It is great to see things mature–whether kids or adults or technologies. Or an open source project called EdgeX Foundry. Yesterday I had the pleasure of two exciting teleconferences regarding the latest release of EdgeX Foundry, named Edinburgh, from the Linux Foundation’s LF Edge organization. I’ve had many conversations with Jason Shepherd, LF Edge Board Member and Dell Technologies IoT and Edge Computing CTO, over the past three years. When we finally got a chance to catch up yesterday afternoon, he could not have concealed his excitement had he tried.
I have written about EdgeXFoundry here from Hannover 2017, again in 2018, and when incorporated in Linux Foundation’s LF Edge umbrella. This IoT platform is more than a platform. During my Hannover visits of 2017 and 2018 it seemed that all God’s children need to develop their own IoT platform. Of course, when a company develops a platform the goal is to connect as many apps as possible to its main application.
I have also been involved with organizations trying to accomplish this same thing through standards. Problem is, you just can’t get technology supplier companies to sign up for a platform that forces their products to be subservient to standards. The better approach is Loosely Coupled (book by Doug Kaye).
The first conversation was with Arpit Joshipura, general manager, Networking, Edge and IoT, the Linux Foundation, and Keith Steele, chair of the EdgeX Foundry Technical Steering Committee and CEO of IOTech. They walked me through the release and its meaning.
Important takeaway–This Open Source IoT Platform/Ecosystem is now stable and ready for PrimeTime.
- Enables IoT digital transformation for Enterprise, Industrial, Retail and Consumer
- Supports complementary products and services from global open ecosystem including commercial support, training and customer pilot programs
- Deployed in many end user projects; EdgeX also collaborates with IIC on AI testbeds and is the foundation for the Open Retail Initiative (ORI)
Created collaboratively by a global ecosystem, EdgeX Foundry’s new release is a key enabler of digital transformation for IoT use cases and is a platform for real-world applications both for developers and end users across many vertical markets. EdgeX community members have created a range of complementary products and services, including commercial support, training and customer pilot programs and plug-in enhancements for device connectivity, applications, data and system management and security.
Launched in April 2017, and now part of the LF Edge umbrella, EdgeX Foundry is an open source, loosely-coupled microservices framework that provides the choice to plug and play from a growing ecosystem of available third party offerings or to augment proprietary innovations. With a focus on the IoT Edge, EdgeX simplifies the process to design, develop and deploy solutions across industrial, enterprise, and consumer applications.
Thefourth release in the EdgeX roadmap, Edinburgh offers a stable API baseline for the standardization of IoT edge applications that future-proof IoT investments by fostering an ecosystem of interoperable microservice-based capabilities and decoupling investments in edge functionality in areas such as connectivity, security and management from any given backend application or cloud. The EdgeX framework is designed to facilitate the secure deployment and management of devices and applications at the edge to accelerate time-to-market and enable new data-based services and capabilities such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).
“Since its launch, EdgeX Foundry has experienced significant momentum in developing an open platform that can serve as the industry framework for IoT and edge-related applications,” said Arpit Joshipura, general manager, Networking, Edge and IoT, the Linux Foundation. “EdgeX Foundry is one of the anchor projects for LF Edge and Edinburgh release is a major step in unifying open source frameworks across IoT, Enterprise, Cloud and Telco Edge.”
“Having started the EdgeX movement with a small team at Dell before contributing the code to the Linux Foundation, it’s certainly amazing to see the traction we’ve gotten through open, vendor neutral collaboration in a few short years,” said Jason Shepherd, former chair of the EdgeX Foundry Governing Board and IoT and Edge CTO, Dell Technologies. “It’s a testament to the power of the network effect in the open source community which ultimately enables developers to focus on value rather than reinvention.”
EdgeX Foundry’s community adoption continues to accelerate. Currently, there are more than 100 unique contributors to the project and code downloads are approaching 5,000 a month at a 75% month-to-month growth rate. Momentum is expected to continue with EdgeX’s Edinburgh releaseand rapidly growing commercial support in the ecosystem.
Key features for this release include:
- Stability: Stable API’s protecting future investment and supporting future long term support
- Connectivity:More SDKs for north and southbound connectivity and a wider range of standard connectors
- New Features: Significant new features, including binary data support, database swapability and improved APIs to help facilitate management/monitoring capability
- Global Support:Support from the global EdgeX Foundry ecosystem – as well as the broader LF Edge umbrella community – that offers a range of complementary products and services
“With this EdgeX Edinburgh release, we will radically change how businesses develop and deploy IoT edge solutions,” said Keith Steele, chair of the EdgeX Foundry Technical Steering Committee and CEO of IOTech. “Edinburgh is a significant milestone that showcases the commercial viability of EdgeX Foundry and the impact that it will have on the global IoT edge landscape.”
Learn more aboutdocumentation, a new use caseand the technical details for theEdinburgh releaseon the EdgeX website.
Market Utilization of EdgeX Foundry
Since the project inception, there have been tens of thousands of trials and pilot deployments of the EdgeX framework in the field and many of these are converting to production with the Edinburgh release. Several organizations already provide commercial solutions based on EdgeX, with many others folding it into their product roadmaps. For example:
- Edge Xpert:From IOTech Systems, Edge Xpert uses the latest stable release of EdgeX Foundry to create a commercially supported solution from the baseline open source technology. IOTech will also soon announce hard real-time extensions to EdgeX.
- MFX-1 IoT Edge Gateway: From Mainflux, the MFX-1 IoT Edge Gateway based on the EdgeX Foundry framework, is an edge computing solution supported with the EdgeFlux application for gateway management. Integrated with Mainflux IoT Cloud Platform it provides comprehensive Cloud /Edge IoT System.
- NetFoundry Ziti Edge: NetFoundry’s Ziti Edge provides programmable, software-only “Northbound” connectivity for EdgeX Gateway applications and services. Based on Zero Trust security principles, with integrations for HW root of trust based identity and Trusted Execution Environments (TEE), Ziti Edge delivers secure “Silicon-to-Cloud” connectivity, using any Internet connection, while keeping both sides of the connection “dark” to the Internet.
- VMware Supports EdgeX: Developers who deploy any combination of EdgeX Foundry and/or Project Photon OS with VMware Pulse IoT Center can receive support from VMware for both Pulse IoT Center and EdgeX open source software. When used with Pulse IoT Center’s device management capabilities, open source tools such as EdgeX offer developers increased control over how, when, and where they run their applications and manage their data.
The EdgeX framework is also being leveraged in various industry collaborations. For example, in collaboration with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) EdgeX is used as the foundation for the Optimizing Manufacturing Processes by Artificial Intelligence (OMPAI) testbed which explores the application of AI and industrial internet technologies, deployed from the edge to the cloud, to optimize automotive manufacturing processes. EdgeX is also the foundation for the Open Retail Initiative (ORI) which has the goal of facilitating open innovation within the retail/commerce space. Work for the ORI is manifested within the Commerce Working Group in the EdgeX project and initial target use cases include computer vision-assisted advanced loss prevention.
Later this summer, the first EdgeX Foundry ecosystem hackathon will be hosted in the Bay Area. This initial event will be tied to the Commerce Working Group, hosted by Intel within the EdgeX project, with various award categories for implementation of the EdgeX framework in retail use cases. The best all-around winner will get to showcase their solution at future LF Edge or EdgeX Foundry events. Details will be available in late July via the EdgeX website, email list and Slack channel.
Additionally, LF Edge will host a workshop entitled “State of the (LF) Edge” on August 20 in San Diego, Calif., co-located with Open Source Summit North America(August 21-23). More details are available here.
Support from Contributing Members and Users of EdgeX Foundry
- “EdgeX Foundry is the key component of Beechwoods IoT gateway solution that allows our customers to engage confidently in edge computing technology. With the Edinburgh release, this solution will be ready to transition from customer engagement to product deployment.” – Brad Kemp, President, Beechwoods Software
- “The Edinburgh release of EdgeX Foundry brings much needed standardization and stability for edge computing in production environments through an open source, common framework. The availability of the EdgeX Foundry snap enables developers an easy path to getting started with EdgeX Foundry, and benefit from confinement, easy integration into their own infrastructure, and automatic updates. In addition, this release introduces new device snaps providing integration with MQTT and ModBus.”- Loic Minier, IoT Field Engineering Director, Canonical
- “As EdgeX Foundry reaches maturity with the Edinburgh release, CloudPlugs is excited to also announce the integration of the CloudPlugs IIoT platform with the open EdgeX ecosystem. CloudPlugs IoT is a robust backend to deploy, orchestrate and manage EdgeX-compliant devices and micro service-based applications, as well as to manage and visualize field data. The EdgeX framework provides new levels of flexibility in field-level interoperability and the combination of EdgeX with CloudPlugs IoT delivers a powerful, end-to-end software and service stack to digitize assets and to deploy commercial and industrial IoT solutions at scale.” – Jimmy Garcia-Meza, CEO, CloudPLugs Inc.
- “EdgeX Foundry provides an important software platform standardizing on the south bound IoT device connectivity and northbound data storage connectivity and allows vendors to plug-in their core IoT capabilities in between. FogHorn is aligned with this data ingestion and publication standardization and will continue to collaborate as appropriate.” – Sastry Malladi, CTO, FogHorn
- “The EdgeX platform offers HMS Networks a path to quickly build Industrial IoT solutions by providing predefined set of services for I/O functionality. HMS has created a J1939 service for EdgeX platform to help simplify IoT solutions for the commercial vehicle telemetry market. Ultimately, the EdgeX platform will significantly reduce the R&D investment required to create a majority of the Industrial IoT applications required in the market today.” – Tom McKinney, Director Engineering Services and Business Development, HMS Networks
- “EdgeX Foundry is an important project arriving at the right time. It promises to connect devices to capabilities, and then get out of the way so you can run containerized workloads to generate insights, run model scoring, or detect anomalies… all at the edge. IBM is collaborating with EdgeX Foundry as part of our hybrid cloud strategy to help enterprises unlock the value of data from on-premises to the cloud to the edge.” – David Boloker, Distinguished Engineer, IBM
- “EdgeX Foundry’s open source platform enables the industrial software ecosystem to integrate rapidly with ioTium’s managed services converged infrastructure offering – it’s microservices framework with open APIs is a powerful driver in the fragmented Industrial Control Systems market. ioTium enables rapid scalable deployment of the EdgeX Foundry framework globally.”- Ron Victor, CEO, ioTium
- “EdgeX Foundry provides an open framework for ease of design, development, & deployment at the Edge, while addressing stringent security, privacy & compliance requirements. NetFoundry added its vendor-agnostic, connectivity-as-code solution to EdgeX in order to enable developers and integrators to get similar ease of use, security and performance for their northbound application connectivity to core, clouds and service meshes. With the release of the EdgeX Edinburgh release, the EdgeX Foundry developer community has all the tools needed to deliver on market needs and ensure secure, agile innovation at the Edge” – Galeal Zino, CEO, NetFoundry Inc.
- “As Digital Transformation for IoT gathers momentum, companies are demanding the same reliability, performance and security at the edge as they are used to getting from their Cloud Computing stack. With this release, EdgeX with Redis Labs RedisEdge not only delivers upon those expectations, but provides an ecosystem of open source technologies and plug-ins such as Redis Modules that help developers innovate.” – Dave Nielsen, Head of Community and Ecosystem Programs, Redis Labs
- “EdgeX Foundry addresses the problem of the license stack at the IoT Edge constantly increasing in cost by providing a well architected, high performance, open source platform that can be used for industrial solutions today.” – Mike Malone, Vice President, Technotects, Inc.
- “EdgeX Foundry’s global community ecosystem has experienced explosive growth, and the tangible advances delivered in the EdgeX Edinburgh release are exciting developments for edge computing. We fully support EdgeX Foundry’s goals to establish an open interoperable framework for edge computing to provide developers with increased control over how, when, where and with whom they run their applications and manage their data. We look forward to continuing our contributions to the EdgeX Foundry community and related efforts in fostering open industry-wide innovation such as the Open Retail initiative.” – Mimi Spier, Vice President, Edge and IoT Business, VMware
- “As a founding member of LF Edge, Wipro is proud to have contributed to the Edinburgh release. We will continue to actively participate as it is a key platform for delivering open, microservices-based, edge IoT applications for today’s interoperable distributed enterprise world.” – Andrew Aitken, general manager and global open source practice leader, Wipro Limited.
- “ZEDEDA’s vision is to free cloud-native and legacy apps to run on any edge device anywhere in the world. This vision drives our support for EdgeX Foundry and its mission of promoting open interoperability between edge devices. We’ve made our virtualization solutions compatible with EdgeX releases because we believe they will have a central role in our industry’s future.” – Joel Vincent, VP Marketing, ZEDEDA
I’ve been off for most of the past week celebrating Independence Day and family birthdays. For those of you in the US, I hope you had a restful time off and enjoyed some fireworks displays. And now, back to what’s happening in the industrial world.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) comprises far more than just the simple connecting of devices back to a database in a server. It’s integral to digitalization. Applying abundance thinking to the system, clearly IIoT plays a key role for successful business transformation.
The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has produced the IIoT Maturity Assessment, a web-based tool included in the IIC Resource Hub that enables users to better understand their enterprise IIoT maturity. The IIoT Maturity Assessment helps organizations become best-practice adopters of IIoT by guiding business managers through a range of questions about the adoption, usage and governance of IIoT within their organizations.
“The IIoT market has grown quickly and many businesses planned strategy while in the midst of execution and need to step back and assess their true IIoT maturity,” said Jim Morrish, Co-Chair of the IIC’s Business Strategy and Solution Lifecycle Working Group and co-author of the IIoT Maturity Assessment tool. “The IIoT Maturity Assessment will help companies get a baseline for their maturity right now and assess it in regular intervals to track their progress.”
This framework of four main dimensions and their corresponding strands will spur your thinking into broader areas beyond predictive maintenance or cost reduction programs.
- Business model innovation and refinement
Business Solution Lifecycle
- Interface to business strategy
- In service monitoring and feedback
- Reference architecture and standards
- Data location transparency
“There’s a real difference between using IIoT to streamline processes and using it to create new revenue streams or make better business decisions,” said Ian Hughes, Senior Analyst, Internet of Things, 451 Research. “A tool like this can be a real eye opener for an organization wanting to transform their business to remain competitive and increase profits.”
The IIoT Maturity Assessment considers 63 individual capabilities, each with five levels of maturity within the above framework. For example, under strategic context, a maturity level can range from a limited number of key individuals having stepped up to IIoT ownership to full ownership of IIoT within an organization. The IIoT Maturity Assessment provides feedback about the level of maturity and highlights areas that may require development.
The final outputs provided to users also provide links to the IIC Body of Knowledge for reference and to help improve their maturity. This includes collaborative resources developed by industry leaders from the IIC membership, including IIC foundational documents (Industrial Internet Reference Architecture, Industrial Internet Security Framework, Industrial Internet Connectivity Framework, Business Strategy and Innovation Framework, Industrial Internet of Things Analytics Framework, and Vocabulary Technical Report) and other IIC documents and tools.
The IIoT Maturity Assessment is available in three levels of analysis: Quick, Standard (both open to everyone) and Detailed (IIC members only).
I’ve been writing about how IT companies are taking their powerful compute platforms to the edge. Here is a balance view from an industrial network switch company combining LTE with Ethernet and embedding HMI/SCADA. Interestingly, it includes Node-RED and MQTT support.
ORing has released a new industrial dual 4G LTE M2M IoT gateway that includes Ignition Onboard and Ignition Edge Onboard. The industrial-grade design is compliant with requirements of IEC 61850-3.
The new gateway has built-in 8-port Gigabit Ethernet with 4×10/100/1000Base-T(X) and 4xGigabit SFP Combo ports. It also includes Ignition Onboard and Ignition Edge Onboard, for easy use of the powerful, web-based Ignition platform for human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Node-RED is also onboard, along with support for MQTT and other protocols. The Gateway is AT&T-certified and can be purchased with a bundled SIM card and LTE data plan.
The company has extensive experience in switch and wireless product design. ORing’s products have been deployed in surveillance, rail transport, industrial automation, power substations, renewable energy, and marine applications.
Ignition by Inductive Automation is an industrial application platform with numerous tools for building solutions in HMI, SCADA, and IIoT.
“We’re very pleased to see Ignition and Ignition Edge as part of this new product from ORing,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “Digital transformation is a big undertaking, and end users will certainly appreciate ORing making things easier for them.”
“We at ORing are very excited about the release of the innovative IGMG-P83244GC+-D4G IoT Gateway,” said Angus Shih, president of ORing Industrial Networking Corp. “This impressive technology includes the Ignition SCADA features and AT&T LTE cellular technology. This all-in-one gateway can provide powerful VPN cellular routing capabilities with database storage, Ignition, and Node-RED functions in one box to make IoT and SCADA applications deployment easier than ever before. It can also connect with Ignition servers and the most popular cloud platforms, including AT&T Dataflow, to build flexible edge-to-cloud IoT systems.”
This week is IT week in my study of how IT and OT are coming together. I am in Las Vegas at the annual Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) customer conference called Discover. This rather long post looks at many of the announcements that show how far HPE has come in its expansion into manufacturing.
An interesting point (and you can see some pictures on my Twitter feed @garymintchell) is that there is a manufacturing demo at the entrance into the show area this week. It demonstrates partnerships with PTC (CAD, augmented reality, and IoT), ABB (robotics in this case, more later), along with video and predictive maintenance analytics.
Following are summaries of a number of announcements at this very busy event that have an impact on manufacturing technology and use cases. HPE calls the Edge—meaning basically not in the servers.
Things announced included new edge solutions, research labs, and programs to simplify and accelerate Intelligent Edge adoption, enabling customers to create unique digital experiences and leverage analytics and machine learning to adapt to changes in real-time.
The new offerings and programs include:
- Major enhancements to Aruba Central, the only cloud-based platform that unifies network management, AI-powered analytics, user-centric service assurance and security for wired, wireless and WAN at the edge.
- Integrations and new turnkey edge-to-cloud solutions, delivered with ABB, Microsoft, Rittal, and PTC, enabling real-time intelligence and control in industrial environments.
- The Intelligent Edge and IoT Center of Excellence (CoE) and Labs, part of Hewlett Packard Labs, to develop and commercialize new capabilities and technologies that accelerate customers’ and partners’ Intelligent Edge journey.
Research suggests that over the next decade, the Internet of Things (IoT) and related data growth has an economic potential of up to $11 trillion per year. To capture this potential, organizations need to implement an Intelligent Edge, an architecture that is fully connected, secured, distributed and autonomous. However, to scale the Intelligent Edge across the value chain, organizations need solutions that secure and simplify deployment and management, converge operational technology (OT) with IT and address the lack of skills and funding.
“The edge has emerged as the new center of the digital universe, opening up opportunities for organizations to create new digital experiences and gain competitive advantage,” said Keerti Melkote, founder and president, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. “Today, we announce innovations that will enable our customers to capitalize on these experiences and opportunities by dramatically simplifying, securing and accelerating the deployment of the Intelligent Edge.”
Unified cloud-based platform
Siloed network management solutions are creating complexity and increasing time to remediation. To accelerate IT operations and allow IT professionals time to focus on innovation, Aruba is making significant enhancements to Aruba Central. With these enhancements, customers will benefit from AI-powered network analytics, improved security and user-centric assurance for wired, wireless and WAN edge infrastructures from a single point of control. Significant advancements include:
Advanced AI-powered analytics and assurance capabilities based on Aruba NetInsight and User Experience Insight allow IT professionals to resolve infrastructure problems quickly before they impact the organization. Now integrated into the Aruba Central cloud-based platform, Aruba’s Analytics and Assurance capabilities deliver IT professionals a way to quickly remediate intermittent network issues while also proactively identifying how to optimize customers’ infrastructures to ensure optimal experiences.
Software-defined branch (SD-Branch) and SD-WAN, managed on Aruba Central, is now enhanced with improved branch management and orchestration capabilities to centrally define business-intent policies to meet the hybrid cloud connectivity needs for distributed enterprises and reduce operational costs. The new SD-WAN Orchestrator in Aruba Central makes it easier for IT professionals to deploy flexible and secure overlay topologies in a large-scale edge infrastructure, connecting thousands of branch locations with multiple data centers. Aruba Virtual Gateways now available for AWS and Azure, combined with orchestration, cost-effectively extends network and security policies to workloads running in the public cloud. The new SaaS prioritization feature not only enhances the performance of SaaS applications but also provides visibility about the end-user experience for business-critical applications, such as Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce.
Integrated in Aruba Central, Aruba ClearPass Device Insight provides IoT visibility and security via a single pane of glass, employing automated device discovery, and machine learning-based fingerprinting and identification. Used in conjunction with Aruba ClearPass Policy Manager and Aruba’s dynamic segmentation security capabilities, networking and security teams can automate unique policy enforcement down to each device and user.
New network management workflow enhancements are integrated into Aruba Central to accelerate device provisioning with an automated mobile app to deliver network health views and troubleshooting across all locations allowing IT to focus on delivering the needs of the business.
Flexibility in how to obtain and support edge infrastructure
To provide organizations more flexibility and choice in how they obtain and support their edge infrastructure, Aruba solutions are also available via HPE GreenLake for Aruba a Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) subscription-based offering.
Turnkey edge-to-cloud solutions
In industrial environments, the Intelligent Edge requires an intricate interplay between sensors, actuators, networks, applications and infrastructures from edge to cloud. It also involves unique challenges including harsh environmental conditions, intermittent network connectivity and lack of qualified on-site staff. Consequently, such deployments are often costly, slow and vulnerable to security and reliability problems. To simplify, accelerate and secure deployments, HPE is launching pre-integrated turnkey edge-to-cloud solutions in collaboration with key industry partners:
The integration of ABB Ability Smart Sensor technology with Aruba access points is designed to deliver a scalable, high-performance wireless connectivity solution for operational technology (OT) equipment such as motors, mounted bearings and pumps. This allows industrial companies to capture valuable data and insights from their equipment to proactively monitor their condition and performance, and plan maintenance in advance in order to avoid costly and disruptive downtime.
Jointly developed by ABB, HPE, Microsoft and Rittal, the Secure Edge Data Center for Microsoft Azure Stack is the industry’s first enterprise-grade edge appliance for Microsoft Azure Stack, enabling real-time intelligence and action in harsh industrial environments, while providing seamless integration with Microsoft Azure. The appliance provides IP55-rated environmental protection, cooling, redundant power supply and distribution and automated management – allowing customers to run pre-configured, high-end enterprise applications in locations such as factories or oil rigs.
HPE Edgeline IoT Quick Connect dramatically simplifies the convergence of OT and IT, enabling customers to monitor and control OT equipment such as machines or motors in real time. Jointly delivered with Microsoft, HPE Edgeline IoT Quick Connect is based on the HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform, which connects OT devices, the HPE Edgeline EL300 Converged Edge System and Microsoft Azure IoT, a collection of cloud services to connect, monitor and control IoT assets.
Fast Start Condition Monitoring enables customers set up condition monitoring within 90 days to deliver performance and availability of their OT equipment. An end-to-end solution implemented by HPE Pointnext Services, Fast Start Condition Monitoring is designed for customers who want to get started quickly with condition monitoring, but lack the skills to do so. HPE Pointnext Services help define use cases, OT data sources and workflows, and implement pilots for proof of value, based on HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems, the HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform and PTC’s ThingWorx Industrial IoT platform.
The newly established Intelligent Edge and IoT CoE & Lab provides critical capabilities and technologies to HPE’s partners and customers to accelerate Intelligent Edge adoption. It will guide partner activities, M&A and research in the following areas:
- Knowledge transfer to HPE’s channel partners to accelerate market adoption of the Intelligent Edge with the Channel to Edge Institute (CEI), a program which helps HPE’s channel partners gain the required expertise to effectively recommend, sell, implement and manage Intelligent Edge solutions for their customers. The CEI provides training on Intelligent Edge use cases and business cases and will deploy joint go-to-market programs with HPE’s channel and ecosystem partners.
- Research programs to drive rapid commercialization of Intelligent Edge technologies that simplify edge-to-cloud management and OT-IT convergence and enable new use cases – this includes, among others, a unified provisioning, policy and security management across wired networks, Wi-Fi and 5G; the next generation of HPE’s first-of-a-kind HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems and HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform; and real-time video analytics for quality, security and customer experience applications.
A mere 2.5-hour drive south on I-75 June 13 brought me to the Schneider Electric plant in Lexington, KY that manufactures load centers and other electrical devices. Schneider Electric marketing people invited me down for tours and festivities marking the unveiling of this brownfield manifestation of Smart Factory using the latest of IIoT, AR, digitalization, and other smart manufacturing principles.
• Schneider Electric Lexington facility is a showcase for sharing IIoT integration strategies with End Users, Machine Builders and Partners
• Lexington plant strategically integrates connected EcoStruxure solutions to enhance efficiency and provide end-to-end operational visibility throughout supply chain operations
• Smart Factory has tracked quantifiable benefits from IIoT implementation, including a 20% reduction in mean time to repair and a 90% paperwork elimination
If this plant is to demonstrate “in real time how its EcoStruxure architecture and related suite of offerings can help increase operational efficiency and reduce costs for its customers”, I asked the natural question—“What is EcoStruxure?”
I’ve heard the term for many years, but being a little slow on the uptake, I’ve never really understood what is meant. So, they set me up with an interview with Vice President Domenic Alcaro. Refreshingly, EcoStruxure is neither a platform or a product. Alcaro told me, “EcoStruxure is a phenomenal way to explain our value structure.” The foundation block consists of connected products (connectivity being a key word). The intermediary block is what they call Edge Control. However, whereas many people look at Edge and think hardware, Schneider Electric considers it basically software. Think the InduSoft HMI product, if you will. Atop the model then are apps and analytics.
Back to the plant:
In operation for more than 60 years and employing nearly 500 people, the Lexington factory is truly a showcase of modern integrated digital experience. Among the benefits realized include empowering operators to gain visibility into operations maintenance, driving a 20% reduction in mean time to repair on critical equipment, and process digitization eliminating paper work by 90%.
“We understand the value of IIoT and the positive business impact that innovation and digitization can have on our operations – particularly in our global supply chain. As a living example of how our EcoStruxure solutions deliver benefits to our customers, we are gaining those same benefits in our operation and sharing that knowledge,” said Mourad Tamoud, Executive Vice President, Global Supply Chain, Schneider Electric. “With our latest Smart Factory showcase, we are able to demonstrate this value in real-time, show the solutions at work and share the tangible benefits that we ourselves are seeing from our own IIoT investment as we accelerate our Tailored Sustainable Connected 4.0 digital transformation.”
As part of the Smart Factory program, Schneider Electric exemplifies brownfield implementation for customers who may be facing the same challenges with their existing production facilities. The team is able to offer strategies and talk through the challenges they faced to help customers exploring IIoT connected technologies overcome those same hurdles toward their modernization goals. By sharing their experience in leveraging EcoStruxure solutions, visiting customers can better understand the value of the brownfield modernization and the resulting operational efficiencies.
In this production environment, these solutions have demonstrated operational and quantifiable value since their implementation:
• EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor – Delivered a 20% reduction in mean time to repair on critical equipment where it has been implemented.
• EcoStruxure Resource Advisor and Power Monitoring Expert – Delivered 3.5% YOY energy savings in the Lexington facility in addition to $6.6 Million in regional savings since 2012; sophisticated reporting capabilities and increased transparency also drive operational performance.
• AVEVA Indusoft Web Studio – Delivered powerful Edge digitization of paper processes to eliminate paper work by 90% and cloud connectivity has enabled digital dashboarding of a critical process.
• RFID OsiSense – Eliminated 128 daily fork truck miles and eliminated $500,000 in Work in Progress (WIP) inventory with a 33% first year ROI.
• AVEVA Insight Data – Unlocked and shared silos of data in a mobile manner reducing downtime in critical processes by 5% with ROI of less than 6 months.
• Magelis GTU/GTUX HMI – Provided agile operator management of the process and vivid visual of the process onsite and via mobile devices.
Among the tidbits of information I picked up on the tour include:
Extensive use of Ethernet and IP networking. Interesting in that the very first conversations I had with a Modicon VP 20 years ago concerned how Ethernet was the network of the future. In 1999 that was revolutionary thinking. Today—it’s the backbone. Hat tip to Mark Fondl.
Great use of data tracking involving RFID tags, MES software, Ethernet connectivity, and visualization that coordinates all the products and containers throughout the company-wide power-and-free conveyor system.
Oh, and a Megelis computer/HMI collecting data from sensors and passing it on uses Node-RED for programming. It’s only the second instance of Node Red I’ve seen in automation.
Finally, Schneider Electric plant management correctly combines digitalization with Lean principles enhancing their daily stand ups and feeding continuous improvement.
Impressive facility. When our politicians and east coast journalists go ripping on American manufacturing, they should be forced to take deep dives into plants like this one.
The Manufacturing Connection conceived in 2013 when I decided to go it alone in the world from the ideas of a new industrial infrastructure and enhanced connectivity. I even had worked out a cool mind map to figure it out.
Last week I was on vacation spending some time at the beach and reading and thinking catching up on some long neglected things. Next week I am off to Las Vegas for the Hewlett Packard Enterprise “Discover” conference where I’ll be inundated with learning about new ideas in infrastructure.
Meanwhile, I’ll share something I picked up from the Sloan Management Review (from MIT). This article was developed from a blog post by Jason Killmeyer, enterprise operations manager in the Government and Public Sector practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, and Brenna Sniderman, senior manager in Deloitte Services LP.
They approach things from a much higher level in the organization than I usually do. They recognize what I’ve often stated about business executives reading about all these new technologies, such as, cloud computing, internet of things, AI, blockchain, and others. “The potential resulting haste to adopt new technology and harness transformative change can lead organizations to treat these emerging technologies in the same manner as other, more traditional IT investments — as something explored in isolation and disconnected from the broader technological needs of the organization. In the end, those projects can eventually stall or be written off, leaving in their wake skepticism about the usefulness of emerging technologies.”
This analysis correctly identifies the organizational challenges when leaders read things or hear other executives at the Club talk about them.
The good news, according to the authors: “These new technologies are beginning to converge, and this convergence enables them to yield a much greater value. Moreover, once converged, these technologies form a new industrial infrastructure, transforming how and where organizations can operate and the ways in which they compete. Augmenting these trends is a third factor: the blending of the cyber and the physical into a connected ecosystem, which marks a major shift that could enable organizations to generate more information about their processes and drive more informed decisions.”
They identify three capabilities and three important technologies that make them possible:
Connect: Wi-Fi and other connectivity enablers. Wi-Fi and related technologies, such as low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN), allow for cable-free connection to the internet almost anywhere. Wi-Fi and other connectivity and communications technologies (such as 5G) and standards connect a wide range of devices, from laptops to IoT sensors, across locations and pave the way for the extension of a digital-physical layer across a broader range of physical locations. This proliferation of connectivity allows organizations to expand their connectivity to new markets and geographies more easily.
Store, analyze, and manage: cloud computing. The cloud has revolutionized how many organizations distribute critical storage and computing functions. Just as Wi-Fi can free users’ access to the internet across geographies, the cloud can free individuals and organizations from relying on nearby physical servers. The virtualization inherent in cloud, supplemented by closer-to-the-source edge computing, can serve as a key element of the next wave of technologies blending the digital and physical.
Exchange and transact: blockchain. If cloud allows for nonlocal storage and computing of data — and thus the addition or extraction of value via the leveraging of that data — blockchain supports the exchange of that value (typically via relevant metadata markers). As a mechanism for value or asset exchange that executes in both a virtualized and distributed environment, blockchain allows for the secure transacting of valuable data anywhere in the world a node or other transactor is located. Blockchain appears poised to become an industrial and commercial transaction fabric, uniting sensor data, stakeholders, and systems.
My final thought about infrastructure—they made it a nice round number, namely three. However, I’d add another piece especially to the IT hardware part. That would be the Edge. Right now it is all happening at the edge. I bet I will have a lot to say and tweet next week about that.