The point of manufacturing is to design and make a product then deliver the right product to the customer. Sometimes we just churn out a large quantity and hope they will sell. Sometimes we configure to order or “mass customize” products.
For example, I once had a job where I reported to the Vice President of product development for a manufacturing company. Two of us reported to him. The other guy headed the engineering teams for all of our standard products. I had a small team and we did special projects. One task was to help sales people go through complex specs and configure our product to meet the specs. My technology was a 4-column accounting ledger, pencil, and Singer adding machine.
I bet I made mistakes.
Frederic Laziou, CEO of Tacton, a Swedish company with a product in the CPQ space, just talked with me about what’s happening with his company and the technology.
CPQ stands for Configure Price Quote recognized by Gartner with Tacton firmly situated in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant in CPQ.
A SaaS company born in the cloud from a research institute in Sweden, Tacton used AI plus search research to become a product search engine. Among CPQ companies, Tacton is unique as a niche player in manufacturing with key domain knowledge in manufacturing.
CPQ would have made my job from the late 70s easier, more accurate, and better documented. Good stuff.
Laziou states Tacton has presence in Europe, Japan, and North America. There is a common thread—they cannot compete on price. Mass customization or individualizations helps companies compete.
The company was seeking to deepen its North American presence, niche player in these areas:
- Production lines
- Power Generation (Dresser/Siemens)
- Medical Technology (Siemens and GE)
- Heavy commercial vehicles
- Fluid and air flow
30-40% of that business is in the US. In order to sustain leadership, need to be closer to the customer and partners, therefore have US headquarters. It established an office in the Chicago area. Two additional reasons for the Chicago location include direct flights to Stockholm and a wealth of necessary talent in manufacturing, software, and sales and marketing.
Putting Tacton in context of Industry 4.0, it puts customer in the center of the customer’s digitization.
Laziou says that as more people are bringing consumer technology into the business context, Tacton developed AR to enhance customer engagement. Not to mention that AR addresses big pain point—errors in quotes.
To fuel the expansion and drive increased sales, the company is making a $12 million investment over the next three years to establish joint headquarters in Chicago
In conjunction with its expansion and investment in the U.S. market, Tacton is also announcing new capabilities in its cloud-based CPQ platform. The new features include augmented reality (AR)-powered visualization and expanded integration with Salesforce that makes it even easier for manufacturers to design, configure and sell complex products.
Founded in 1998, Tacton CPQ software and design automation solutions help the world’s largest manufacturers, such as Bosch, Siemens and Caterpillar to manage the complexities traditionally associated with producing customized and configured products that meet strict customer requirements.
For example, the Industrial Power division at Siemens uses Tacton’s sales configuration software to slash the time it takes to prepare price quotes and simplify product configuration of custom solutions. It used to take Siemens eight weeks to produce a custom quote for its gas turbine units, With Tacton’s CPQ, the sales team now produces the same quote in a matter of minutes, without requiring any help from product specialists.
“The beauty of the Tacton Configurator is that it will guide the sales representative and get the product configuration for an accurate price quote each time. It now takes us only five minutes to generate a complete budget offer including pricing. This saves us tremendous amounts of time and money,” said Siemens Senior Engineer CRM process & IT Development Jan Nilsson.
Tacton CPQ now includes visual product configuration, including real time, interactive 3D drag-and-drop functionality. Sales engineers can interact directly with a sophisticated configuration tool, powered by AR to visualize the configuration within the actual environment.
The new capabilities extend Tacton’s integration with Salesforce to boost sales with features including needs-based configuration. Salesforce Sales Cloud customers can now connect to the full power of Tacton CPQ leveraging its best-in-class AI-driven configurator for the manufacturing industry. Tacton CPQ for Salesforce features automated CAD drawing and engineer-to-order (ETO) processes with out-of-the-box integration to all leading CAD solutions, integration with SAP ERP and Variant Configurator (SAP LO-VC) and open APIs that enable full integration with the existing IT stack.
“We experienced significant customer adoption for Tacton CPQ solutions among European manufacturers over the last two years, making it the ideal time to meet a similar demand in the United States,” said Frederic Laziou, CEO of Tacton. “By continuing to add breakthrough enhancements like AR-powered visual configuration to our CPQ solution, we can drive even greater efficiency for manufacturers, making it even simpler and faster to sell complex products.”
We should be so beyond talk of The IT/OT convergence.
This has not been a technology issue for years. If anything it is an organization and personal issue.
Executives continue to view their organizations as constructed of a variety of separate domains. This is often because there are all these SVPs running around who need an organization to lead. So, one has operations, another IT, another design, another marketing, and so forth.
When senior management wakes up to the fact that technology has broken the barriers long ago, maybe they can get their organizations to follow suit.
This year we should be talking about how all technology is meant to serve leaders and managers who are trying to build safe, productive, profitable companies.
The story should be about benefits of using technology; not about pitting one against another.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced new HPE Edgeline Converged Edge System solutions that speed the deployment and simplify the management of edge applications, enabling customers to act on the vast amounts of data generated by machines, assets and sensors from edge to cloud.
I think this is another significant advance reflecting the utility of enterprise compute capability brought ever closer to the plant itself. If you are looking to be disruptive in your industry or are on a corporate engineering staff looking for OT alternatives, I’d suggest taking a long look at these technologies and then letting your imagination do its work.
The new solutions include:
- HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform, an open platform that automates the interplay between diverse operational technologies (OT) and standard IT-based applications at the edge to enable intelligent and autonomous decision making;
- HPE Edgeline systems management, the industry’s first systems management solutions designed specifically for the edge to ensure enterprise-grade reliability, connectivity and security;
- HPE Edgeline EL300 Converged Edge System featuring OT link and HPE Edgeline systems management, providing superior resilience against harsh edge environments for a broad range of industrial deployments; and
- HPE Edgeline Field Application Engineering Services are available from HPE Pointnext to help customers plan, build, and customize OT link-based Internet of Things (IoT) and cyber-physical systems.
To turn edge data into insight for real-time action, it must be processed close to its source to avoid the latency, bandwidth, and cost issues of sending the data to a remote data center. However, this opportunity comes with a set of unique challenges, including management of remote infrastructure, and the necessity to seamlessly connect sensors and industrial assets with IT applications at the edge.
“Deploying IoT, edge, and cyber-physical systems is a challenge requiring a fresh look at uniting the physical and digital worlds,” said Dr. Tom Bradicich, Vice President and General Manager, Converged Servers, Edge and IoT Systems, HPE. “With today’s announcements, we enable our customers to accelerate the delivery of applications that capitalize on edge data, safeguarded by enterprise-class management. And we lay the groundwork for a new ecosystem of intelligent edge solutions to drive innovation and growth across industries.”
Simplifying deployment of edge-to-cloud IoT and cyber-physical systems
Today, setting up an IoT or cyber-physical system is a laborious undertaking. It requires custom coding to orchestrate OT networks, control systems, and data flows with drivers, middleware, and applications running on IT systems. HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform is an open platform that significantly simplifies this process, reducing cost and time to market.
The solution includes:
HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform software, an open workflow engine and application catalogue, allowing customers to orchestrate components, data, and applications via a graphical drag-and-drop user interface. The HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform integrates an ecosystem of third-party applications running from edge to cloud – including AWS, Google, Microsoft, SAP, PTC, GE, and more – to make insights from the edge available across the enterprise and supply chain.
HPE Edgeline OT Link certified modules, HPE-developed adapters that connect to a broad range of OT systems, enabling bi-directional, time-sensitive, and deterministic control and communication, including high-speed digital input/output, CAN bus, Modbus, or Profinet. APIs and SDKs for these adapters are made available to the industry to facilitate third-party designs of OT link modules. OT link will also integrate FPGA modules to give customers maximal flexibility to connect to any industrial input/output device.
Enterprise-grade manageability and security at the edge
HPE also announced the industry’s first systems management solutions specifically designed to simplify the provisioning and management of edge infrastructure and applications, providing enterprise-grade manageability and security for remote systems with limited connectivity and IT expertise.
HPE Edgeline Integrated System Manager is embedded into HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems and features one-click provisioning, ongoing system health management, remote updates, and management even with intermittent wired and wireless connections. It also supports advanced security functions like preventing system boot file changes and remote system disablement during a security event. HPE Edgeline Infrastructure Manager software can remotely manage thousands of Edgeline Converged Edge Systems.
The HPE Edgeline Workload Orchestrator hosts a central repository for containerized analytics, AI, business, and IoT applications that can be pushed to HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems at the edge
Unparalleled convergence of OT and IT
The HPE Edgeline EL300 is a fan-less, low-energy system equipped with Intel Core i5 processors, up to 32GB of memory and 3TB of storage. It will also support Intel Movidius Myriad X vision processing units to enable video analytics and AI inference at the edge. The HPE Edgeline EL300 provides enhanced resiliency against shock, vibration, humidity, and dust, including IP50 and MIL-SPEC certifications, and can operate from -30 to +70 degrees Celsius. These features make the HPE Edgeline EL300 suitable to be deployed as an embedded system – for example, in production machines or in building infrastructure.
Expertise to accelerate deployment and create competitive advantage
To support these new offerings, HPE Pointnext, the services organization of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, provides HPE Edgeline Field Application Services, which help customers plan, design, build, and run IoT, edge and cyber-physical systems to accelerate deployment and ensure reliable and secure operation. These services include the evaluation of use cases, proof of value, solution deployment, and management of ongoing operations – helping customers get the most from OT/IT integrations.
Moreover, HPE Pointnext can help customers develop their own data acquisition, industrial network, and control components for HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform to create custom solutions and competitive advantage. HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform based solutions can be delivered on-premises with a turnkey deployment service, operated by HPE Pointnext.
Finally, HPE Edgeline EL300 Converged Edge System will be added to HPE GreenLake Flex Capacity, to deliver a consumption-based experience with usage-based payment, capacity metering, and tailored support, for customers who need a cloud-like experience for systems at the edge.
I’m still deep in cyber security meetings in Germany. A pause here for software and cloud news from the west coast of America—OSIsoft and Amazon Web services. Since PI is used by many industrial companies, these announcements reveal the deep acceptance of cloud technologies.
In short, here are three bullets:
- AWS Quick Starts for PI System: enables industrial customers to quickly deploy and manage the PI System on AWS.
- PI Integrator for Business Analytics: optimized for AWS to reduce time and cost of bringing operational and IoT data to AWS for sharing or advanced analytics.
- Enhanced connectivity and data sharing to accelerate digital transformation and shrink the OT-IT gap.
OSIsoft launched a suite of products today designed to enable manufacturers, utilities, and other industrial customers to run the OSIsoft PI System on Amazon Web Services.
AWS Quick Starts for the PI System consists of AWS CloudFormation templates, scripts, and reference architectures for quickly spinning up and managing a fully functioning PI System on AWS. Customers will use the PI System Quick Starts for moving PI System workloads to the AWS cloud or for providing an aggregate PI System across an enterprise, monitoring remote or isolated assets and enabling data science efforts.
The PI Integrator for Business Analytics, meanwhile, has been optimized to extract, clean and transmit data from PI Systems and reduce data preparation tasks that bog down big data and data science initiatives. Some customers have successfully used PI Integrator technology to reduce the time consumed by data preparation in advanced analytics projects by over 90%.
AWS Quick Starts will be available in 2019. PI Integrator for Business Analytics, previewed at Hannover Messe earlier this year, is available this month.
Under the Hood
Quick Starts are built by AWS solutions architects and partners to help deploy solutions on AWS, based on AWS best practices for security and high availability. These reference deployments implement key technologies automatically on the AWS Cloud, often with a single click and in less than an hour. You can build your test or production environment in a few steps, and start using it immediately.
The PI Integrator for Business Analytics can integrate to Amazon S3, Amazon Redshift, and Amazon Kinesis Data Streams, enabling industrial customers to speed up their data science experiments, combine disparate data sets for business intelligence, and operationalize the outcomes of advanced analytics that augment decision making.
The Life of the PI System
OSIsoft’s PI System transforms the vast number of operational data streams from sensors, devices and industrial processes into rich, real-time insights to help people save money, increase productivity or create connected products and services.
The PI System can be found inside thousands of companies and complex industrial sites around the globe. OSIsoft customers have used PI System technology to predict wind turbine failures, increase output at an iron mine by $120 million in a single year by fine-tuning logistics, reduce the power consumed by a supercomputer center at a national laboratory, deliver water services to millions of new customers in a major metropolitan city, transform how medicines are produced and reduce the time and expense and improve the quality and consistency of beer. Over 1,000 leading utilities, 90% of the world’s largest oil and gas companies and 65% of the Fortune 500 industrial companies rely the PI System in their operations.
“Worldwide, over 2 billion sensor-based data streams are managed by the PI System with some customers monitoring over 25 million data streams.
“Data from operations—the information being generated by chemical reactors, transformers and other industrial devices—is incredibly valuable. Operations data will be the most valuable asset companies have for moving ahead of the competition in the future. Until recently, this data has been mostly confined to the factory floor or production line in part because of the size, scope and complexity of the data generated by operations,” said John Baier, Director of Integration Technologies, Cloud Analytics Practice at OSIsoft. “Working with Amazon Web Services, we want to unlock the value of operations data by eliminating barriers and bringing it to as many people as possible.”
Wondering what Rockwell Automation is going to net out of its $1B investment in PTC that also netted John Genovesi a major promotion within the company? I have been. And here is the first release.
The companies have launched FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, a software suite that enables companies to “optimize their industrial operations and enhance productivity by providing decision makers with improved data and insights.” The new suite delivers visibility of operations and systems status from one source of information inside the organization. The collaborative offering is the first to integrate technologies from both companies following the strategic partnership announcement in June.
FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, improves connectivity to operational technology (OT) devices on the plant floor, natively supporting the rapid, scalable, and secure connection of the most commonly used industrial equipment. Combined with data from information technology (IT) applications and systems, decision makers can now gain a complete digital representation of their industrial equipment, lines, and facilities from anywhere in the enterprise.
“Our offering is unique in its ability to improve how companies capitalize on the IIoT by combining expertise from industry, technology, and plant-floor professionals,” said John Genovesi, incoming senior vice president, Enterprise Accounts & Software, Rockwell Automation. “Now we’re bringing innovative solutions from PTC together with leading analytics and Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) from Rockwell Automation for a differentiated industry solution.”
“We’re moving the needle on how leading-edge technology is applied in industrial environments,” said Catherine Kniker, Head of Strategic Alliances, PTC. “Manufacturers have seen digital technology rapidly change, but their execution continues to follow practices established for the legacy business. This bundled offering will help organizations accelerate time to value and reinvent how they compete by breaking down barriers across their operations through a comprehensive approach to operational intelligence.”
Included in this collaborative offering are the FactoryTalk Analytics and MOM platforms, as well as PTC’s ThingWorx Industrial IoT Platform, which includes industrial connectivity from Kepware, and the Vuforia augmented reality solution.
Key features of applications within the new collaborative offering include:
Intuitive, user-friendly interfaces that give users a view of the operations by combining data from multiple IT and OT sources and tailored to their role. An operations manager, for instance, can view overall performance of a facility, or multiple facilities, before researching the performance of specific equipment or factors impacting OEE.
Automated advanced analytics of IT and OT sources transform massive amounts of raw data into actionable or proactive information to improve performance and reduce the impact of downtime. Leveraging powerful artificial intelligence (AI) technology to simplify complex analytical processes, users can now proactively respond to issues ahead of any critical failures.
Augmented reality (AR) delivers more efficient and effective ways of looking at digital information within the physical world. AR enables more efficient training, wider knowledge sharing, and better first-time fix rates. Through the bundled offering, maintenance, for example, can receive digitized work instructions containing real-time performance and service history information so technicians can better diagnose and fix equipment correctly the first time.
Manufacturing is tough, says FactoryFour, a startup in the MES space. Managing it shouldn’t be, it follows up.
Param Shah, co-founder and CEO of FactoryFour, told me that he and his partner researched build-to-order and configure-to-order manufacturing in the orthopedic device market they discovered that manufacturing planning was done by a combination of paper and spreadsheets.
Further research showed that typical MES platforms required the manufacturer to configure its processes to conform to the workflows and parameters of the software. People really didn’t want to do that. They would simply ignore the cumbersome software and opt for something familiar and flexible.
FactoryFour’s simple value statement goes like this:
Today’s manufacturing software is manual and complicated. Manually managing the 100 little tasks that go into pushing products out the door causes unnecessary production errors and delays.
Managing it shouldn’t be complicated. Simple and automated. The freedom to focus on improving processes, eliminating bottlenecks, and growing revenue. Everything else is automated.
The manufacturing Shah studied was highly manual. In the orthopedic space where custom pieces are manufactured, order process errors are common. Employees find it hard to keep track of where products are in the manufacturing system.
FactoryFour uses native cloud technology. It customizes order intake, using it to inform the manufacturing system. In that system, engineers configure workflows, draw it up then put in software. Therefore the software conforms to the manufacturer’s workflow. The use barcode, RFID, etc., to track the process. FactoryFour connects to other software systems as required.
The Workflows allow rules and an “if this then that” process. It can, for example, integrate with shipping apps and APIs. If shipping stage goes active, it will call up software and generate shipping documents, find UPS tracking number, send to customer automatically. If error is called, it will notify and assign tasks.
Its API connects data to SAP, Epicor, Oracle, and the like. It tracks human labor through scans.
The company’s focus is on custom manufacturing and configure to order with high traceability needs. Channel includes consultants, SIs, and hardware companies.
I asked about usability. “Our first hire was UI UX person,” Shah told me. “We are extremely visual, using colors and designs effectively. Screens are intuitive, geared to technicians with only one or two buttons on a screen not 60.“
This is a young company that just completed its A round of financing looking to shake up the MES market.