Moxa To Support OPC Foundation’s United Architecture Field Level Communications Initiative

Moxa To Support OPC Foundation’s United Architecture Field Level Communications Initiative

Things have been quiet on the OPC/UA and TSN front for about a year. I wrote a preliminary white paper a couple of years ago (link on my blog to download) based on a proposal brought by a number of German companies to OPC almost without warning. Since then, the group has succeeded in getting an official working group within OPC Foundation. But some companies have dropped interest in the project and others are notorious for lending public support while dragging their feet on adoption.

This press release from Moxa, a manufacturer of Ethernet infrastructure for industrial applications notes it is now supporting the Open Platform Communications Foundation’s (OPC’s new name, I guess) United Architecture Field Level Communications (OPC UA FLC) initiative. It says it will “lend its considerable expertise to the development of a unified infrastructure for Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) technologies.”

Moxa says that the aim is to build an open, standards-based communication solution for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) by extending the OPC UA machine-to-machine communication protocol from sensors in the field to IT systems or the cloud. Adopting one unified network infrastructure will provide vendors with independent end-to-end interoperability of their field level devices, such as sensors, actuators, controllers and cloud addresses, and enabling bilateral IIoT data communications between the factory floor and the cloud. With TSN as its foundation, the OPC UA FLC initiative meets emerging IIoT requirements for deterministic networking and real time communications over high-bandwidth, low-latency networks.

“We are proud to be part of this new initiative of the OPC Foundation. It is the first-ever joint undertaking by the leading players in the automation industry under the auspices of the OPC Foundation to build TSN technologies for future industrial automation systems based on a truly unified infrastructure,” said Andy Cheng, President of the Strategic Business Unit at Moxa. “Moxa has committed to collaborating with customers and key industry players to drive innovation, industry standards, proof of concepts, testbeds, and the successful implementation of advanced TSN technologies.”

“Moxa’s valuable knowledge and great portfolio of industrial switches for the vast OPC UA TSN ecosystem, covering all the way from sensors to the cloud, are very helpful for our market to realize a truly unified infrastructure for future automation networking,” said Stefan Schönegger, Vice President of Product Strategy & Innovation at B&R Industrial Automation, a fellow member of Moxa’s on the FLC Steering Committee.

Companies on the FLC Steering Committee include ABB, Beckhoff, Bosch Rexroth, B&R Industrial Automation, Cisco, Hilscher, Hirschmann, Huawei, Intel, Kalycito, KUKA, Mitsubishi Electric, Molex, Omron, Phoenix Contact, Pilz, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric, Siemens, TTTech, Wago, and Yokogawa. The FLC initiative has also gained support from the TSN testbeds of the Edge Computing Consortium (ECC), the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), and Labs Network Industry 4.0 (LNI 4.0) with regard to the FLC activities to adopt “One TSN”.

Moxa has participated in all these testbeds to showcase the interoperability of its TSN switches with the devices of other vendors in one standard Ethernet-based network infrastructure. This interoperability will be instrumental in the future of industrial automation by opening up new possibilities brought on by the IIoT and Industry 4.0.

Siemens and Chonicle Partner For Cyber Security

Siemens and Chonicle Partner For Cyber Security

Cyber Security got a shout-out during the Siemens Spotlight on Innovation forum in Orlando last week. Leo Simonovich, VP and Global Head, Industrial Cyber and Digital Security at Siemens Gas and Power, and Mike Wiacek, co-founder & CSO of Chronicle (an Alphabet company) took the stage discussing their newly signed cyber security agreement.

Key phrase—“customers can own their environment”. Perhaps the most interesting conversation I had during the networking event was with a Chronicle tech person who gave me a deep dive into the product. This is security unlike everything else I investigate in the OT realm. This isn’t a network monitoring app. Nor is it a device that acts as a firewall for industrial control devices. It builds a huge database and adds analytics (which is “in our DNA”). The solution has two parts—visibility and context. It bridges IT and OT worlds with the intent to “democratize security for the success of the digital economy”; that is, make it accessible to customers, simple, affordable, easy-to-use.

Through a unified approach that will leverage Chronicle’s Backstory platform and Siemens’ strength in industrial cyber security, the combined offering gives energy customers unparalleled visibility across information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) to provide operational insights and confidentially act on threats.

The energy industry has historically been unable to centrally apply analytics to process data streams, cost-effectively store and secure data, and identify malicious threats within OT systems. Research conducted by Siemens and Ponemon Institute found that while 60 percent of energy companies want to leverage analytics, only 20 percent are utilizing any analytics to do security monitoring in the OT environment. Small and medium enterprises are particularly vulnerable to security breaches as they frequently do not have the internal expertise to manage and address increasingly sophisticated attacks.

“The innovative partnership between Siemens and Chronicle demonstrates a new frontier in applying the power of security analytics to critical infrastructure that is increasingly dependent on digital technology,” said Simonovich. “Cyber-attacks targeting energy companies have reached unprecedented speeds, and our cutting-edge managed service unlocks the analytics ecosystem offers a new level of protection from potential operational, business and safety losses.”

“Energy infrastructure is an obvious example of cyber-attacks affecting the physical world and directly impacting people’s lives,” said Ansh Patnaik, Chief Product Officer, Chronicle. “Backstory’s security telemetry processing capabilities, combined with Siemens’ deep expertise, gives customers new options for protecting their operations.”

The partnership between Siemens and Chronicle will help energy companies securely and cost-effectively leverage the cloud to store and categorize data, while applying analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to OT systems that can identify patterns, anomalies, and cyber threats. Chronicle’s Backstory, a global security telemetry platform for investigation and threat hunting, will be the backbone of Siemens managed service for industrial cyber monitoring, including in both hybrid and cloud environments. This combined solution enables security across the industry’s operating environment – from energy exploration and extraction to power generation and delivery.

Government versus Business

Government versus Business

I saw this note in today’s Espresso from The Economist, “France’s finance minister pledged to save jobs under threat at General Electric’s plant in the country’s north-east. The American industrial conglomerate, which made a loss of $23bn last year, had said it would cut around 1,000 jobs. Earlier this year GE paid France a €50m ($56m) fine for failing to create jobs after it took over Alstom’s energy business.”

Meanwhile in the US, officials are taking a second look at the results of Foxconn’s supposed multi-billion dollar investments. Politicians made great PR hay in 2017 with the announcement of a large investment in Wisconsin. Two years down the road, maybe the investment may not be so large and the employment a few thousand shy.

Governments can preach and give breaks and whatever, but market forces and bad management mean much more than governments for success. Take Alstom, for example. Perhaps there is French pride involved, but GE discovered that that particular acquisition was not all that it hoped for. One of a string of GE missteps. The French government can fine all it wants, but job creation depends upon good management and proper economic tailwinds.

I recently reported on the “success” of re-shoring manufacturing jobs, as the Reshoring Initiative would have it. Most likely it’s a result of financial analysts taking a closer look at supposed savings from only low wages discovering that other costs, such as logistics, insurance, loss of intellectual property, longer lead times, inability to quickly respond to changing markets all combined to make manufacturing offshore unappealing.

Most of the ills of manufacturing society I read about have a common root cause—less than competent management. I don’t see any quick fixes for that! And it won’t come from government fines generated by disappointment at lack of political gain.

Innovation—A Word Often Loosely Used

Innovation—A Word Often Loosely Used

People send about a dozen press releases per day to me, only slightly fewer on weekends. Many boast innovation in products, services, or pricing models. The word comes dangerously close to over use.

Siemens, however, consistently shows how users in a large variety of settings use the fruits of its own innovation of bringing together PLM, IT, automation, and industrial control for their own innovation.

My last post from the recent Siemens Innovation Forum discussed design and manufacture digitally using Siemens PLM and 3D printing. I also discussed a young woman using Siemens CAD and her own hard work to engineer a new prosthetic foot for a veteran of Afghanistan.

Next up at the Forum was Mayor Buddy Dyer of Orlando speaking on smart cities and the many places technology—principally from Siemens—were helping build infrastructure, water/wastewater controls, microgrids, and other elements of his administration’s smart cities work. Orlando has progressed far from its sleepy tourist-town roots.

Dr. Norbert Gaus, Head of R&D in Automation and Digitalization, AI at Siemens presided over an interlude with an example of robot picking utilizing AI + Digital Twin. Both are important components of an innovative manufacturing future.

The program jumped a level from travel by prosthetic foot to highways to aircraft carriers. Bharat Amin, VP & CIO of Newport News Shipbuilding discussed the entirely new way of building large ships using Siemens PLM, digital twin, digital thread, and electronic devices. This new workflow eliminated carrying huge piles of drawings to the site. The armloads of blueprints were replaced by a digital tablet.

People who have accomplished a digital turnaround always have timely advice for those of us beginning projects. Amin’s list: Start with people; Cultivate disruption; Nurture trust and relationships; Cut through bureaucracy; Go against the grain; Have an entrepreneurial spirit; Be willing to take risks.

Chester Kennedy, CEO Bridg—a microelectronics manufacturer, took Digital Twin from huge war ships to silicon wafers—microelectronics. He began with an MES to track through the entire process. The idea being that if they could find a flaw maybe at step 14 and scrap the part before investing more time and process only to find it at a later stage, they would save a ton of money. The digital twin idea is developing for work on security. At the beginning, Bridg just wanted an RFP for MES. Siemens came in and offered to go beyond Camstar (MES) to work in partnership to look at the system from design to physics and material science to workflow. The company needs security confidence by its customers, so it’s adding blockchain to help catch any potential sabotage within the microelectronics at manufacture.

Siemens Spotlight on Innovation

Siemens Spotlight on Innovation

I flew to Orlando May 22 as a guest of Siemens along with a select few other “influencers” to be introduced to a number of innovation projects fueled by Siemens technology. We met at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts in downtown Orlando (did you even know there was a downtown?), which itself is filled with Siemens equipment. There are few companies in the industrial area which I cover that have the vision and execution that Siemens is exhibiting right now.

By the way, there is a fantastic little taco place in downtown Orlando. Email or DM on Twitter, and I’ll share the name. Greg Hale of ISSSource.com and I had dinner there Wednesday. We agreed—among the best tacos we’ve had.

Barbara Humpton, CEO Siemens USA, led with an overview. Siemens has made a greater than $1B investment in R&D in the US with 7,000 engineers churning out 700 inventions per year.

She introduced former stunt man and motorcycle racer turned CEO Mike “Mouse” McCoy, CEO & Founder of HackRod. McCoy built on a foundation of Siemens PLM and SolidEdge CAD. He added a gaming engine. He was able to use VR for design reviews, interference checking, and simulation during the design process. We followed along with design and review of a new motorcycle. A few parts required somewhat exotic materials. Oak Ridge National Labs printed the parts from the design files downloaded from HackRod. The design teams were in Ventura, CA and Princeton, NJ with input from Munich, Germany. Collaboration was not a problem.

Beginning of design until component parts shipped to Orlando—2 weeks. The parts arrived Tuesday. McCoy and a partner assembled the motorcycle on Tuesday evening and wheeled (not drove) it onto the stage Wednesday about 1:30. Not bad? Heck, in my early career, we couldn’t have done a foam-core mock up in that time frame.

One thought McCoy left us with. “We need to talk STEAM, not just STEM—science, technology, engineering, arts, math.” It is now possible for artists and designers to be an intimate part of the team going from art to finished product quickly. 3D printing from PLM files. Way cool.

How about a high school mechanical design student given a project to provide a lighter prosthetic foot for an Army vet? Humpton introduced 18-year-old high school student Ashley Kimbel who had undertaken just such a project. She worked with the veteran to analyze his current “foot” looking for areas where weight could be eliminated. Then she had to learn how to fabricate and manufacture the device. We saw films of the veteran running with Ashley proving out the new prosthetic.

This is a long way from projects I had as a 17-year-old senior. Education and technology have come a long way in a lifetime. Oh, and her future? She wants to work in bioengineering designing and 3D printing organs. She will be working on that during her tenure at UAB. She is going to make a difference for many people.

I have many more ideas and conversations to capture. This will serve for now.
Check out #SiemensInnovates

Companies Announce Return of 143,000 Manufacturing Jobs to US

Companies Announce Return of 143,000 Manufacturing Jobs to US

Ever since a bunch of sharp MBAs armed with their spreadsheets determined that deep cuts in direct labor costs could be gained through chasing low wage geographies, a reaction set in to convince companies and the US government that shipping jobs overseas was bad economics and bad for the economy.

A chunk of my responsibilities for several years in a manufacturing firm was analyzing and recommending ways to cut costs. I didn’t have responsibilities on the growing revenue side of the equation; rather I was charged with helping boost profitability through cutting direct costs. By the way, back then cutting labor cost wasn’t worth the effort.

I have had conversations for several years with The Reshoring Initiative. A 50-year manufacturing industry veteran and retired President of GF AgieCharmilles, Harry Moser founded the Reshoring Initiative to move lost jobs back to the U.S. For his efforts with the Reshoring Initiative, he was named to Industry Week magazine’s Manufacturing Hall of Fame in 2010..

The Reshoring Initiative’s 2018 Reshoring Report contains data on U.S. reshoring and foreign direct investment (FDI) by companies that have shifted production or sourcing from offshore to the United States. The report includes cumulative data from 2010 through 2018, as well as projections for 2019. The numbers demonstrate that reshoring and FDI are major contributing factors to the country’s rebounding manufacturing sector.

“We publish this data annually to show companies that their peers are successfully reshoring and that they should reevaluate their sourcing and siting decisions,” said Harry Moser, founder and president of the Reshoring Initiative. “With 5 million manufacturing jobs still offshore, as measured by our $800 billion/year goods trade deficit, there is potential for much more growth. We call on the administration and Congress to enact policy changes to make the United States competitive again. Our Competitiveness Toolkit is available to help quantify the impact of policy alternatives, including a stronger skilled workforce, continued corporate tax and regulatory reductions as well as a lower U.S. dollar.”

In 2018 the number of companies reporting new reshoring and foreign direct investment (FDI) was up 38% from 2017. The combined reshoring and related FDI announcements totaled over 145,000 jobs. Including upward revisions of 36,000 jobs in prior years, the total number of manufacturing jobs brought to the United States from offshore is over 757,000 since the manufacturing employment low of 2010.

Allowing for a two-year lag from announcement to hire, the cumulative announcements since 2010 have driven 31% of the total increase in U.S. manufacturing jobs during that period and 3.3% of total end-of-2018 manufacturing employment of 12.8 million.

The Reshoring Initiative largely attributes the increases to greater U.S. competitiveness due to corporate tax and regulatory cuts. Similar to the previous few years, FDI continued to exceed reshoring in terms of total jobs added, but reshoring has closed most of the gap since 2015.

Although China topped Germany for the greatest number of FDI jobs announced since 2010, China announced 12% fewer in 2018 than in 2017. I’m betting that 2019 will see a greater decline given the current trade war unless something works out.

Quality, freight cost, and total cost make up the top offshore drivers of the trend.

Proximity to market, government incentives, supply chain optimization, higher productivity, skilled workforce, and brand image/made in USA serve as the top domestic drivers.

Reshoring has been increasing at a similar rate as FDI, indicating that U.S. headquartered companies are starting to understand the U.S. production benefit that foreign companies have seen for the last few years.