OPC Foundation In The News

OPC Foundation has released a lot of news at the end of 2020. Its working groups have been busy.

  • Cloud Library with CESMII
  • Field Level Communications
  • ECLASS Standard for M2M Communication
  • Update to PLCOpen 61131-3 specification

Cloud Library

The OPC Foundation, in collaboration with CESMII, is pleased to announce the launch of the “OPC UA Cloud Library” Joint Working Group (JWG). The goal of the JWG is to specify how OPC UA information models of machines, SCADA and Manufacturing Execution Systems will be stored in and accessed from a cloud-based database.  Such a database will enable manufacturers to draw from a wide range of OPC UA information models and profiles for use in their pre-built shopfloor and business digitalization applications.

Collaboration between the OPC Foundation and the Smart Manufacturing Institute is a natural fit given their complementary efforts. On one hand, the US government-backed Smart Manufacturing Institute sets out to help accelerate the adoption of Smart Manufacturing by businesses of all sizes by enabling frictionless movement of information (data and context) between real-time operations and the people and systems that create value in their organizations. On the other hand, the OPC Foundation created a globally adopted open data interoperability standard via its OPC UA specification. The specification’s information modeling capabilities and secure, scalable communications made it a cornerstone of Industrie 4.0 and virtually every other national Industrial IoT initiative. By working together, CESMII and the OPC Foundation aim to enable the broadest range of US manufacturers and beyond to innovate and go-to-market in their digital transformation using the right data modeling foundation.

Field Level Communications

OPC Foundation announces today that its Field Level Communications Initiative has accomplished a significant milestone in the ongoing project by completing their initial release candidate with the focus on the Controller-to-Controller (C2C) use case. In addition, a technical paper has been published that explains the technical approach and the basic concepts to extend OPC UA to the field level for all use cases and requirements in Factory and Process Automation.

Peter Lutz, Director Field Level Communications of the OPC Foundation says: “We are happy about the progress that our working groups have made over the last months, despite COVID-19 and the associated restrictions. The initial release candidate is a major achievement because it is used to build prototypes and to create test specifications that will be converted to corresponding test cases for the OPC UA certification tool (CTT). Furthermore, it lays the foundation for specification enhancements to also cover the Controller-to-Device (C2D) and Device-to-Device (D2D) use cases in the next step.”

Since the start of the Field Level Communications Initiative in November 2018 more than 300 experts from over 60 OPC Foundation member companies have signed up for the various technical working groups to create the technical concepts and elaborate the specification contents for extending the OPC UA framework for field level communications, including Determinism, Motion, Instruments and Functional Safety.

Cooperation with ECLASS

An important step for interoperability in the field of M2M communication: the OPC Foundation and ECLASS e.V. signed a cooperation agreement.

The goal of this cooperation is to combine the power of the OPC UA and ECLASS standards to better enable M2M interoperability via seamless communication of data and semantics using a standardized set of interfaces. To serve as the basis for semantic interoperability across full product life cycles in an international application environment, a manufacturer and industry independent standard for product description is needed. Once created, such a standard can serve as a semantic reference for the Internet of Things. The ECLASS standard, developed by ECLASS e.V. meets these requirements in a unique way.

The OPC UA standard enables secure transmission of data and facilitates the definition and dynamic exchange of its underlying structure via robust OPC UA information modeling functionality. Standardized information models implemented using OPC UA are called OPC UA Companion Specifications, which taken together can serve as common libraries of Information Models. Products utilizing OPC UA Companion Specifications enable seamless 3rd party data interoperability in the operating phase in the product lifecycle. Today, ECLASS identifiers are already being used in various Companion Specifications. 

Update to PLCOpen OPC UA for IEC61131-3

The OPC Foundation, in collaboration with PLCopen, announced the release of v1.02 of the “OPC UA for IEC61131-3” specification. Building on the first version of the specification, the joint working group added: 

  • support for all datatypes defined in the 3rd edition of IEC61131-3
  • an optimized, machine-readable version of the information model (i.e. nodesetfile) 
  • compliance with enhanced specification templates to support the tool chain used to generate validated information models
  • inclusion in the global online searchable specification reference 
  • OPC Foundation Compliance Test Tool (CTT)  test cases for validation of vendor implementations of “OPC UA for IEC61131-3”

Founded in 2008, this joint working group has the goal of expressing IEC 61131-3 information models using OPC UA.  By doing so, an IEC6-61131-3 PLC project that is loaded onto different control platforms can be displayed in a standardized form and made available for communication via the controllers’ OPC UA servers.

“This first step harmonizes the access of the project running in the controller” says Eelco van der Wal, Managing Director of the PLCopen organization. “With this an unprecedented transparency is created in the communication in industrial automation, enabling the configuration of the communication much faster and independent of the network and suppliers. For this reason, many suppliers have implemented this, providing their users with the ease of use in communication.”

In addition to the server specification “UA for IEC61131-3” the group also worked very successfully on the “client specification” which was originally released in 2014. The implementation of this functionality on a controller makes it possible to initiate a communication session to any other available OPC UA Server. The controller can exchange complex data structures horizontally with other controllers independent of the fieldbus system used, or vertically with other devices using an OPC UA server service oriented architecture, like an MES/ERP system in order to collect data or write new production orders to the cloud.

How Has Working From Home Affected You

People send a variety of releases speculating about the future of working from home. Will we return to offices? Will we split time? What will offices look like? However, here is information that is like an online survey of how actual people think about all this working from home when they have been used to an office.

On Blind, the largest anonymous professional community with 4M users from big tech, unicorns, and startups, a Microsoft employee asked, “If you’re tired of WFH, why do you want to be back in the office?” 

Here are the things professionals miss the most about the in person office 

  1. Social aspects- missing friends (34%)
  2. The food (19%)
  3. Career Growth (18%)
  4. Mentorship opportunities (13%)
  5. Spouse/ partners getting on nerves (9%)
  6. Dating prospects (7%)

More key learnings:

  • 26% of Twitter professionals miss the food
  • 46% of Cisco professionals miss the social aspects 
  • 29% of Visa professionals miss the career growth 
  • ¼ of Snap professionals miss mentorship opportunities
  • 17% of Oracle professionals’ spouses are getting on their nerves 
  • 15% of Lyft professionals miss the dating prospects 

You can see the raw data here.

An Intuit professional shared, “I miss my office because –

  1. I miss my team
  2. Whiteboard design sessions
  3. Happy hours
  4. Mentor/mentee side of things
  5. Optimism & excitement.

Feels like we are in a dark tunnel.On the plus side, I am enjoying great time with my family & especially kids. I am getting to know & appreciate them more” 

An engineer at Google shared “I hate WFH because I don’t like to do work at home. I miss being able to go to the office, put in a day’s work, and then leave. Separation of domains.” 

The office might look different when we all go back to work, but one thing is certain: It isn’t going away.

I shared some of these with my wife. She was amused by the spouse getting on their nerves comment. I’ve had a home office for 30 years, although I also had an office at “work” for 23 of those. When she retired as a teacher, we had to share the home part of the home office. The saving grace has been my travel schedule. However, my last trip for business was the second week of February. We’re still trying to be civil <smile/>.

Emerson Virtual Exchange Discrete and Industrial Automation Day

The conferences I have attended over the past five or six years have changed since my early days as a customer or sales engineer of industrial technology. While the automation companies have been changing with the trends in technology and application, IT companies have generated much energy and thought with advances in compute platforms, storage, memory, virtual machines, and the like.

I’ve tried to stir up, maybe not controversy, but at least conversation regarding using these powerful compute platforms for both control and data. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connectivity has progressed to a point where networked I/O is not a problem.

That leads me to what I learned from today’s sessions about implementing IIoT and digital transformation and Edge Control from Emerson Virtual Exchange. This was discrete and industrial automation day. 

Emerson’ Global User Exchange went virtual this year, and thinking outside the proverbial box, stretched it out over about six months. There are sessions January 5 (which you can see on demand) and January 7, as well as next week on January 12 and 14. These are well done as the platform companies continue to improve and provide better service. Emerson has always worked hard to present professionally done sessions. Virtual did not change things.

The opening “keynote” was introduced by Hakan Erdamar, Group President for Discrete & Industrial. Zach Gustafson, VP of Business Development for Machine Automation and Derek Thomas, VP of Strategy & Marketing for Machine Automation, discussed IIoT and digital transformation, and then introduced Warren Pruitt, VP of Global Engineering Services, Colgate-Palmolive, who related the recent digital transformation journey his company has been traveling.

The key messages include using IIoT connectivity for data, starting small with scalable components, and using local (on-prem) compute. Use cloud for longer term analysis.

The blurb you’ll see online goes like this: Zach and Derek  go beyond the obstacles of the  “new normal” that manufacturers face are the ongoing challenges of production pressure, operational efficiency, and sustainability measures. In this unique moment in industry the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the digital transformation it enables is poised to help unleash a new era of manufacturing that is more reliable, more efficient, more connected and more sustainable than ever before. Join Zach Gustafson and Derek Thomas to gain insight into how manufacturers are getting started with unlocking trapped data in individual machines and processes to identify quantifiable savings and benefit that can then quickly scale on global levels. 

Warren’s presentation promo goes, A global consumer products leader, Colgate Palmolive is leveraging the power of Digital Transformation to help meet its aggressive global sustainability and operational performance goals. Not waiting for a silver bullet solution, Colgate’s approach is to “get started” with a test an learn mindset and scale successful lessons learned across their global footprint. Warren Pruitt shares Colgate’s implementation approach and lessons learned from the Digital Transformation efforts the organization has made to achieve the company’s objectives.

Thomas took us through a data path in his presentation going through the start small and scale theme and then landing on the latest “PACSystems” edge controller. This is a compute device that runs Linux, is open, makes extended use of Node-RED, also runs PLC control in the same processor/box, has extended open connectivity, and utilizes most standard industrial protocols.

Edge control is redefining the traditional control model by bringing together OT and IT technology in a single solution capable of logic, data management and analytics. This incredible evolution and transformation of PLCs and Industrial PCs is creating new possibilities for tackling today’s IIoT and digital transformation challenges by enabling customers to start small at a machine, scale to plant-wide analytics, and make manageable investments with a single platform. Learn how Emerson’s PACSystems RX3i CPL410 Edge Controller can operate as either an IIoT-enabled PLC or an advanced supervisory controller for your manufacturing operations. This industry leading controller combines the powerful PACSystems runtime, PACEdge IoT platform and Movicon WebHMI to deliver unmatched capability and possibilities for customers. Derek Thomas, Vice President, Marketing & Strategy, Emerson.

NI Joins Open Manufacturing Platform Organization

I first heard about the Open Manufacturing Platform during my last trip to Germany, well, my last business trip anywhere, last February. I wrote about it here–Open Manufacturing Platform Expands.This effort, led by Microsoft and BMW joined by ZF, Bosch, and ABInBev, “helps manufacturers leverage advanced technologies to gain greater operational efficiencies, factory output, customer loyalty, and net profits.” That’s a tall order. These are companies that I’ve seen leverage technology for improvements over the years. This should be an advancement.

This month’s news items (2) relating to OMP include NI through its recent acquisition Optimal Plus joining the organization and a new deliverable from the OMP’s working group.

NI says that it has joined OMP “with the goal of establishing an architecture and standards for auto manufacturers to better leverage and automate analytics to improve quality, reliability and safety.”

I had an opportunity to interview Michael Schuldenfrei, NI Fellow and OptimalPlus CTO about smart manufacturing, what OptimalPlus adds to NI, and OMP. The roots of OptimalPlus lie in enterprise software relative to manufacturing of semiconductors. An early customer was Qualcomm who used the software to collect and analyze data from its numerous manufacturing plants. It branched out into assemblies, such as with a new customer Nvidia. Later the company added mechatronics to its portfolio. That was a good tie in with NI.

Rather than become just another smart manufacturing application focusing on machines, OptimalPlus brings its focus to the product being manufactured. Given NI’s strength in test and measurement, this was a definite synergy. As I have written before here and here, this enterprise software addition to NI’s portfolio is just what the company needs to advance a level.

Michael told me he was an early advocate for OMP due to seeing how his technology worked with Tier 1 automotive suppliers to drive digital transformation process. 

NI announced that its latest acquisition, OptimalPlus, has joined the Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP), a consortium led by BMW, Microsoft, ZF, Bosch and ABInBev that helps manufacturers leverage advanced technologies to gain greater operational efficiencies, factory output, customer loyalty, and net profits.

The OMP’s goals include creating a “Manufacturing Reference Architecture” for platform-agnostic, cloud-based data collection, management, analytics and other applications. This framework will provide a standard way to connect to IoT devices on equipment and define a semantic layer that unifies data across disparate data sources. All in all, this has the potential to create a rich, open-source ecosystem that enables faster and easier adoption of smart manufacturing technologies.

In the same way that interpreters at the United Nations help delegates communicate and make new policies, standardized data formats accelerate the adoption of big data and machine learning, creating a universal translator between multiple machine and process types. OptimalPlus, now part of NI, will bring to OMP its vast domain expertise in automotive manufacturing processes and provide leading production companies with actionable insights and adaptive methods from its big data analytics platform.

“We’re honored to be invited to join the prestigious Open Manufacturing Platform, which plays a key role in helping manufacturers all over the world innovate,” said Uzi Baruch, VP of NI’s Transportation business unit. “With pressure mounting to ensure quality and prevent faulty parts from shipping, it’s important that manufacturers have access to the transformative powers of AI, machine learning and big data analytics. We’re excited to collaborate with industry leaders in the OMP consortium to help manufacturers evolve and optimize their processes.”

AI and advanced analytics help to streamline manufacturing, reduce costs and improve quality, reliability and safety. OMP makes it easier for manufacturers to deploy this technology across their operations and fulfill the promise of smart manufacturing.

White Paper: Insights Into Connecting Industrial IoT Assets

The second bit of news describes a first deliverable from the OMP as it progresses toward its objective.

OMP announced delivery of a critical milestone with the publication of our first white paper. The IoT Connectivity Working Group, chaired by Sebastian Buckel and co-chaired by Dr. Veit Hammerstingl of the BMW Group, authored Insights Into Connecting Industrial IoT Assets. Contributions from member companies Capgemini, Cognizant, Microsoft, Red Hat, and ZF present a consensus view of the connectivity challenges and best practices in IIoT as the 4th industrial revolution unfolds. This paper is the initial publication laying out an approach to solving connectivity challenges while providing a roadmap for future OMP work.

Manufacturing at an Inflection Point

The intersection of information technology (IT) and operational technologies (OT), as well as the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), presents opportunities and threats to the entire manufacturing sector. In manufacturing, multiple challenges complicate the connection of sensors, actuators, and machines to a central data center. Lack of common standards and proprietary interfaces leads each engineer to solve similar problems, introducing inefficiencies and forcing the same learning curve’s ascension over and over. The long renewal cycles of shop floor equipment, software, and processes present gaps in modern technologies and a general avoidance of making significant institutional changes. This initial publication begins to tackle these problems and lays the groundwork for future, more detailed work.

IT/OT Convergence

Each connectivity challenge will have a range of diverse constituents and the content of this paper addresses issues faced by individuals and teams across job functions. Operational technology (OT) professionals are responsible for the commissioning, operation, and maintenance of shop floor equipment. Information technology (IT) personnel look after overall data processing, the hardware and software infrastructure, and enterprise-wide IT strategy. General managers and logistics teams are typically aligned at a corporate level, coordinating processes across a network of plants. Each of these functions will have roles spanning from operational hands-on to strategic and managerial. The unique demands of each part will require connectivity solutions to be forward-thinking and value-accretive while offering practical solutions implemented with minimal incremental investment.

Industrial IoT Challenges

Also explored in the paper, are the IIoT devices’ critical real-time needs for repeatability and high availability. An example is an AI model that optimizes the parameters of a bending machine based on the current air temperature and humidity. Possible connection failures or high latencies can lead to stopped or interrupted processes or products with insufficient quality.

Manufacturing throughput requirements vary from low bandwidth for simple sensors using small packets to much higher bandwidth required for streaming data for video analytics, vibration sensors, or AR/VR visualization.  A holistic connectivity solution can address this complexity successfully, spanning from the individual devices on the shop floor up through edge gateways and servers to the central data center or cloud resources such as compute and storage.

Network Levels

Networks are usually customized to their precise environment and the desired function, and therefore can be very complex.

In the white paper, we discuss the functions of each of the network levels, their benefits and limitations, and security considerations. Additional sections of the document cover common challenges in IIoT, connectivity levels, basic principles for successful connectivity solutions, communication types, and best practices for program implementation.

Honeywell Expands Life Sciences And Software Capabilities Through Acquisition Of Sparta Systems

  • Sparta’s AI-enabled software as a service (SaaS) quality management software (QMS) offering will combine with Honeywell Forge and Experion Process Knowledge System
  • Honeywell will leverage Sparta’s technologies to continue to drive global growth and expand into new market segments, including highly regulated verticals, that require advanced process technologies
  • Sparta’s technologies will accelerate Honeywell’s breakthrough initiative to further penetrate the life sciences market and strengthen Honeywell’s existing portfolio of advanced automation and process control technologies

It’s not only Apple and Google in technology consolidating the market and increasing their private portfolios. The same phenomenon is happening in the industrial space with the latest exhibit being this software acquisition by Honeywell.

Honeywell announced Dec. 22 it has agreed to acquire privately held Sparta Systems for $1.3 billion in an all-cash transaction from New Mountain Capital. Sparta Systems is a leading provider of enterprise quality management software (QMS), including a next-generation SaaS platform, for the life sciences industry. 

The acquisition further strengthens Honeywell’s leadership in industrial automation, digital transformation solutions and enterprise performance management software. 

Honeywell will leverage its global presence, Honeywell Forge and Sparta’s expertise to introduce new, integrated solutions, including QMS offerings, for life sciences and adjacent industries. Honeywell’s customers will benefit from advanced digital QMS solutions to help them proactively achieve better quality, which results in improved new therapies, faster time to market, better business and patient outcomes, and effective regulatory compliance.

“Sparta’s TrackWise Digital and QualityWise.ai are a welcome addition to Honeywell’s enterprise performance management software, Honeywell Forge, and will further enhance the link between quality and production data for life sciences manufacturers,” said Que Dallara, president and chief executive officer of Honeywell Connected Enterprise. “Our combined offerings will make it easier for customers to gain critical insights from manufacturing and quality data that can improve their manufacturing processes while ensuring product quality, patient safety, and supply chain continuity.”

Honeywell has provided the world’s leading drug manufacturers and biomedical firms with advancements in automation technologies, systems and services for more than 30 years. 

Honeywell’s portfolio includes advanced automation and process controls; data capture and recording solutions that simplify and safeguard compliance; and technologies that help maintain auditability, optimize production, and speed time to market while ensuring quality and repeatability. Honeywell’s Fast Track Automation helps life science manufacturers expedite development and production of vital vaccines and medical therapies.

“Sparta Systems is an ideal complement to our life sciences portfolio,” said Rajeev Gautam, president and chief executive officer of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies. “While Sparta’s capabilities will initially help us expand our capabilities for our existing breakthrough initiative in life sciences, we plan to leverage Honeywell’s global footprint and expertise to quickly expand Sparta’s capabilities to serve other markets. We have strong conviction in the growth opportunities in the life sciences and pharmaceuticals space and in the synergies between Sparta and Honeywell both for Honeywell Connected Enterprise and Honeywell Forge as well as for Honeywell Process Solutions.”

Sparta Systems is headquartered in Hamilton, N.J., and has approximately 250 employees globally. Sparta serves more than 400 customers, including 42 of the world’s top 50 pharma companies and 33 of the top 50 medical device companies.

“Organizations need a quality management software solution with advanced digital capabilities that effectively automates, optimizes and standardizes quality processes across the board,” said Dana Jones, chief executive officer of Sparta Systems. “When you combine Sparta’s leading QMS platform with Honeywell’s existing process automation and software offerings, you create a highly differentiated, comprehensive solution that allows customers to focus more on the value-add activities that will accelerate their growth.”

Honeywell will continue to enhance TrackWise Digital QMS by adding AI and machine learning capabilities that augment human decision making. Honeywell will also add new IoT-enabled connectivity between quality and operational data to detect manufacturing anomalies and triage quality events in near real time. These continuing innovations will help customers proactively address quality to improve patient safety and effective regulatory compliance. 

Pete Masucci, managing director of New Mountain Capital, said, “Since we partnered with Sparta in 2017, the company launched its TrackWise Digital platform – the only AI-enabled QMS solution, expanded its SaaS customer base by two-and-a-half times, and significantly invested in product development and R&D. We are excited to watch Sparta continue to thrive within the Honeywell organization.”

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2021 and is subject to certain regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. There is no change to Honeywell’s 2020 financial outlook as a result of the acquisition.

APC at the Edge

I received a press release from Stratus. We attempted to connect live, but just couldn’t work out timing. However, I wrote about its new edge device last week.

Then I received an email from someone with no affiliation information who liked the article but wondered if I could check out another view of the edge. Turns out she was affiliated with Schneider Electric/APC. 

We recently published an article that goes deeper. Here are a few of the topics that we cover:  

  • Why (and for which industries) is edge computing necessary?
  • How does the Internet of Things (IoT) affect the demand for computing at the edge?
  • The 3 main reasons why edge computing is needed in IoT applications
  • Best practices in deploying data centers
  • Examples of benefits of adopting edge computing in different industries, such as education, healthcare and retail 

The article was written by a 14-year veteran of cloud and edge computing.

The article was written by Jamie Bourassa, Vice President of Edge Computing & Channel Strategy for the Secure Power Division of Schneider Electric. Jamie is responsible for enabling the Secure Power Division commercial strategy and ensuring that Schneider Electric aligns to the market evolutions related to Edge Compute, IoT, and other disruptions that increase the criticality of local computing for customers across all commercial and industrial segments. 

This division of Schneider Electric, a descendant of APC, manufactures powered cabinets for data centers. The article discusses edge from the point of view of several industry applications. While discussing industrial / manufacturing applications, he cited two primary use cases—predictive maintenance and OEE. Almost everyone with an IT background that I’ve run into seeking to enter this market cites predictive maintenance—not really understanding all that it means for professionals in asset intensive industries. 

Check out this article for a different take on IT in manufacturing.