Thinking Through Rockwell Automation’s Edge Analytics Platform

Thinking Through Rockwell Automation’s Edge Analytics Platform

The product Rockwell Automation executives most wanted to talk to me about at the last Automation Fair event was its new analytics platform.

Immediately following the Rockwell event was Thanksgiving, then a trip to Madrid for a Hewlett Packard Enterprise event followed by catching up and Christmas. But I grabbed moments to contemplate the “Project Scio Edge Analytics Platform” (see image) and tried to place it in a context amongst all the platforms I saw this year. Which were many.

Executives including SVP and CTO Sujeet Chand and VP of Information Software John Genovesi were enthused over the new product. I wrote about it here.

I liked much of what I heard. There were many overtures to open connectivity that I have not heard at a Rockwell event—maybe ever. I even got an hour to discuss OPC UA and how Rockwell now intends to implement it. The demo during media days was also powerful.

I drew a mind map and exported an outline. Here is the list of positive things.

Positives

  • Developed analytics from acquihire
  • Good UX
  • Platforms
  • Open connectivity including OPC UA
  • Should provide customers with insights into control systems and machine performance

However, I’m left with some questions—some of the same ones I often feel about Rockwell Automation. Check out the architecture diagram. It stops with machine level. I always expect to see more, but Rockwell always stops at the machine. Perhaps GE and Siemens have overreached with Predix and Mindsphere (and Schneider Electric with EcoStruxure?), so Rockwell stays closer to its roots on the plant floor? Is it more profitable and manageable that way?

I don’t know the answers. But I’m left thinking that with the rise of platforms [see for example Platform Revolution by Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary] and open ecosystems, Rockwell seems to have a much smaller vision. It talks of “Connected Enterprise”, but in the end I don’t see a lot of “enterprise” in the offerings.

Questions

  • Is it platform or a piece of the Rockwell software stack that stops short of plantwide views?
  • Is it anything that others (SIs and users?) can add to?
  • Is there more coming?
  • Is there a way to integrate supply chain and customer chain?
  • Seems a natural to integrate with an asset management application–which Rockwell does not have.

I think they’ve done well for what they evidently set out to do. I also think there remains more to do to help customers leverage the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation. Interesting to see what next November brings.

It Is All About Maintaining the Efficient Plant

It Is All About Maintaining the Efficient Plant

Efficiency—running a plant with maximum planned output, minimum waste, and best use of people and assets. A friend has refreshed and refocused his magazine on those concepts.

Efficient Plant is the new generation of Maintenance Technology magazine. It includes the best of what they have done for years and upgraded to reflect advances in control, automation, Internet of Things, software, and strategies.

Oh, and after a three-year hiatus, I am again writing a column every month.

Check it out—and let us know what you think.

GE Extends Predix But Where Lies Its Future

GE Extends Predix But Where Lies Its Future

GE has a new CEO coming soon. Jeff Imelt led the industrial push that led to Predix and Industrial Internet of Things, services based upon data, predictive maintenance. He spurred development of GE Digital and the transformation into a software company (check out the TV ads).

The company has announced some extensions to Predix. But we need to wonder where the new CEO will take the company. One software entrepreneur I know unleashed on the company in a LinkedIn post hoping that the new guy would trash Predix and build “something better.” We’ll have to wait and see, of course.

First a little context for one of the announcements.

The facility electrical engineer and I were speculating on an idea of linking measurement of electricity usage at perhaps the bus level for different areas of the plant with machine performance. Perhaps he could detect a machine problem through electrical changes. That was somewhere around 1993.

I quoted something, but we never did it.

Here are the high points of the announcements:

  • GE Digital announces integration of ServiceMax field service management solution and Asset Performance Management portfolio to transform service operations, reduce cost and eliminate unplanned downtime
  • GE Ventures launches Avitas Systems, a new venture that will transform inspection services with advanced robotics, data analytics and artificial intelligence
  • GE Power releases Predix-powered ‘Digital Utility’ to connect real-time machine and operations data with energy trading to drive more profitable utilities businesses

The asset optimization organizations within a plant have a variety of new tools to take them beyond maintenance into an enhanced role. Growth of the Internet of Things and analytics capabilities especially leading into predictive and eventually prescriptive strategies are the keys to the future.

Software Startup Within Rockwell Automation Leverages Chat Bot

Software Startup Within Rockwell Automation Leverages Chat Bot

This is “TechED” week for Rockwell Automation with “Shelby” the chat bot collaboration tool featured prominently at the opening keynote presentations–a software startup within the organization.

TeamONE was one of two new products featured this week. The other an appliance to help manage an EtherNet/IP network.

More than 2,000 people gathered in Orlando for the 20th edition of this distributor and customer learning event. Most of the sessions were deep dives into product and technology. I’ve sat in a few sessions, and they reminded me of how much I miss the deep dives into how to use products and technology instead of the usual marketing overviews that I receive.

The goals seem to be offering new workforce additions tools that they’ll be familiar with, enabling quicker setup and troubleshooting, and supporting teams.

One other maintenance-oriented product I’ll touch on is a support service for predictive maintenance.

The new products are FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices appliance and a FactoryTalk TeamONE Standard Edition app. These off-the-shelf offerings require minimal configuration and can help solve common maintenance problems faster, which keeps unplanned downtime at a minimum. The appliance and app quickly help improve reaction time for maintenance teams and assist decision makers with health and diagnostics analytics for industrial devices and systems.

“These offerings were built with ease-of-use as a primary goal,” said Michael Pantaleano, global business manager, Rockwell Automation. “We’ve worked closely with our customers on these solutions, proving that an instantly available app and a scalable analytical appliance that work out-of-the-box can deliver immediate value. At Rockwell Automation, we are committed to building tools that are approachable for our customers’ current teams. These two new offerings help maintenance teams easily discover the health of their devices and better collaborate in context with insightful information.”

These offerings are some of the first subscription offerings from Rockwell Automation. To further streamline the adoption process, a new e-commerce portal is used to manage the new offerings. All subscriptions and management can take place within a single, self-service portal.

FactoryTalk TeamONE App

Focused on reducing mean time to repair, Rockwell Automation is releasing a new edition, dubbed the Standard Edition, of the FactoryTalk TeamONE app. The new edition adds an alarm module, enabling teams to collaborate with live alarm details. This gives users the ability to easily view all active alarms. They can also view, share and post new details, delivering better team collaboration by adding context with alarm information. Alarms requiring immediate action can be shared with specific team members or posted to the entire team for group management and resolution.

As a smart node, the FactoryTalk TeamONE app requires no server, device to cloud gateways, or IT setup for manufacturers to realize value, which expands as they go through their digital transformation. The app is currently available on the Apple App Store and Google Play store, and a new user account takes just minutes to set up.

The new Standard Edition is a paid yearly subscription and expands the features available in the free edition of the app. Released in 2016, the FactoryTalk TeamONE Free Edition app provides near-instantaneous incident and device data to plant-floor maintenance teams that include engineering, trades and IT workers. The free edition removes the barriers for industrial teams to collaborate and quickly solve issues with contextualized plant-floor data like trends and device status. Modules in this free edition include Incident, Device Status, Teamboard, Knowledgebase, Pinboard, Chat and Trend modules. Within the FactoryTalk TeamONE app, customers can even have a mix of free and subscription users on their teams.

FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices Appliance

FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices is a hardened appliance that helps avoid costly downtime and improve productivity by proactively identifying device health. With just a connection to power and a local control system network, the appliance begins providing analytics within minutes.

After the connections are made, the application detects automation devices on the network without disrupting performance. Plant-floor teams then gain access to specific calls-to-action, instant device displays and an advanced machine-learning-based chat bot, which are all available from within the appliance. The appliance learns what is important to users by continuously analyzing the devices on the network and delivering recommendations to help maintenance and engineering teams prevent unplanned downtime and repair systems more quickly.

“Our customers are trying to figure out how to take their first steps toward analytics and the industrial Internet of Things,” said Pantaleano. “This appliance is an excellent start to their journey, with tangible results that can help our customers within minutes.”

The FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices appliance can detect and perform a basic analysis on any EtherNet/IP device. The appliance also has detailed analytics for over 2,000 Allen-Bradley devices. The first year’s subscription is included for each appliance. Subsequent subscriptions are encouraged for customers to progressively receive updated analytics, features and device support, including third-party devices.

Predictive Maintenance

I attended a session on predictive maintenance. The topic was a support service from Rockwell Automation–some of which is ready to go now and some still under development. It combines software tools and human experts.

Research has revealed that about 74% of total downtime is figuring out what the problem is and developing a workflow to fix it. The goal of this service by Rockwell Automation is to shorten this time through application of predictive analytics combined with expert analysis.

They have set up a system to collect device data into a Microsoft Azure cloud–aka FactoryTalk Cloud–where analytics apps reside and then port the information into the services organization.

The team has been developing a series of software agents to look at a variety of situations from pattern recognition to anomaly detection to machine learning to help customers get their predictive program up and running “in weeks, not years.”

Asset Optimization The New Frontier Beyond Process Optimization

Asset Optimization The New Frontier Beyond Process Optimization

It is time to think beyond the unit process to asset optimization. Two press releases have come my way in the past couple of weeks from companies who are seeking to expand their product portfolios into ever broadening circles with the theme being adding emphasis on asset optimization.

This release is from Aspen Technology announcing general availability of aspenONE Version 10 software. “The latest Asset Performance Management, Engineering and Manufacturing & Supply Chain software release supports the company’s evolution from process optimization to asset optimization, the next frontier of optimization that makes the best companies even better by driving increased financial return over the entire asset lifecycle.”

If this sounds familiar, Schneider Electric’s Peter Martin has been writing and speaking on this for years. He’s an acknowledged industry visionary. I’ve worked with an industry organization MIMOSA also interested in organizing standards around asset lifecycle. Maybe we’ll begin getting a critical mass around the subject.

Where AspenTech tries to go beyond is to link in design with process and equipment. [Click on the “ad” in the right column of this Website for a white paper describing doing this with standards. We are getting there as an industry.] The aspenONE Version 10 software release includes aspenONE Asset Performance Management (APM).

The integrated suite of APM analytics provides prescriptive guidance to address multiple levels of asset performance:

  • Site-Wide Risk Analysis with Aspen Fidelis Reliability software helps identify asset availability and utilization risks through reliability modeling and simulation.
  • Process Analytics include Aspen Asset Analytics software to assess the root causes of process disruptions, predict future occurrences and prescribe actions to avoid them. Rapidly configured and deployed, prepackaged analytics for column troubleshooting use ensemble modeling to provide operational guidance. Included as well, Aspen ProMV software improves process reliability and asset uptime using advanced multivariate process analytics for continuous and batch monitoring.
  • Equipment Performance Analytics with Aspen Mtell software provides machine-learning analytics that predict when failures will occur, understand why they will occur and prescribe what to do to avoid the failure. aspenONE Engineering Suite Highlights The latest version of aspenONE Engineering software enables asset design optimization across capital, energy, controllability, environmental impact, safety and yield, empowering collaborative workflows that drive sustained profitability.
  • Specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals companies are making significant investments to rapidly develop and deliver new products to market. Aspen Plus software in aspenONE Version 10 extends modeling from continuous to batch and semi-batch processes to help companies accelerate new product development and optimize production to compete more effectively.
  • Engineering, Procurement & Construction (EPC) companies need to accelerate projects and reduce risk to compete effectively. The new web-based Aspen Basic Engineering streamlines data integration in FEED preparation and improves collaboration across globally distributed teams.
  • Process plants are faced with frequent operational changes and risks to asset utilization. Faster calibration of model to plant data in Aspen Plus and Aspen HYSYS software for operations support reduces operating costs and increase yields.

aspenONE Manufacturing & Supply Chain Suite Highlights Building on the PIMS-AO engine, the new Aspen Unified PIMS features a modern web-based architecture with scalable high performance computing that enables better collaboration and improved insights into model performance.

The first of a family of Unified products envisioned to unify the production workflow from planning to scheduling and performance monitoring, Aspen Unified PIMS will initially be targeted at a specific set of customers identified by the company for the aspenONE Version 10 software release.

Fluke Takes IoT Measurements To The Cloud

Fluke Takes IoT Measurements To The Cloud

Fluke has drunk the Internet of Things kool-aid. It has taken a portfolio of measurement products and technology and connected them. I’ve followed it for a few years. It has recently announced an expansion of its cloud-based monitoring platform.

Fluke Connect reliability platform now offers cloud-based condition monitoring.

Monitoring plant equipment is crucial to avoiding costly downtime, but it is often too expensive, impractical, or complicated to capture performance data from all critical assets. The latest addition to the Fluke Connect reliability platform, Fluke Condition Monitoring, solves these problems with a new system of rugged voltage, current, temperature, and power sensors that can be moved from asset to asset or left in place for continuous monitoring. With Fluke Condition Monitoring, maintenance teams get a practical, scalable system that delivers the continuous data and alarms they need to prevent equipment downtime without costly equipment retrofits or specialized training.

“Adding Condition Monitoring to Fluke Connect revolutionizes maintenance workflows,” said Paul de la Port, President, Industrial Group, Fluke Corporation. “One system now manages the entire process — from equipment inspection and monitoring to setting alarm thresholds and assigning repairs. Certain types of plant equipment have fallen outside monitoring until now; the ROI just wasn’t there to retrofit with permanent sensors. The Fluke Condition Monitoring setup is so flexible and easy to install that technicians can put it wherever they need additional eyes on their equipment. And the new sensors funnel data into the same Fluke Connect reliability platform as all of our other connected test tools. With this system, technicians collect more data and engineers analyze more data in less time, with less work.”

Fluke Condition Monitoring consists of wireless sensors and a gateway that receives signals from the sensors from up to 30 feet away and works seamlessly with trusted, award-winning Fluke technologies, such as iFlex current probes, current clamps, temperature sensors and three-phase power monitoring.

Maintenance technicians can set the system up and begin monitoring in a matter of minutes, with the sensors transmitting measurements to the cloud as frequently as one measurement per second. Equipment data and alarm notifications are viewed through the Fluke Connect platform on a smartphone or web browser.

With this addition, the Fluke Connect reliability platform now compiles measurements from both the Fluke Condition Monitoring sensors and Fluke Connect wireless tools along with a history of work orders to create a comprehensive view of equipment health. The wireless, cloud-based solution overcomes legacy system silos and IT conflicts, works on any equipment type and helps teams stay effective while monitoring issues in different locations.

“The 3500 FC Series sensors operating with Fluke’s already well-established IIoT platform, Connect, create a strong value proposition for manufacturers, which seek to benefit from IIoT insights without a rip-and-replace greenfield buy,” said Christian Renaud, Research Director of 451 Research’s Internet of Things practice. “Products that are quick and easy to install and provide simple-to-determine ROI metrics should appeal to manufacturers.” 451 Research is focused on the business of enterprise IT innovation within emerging technology segments and provides timely insight to end user, service provider, vendor and investor organizations worldwide.

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