An IIoT Solution for Smart Manufacturing

I doubt that there exists a useful pure Industrial Internet of Things (IioT) solution. Simply putting a number of devices on an IP network solves little. However, combining IIoT with data analytics and visualization offers useful solutions to managers and engineers. Even better is the current trend toward making these solutions easier to install. This solution says it has all that.

Litmus, the Intelligent Edge Computing company, announced a partnership with Oden Technologies, a company helping manufacturers make faster and better decisions through machine learning and advanced analytics. Together, Litmus and Oden offer a turnkey solution for Smart Manufacturing including out-of-the-box data acquisition from any machine, advanced analytics, and machine learning to drive greater production efficiency.

Litmus Edge data intelligence platform collects, normalizes, and analyzes high volumes of live data from industrial assets making it available to OT and IT systems via edge-to-enterprise integration.  Oden provides big data compute engine and machine learning, real-time, and predictive process metrics.

“We can get customers up and running by connecting to any machine and collecting data in minutes, then integrate that data with Oden so customers can see proven predictive and prescriptive applications to deliver value in under 30 days,” said John Younes, co-founder and COO of Litmus. “Litmus provides intelligence at the edge, and Oden provides the cloud-based analytics and machine learning necessary to predict and prevent problems, then prescribe actions that lead to better business decisions.”

Litmus Edge is deployed at the Edge with more than 250 pre-built drivers to connect to any PLC, CNC, sensor, robotic system, or SCADA/MES/Historian with no programming, then processes and normalizes the data automatically. Litmus feeds clean data to the Oden Industrial AI Platform, which offers real-time metrics and reporting along with predictive quality, performance optimization and other automated insights. Litmus Edge then runs those machine learning models back at the assets for continuous improvement and closed loop control back to the assets.

“With Litmus + Oden, customers can create a complete source of truth for all production data,” said Willem Sundblad, Cofounder and CEO of Oden Technologies. “We are excited to partner with Litmus to deliver increased operational visibility and automated insights that help customers reduce waste, optimize performance and maximize profitability across the factory floor.”

Pricing for Litmus + Oden is based on the number of manufacturing processes and the number of sites deployed.

Emerson Invests As Software Eats The Industrial World

Marc Andreessen the famed technologist and investor famously said almost 10 years ago that “software is eating the world.” The industrial market, famously slow to move, has been resembling that remark over the past year. In this episode, Emerson has announced an acquisition and an investment in software. Yes, the valves and DeltaV Emerson. Or, the big guys get bigger.

Emerson announced August 27 that it has agreed to acquire Open Systems International, Inc. (OSI Inc.) for $1.6 billion in an all cash transaction. 

OSI Inc. is a leading operations technology software provider that broadens and complements Emerson’s robust software portfolio and ability to help customers in the global power industry, as well as other end markets, in their quest to transform and digitize operations to more seamlessly incorporate renewable energy sources and improve energy efficiency and reliability.

Digitization is critical for the power industry to modernize and improve the reliability of the electric grid. Incorporating clean and renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, requires balancing the variable nature of renewable energy with the often bi-directional demands of the grid. By combining Emerson’s domain expertise and leading technology in power generation with OSI Inc.’s complementary software and reach within the power transmission and distribution sectors, the acquisition will equip customers with the end-to-end ability to monitor, control and optimize real-time operations across the power enterprise through scalable, software-enabled automation and data management.

“An enormous change is underway as utilities globally are investing to digitize the grid and adapt to rapidly evolving energy sources and new technologies that increase consumer choices,” said Lal Karsanbhai, executive president of Emerson’s Automation Solutions business. “This acquisition will help the power industry maximize the remarkable opportunity to harness renewable energy sources and to accelerate the transformation to the smart power grid. Emerson now has the opportunity to be a leader in this large, rapidly growing market with a compelling and complete software and technology offering.”

Karsanbhai continued, “Our $1 billion standalone software and associated engineering implementation services portfolio is quickly growing to meet customer needs and support operational performance, analytics and digital transformation. OSI Inc. is a great business with a track record of high growth, strong profitability and long-term customer loyalty. This acquisition builds on Emerson’s software footprint and supports customers in providing comprehensive end-to-end solutions to help the power industry continue transforming to meet the needs of tomorrow.” 

OSI Inc. is headquartered in Minneapolis, MN and has approximately 1,000 employees globally.

The acquisition is expected to close in early fiscal 2021, subject to various regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

In additional news, Emerson announced it has made an equity investment in inmation Software GmbH, a global software platform developer that further deepens Emerson’s data management and integration capabilities. The investment will increase data visibility and provide unified, actionable information to empower fast decision-making and optimized operations.

inmation aggregates global operational data from across the enterprise into the Plantweb digital ecosystem to create an OT data lake – a centralized storage repository – that serves as the foundation for business intelligence and analytics.

“Emerson and inmation are committed to advancing our customers’ digital transformation initiatives, bringing disparate data together with advanced analytics to provide the comprehensive insights needed to drive business results,” said Stuart Harris, group president for Emerson’s digital transformation business. “Our joint solutions unlock vital information in legacy systems, aggregate data from diverse sources and securely connect to the cloud – enabling plant and enterprise-wide operational improvement.”

The investment will complement Emerson’s effort to build an innovative software platform that provides data aggregation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality and workflow management. The platform, coupled with the expertise of the two companies, will further enable customers to realize a measurable return on their digital transformation efforts.

“Emerson’s longtime leadership in digital transformation, global execution and customer service capabilities made them a natural partner,” said Timo Klingenmeier, CEO of inmation. “We see widespread industry benefits as we pair Emerson’s award-winning Plantweb digital ecosystem with inmation’s data management software platform to offer customers end-to-end solutions.”

inmation Software GmbH is based in Cologne, Germany.

The terms of the investment were not disclosed.

OMAC Remote Access Working Group

The first end-user driven industry-standards working group I ran into as a new editor at Control Engineering magazine several (22) years ago was the Open Modular Architecture Controller (OMAC) group spearheaded primarily by the major automotive players plus Boeing and then some CPG firms such as P&G and Unilever. The first attempt was a less expensive and more easily updatable machine controller. If it sounds much like today’s Open Process Automation Forum, it should.

Later packaging companies and their suppliers became dominant within OMAC as the organization changed its name a couple of times and eventually found a home with PMMI. I really haven’t heard much about the organization for a few years. Then Mark Fondl, with whom I had many discussions about standards in automation—primarily Ethernet—got involved and started pinging me.

Here is news about a new working group striving for a best-practices handbook for remote monitoring services.

The rationale:

The Covid-19 crisis has pushed manufacturers to actively develop plans for “lights out” factories and supply chains. A recent survey conducted by PMMI shows that 92% of respondents working at CPGs cannot use their existing remote access capabilities due to cybersecurity concerns. The study further noted that 36% of respondents listed that there is no practical guide to help start as their top barrier to adding new remote access service.

The desired result:

OMAC (The Organization for Machine Automation and Control) believes a collaborative review is needed to create a comprehensive best-practices handbook for remote monitoring services that will help manufacturing companies allow secure remote access to machines and automation systems on the plant floor.

Focus:

This Workgroup focuses on timing, safety, and security procedures when allowing inbound connections that link to specific machines and automation systems. This work is essential because inbound connections are more complex and hold more risk than the more common outbound connections.

More than 20 companies are now involved:

  • End-Users: Cargill, Nestle, P&G, Sonoco
  • OEMs: Nordson, Mettler Toledo, Milacron, ProMach, Bobst
  • SIs & Vendors: Siemens, EtherCAT Technology Group, Beckhoff, SICK, Martin CSI, Trola Industries, Omnicon

Timeline:

9 SepIntroduction, Agenda Review
23 SepCurrent State and Stakeholders of Remote Access
7 OctCollaboration with IT
21 OctClassification of Activities
4 NovValidation of Assets being Connected
18 NovMethodologies to engage beyond one-to-one
2 DecSecurity and Safety, Documentation and Change Management
16 DecReview of Draft Report
13 JanFinal Report Approval

You can help, but you must be a member. Find out more here.

Aveva Prioritizes Cloud Strategy

The usual summer provides little news after the June rush of conferences. This year I think AVEVA alone could have kept me supplied with news and thoughts. There were at least two digital events. Twice I was up (well, actually my normal time) early for a 6 am breakfast roundtable discussion. Not complaining. It was all good.

While I have watched an IT company pivot to an “as-a-service” company after cloud became quite common, in the OT world cloud has just become a “thing.” And here we are thinking about AVEVA’s embrace of the cloud. I could say “about time”, but in the industrial world we tend not to rush things. So, here is an update on the company’s “Cloud-First” strategy.

AVEVA has unveiled ‘Cloud-First’, a key component of its long-term software portfolio strategy to focus on providing core services in the cloud to ensure high uptime and availability, user management, and the flexibility to try new solutions. The strategy includes the introduction of scenario-driven integration between products for rapid time to value.

To operationalize this strategy, AVEVA has also announced advances to AVEVA ConnectAVEVA Unified Engineering, and AVEVA Insight Guided and Advanced Analytics.

AVEVA Connect, designed to securely host AVEVA software solutions in the cloud, currently enables more than 1,900 customers and over 25,000 users. Cloud computing facilitates improved user management across all assets as well as the capability to monitor usage of subscription credits across the entire AVEVA software portfolio.

“The new normal has required a shift in business focus and imperatives,” said Ravi Gopinath, Chief Cloud Officer and Chief Product Officer, AVEVA. “Moving forward, businesses will witness reduced capital investments, changing working processes, a heightened need for visualization tools and much greater agility and responsiveness across the value chain to minimize value leaks and optimize production to maximize profit opportunities.  Organizational focus has shifted to demand increased flexibility, much more real time collaboration, intelligent applications and a more streamlined user experience. AVEVA Connect will serve as a ‘one stop shop’ for all these requirements.”

AVEVA Unified Engineeringdelivers a collaborative data-centric environment with a single source of accountability across the engineering lifecycle. Multi-discipline teams across owner operators and EPCs can now collaborate to execute greenfield and brownfield projects with high traceability in a secure cloud environment that can be set up in days to accelerate time to value and reduce total installed cost.

AVEVA Insight Guided and Advanced Analytics are now available in the Cloud for advanced pattern recognition to augment automated analytics and condition monitoring. The solution enables customers to start on a predictive analytics-based Asset Performance strategy without the need for complex modelling or data science. This solution allows the user to create easy-to-deploy models targeting specific assets, providing reliable anomaly detection with minimal configuration.

From operating information analysis and low-code application development to complex engineering visualization, AVEVA Connect’s functionality allows easy trials for new capabilities.

‘Cloud-First’ includes the introduction of scenario-driven integration between products for rapid time to value. Later this year, AVEVA will also introduce software development kits to enable partners to provide their solutions within the AVEVA Connect platform in order to increase the range of capabilities available to customers.

“The shift to the cloud isn’t a matter of choice but something that must aggressively be pursued. The tremendous advantages of deployment and ownership costs, the ability to flexibly consume purely based on need and the removal of localized barriers to allow unprecedented levels of work efficiency and collaboration mean that we will continue to add to the rich domain content of our portfolio, because this is not just about technology, but about the realities and specifics of our customer’s business,” concluded Gopinath.

NI’s Enterprise Software Foray

I passed along the news of NI’s entrance into enterprise software with SystemLink a couple of weeks ago. Later, I had the opportunity to follow up with Penny Merian, chief product marketer, Enterprise Software, at NI.

She confirmed that this is indeed a new venture forward for NI. But it builds upon the rich history of test and measurement bringing systems and data management expertise to expand and leverage the rich data environment. The goal is to enrich data, in a wholistic and real-time manner for the purpose of eliminating waste in the process. Dumping data into Microsoft Excel, which is a common way of handling data, yields “old data” according to Merian. The need is to feed KPIs that the user needs in order to accelerate actions.

Being aware of NI’s history and its customers, I asked what roles do customers of this software hold within companies. She specified several roles and their needs.

  • Test engineers and technicians—standardizing ways of looking at data, time delays
  • Directors—real time information, correlation analysis, enablement
  • VP—shorter time to market

She mentioned a customer, Dyson, who began manufacturing ventilators. SystemLink helped with management, track pass/fail, and helped manage supply chain. From more of a pure data analysis point of view, another customer, Jaguar, used SystemLink to reduce the cost of testing. 

Great Thoughts (Not Mine) On Interoperability

Interoperability has been a great benefit to consumers in many areas of the economy. Even industrial technology, where many forces coalesce to circumvent it.

I have written about interoperability specifically several times and have even given a couple of presentations on the subject. None of my work comes close to touching the work of Seth Godin and this podcast on interoperability at Akimbo.

Interoperability is great for users. The ability to connect different components and software applications powerfully enables use. However, suppliers fear that they will lose business by not being able to lock customers into their own proprietary ecosystem. Experienced users easily dismiss the argument that “all our products work better together when we control the system”. We’ve been there. That is not always the case.

The irony…interoperability is actually better for suppliers in the long run.

Check out the podcast as Seth describes indifferent, cooperative, and adversarial interoperability.