Platform Connects Siloed Engineering

Current trends in software product management mandate new platforms to bring disparate applications together into some semblance of coherence. A few years back the term was “breaking down silos.” That term continues to pop up at times. As well as collaboration and cross-functional.

If any readers of this blog including the tens of thousands in Europe and Asia are still struggling with silos or figuring out how to get people to work together, you’re behind. Get with it. Astute managers have figured out how to get IT and OT to work together for several years.

I say this as context for another reason companies construct these platforms—acquisitions. Hexagon has filled its shopping cart recently with many companies. It is now up to management to find a way to bring coherence to the portfolio. Hexagon’s solution introduced at it’s user conference in Las Vegas in June is dubbed Nexus.

• The platform will connect people, technology, and data across the design, production and manufacturing workflow

• It will empower cross-functional teams with the insights to collaborate instinctively in real time

• Cloud-based technologies, applications, and solutions accelerate new product development

I think cloud-based is the key. Open APIs and cloud technologies such as modern databases enable a new generation of software solutions for customers.

Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division has announced an open platform for smart manufacturing, Nexus, which will revolutionise how technology professionals collaborate and innovate.

Nexus is the foundation for Hexagon’s new solution offerings in the smart manufacturing space going forward. Today, it is capable of leveraging Hexagon data sources from across the portfolio. Visualisations and data management solutions such as HxGN Metrology Reporting and MaterialCenter have been built as cloud-native connected applications, and will be connected through Nexus.

Google Cloud Launches New Data Solutions for Manufacturers

This news is a bit old dating from the first of May. Its relevancy maintains its freshness—another look at the major IT companies looking for market in manufacturing. This holds personal interest in that once again I am not invited back to an IT company user conference because they tried a manufacturing vertical without success. (I could have told them, but that story will hold for another place and time.)

Google Cloud has co-developed Manufacturing Data Engine and Manufacturing Connect. These solutions are said to enable manufacturers to connect historically siloed assets, process and standardize data, and improve visibility from the factory floor to the cloud. Once data is harmonized, the solutions enable three critical AI- and analytics-based use cases–manufacturing analytics & insights, predictive maintenance, and machine-level anomaly detection.

Key points:

  • Ford, Kyocera, and Phononic among early customers to enhance data transparency and optimize production with new manufacturing-specific solutions
  • Cognizant, C3 AI, GFT, Intel, Litmus, Quantiphi, SoftServe, Sotec, Splunk, among partners supporting the new solutions

Manufacturing Data Engine and Manufacturing Connect, available today, help manufacturers unify their data and empower their workforce with easy-to-use analytics and AI solutions based on cloud infrastructure.

This continues the discussion I made yesterday about DataOps. The rapid move to data organizations and technology in manufacturing continues to amaze me.

Manufacturing Data Engine is an end-to-end solution that processes, contextualizes, and stores factory data on Google Cloud’s data platform. It provides a configurable and customizable blueprint for the ingestion, transformation, storage, and access to factory data. It integrates key Google Cloud products, including Cloud Dataflow, PubSub, BigQuery, Cloud Storage, Looker, Vertex AI, Apigee, and more, into a manufacturing-specific solution.

Manufacturing Connect is a factory edge platform co-developed with Litmus Automation that quickly connects to, and streams data from, nearly any manufacturing asset and industrial system to Google Cloud, based on an extensive library of more than 250 machine protocols. Deep integration with the Manufacturing Data Engine unlocks rapid data intake into Google Cloud for processing machine and sensor data. The ability to deploy containerized applications and ML models to the edge enables new dimensions of use cases.

Once data is centralized and harmonized by the Manufacturing Data Engine and Manufacturing Connect, it can then be used to address a growing set of industry-specific use cases.

Data holds no value unless it can be analyzed and visualized.

Manufacturing analytics & insights, which helps manufacturers quickly create custom dashboards to visualize key data—from factory KPIs such as Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), to individual machine sensor data. Integrated with the Manufacturing Data Engine, engineers and plant managers can automatically set up new machines and factories, enabling standardized dashboards, KPIs, and on-demand drill-downs into the data to uncover new insights opportunities throughout the factory. These can then be shared easily across the enterprise and with partners.

Software At Center Stage of Rockwell Automation Event

Taking the third trip to Orlando in four weeks, I felt that I should know the TSA agents by first name. Rockwell Automation held its annual software training and bash formerly RSTechEd now called ROKLive. Not only was this the first after a Covid hiatus, it also celebrated the recent addition of Plex Systems and its cloud-based MES platform. 

Plex was acquired some nine months ago. This event offers the Plex community some continuity while bringing them into the Rockwell Automation fold. About 1,500 people attended filling the Loews Sapphire Lake resort in Orlando and its many meeting rooms for updates and lab training.

Rockwell CEO Blake Moret did not attend in person, instead sending a video for part of the opening keynotes. He talked of the company’s focus on helping customers along the path of productive, resilient, agile, and sustainable. He noted that Rockwell as a manufacturer itself knew the power of IT and OT working together. Rockwell’s strategy focuses include its core products, software & services, and industry focus.

Brian Shepherd, sr. Vice president software and control, emphasized these pillars under the “Connected Enterprise Production System”: optimize production, empower the workforce, manage risk, drive sustainability, transformation.

Rockwell Automation through acquisition has entered the 3D system emulation arena. However partner company Maplesoft representatives showed me its simulation application. It looks powerful. Also on the show floor was old standby Spectrum Controls showing a cool connectivity multi-port module that takes in serial protocols such as DF1 or Modbus and exports Ethernet. If you are constructing a connected enterprise, you will need connectivity devices.

I took a look at the future on the show floor and some follow-up sessions on FactoryTalk Hub and its Design Hub, an internal Rockwell development taking control design to the cloud. It will be more formally unveiled at Automation Fair later in the year, but this powerful cloud-based application brings benefits such as collaboration and version control to Rockwell’s Design Studio offering. Operate Hub, the Plex SaaS MES and operations offering, and Maintain Hub, the Fiix CMMS in the cloud complete the FactoryTalk Hub solution. Three years ago no one would imagine my writing about Rockwell and the cloud in the same sentence. Not only has the technology progress but so has acceptance of users.

Rockwell and Plex released a few news items.

Rockwell Automation Named a Visionary; Plex Systems Named a Leader in 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Manufacturing Execution Systems

Analyst firm Gartner unveiled its MES Magic Quadrant. Included companies always rush to get the word out. Rockwell Automation announced it has been named as a Visionary for its FactoryTalk ProductionCentre and Plex Systems named as a Leader for its Smart Manufacturing Platform. Congratulations to each.

Plex Systems Announces Modularization of its Smart Manufacturing Platform to Scale with Business Needs

Plex Systems announced a new modularization approach for its Smart Manufacturing Platform to enable accessibility and scalability for digital transformation in manufacturing. This approach, enabled by Plex’s innovative cloud-native platform, more closely aligns with customers’ needs as they build their smart manufacturing technology strategy, including a focus on flexibility, quick implementation, and ease of entry with a path to grow.  

Three examples of the new modular solutions include:

• New Product Introduction and Management: Maximize profitability and increase competitive position by reducing time to market and decreasing development costs.  Companies can manage the product and program lifecycle – from concept to completion – and effectively track new and existing products, including updates, retirement, and obsolescence.

• Labor and Workforce Management: Optimize labor schedule and costs while preserving delivery schedules through effective labor management, clear skills-to-required production capabilities, reduction of onboarding time, and programs for employee health and safety.

• Advanced Quality: Proactively manage supplier quality and compliance with integrated continuous improvement toolsets and extend quality processes throughout the full supply chain to promote a holistic quality culture both inside and outside the four walls of the organization.

Plex Systems Introduces Machine Learning to Help Companies Improve Demand Forecasting Accuracy

Plex Systems also announced new machine learning capabilities for Plex DemandCaster Supply Chain Planning (SCP), enhancing forecast accuracy to improve customer service at lower levels of inventory coverage.

Plex DemandCaster Supply Chain Planning unites business functions within the organization with their planning variables to solve inventory problems quickly and proactively, helping planners easily interpret data with automated statistical forecasting while enabling a continuous planning and execution feedback loop. Now, the addition of machine learning for DemandCaster SCP advances the automation of pattern recognition and the application of correlated related data to improve forecast accuracy. Higher forecast accuracies cascade through the supply chain planning process by reducing the need to carry extra inventories to buffer against uncertainties. 

Emerson Moves to the Cloud and Registers Product with FieldComm Group

I’ve accumulated a couple of news items from Emerson. The most interesting tidbit lies in the standard company description found at the beginning of all corporate news releases. This one highlights Emerson as a software company, as in “Emerson, a global software, technology, and engineering leader.” I’ve written a post and recorded a podcast (which is popular, by the way) on the “software is eating the industrial world” topic. There is no income for media coming from software, but it’s an interesting direction for this market.

The two items include moving its SCADA SaaS platform to Microsoft Azure in the cloud and registering its AMS Device Manager with FDI.

Emerson Supports Sustainability with Improved Cloud-Hosted Industrial Control Platform

Emerson explains the benefits of moving to the cloud as improved scalability, data protection, and threat intelligence, not to mention sustainability as it moves its Zedi Cloud SCADA software-as-a-service to Microsoft Azure.

The more robust cloud host enables customers to securely scale their supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems quickly and easily to achieve environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments, better safeguard critical business assets, and empower users to adapt their operations to changing requirements while mitigating risks and operational costs.

Emerson’s Zedi Cloud SCADA platform uses advanced automation and software, including proven machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to build predictive models that lead to autonomous operations over time, helping support sustainability efforts in oil and gas, water/wastewater and other data-intensive industries. Critical data from those predictive models can then be stored in an operation’s data historian to more easily track and trend performance and emissions and demonstrate compliance to regulators.

The Zedi Cloud SCADA platform helps personnel manage advanced analytics in formats that present authorized end users with clear, easily understood data accessible in the cloud anytime from anywhere. This improved access to intuitive data enables easy remote monitoring of assets, helping users improve operational performance even in rugged, dangerous, or distant locations. Increased layers of cybersecurity and the more robust network afforded by the Azure platform enable customers to further protect data for advanced continuity of operations.

Emerson Improves Device and Process Visibility with FieldComm Group Registration

AMS Device Manager is the first software of its kind to be registered under the Field Device Integration standard, making it easier to monitor and optimize plant health.

Field devices collect and transmit important data that personnel use to improve plant health, performance, and reliability. FDI registration will reduce the need for plants to support two different technologies to integrate and maintain field devices. Full FDI registration is important to avoid having a patchwork of systems and devices that only support individual elements of FDI but still require extensive integration effort. Because manufacturers can pick and choose individual FDI features to support, some device management applications will likely not contain every feature a plant requires. Emerson worked side by side with FieldComm Group for nearly two years to enable AMS Device Manager to pass the group’s rigorous testing process for registration, which requires all features to be supported by the software. 

The newest release of AMS Device Manager will make it easier, more secure, and more cost effective to access device data. FDI integration technology eliminates the need for plants to support the two most common technologies for installing and configuring devices: Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) and Field Device Tool/Device Type Manager (FDT/DTM). Instead, all FDI devices support a single installation package, so organizations will no longer have to double up on time, training, and effort when installing field devices.

Unified Real-Time Data Streaming and Integration SaaS

Analyst firms have made considerable publicity projecting the amount of data generated by Industrial Internet of Things. IIoT populates many manufacturing enterprise databases with the promise of better output from analytics applications for improved decision making. With real-time data, operations leaders can use analytics to assess both demand and cost-to-serve, and make informed decisions. Additionally, the customer experience must be personalized and differentiated to be relevant and competitive in today’s digital economy.

Striim, a company I’ve only just now learned about, collects data in real time from enterprise databases (using non-intrusive change data capture), log files, messaging systems, and sensors, and delivers it to virtually any target on-premises or in the cloud with sub-second latency enabling real-time operations and analytics. 

Its latest press release is not bashful about promoting its new product. Striim, Inc. announced general availability of Strim Cloud, the fastest way for customers to deliver real-time data and insights to power business intelligence and decision-making to meet the needs of the digital economy. Striim Cloud is the industry’s first and only fully-managed software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for real-time streaming data integration and analytics. With a few clicks, customers can easily build real-time data pipelines to stream trillions of events every day, backed by enterprise-grade operational, security and management features. Striim Cloud’s zero-maintenance, infinitely scalable platform enables customers to transform their businesses by adopting new cloud models, digitizing legacy systems, and modernizing their application infrastructure.

I, of course, cannot verify any of these claims. We all know that “easy” is a relative term for engineering. But this looks worth checking out.

“Handling and analyzing large-scale data for real-time decision-making and operations is an ongoing challenge for every enterprise; one that is only going to become more challenging as more data sources come online,” said Ali Kutay, founder and CEO of Striim, Inc. “These challenges are driving ‘digital transformation.’ Striim Cloud is a powerful, cloud-based, SaaS platform that gives enterprises worldwide an invaluable advantage in reaching this goal.“

Striim Cloud seamlessly integrates data into platforms such as Azure Synapse Analytics, Google Big Query, and Snowflake. By doing so, Striim Cloud enables businesses to power business intelligence and decision-making to meet the needs of the digital economy while delivering an unbeatable, data-driven customer experience.

Manufacturing Materials Software Moves to Azure

The movement toward making manufacturing SaaS applications available on Microsoft Azure continues. News from ThinkIQ tells us three of its platforms are now available on that platform—VisualizeInsight and Transform.

The purpose of these platforms is collecting manufacturing and supply chain data, monitoring real-time material traceability, and delivering actionable insights to improve the overall manufacturing processes for greater efficiency and flexibility.

The unique proposition of ThinkIQ is to look at materials, not just equipment. The company points out the old, but still prevalent problem, that data collection within manufacturing processes are often fragmented rendering it unable to extract insights or identify inefficiencies.

With ThinkIQ Visualize, all manufacturing data can be seen from a single contextualized cloud-based system.

ThinkIQ Insight delivers a material ledger for traceability and improved operations across the entire manufacturing supply chain on Azure.

ThinkIQ Transform provides material traceability from supplier to factory to consumers.

ThinkIQ integrates a wide range of Microsoft Azure solutions including Azure Communications Services, Azure IoT, Azure Networking and Azure Storage.

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