then left. That was refreshing. I will have an extensive report next week.

I’ll be speaking at the IoT Workshop of the Precision Metalforming Association and MetalForming magazine virtual IoT Experience at 10 EST on November 17.

Following is news that has been accumulating this month.

FDT Group Announces Mandatory FDT 3.0 DTM Certification with Release of dtmINSPECTOR5

More FDT Group news following announcement of Steve Biegacki appointed as the new leader of the organization. It recently announced that all FDT Accredited Test Sites are equipped with the new FDT 3.0 dtmINSPECTOR5 test tool and are ready to accept new FDT 3.0 device DTMs for testing and certification.

Instrument suppliers can streamline development, testing, and certification to bring new web based DTMs to market. FDT 3.0 Web User Interface (UI)-based DTMs support next-generation monitoring and optimization practices by empowering standardized IT/OT data access to any authenticated client or mobile device, thus improving production workflow initiatives.

FDT DTM certification to the FDT 3.0 specification and UI is a process whereby rigorous compliance testing using dtmINSPECTOR5 ensures the viability of the states of the DTM; its correct installation, de-installation and multi-user environment capability; mandatory and optional user interface functionality and robustness; network scanning communication performance and the ability to import and export the topology; and the audit trail capability.

“Unlike previous versions of the standard, FDT 3.0 DTMs are required to be certified, while also meeting both specification and UI Style Guide conformance,” said James Loh, FDT Group test and certification chairman. “Compliant FDT 3.0 DTMs allow open access to intelligent devices and the myriad of information available from those devices, networks, and processes. End users will benefit from the new generation of DTMs as they provide monitoring optimization capabilities, including uniform data and NE107 status alerts to the user interface that employs a responsive design focused on mobilizing secure remote access independent of the device, system, browser, operating system, etc.”

The key to FDT 3.0-compliant DTM development is the use of FDT Group’s Common Components and dtmINSPECTOR5 toolkits. Toolkit licensing is required and provides all the standard code needed to meet FDT 3.0 specification conformance including OPC Unified Architecture (UA) capabilities, allowing developers to focus on value-add parameter profile customizations. Additionally, Common Components provides a fast way for development teams to view DTMs in an FDT hosting (Desktop or Server) application and understand the communication flow between them. With the toolkit’s WebUI, they can see how different DTMs work together across various machines and operating systems. The use of dtmINSPECTOR5 enables developers to run internal tests to identify technical issues prior to submitting their DTM to an independent test site for certification. The test site uses the same version of the tool to run conformance test cases and generate a report on their results.

Once a DTM is developed and has met all the mandatory testing and compliance requirements with a FDT Accredited Test Site, the certification files are compressed, digitally signed, and submitted via a private channel to the FDT Group Certification Office. The FDT Group uploads Certified FDT 3.0 DTMs to the FDThub repository for convenient storage and management. This repository, which can be hosted in the cloud or on-premise, is the result of user-driven demand for a single location to find certified DTMs and updates. The FDThub leverages the workflow from independent test centers to the FDT Group certification office so that all certified DTMs are automatically uploaded to the repository and made readily available to the end user community. This solution eliminates work for the vendor and is a key benefit stemming from the mandatory DTM certification process.

Verusen’s Artificial Intelligence Supply Chain Platform Now Available on SAP Store

Verusen announced that its Verusen Materials Management solution is now available on SAP Store, the online marketplace for SAP and partner offerings. The AI-driven platform works with the materials management module of SAP ERP Central Component (SAP ECC) and SAP S/4HANA.

Verusen’s AI platform reduces data complexity and improves decision-making processes to execute a faster, more efficient, and issue-free supply chain without the need for a slow and costly data-cleanse process. The Verusen platform includes network inventory, procurement intelligence, and strategic supplier alignment. By implementing Verusen’s platform, companies can transform their materials management approach and supply chain to better understand their data and balance operational and supplier risk at the most cost-effective level possible to find their Material Truth.

Verusen is a partner in the SAP PartnerEdge program after participating in the SAP.iO Foundry San Francisco program. As a partner, Verusen is empowered to build, market, and sell software applications that supplement and build on SAP software and technology. The SAP PartnerEdge program provides the enablement tools, benefits, and support to facilitate building high-quality, disruptive applications focused on specific business needs – quickly and cost-effectively.

IMTS 2022 To Go On Featuring Additive Manufacturing

IMTS 2022 will showcase AM solutions as part integrated manufacturing technology offerings in the Metal Removal, Quality Assurance, CAD/CAM, and other Technology Pavilions covering 1.1 million sq. ft. of exhibit space. Held at Chicago’s McCormick Place, IMTS 2022 will also feature more than 55 exhibitors in the Additive Manufacturing Pavilion, AM breakthroughs in AMT’s Emerging Technology Center, and co-located conferences with AM technical presentations. 

“The pace at which AM technologies accelerate makes IMTS 2022 a must-attend event,” says Peter R. Eelman, vice president & CXO at AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, which owns and produces IMTS. “Visitors will see AM solutions for production and high-volume part applications, tooling, workholding and fixturing that improve performance, lower lifecycle costs, and help reshore production. They’ll also be able to meet people pushing the boundaries of AM, including multiple technologies and components being developed for NASA.”

Benjamin Moses, director, technology at AMT, says that, “IMTS exhibitors and AMT members have developed new additive systems with extremely large print volumes, yet they deliver the deposition precision and repeatability that NASA demands due to in-situ metrology and closed-loop controls.” 

“Wire AM systems developed for aerospace parts are well-suited for tooling and other large components,” comments Moses. “In addition, modeling software developed to validate these concepts will help other industries build AM parts faster, at lower cost and with high quality.” 

Robot Education Opportunities

Two major recognitions of Universal Robots’ education programs from the U.S. federal Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute (ARM) and the State of Ohio’s Department of Education pave the way for schools and industry to further leverage cobots, offering employability in robotics careers while upskilling existing workforce.

Two recent endorsements of Universal Robots’ (UR) products and educational curriculum awarded by ARM and the Ohio Department of Education emphasize the importance of UR’s collaborative robots (or ‘cobots’) in today’s manufacturing processes and in classrooms; UR is the first robotics manufacturer to be selected for ARM’s new Endorsement Program as ARM reviewed UR’s Educational Robotics Training program. At the state level, Ohio becomes the first U.S. state to evaluate and add UR courses to its Industry-Recognized Credential List (where it sits at 6 credit points for the 2021-2022 school year and onwards).

“These endorsements mean the world to schools hoping to introduce hands-on cobot courses in their classrooms,” says Channel Development Manager at Universal Robots, Corey Adams. “The educational legitimacy of UR cobots opens the door to applying for both expanded federal funding and in Ohio also state funding to acquire cobots. And it gives schools confidence that they are not only offering students a diploma but also an instant career path.”

In order to make the Ohio Department of Education’s credentialed list, numerous companies in the state, including major Tier 1 automotive makers and home appliance manufacturers, vouched for the UR cobots, detailing how they use them on the shop floor and need an ever-expanding, educated workforce to deploy, program and operate them. “Ohio is industry leading in recognizing manufacturing technology and we expect this to quickly cascade out to other states as well,” says Adams who is actively working with numerous states in obtaining educational credentials.

The Department of Defense-sponsored ARM Institute is a 300+ member organization that catalyzes robotic technologies and education solutions to strengthen the U.S. industrial base and secure U.S. manufacturing resiliency. ARM launched the Endorsement Program earlier this year in conjunction with RoboticsCareer.org, the ARM Institute’s national workforce capability that connects education seekers with training for manufacturing careers.

At the Columbus State Community College in Ohio, the director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), Jeff Spain, explains how the college is now building a mixed lab space for cobots, that will focus on both professional development for manufacturing employees while also educating the next workforce generation to hit the ground running with cobots. “With their reduced footprint and intuitive programming, cobots have been a major disruption to industrial automation and are within that Industry 4.0 sweet spot of technology solutions that we find that our local employers need funded education programs for,” he says. “When large companies endorse UR cobots, it has a ripple effect through the supply-chains as Tier 1-3 suppliers and other industries realize that here is a vetted, nimble technology, that we have found offers low risk.”

Acquisitions and Further Industrial Software Consolidation

Lots of news coming in recently. One definite trend we’re seeing concerns consolidation of the industrial software market. This is a drip, drip, drip of announcements. When will it reach a tipping point and a big player comes in with a major scoop? The other news coming in yesterday to note is this acquisition by NI. This exactly fits the profile NI has established for itself over the past five or so years. It’s a good move.

NI to Acquire NH Research, Enters into Definitive Agreement with Heinzinger

NI announced the acquisition of NH Research, LLC (NHR), a leader in high power test and measurement applications such as electric vehicles (EV) and batteries. The transaction closed on October 19, 2021. NI is also announcing that it recently entered into a definitive agreement to purchase the EV Systems business of Rosenheim, Germany-based Heinzinger GmbH, a European leader in high-current and high-voltage power systems and this deal is expected to close in Q1 2022.

These acquisitions will expand NI’s portfolio of electrification (EV), battery, and sustainable energy capabilities to provide customers with critical power level signal sensing, capture and analysis. NI, NHR, and Heinzinger serve highly complementary positions in testing components used in the automotive industry to rapidly innovate to electrify vehicles. We believe combining the strength of NI’s flexible EV test platform with these companies’ power conversion and power supply test systems expertise will optimize testing workflows and enable rapid responses to changing test needs, accelerating time to market for a broader range of customers.

The focus of the acquisitions is to accelerate NI’s opportunity in high growth EV applications. Due to the complementary nature of these companies to NI’s priorities of innovation and meeting customer needs, NI expects that there will be minimal cost synergies from these transactions. NI is funding both these transactions through a combination of its existing revolving credit facility and cash on hand. These two transactions will represent 3 percent to 4 percent of NI’s total revenue in 2022 and be accretive to earnings per share. Approximately 150 employees will be joining the company.

“We continue to be intentional with investments where we see high potential to accelerate our growth. The addition of expertise and complementary capability from these two leading technology companies will help strengthen and expand our systems offerings to shared customers in the fast-growing area of electrification,” said Eric Starkloff, NI President and CEO. “These companies demonstrate our continued commitment to delivering systems to our customers who are facing a once in a career technology inflection in electrification. We welcome the employees of NHR and Heinzinger as we collectively accelerate our long-term growth ambitions.”

Software Market Consolidation

Infor (recently acquired by Koch Industries) announced the acquisition of Lighthouse Systems, a leading provider of manufacturing execution system (MES) software for smart manufacturing. The company’s flagship product, Shopfloor-Online, helps manufacturing companies manage and improve manufacturing operations across production, quality, inventory, and maintenance. 

Lighthouse Systems’ MES solution, which can be fully integrated into Infor CloudSuite ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, will help Infor address a critical customer requirement of 24×7 manufacturing operations. For those manufacturing companies that are looking to implement ERP and MES together, Infor anticipates that its ability to offer a fully integrated solution “out of the box” will significantly shorten time to value for customers. 

“MES solutions are critical for manufacturing organizations that want to ensure data consistency and real-time visibility across all plant operations,” said Infor CEO Kevin Samuelson. “Integrating these capabilities with our industry-specific ERP systems will help us deliver even more powerful solutions to manufacturing organizations, as they look to digitize their operations and grow their businesses.”

Based in Crawley, UK, about 30 miles south of London, Lighthouse Systems has major offices in the UK, the United States and Singapore. Its approximately 100 employees serve customers worldwide in focus industries such as automotive, building & construction, food & beverage, life science, machinery & equipment, packaging, and sustainable energy. 

Lighthouse Systems customers include Ball Corporation, Formica, Lucite International, Nissan, Benteler, and the Timken Company.

Tim Barber, company director at Lighthouse Systems, said, “We are delighted to join forces with Infor to further the operational excellence initiatives of our manufacturing customers. We have 30 years of experience delivering MES solutions to discrete and process manufacturers worldwide. These solutions are not only key to executing production efficiently, they also are essential building blocks for smart manufacturing and digital transformation.” 

Lighthouse Systems’ Shopfloor-Online product enables smart manufacturing by bringing all manufacturing operations into one central software system, which is accessible 24×7. The system, which can be deployed in the cloud or on-premises, connects the factory with a single thread of critical data that is accessible at the shop-floor level and throughout the enterprise.

Robot Orders Increase 67% in Q2 2021 Over Same Period in 2020

I get a little out of sorts when I see people equating automation and robots. There is so much more to automation than just six-axis robots. However, this is very interesting news. Someone just sent a press release showing doom and gloom in global trade statistics. Check this one.

Robot orders in the second quarter of 2021 were up 67% over the same period in 2020, showing a return to pre-COVID 19 pandemic demand for automation as manufacturers and other North American companies return to business. According to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), North American companies ordered 9,853 robots valued at $501 million in Q2 2021, up from 5,196 sold in Q2 2020, the peak of the pandemic. 

The Q2 2021 increase, which marks the third-highest quarter on record for robot units sold overall, also showed more than half (5,530) came from non-automotive customers as industries such metals, semiconductor & electronics, plastics and rubber, food and consumer goods, and life sciences recognize the benefits of automation.  

“With the big increases in automation sales, and favorable economic conditions in U.S. manufacturing sector throughout much of 2021, it’s clear users have accelerated their orders for robotics and other forms of advanced technologies,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of A3. “While companies have long realized that automation increases efficiencies, expands production and empowers human employees to do more valuable tasks, the pandemic helped even more industries realize those benefits. By automating—either for the first time or expanding on how they use automation—companies will be better prepared to handle any upcoming issues that impact their business.” 

According to A3, the substantial increases in robot orders in Q2 came from companies in:

  • metals (up 99% over Q2 2020)
  • automotive components (up 85%)
  • semiconductor & electronics/photonics (up 62%)
  • plastics & rubber (up 51%)
  • food & consumer goods (up 51%)
  • automotive OEM (up 49%)
  • life sciences/pharmaceutical/biomed (up 21%) 

Machine Vision, Motion Control and Motor Markets See Record Growth

In addition to the large increase in robotic orders, machine vision, motion control and motor markets saw record increases over Q2 2020, A3’s report shows. North American machine vision statistics reveal that the market expanded 26% to $764 million, a new record. For January through June of 2021, the North American machine vision market grew 18% to $1.5 billion, which is the best start to a year on record.  

The motion control and motors sector recorded $1.065 billion in shipments, 13% greater than Q2 2020 sales and setting a new record. Motors, actuators and mechanical systems and electronic drives saw the largest increases. 

“The revitalization of automation we’re seeing across myriad industries is extremely encouraging,” Burnstein added. “Not only will the increase in automation use be a win for our member companies, but it will also help the U.S. economy grow even more as customers increase productivity and fill the millions of manufacturing jobs that remain unfulfilled.” 

Emerson Morphs Software Strategy in Transaction with AspenTech

Consolidation continues to rock the industrial software market. I recorded a podcast ruminating on the changes and where the market might be heading. Just last week, I added a blog post about a new CTO at NI. Previously, NI had reported strategy shifts to emphasize software as a key supplement and extension to its strong data acquisition and analytics portfolio. Independent software developers and longtime stalwarts in the market PAS and OSIsoft sold to Hexagon and AVEVA respectively. Iconics is now part of Mitsubishi. Infor went to Koch Industries. One wonders where AWS, Azure, Google Cloud might fit into this mix.

Perhaps you have seen speculation about the financial moves of Emerson and AspenTech. Some people extolled this as a sign of Emerson expanding into software. They missed the point. Emerson tried software making an acquisition followed by a divestiture. Remember Emerson made a big play that became public for Rockwell Automation. It’s obviously hungry for growth of some kind through acquisition. 

Meanwhile, AspenTech has resided on shaky financial foundations for quite a while. New management has constructed a firmer structure, but the company still needed a capital infusion.

And again, Emerson had completed a couple of software acquisitions, but I think the financial managers figured out that mixing a software business into a hardware business is tricky. I don’t mean illegal tricky. I mean keeping track of the differing financial models tricky.

I find this financial transaction of Emerson and AspenTech intriguing. It seems to follow the path forged by Schneider Electric when it was trying to figure out what to do with the software portfolio it inherited with a number of acquisitions followed by swallowing Invensys. It took two software acquisitions plus AspenTech, mixed the pot with a wisk, and came away with 55% ownership of a new company dubbed New AspenTech.

Expect to see further consolidation.

Emerson to Receive 55% Stake of New AspenTech

  • AspenTech Shareholders to Receive Approximately $87 Per Share in Cash and 0.42 Shares of New AspenTech for each AspenTech Share, Providing Upside through 45% Stake
  • New AspenTech Expected to Drive Double-Digit Annual Spend Growth, Best-in-Class Profitability, Strong Free Cash Flow and Be Positioned to Pursue and Complete Strategic Transactions
  • Emerson Reaffirms Fiscal Year 2021 Underlying Sales Guidance of 5% to 6% and Adjusted EPS Guidance of $4.06 to $4.08

Emerson and AspenTech announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement to contribute Emerson’s industrial software businesses – OSI Inc. and the Geological Simulation Software business – to AspenTech to create a diversified, high-performance industrial software leader with greater scale, capabilities and technologies (“new AspenTech”). Emerson will also contribute $6.0 billion in cash to new AspenTech, which will be received by AspenTech shareholders, in exchange for a 55% stake in new AspenTech. New AspenTech will offer a highly differentiated industrial software portfolio with the capabilities to support the entire lifecycle of complex operations across a wide range of industry verticals, including design and engineering, operations, maintenance and asset optimization.

The new company, which will retain the name AspenTech, enables Emerson to realize significant synergies and accelerate its software strategy to drive meaningful value creation. Majority ownership position in a highly valued, pure-play industrial software leader will give Emerson the platform and flexibility to strategically deploy capital for growth through continued investment and M&A. The transaction continues Emerson’s long history of delivering shareholder value. New AspenTech will be fully consolidated into Emerson financials and is expected to be accretive to adjusted EPS after year one.

Avnu Alliance Launches Advanced Global TSN Certification Program

Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) holds promise as a real-time and deterministic extension of Ethernet. Principle backers come from the audio-visual industry looking for a standard solution for improving streaming audio/video synchronization. Another obvious benefactor would be industrial manufacturing and production applications. 

Standards have little use without testing and certification. The Avnu Alliance moves the standard another step closer to realization with the release of globally scaled testing capabilities. Details from the press release follow.

Announcement

Avnu Alliance®, the industry consortium driving open, standards-based deterministic networking, announced globally scaled testing capabilities and a comprehensive update of its certification testing procedures at newly authorized, commercial test houses around the world. This advanced global certification program will streamline certification testing of devices with Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) capabilities, including devices implementing the Milan network protocol (using TSN) for professional media, making testing easier and more convenient for Avnu members around the world. 

Global Locations

Avnu announces expanded testing at new Registered Test Facilities (RTF) around the world: Allion in Taipei City, Taiwan; Excelfore in Tokyo, Japan; and Granite River Labs in both Santa Clara, CA, USA and Karlsruhe, Germany. These well-recognized, globally dispersed test labs will lower shipping times, offer competitive pricing models, and streamline the process for members seeking to certify products and make communications between testing sites and vendors seamless. These additional test sites and locations give Avnu Alliance greater ability to scale testing capacity to meet demand, while also allowing device manufacturers to enter products into testing with less lead time prior to release. 

“As a part of standard networking technology, TSN is built and deployed around the world,” says Greg Schlechter, president of the Avnu Alliance.  “Avnu recognized that, for device certification to keep pace with innovation, we needed to expand our testing capabilities and global footprint to increase accessibilty, enable the growth of both test programs and manufacturers, and in general support the diversity of the growing TSN ecosystem.”

Avnu’s goal is to enable an ecosystem of interoperable, secure, low-latency, and highly reliable networked devices using TSN as part of the open IEEE 802.1 Ethernet standards. Avnu has a variety of test plans and programs to help manufacturers implementing TSN ensure interoperability and demonstrate that to their markets through certification programs.

Avnu’s membership brings together experts in automotive, industrial, and networked media as well as all perspectives from across the value chain, including infrastructure providers, silicon and component vendors, and end-device manufacturers. These members collaborate on the current and future requirements for an interoperable TSN ecosystem and define and create conformance test procedures, plans, scripts, and tools for devices and products that leverage Milan and TSN. Those test scripts and procedures are licensed to designated, third-party testing laboratories, where the tests are independently conducted to validate compliance with the specifications. 

Certification Management System and Product Registry

To streamline the new program, Avnu has launched a new testing portal and comprehensive Certification Management System (CMS) with simplified and intelligent certification workflows for seamless, transparent communication. Designed and maintained by experienced certification management professionals, the new CMS provides members with real-time visibility into the testing process and the ability to track device progress and timelines. 

In this web-based portal, Avnu members can submit products for testing, view results, respond to nonconformance issues, and manage the public listing of newly Certified products. All certification and testing documents are easily managed in a single, centralized location. Intelligent workflows feed data and visibility back to Avnu’s Certification Work Group to track the number of products in certification at each lab, enabling Avnu to scale the capabilities as needed to support testing demand.  

In addition, Avnu’s certification website will launch a new product registry with a robust database showing all products currently Certified by Avnu. Advanced filtering capabilities make it easy for members’ customers and end-users to search for products to specify and design into systems.

“With this new certification platform, Avnu continues to innovate in making pre-certification and certification testing easier, faster, and more convenient for member companies, test equipment manufacturers, and test facilities around the world,” added Ed Agis, Certification Work Group co-chair. “Interoperability ultimately accelerates a broader ecosystem of devices, which is the long-term advantage of this advanced global certification platform.”

The certification program will first support testing and certification for Milan devices at new locations. Testing services will continue to be offered at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab. The testing program will continue to evolve; additional certification test plans will become available through these global facilities as the TSN ecosystem grows.