OPC Foundation In The News

OPC Foundation has released a lot of news at the end of 2020. Its working groups have been busy.

  • Cloud Library with CESMII
  • Field Level Communications
  • ECLASS Standard for M2M Communication
  • Update to PLCOpen 61131-3 specification

Cloud Library

The OPC Foundation, in collaboration with CESMII, is pleased to announce the launch of the “OPC UA Cloud Library” Joint Working Group (JWG). The goal of the JWG is to specify how OPC UA information models of machines, SCADA and Manufacturing Execution Systems will be stored in and accessed from a cloud-based database.  Such a database will enable manufacturers to draw from a wide range of OPC UA information models and profiles for use in their pre-built shopfloor and business digitalization applications.

Collaboration between the OPC Foundation and the Smart Manufacturing Institute is a natural fit given their complementary efforts. On one hand, the US government-backed Smart Manufacturing Institute sets out to help accelerate the adoption of Smart Manufacturing by businesses of all sizes by enabling frictionless movement of information (data and context) between real-time operations and the people and systems that create value in their organizations. On the other hand, the OPC Foundation created a globally adopted open data interoperability standard via its OPC UA specification. The specification’s information modeling capabilities and secure, scalable communications made it a cornerstone of Industrie 4.0 and virtually every other national Industrial IoT initiative. By working together, CESMII and the OPC Foundation aim to enable the broadest range of US manufacturers and beyond to innovate and go-to-market in their digital transformation using the right data modeling foundation.

Field Level Communications

OPC Foundation announces today that its Field Level Communications Initiative has accomplished a significant milestone in the ongoing project by completing their initial release candidate with the focus on the Controller-to-Controller (C2C) use case. In addition, a technical paper has been published that explains the technical approach and the basic concepts to extend OPC UA to the field level for all use cases and requirements in Factory and Process Automation.

Peter Lutz, Director Field Level Communications of the OPC Foundation says: “We are happy about the progress that our working groups have made over the last months, despite COVID-19 and the associated restrictions. The initial release candidate is a major achievement because it is used to build prototypes and to create test specifications that will be converted to corresponding test cases for the OPC UA certification tool (CTT). Furthermore, it lays the foundation for specification enhancements to also cover the Controller-to-Device (C2D) and Device-to-Device (D2D) use cases in the next step.”

Since the start of the Field Level Communications Initiative in November 2018 more than 300 experts from over 60 OPC Foundation member companies have signed up for the various technical working groups to create the technical concepts and elaborate the specification contents for extending the OPC UA framework for field level communications, including Determinism, Motion, Instruments and Functional Safety.

Cooperation with ECLASS

An important step for interoperability in the field of M2M communication: the OPC Foundation and ECLASS e.V. signed a cooperation agreement.

The goal of this cooperation is to combine the power of the OPC UA and ECLASS standards to better enable M2M interoperability via seamless communication of data and semantics using a standardized set of interfaces. To serve as the basis for semantic interoperability across full product life cycles in an international application environment, a manufacturer and industry independent standard for product description is needed. Once created, such a standard can serve as a semantic reference for the Internet of Things. The ECLASS standard, developed by ECLASS e.V. meets these requirements in a unique way.

The OPC UA standard enables secure transmission of data and facilitates the definition and dynamic exchange of its underlying structure via robust OPC UA information modeling functionality. Standardized information models implemented using OPC UA are called OPC UA Companion Specifications, which taken together can serve as common libraries of Information Models. Products utilizing OPC UA Companion Specifications enable seamless 3rd party data interoperability in the operating phase in the product lifecycle. Today, ECLASS identifiers are already being used in various Companion Specifications. 

Update to PLCOpen OPC UA for IEC61131-3

The OPC Foundation, in collaboration with PLCopen, announced the release of v1.02 of the “OPC UA for IEC61131-3” specification. Building on the first version of the specification, the joint working group added: 

  • support for all datatypes defined in the 3rd edition of IEC61131-3
  • an optimized, machine-readable version of the information model (i.e. nodesetfile) 
  • compliance with enhanced specification templates to support the tool chain used to generate validated information models
  • inclusion in the global online searchable specification reference 
  • OPC Foundation Compliance Test Tool (CTT)  test cases for validation of vendor implementations of “OPC UA for IEC61131-3”

Founded in 2008, this joint working group has the goal of expressing IEC 61131-3 information models using OPC UA.  By doing so, an IEC6-61131-3 PLC project that is loaded onto different control platforms can be displayed in a standardized form and made available for communication via the controllers’ OPC UA servers.

“This first step harmonizes the access of the project running in the controller” says Eelco van der Wal, Managing Director of the PLCopen organization. “With this an unprecedented transparency is created in the communication in industrial automation, enabling the configuration of the communication much faster and independent of the network and suppliers. For this reason, many suppliers have implemented this, providing their users with the ease of use in communication.”

In addition to the server specification “UA for IEC61131-3” the group also worked very successfully on the “client specification” which was originally released in 2014. The implementation of this functionality on a controller makes it possible to initiate a communication session to any other available OPC UA Server. The controller can exchange complex data structures horizontally with other controllers independent of the fieldbus system used, or vertically with other devices using an OPC UA server service oriented architecture, like an MES/ERP system in order to collect data or write new production orders to the cloud.

Harting Becomes ODVA’s Latest Principal Member

I am going to be catching up on a lot of late 2020 news. There certainly seemed to be more news in a pandemic-laden year than in a typical year. It was crazy. And the proliferation of virtual conferences was amazing.

So, ODVA is heading for growth at the physical layer. It has announced that Harting has become a principal member of ODVA alongside Cisco Systems, Endress+Hauser, Honeywell, Omron, Rockwell Automation, and Schneider Electric. The primary focus of Harting’s activities in ODVA will be through Harting of North America.

Harting is working to drive the advancement of industrial Ethernet as a part of IIoT and Industry 4.0, and its increased participation in ODVA will aid efforts to identify and standardize different technologies and devices that will be needed for the automation industry to successfully implement IIoT.

Harting has worked through ODVA and with its fellow ODVA Members for many years to promote the adoption of industrial automation communications network standards, to engage in technical development and enhancement activities, and to promote conforming products. It supports both EtherNet/IP and DeviceNet technologies with cable and connector solutions. Its products include heavy duty connectors, interface/board connectors, custom cabling, and a wide portfolio of solutions for industrial communications, especially Industrial Ethernet. Key served market segments include machinery/robotics, automation, transportation, wind energy, and power generation & distribution. The company provides data, signal, and power via complete connector installation concepts for industrial infrastructures, setting new standards with connectors such as the Han series. It has helped drive the adoption of industrial Ethernet over the past years, especially with the launch of their T1 Industrial connector for Industrial Single Pair Ethernet.

“EtherNet/IP is a critical communication network for the future of discrete and process industries, especially with the advent of Industrial Single Pair Ethernet and Ethernet-APL,” stated Jon DeSouza, President and CEO of Harting Americas. “Harting is looking forward to continuing to provide enhanced smart connectivity solutions for EtherNet/IP networks to drive faster decision making and error correction as well as prevention. By joining ODVA as a principal member, HARTING is increasing its contribution to the advancement of EtherNet/IP and related ODVA technology and standards to prepare for OT and IT convergence. IIoT and Industry 4.0 continue to gain traction and drive industry advancement, making now the perfect time for Harting to increase its commitment to ODVA.” 

“ODVA welcomes the increased contribution of HARTING as a principal member as well as their expertise in smart connectivity,” said Dr. Al Beydoun, President and Executive Director of ODVA. “Their participation as a principal member will contribute to and grow ODVA’s ability to move the connectivity of the industrial enterprise forward to meet the increased demands of IIoT and Industry 4.0.”

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.”