NI Joins Open Manufacturing Platform Organization

I first heard about the Open Manufacturing Platform during my last trip to Germany, well, my last business trip anywhere, last February. I wrote about it here–Open Manufacturing Platform Expands.This effort, led by Microsoft and BMW joined by ZF, Bosch, and ABInBev, “helps manufacturers leverage advanced technologies to gain greater operational efficiencies, factory output, customer loyalty, and net profits.” That’s a tall order. These are companies that I’ve seen leverage technology for improvements over the years. This should be an advancement.

This month’s news items (2) relating to OMP include NI through its recent acquisition Optimal Plus joining the organization and a new deliverable from the OMP’s working group.

NI says that it has joined OMP “with the goal of establishing an architecture and standards for auto manufacturers to better leverage and automate analytics to improve quality, reliability and safety.”

I had an opportunity to interview Michael Schuldenfrei, NI Fellow and OptimalPlus CTO about smart manufacturing, what OptimalPlus adds to NI, and OMP. The roots of OptimalPlus lie in enterprise software relative to manufacturing of semiconductors. An early customer was Qualcomm who used the software to collect and analyze data from its numerous manufacturing plants. It branched out into assemblies, such as with a new customer Nvidia. Later the company added mechatronics to its portfolio. That was a good tie in with NI.

Rather than become just another smart manufacturing application focusing on machines, OptimalPlus brings its focus to the product being manufactured. Given NI’s strength in test and measurement, this was a definite synergy. As I have written before here and here, this enterprise software addition to NI’s portfolio is just what the company needs to advance a level.

Michael told me he was an early advocate for OMP due to seeing how his technology worked with Tier 1 automotive suppliers to drive digital transformation process. 

NI announced that its latest acquisition, OptimalPlus, has joined the Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP), a consortium led by BMW, Microsoft, ZF, Bosch and ABInBev that helps manufacturers leverage advanced technologies to gain greater operational efficiencies, factory output, customer loyalty, and net profits.

The OMP’s goals include creating a “Manufacturing Reference Architecture” for platform-agnostic, cloud-based data collection, management, analytics and other applications. This framework will provide a standard way to connect to IoT devices on equipment and define a semantic layer that unifies data across disparate data sources. All in all, this has the potential to create a rich, open-source ecosystem that enables faster and easier adoption of smart manufacturing technologies.

In the same way that interpreters at the United Nations help delegates communicate and make new policies, standardized data formats accelerate the adoption of big data and machine learning, creating a universal translator between multiple machine and process types. OptimalPlus, now part of NI, will bring to OMP its vast domain expertise in automotive manufacturing processes and provide leading production companies with actionable insights and adaptive methods from its big data analytics platform.

“We’re honored to be invited to join the prestigious Open Manufacturing Platform, which plays a key role in helping manufacturers all over the world innovate,” said Uzi Baruch, VP of NI’s Transportation business unit. “With pressure mounting to ensure quality and prevent faulty parts from shipping, it’s important that manufacturers have access to the transformative powers of AI, machine learning and big data analytics. We’re excited to collaborate with industry leaders in the OMP consortium to help manufacturers evolve and optimize their processes.”

AI and advanced analytics help to streamline manufacturing, reduce costs and improve quality, reliability and safety. OMP makes it easier for manufacturers to deploy this technology across their operations and fulfill the promise of smart manufacturing.

White Paper: Insights Into Connecting Industrial IoT Assets

The second bit of news describes a first deliverable from the OMP as it progresses toward its objective.

OMP announced delivery of a critical milestone with the publication of our first white paper. The IoT Connectivity Working Group, chaired by Sebastian Buckel and co-chaired by Dr. Veit Hammerstingl of the BMW Group, authored Insights Into Connecting Industrial IoT Assets. Contributions from member companies Capgemini, Cognizant, Microsoft, Red Hat, and ZF present a consensus view of the connectivity challenges and best practices in IIoT as the 4th industrial revolution unfolds. This paper is the initial publication laying out an approach to solving connectivity challenges while providing a roadmap for future OMP work.

Manufacturing at an Inflection Point

The intersection of information technology (IT) and operational technologies (OT), as well as the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), presents opportunities and threats to the entire manufacturing sector. In manufacturing, multiple challenges complicate the connection of sensors, actuators, and machines to a central data center. Lack of common standards and proprietary interfaces leads each engineer to solve similar problems, introducing inefficiencies and forcing the same learning curve’s ascension over and over. The long renewal cycles of shop floor equipment, software, and processes present gaps in modern technologies and a general avoidance of making significant institutional changes. This initial publication begins to tackle these problems and lays the groundwork for future, more detailed work.

IT/OT Convergence

Each connectivity challenge will have a range of diverse constituents and the content of this paper addresses issues faced by individuals and teams across job functions. Operational technology (OT) professionals are responsible for the commissioning, operation, and maintenance of shop floor equipment. Information technology (IT) personnel look after overall data processing, the hardware and software infrastructure, and enterprise-wide IT strategy. General managers and logistics teams are typically aligned at a corporate level, coordinating processes across a network of plants. Each of these functions will have roles spanning from operational hands-on to strategic and managerial. The unique demands of each part will require connectivity solutions to be forward-thinking and value-accretive while offering practical solutions implemented with minimal incremental investment.

Industrial IoT Challenges

Also explored in the paper, are the IIoT devices’ critical real-time needs for repeatability and high availability. An example is an AI model that optimizes the parameters of a bending machine based on the current air temperature and humidity. Possible connection failures or high latencies can lead to stopped or interrupted processes or products with insufficient quality.

Manufacturing throughput requirements vary from low bandwidth for simple sensors using small packets to much higher bandwidth required for streaming data for video analytics, vibration sensors, or AR/VR visualization.  A holistic connectivity solution can address this complexity successfully, spanning from the individual devices on the shop floor up through edge gateways and servers to the central data center or cloud resources such as compute and storage.

Network Levels

Networks are usually customized to their precise environment and the desired function, and therefore can be very complex.

In the white paper, we discuss the functions of each of the network levels, their benefits and limitations, and security considerations. Additional sections of the document cover common challenges in IIoT, connectivity levels, basic principles for successful connectivity solutions, communication types, and best practices for program implementation.

Honeywell Expands Life Sciences And Software Capabilities Through Acquisition Of Sparta Systems

  • Sparta’s AI-enabled software as a service (SaaS) quality management software (QMS) offering will combine with Honeywell Forge and Experion Process Knowledge System
  • Honeywell will leverage Sparta’s technologies to continue to drive global growth and expand into new market segments, including highly regulated verticals, that require advanced process technologies
  • Sparta’s technologies will accelerate Honeywell’s breakthrough initiative to further penetrate the life sciences market and strengthen Honeywell’s existing portfolio of advanced automation and process control technologies

It’s not only Apple and Google in technology consolidating the market and increasing their private portfolios. The same phenomenon is happening in the industrial space with the latest exhibit being this software acquisition by Honeywell.

Honeywell announced Dec. 22 it has agreed to acquire privately held Sparta Systems for $1.3 billion in an all-cash transaction from New Mountain Capital. Sparta Systems is a leading provider of enterprise quality management software (QMS), including a next-generation SaaS platform, for the life sciences industry. 

The acquisition further strengthens Honeywell’s leadership in industrial automation, digital transformation solutions and enterprise performance management software. 

Honeywell will leverage its global presence, Honeywell Forge and Sparta’s expertise to introduce new, integrated solutions, including QMS offerings, for life sciences and adjacent industries. Honeywell’s customers will benefit from advanced digital QMS solutions to help them proactively achieve better quality, which results in improved new therapies, faster time to market, better business and patient outcomes, and effective regulatory compliance.

“Sparta’s TrackWise Digital and QualityWise.ai are a welcome addition to Honeywell’s enterprise performance management software, Honeywell Forge, and will further enhance the link between quality and production data for life sciences manufacturers,” said Que Dallara, president and chief executive officer of Honeywell Connected Enterprise. “Our combined offerings will make it easier for customers to gain critical insights from manufacturing and quality data that can improve their manufacturing processes while ensuring product quality, patient safety, and supply chain continuity.”

Honeywell has provided the world’s leading drug manufacturers and biomedical firms with advancements in automation technologies, systems and services for more than 30 years. 

Honeywell’s portfolio includes advanced automation and process controls; data capture and recording solutions that simplify and safeguard compliance; and technologies that help maintain auditability, optimize production, and speed time to market while ensuring quality and repeatability. Honeywell’s Fast Track Automation helps life science manufacturers expedite development and production of vital vaccines and medical therapies.

“Sparta Systems is an ideal complement to our life sciences portfolio,” said Rajeev Gautam, president and chief executive officer of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies. “While Sparta’s capabilities will initially help us expand our capabilities for our existing breakthrough initiative in life sciences, we plan to leverage Honeywell’s global footprint and expertise to quickly expand Sparta’s capabilities to serve other markets. We have strong conviction in the growth opportunities in the life sciences and pharmaceuticals space and in the synergies between Sparta and Honeywell both for Honeywell Connected Enterprise and Honeywell Forge as well as for Honeywell Process Solutions.”

Sparta Systems is headquartered in Hamilton, N.J., and has approximately 250 employees globally. Sparta serves more than 400 customers, including 42 of the world’s top 50 pharma companies and 33 of the top 50 medical device companies.

“Organizations need a quality management software solution with advanced digital capabilities that effectively automates, optimizes and standardizes quality processes across the board,” said Dana Jones, chief executive officer of Sparta Systems. “When you combine Sparta’s leading QMS platform with Honeywell’s existing process automation and software offerings, you create a highly differentiated, comprehensive solution that allows customers to focus more on the value-add activities that will accelerate their growth.”

Honeywell will continue to enhance TrackWise Digital QMS by adding AI and machine learning capabilities that augment human decision making. Honeywell will also add new IoT-enabled connectivity between quality and operational data to detect manufacturing anomalies and triage quality events in near real time. These continuing innovations will help customers proactively address quality to improve patient safety and effective regulatory compliance. 

Pete Masucci, managing director of New Mountain Capital, said, “Since we partnered with Sparta in 2017, the company launched its TrackWise Digital platform – the only AI-enabled QMS solution, expanded its SaaS customer base by two-and-a-half times, and significantly invested in product development and R&D. We are excited to watch Sparta continue to thrive within the Honeywell organization.”

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2021 and is subject to certain regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. There is no change to Honeywell’s 2020 financial outlook as a result of the acquisition.

MindSphere World Establishes North American Chapter To Promote IoT Platform

The Profibus International office for North America has been a strong marketing arm supporting the spread of Prifibus/Profinet technology and products in the region. I’ve been wondering about what the future would be with the maturity of these networks. I did not know about Siemens’ work establishing a similar organization for its IoT platform—MindSphere. Here is news about a new chapter.

MindSphere World is a global community of companies and research institutions to jointly shape the future of IoT. Joining forces and sharing experiences enables members to keep pace with the rapidly changing digital world. MindSphere World was founded in 2018 by Siemens along with 18 partner companies to expand the ecosystem around MindSphere, the leading industrial IoT as a service solution. It has since expanded into a broad IoT community including the development of business models, proposals on requirements as well as recommendations to create uniform rules for the use of data. The association also promotes science, research, and education around the Industrial Internet of Things. MindSphere World comprises seven regional associations in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and North America.

Following is the specific news. I wonder where this will go.

In partnership with leading manufacturers and technology firms, MindSphere World has announced the formation of its newest chapter in North America. Founding Board of Directors members for this new chapter include representatives from Deloitte, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), IBM, Siemens, and Valiant TMS. Further founding member companies BEET, Edge2Web, Pure Precision, Gleason Corp, GROB Systems, Hardinge, MAYA HTT, Patti Engineering, TÜV SÜD, the University of Georgia, the University of South Carolina, and Wunderlich Malec Engineering form a powerful initial ecosystem of North American manufacturing interests. As one of the world’s premier IoT user associations, MindSphere World has expanded its scope to include the United States, Canada, and Mexico in order to help accelerate the adoption of Industrial IoT and drive the digital transformation of manufacturing in the region. 

MindSphere World’s mission is to create an environment in which thought leaders, research institutes, and manufacturers representing all sizes and markets can come together to network, develop standards, and explore best practices. The organization aims to create a platform for all North American manufacturers to convene, learn, and grow throughout their digital transformation.

“FCA is enthusiastic about our membership in MindSphere World North America. We are known for our technological strength and know that IoT is the next frontier of productivity, quality, and innovation. We believe that MindSphere World will help us to identify and implement standards and best practices more effectively,” said Steve Burris, Powertrain Controls Center of Competency, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.   

“As we move into a more digitalized manufacturing era, manufacturers must embrace the concept of acting in ecosystems. Siemens is committed to making this the preeminent industrial IoT organization in the world, powered by the best and brightest minds from North America’s industrial companies,” said Raj Batra, President of Siemens Digital Industries U.S.

“Over the past 10 years, Deloitte has been committed to narrowing the gap of how humans and machines work together, connecting data and driving innovation across every stage of the product lifecycle,” said Adam Mussomeli, principal and Supply Chain & Network Operations lead, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “The creation of MindSphere World North America is an important next step to continue that conversation and explore the endless potential of IoT and digital threads as we look to create the next frontier of digital transformation together.” 

As localized manufacturing efforts in the United States, Canada, and Mexico continue to grow, companies are struggling with how to start their digital journey and how to leverage digital tools most effectively. Part of that struggle includes the lack of standards or networks of like-minded organizations. MindSphere World offers the manufacturing industry a mechanism within an ecosystem to determine typical IoT business models and how to leverage them, identify industry-specific use cases, share best practices, and develop and implement more efficient digital solutions.

MindSphere World North America aims to create a platform for all manufacturers to convene, learn, and grow throughout their digital transformation.

PTC and Rockwell Automation Extend Strategic Alliance

PTC and Rockwell Automation have announced an extension to their agreement for joint development and partnership in selling each other’s products. On the one hand given persistent rumors around the market about not everything being rosy with the partnership so far, this is perhaps surprising. On the other hand, Rockwell Automation has invested a lot of money into this and with an equity piece of PTC, it’d be hard to walk away. 

Looking through the press release, notable items are extension to PLM, something I’ve been suggesting to Rockwell executives for many years. The digital twin part could be powerful, except that PTC doesn’t really have a lot of market share in that area. But I’d like to see Rockwell do more in this area, and PTC would no doubt like the US market clout of its partner. It also sounds as if the companies are redoubling their joint sales effort. 

[I’m reprinting the press release without editing the superlatives of “first”, “best”, and the like. These are Rockwell’s own propositions.]

Having already helped almost 250 new customers around the world to achieve their digital transformation goals, PTC  and Rockwell Automation announced October 28, 2020 the expansion and early extension of their strategic alliance.

This extension will ensure continuity in both companies’ sales and product development efforts and expand the agreement to include PTC’s product lifecycle management and software as a service (SaaS) products. This expansion will streamline both companies’ commercial efforts to extend a comprehensive digital thread solution, from upfront design through the operate, maintain and optimize-lifecycle stages. PTC will also offer Rockwell Automation’s virtual machinery simulation and testing software to its own customer and partner network. Under the agreement, both organizations will continue to leverage each other’s resources, technologies, industry expertise, and market presence to seamlessly serve their customers through 2023 and beyond.

The companies’ primary joint offering, FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, is the industry’s first comprehensive digital transformation software suite that offers fully integrated Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), edge-to-cloud analytics, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and augmented reality (AR) required for the connected enterprise. FactoryTalk InnovationSuite makes it simple to rapidly develop, operationalize, and globally scale innovative solutions to operations.

“Our selection of FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC could not have come at a better time for our company,” said Teja Schubert, Director, Controls, Automation and Technology, Norbord, an international producer of wood-based panels. “As the first wave of COVID-19 hit, it became even more important to have a platform that helps us reduce costs, improve our employee’s experience and make better use of our maintenance and training efforts. This ever-important alliance has made it easier for our company to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic so far, and we look forward to leveraging future solutions.”

“Over the past two years, PTC and Rockwell Automation teams have combined great innovation to offer our customers the world-class FactoryTalk InnovationSuite solution,” said Blake Moret, chairman and CEO, Rockwell Automation. “The expansion and early extension of our contract with PTC signifies the increasing value of this strategic alliance and its importance to the Connected Enterprise.”

Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO, PTC, said: “The strategic alliance with Rockwell Automation has expanded our reach and our capabilities as we champion Industry 4.0 initiatives around the world. The powerful impact of our offerings amid the current macroeconomic environment proves the market’s need for this collaboration.”

OPC Foundation Welcomes Emerson to Its Board of Directors

Emerson also joins the OPC Foundation Field Level Communications (FLC) initiative to drive a holistic approach to sensor and device level communications across process and factory automation industries.

This news could be a big win for the OPC Foundation. On the other hand, it sometimes happens that big companies join standards efforts in order to delay adoption. Sometimes, though, big companies see benefits for themselves from standards developments. It saves them a ton of internal development time and money. The news that Emerson is increasing its commitment to OPC and working with the field Level communications development can give a needed boost to the effort. We can hope.

The OPC Foundation is proud to announce Emerson has joined its Board of Directors and sincerely welcomes Peter Zornio, Chief Technology Officer for Emerson Automation Solutions, as Emerson’s representative on the Board of Directors. Emerson is one of the world’s largest automation suppliers, providing engineering services and automation technologies to process and discrete manufacturing industries.

Emerson has a long history with the OPC Foundation. As one of its founding members, Emerson played an important role in the development and adoption of the first OPC data connectivity standard and contributed to the development of OPC UA, today’s open data interoperability standard. Emerson supports OPC UA initiatives by participating in OPC Foundation working groups and by adopting OPC UA in a wide variety of its family of products.

Peter Zornio says: “OPC technology is well established in the automation space as the de facto standard for application-level communications.  It also provides integration between operations technology (OT) and the IT world, including cloud-based environments.  We look forward to growing that role, as well as working with the OPC FLC initiative on expanding OPC technology into real-time communications between control and field-connected devices.  OPC is the best candidate to have a single communication standard cover the entire scope of automation architecture from intelligent field devices to the cloud.”

Peter Lutz, Director FLC Initiative: “Currently, the OPC Foundation is extending use of OPC UA down to the level of sensors and devices on the shop floor via its Field Level Communications (FLC) initiative. The value that a major player like Emerson brings to this initiative is important from both technical and market messaging perspectives. First, OPC Foundation Working Groups benefit from extensive Emerson field level expertise. Second, with its strong support for ongoing OPC UA standard development for use in both process and discrete industries, Emerson helps send a clear message to the market: OPC UA plays an equally important role in both verticals.

Stefan Hoppe, President and Executive Director, OPC Foundation commented “It is gratifying to welcome a company of Emerson’s stature to the OPC Foundation Board of Directors. Working together with Emerson and our other valued board members, the OPC Foundation is now better positioned to deliver on its directive to provide the world with the best single data connectivity and interoperability standard for use throughout the enterprise, regardless of the industry sector.” 

Working Group For Small-to-Medium Sized Manufacturers

If you are an engineer or a manager with one of the large manufacturing or production companies, you wind up getting a lot of love from suppliers and academics and others who seek to help you. But, do you feel like James Lawrence who is Plant Manager, ECM Performance Materials Group? “We are a small tier 3 and 4 supplier of synthetic and natural rubber raw materials. We have a small team wearing many hats.”

Well, CESMII – The Smart Manufacturing Institute seeks to help those of you—a majority of firms in the US–with the first Small to Medium Manufacturers (SMM) Affinity Group meeting to assist manufacturers in accelerating their Smart Manufacturing technology adoption and Workforce Development.

Affinity Groups are an opportunity for manufacturers of all types to share their challenges, and work – with CESMII guidance, as a collective, to overcome them. CESMII provides the management and guidance and will follow-up to address group needs. The SMM Affinity Group is open to CESMII members and will meet in an online forum with the goal of identifying challenges the participants share (such as energy optimization, resource efficiency, quality improvement) and working through solutions. 

The first meeting included speakers from ECM Performance Materials Group, a small manufacturing company, California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) – The California Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center (MEP) focused on Technology and Efficiency improvements, the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP) and Arkansas Manufacturing Extension Partnership (ARMEP) – Three (3) of Fifty one (51) Centers in the MEP National Network funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Lawrence, cited above, continued, “Our engagement with CESMII is delivering value on many fronts, exposing us to the right technologies and techniques, but most importantly, letting us engage with a community of forward-looking manufacturers and technology providers that we would never have found otherwise. We needed digital transformation expertise for our business, and CESMII put us in touch with Flexware Innovation, an excellent system integrator with whom we were able to engage. We never would have found them without CESMII.”

James Watson, President and CEO of CMTC – “CESMII is a very special organization, delivering game changing guidance and technology for manufacturers, to support them in the transfer and adoption of new Smart Manufacturing technologies. CESMII provides CMTC the necessary resources to successfully engage California manufacturers in the deployment of smart solutions.”

KeAnne Hoeg – NCMEP – “We have struggled with bringing new technology to SMMs due to a wide variety of readiness levels. The initiatives at CESMII are right in line with the needs of our manufacturing ecosystem in North Carolina and together, we can be the lighthouse in North Carolina for those ready for Smart Manufacturing adoption. Large manufacturers have their own initiatives and resources, and it’s the 99.6% of manufacturers in the SMM category that need our help.”

Dan Curtis, Director ARMEP – “We are relying on CESMII for their expertise in Smart Manufacturing and Workforce Development tools. Our task is to engage with our local manufacturers and guide them to new levels of performance and profitability, now with the assistance of CESMII.”

CESMII is the United States’ national institute on Smart Manufacturing, driving cultural and technological transformation and secure industrial technologies as national imperatives. By enabling frictionless movement of information – raw and contextualized data – between real-time Operations and the people and systems that create value in and across Manufacturing organizations, CESMII is ensuring the power of information and innovation is at the fingertips of everyone who touches manufacturing.  

Founded in 2016, in partnership with DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), CESMII is the third institute funded by EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office. The Institute is accelerating Smart Manufacturing (SM) adoption through the integration of advanced sensors, data (ingestion – contextualization – modeling – analytics), platforms and controls to radically impact manufacturing performance, through measurable improvements in areas such as: quality, throughput, costs/profitability, safety, asset reliability and energy productivity. CESMII’s program and administrative home is with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).