How about some good news? Based on many conversations within the industry, I’ve longed pegged Inductive Automation as a growth company among a field perhaps not so active. Here is more evidence of solid growth for the company—and most likely also for this type of software.
Inductive Automation announced March 17 it has purchased land near its headquarters, with plans to construct two new buildings. The significant expansion comes 2 ½ years after its previous expansion, when the company purchased a building that allows it to grow to 285 employees. With the two new buildings, Inductive Automation will be able to triple its number of employees. The company will continue to use its current building, which is only 350 feet from the new site. Groundbreaking for the first new building is scheduled for September.
Inductive Automation makes industrial automation software that’s used in virtually every industry, in more than 100 countries. The company’s strong revenue growth is driving the need to expand. For the last 10 years, Inductive Automation’s revenues have grown, on average, 55 percent each year.
That phenomenal growth has been due to the popularity of the company’s key product, Ignition by Inductive Automation. Ignition is an industrial application platform with numerous tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Ignition software, along with its unlimited licensing model, is allowing organizations to build the systems they really want.
“We’re very excited to be expanding again,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “Most industrial organizations are trying to pull more data from the plant floor, so they can analyze it and make better business decisions. With Ignition, they can access data, analyze data, and control processes better than ever before. All this leads to a much stronger bottom line. Our customer base is expanding rapidly because we provide the tools that help people do all this in a very cost-efficient manner.”
HighByte, an industrial software company, announced that HighByte Intelligence Hub Version 1.0 is now available. HighByte Intelligence Hub is the first DataOps solution purpose-built for industrial environments. DataOps is a new approach to data integration and security that aims to improve data quality, reduce time spent preparing data for analysis, and encourage cross-functional collaboration within data-driven organizations.
When HighByte emerged from stealth mode last September, I wrote about it here.
I am partial toward these startups that are not trying to boil the ocean but are instead focused on solving a problem. Take, for example, ThingWorx which enhanced PTC’s business through acquisition and then in turn impacted Rockwell Automation’s business through adoption of ThingWorx technology rather than trying to re-invent it internally.
Or Hitachi Vantara, which is an integration of several smaller companies and which has a thriving DataOps group I wrote more about during my visit to its conference.
HighByte Intelligence Hub enables Operations to securely connect, model, and flow valuable industrial data to the users and systems that require this valuable information throughout the extended enterprise. The platform-agnostic software solution runs on-premises at the Edge, securely connects devices and applications via OPC UA and MQTT, is built for scale, and offers a codeless user interface. HighByte has positioned the software solution as the missing data infrastructure link to achieving the vision of Smart Manufacturing and Industry 4.0.
“As the number of applications that need to turn raw data into usable information increases, the customer is faced with having to recreate models in every application or develop their own solutions that integrate with the various APIs. Either choice slows down the initial deployment of Industrial 4.0 initiatives, inhibits the ability to scale, and places a huge maintainability problem on the customer,” said HighByte CEO Tony Paine. “With HighByte Intelligence Hub, customers can standardize and maintain their data models in a single location, securely streamline information flows, and accelerate time to value for their Industry 4.0 investments.”
Many analysts write as if data in manufacturing is a new thing. That is not true. What is new are tools to obtain better data and transmit it faster to ever more robust databases. We’re sort of doing the same thing that I was trying to do in 1978, only better, faster, cheaper. DataOps is acknowledged as part of the IT technology stack. HighByte is filling a gap in the OT stack.
This will result in such benefits as predicting machine failure and therefore improving uptime, improving product quality, providing better service to customers, strengthening the supply chain, all of which makes customers happier leading to a more robust and profitable company. Of course, this presumes that management figures out how to implement all this.
General availability of HighByte Intelligence Hub was preceded by a global beta program that launched in September 2019. HighByte leveraged the program to collect technical and business feedback from nearly forty (40) manufacturers, distributors, and system integrators representing fifteen (15) countries in preparation for the company’s first commercial launch.
HighByte Intelligence Hub is available as a site license with an annual subscription.
Next to acquisitions, partnerships are driving actions among major digital industrial supplier players. With today’s announcement, Aras, who labels itself “the only resilient platform provider for digital industrial applications,” announced a strategic partnership with ANSYS that includes the licensing of the Aras platform technology to enable the next generation of digital engineering practices.
When we last saw ANSYS on this blog, Rockwell Automation had announced a partnership to enhance its digital twin and simulation offering.
ANSYS will leverage the underlying Aras platform technologies such as configuration management, PDM/PLM interoperability, API integration, and add simulation specific capabilities to deliver highly scalable and configurable products that connect simulation and optimization to the business of engineering — creating new ways of exploring and improving product performance.
Organizations increasingly expect to leverage simulation throughout the product lifecycle to interoperate with their existing PLM, ALM, and ERP applications. Additionally, customers must address scale and complexity challenges with data and process management, traceability and availability of simulation results across the lifecycle.
ANSYS is leveraging Aras’ resilient platform services combined with its simulation domain expertise and technology for new product offerings to improve productivity and maximize business value from simulation investments. ANSYS will deliver commercial offerings for simulation process and data management, process integration, design optimization, and simulation-driven data science.
“With our open ecosystem approach, this unique collaboration combines the strengths of ANSYS’ industry-leading multiphysics portfolio and the resilient platform from Aras for digital connectivity to dramatically enhance customer value,” said Navin Budhiraja, vice president of cloud and platform business unit, ANSYS. “As simulation technologies impact every product decision, we see the ability of ANSYS solutions to interoperate and link with heterogeneous systems as an important step to accelerate the digital transformation for our customers.”
“We believe that simulation is essential to developing tomorrow’s next generation products, and that better data and process management of simulations is required to enable the digital processes of the future which will support these products,” said Peter Schroer, president and CEO, Aras. “We see the ANSYS and Aras partnership as a potential game changer in connecting simulation to engineering processes for traceability, access and reuse across the product lifecycle.”
Suppliers of manufacturing software, some from surprising places, are putting sizable investments into products that will help customers reap the rewards of digitalization. Today, I’m looking at both ABB and Emerson Automation Solutions. Previously I checked out GE Digital and Rockwell Automation. Each has taken a slightly different course toward the goal, but notice the common thread of enhancing software products to help customers prosper.
ABB enhances manufacturing management technology
The new version of ABB Ability Manufacturing Operations Management will offer new features including:
- Enhanced user experience based on new HTML 5 web client;
- A new smart interactive dashboard application that provides greater visibility and collaboration;
- A new statistical process control (SPC) application, to determine if each process is in a state of control;
- A new Batch Compare application – for advanced batch analysis.
“ABB Ability Manufacturing Operations Management is a comprehensive, scalable and modular software suite that optimizes visibility, knowledge and control throughout the operations domain,” said Narasimham Parimi, Head of Digital Products – Product Management, Process Control Platform. “This release provides a range of rich new functionality and a new enhanced user experience that enables operations to become more productive and responsive.”
ABB Ability Manufacturing Operations Management is designed to simplify production management by enabling performance monitoring, downtime management, and maintenance support, as well as providing statistical production analysis tools. It provides solutions and tools to facilitate the collection, consolidation and distribution of production, quality and energy information via the plant’s web-based reports, trends, and graphs.
A new, self-service dashboard application promotes increased collaboration, providing visibility from shop floor to top floor and spanning IT and OT environments. It increases data connectivity to all apps and modules within the MOM suite, combining historic and manufacturing data and providing the user with improved customization capabilities. Dashboards can be shared amongst users, further promoting collaboration between teams. Trends and events are displayed together, which enables customers to identify issues and opportunities enabling informed and timely decisions.
The new common services platform features an HTML 5 web platform that runs across all suites ensuring customers have a seamless user experience, so that applications can be viewed on different devices right down to a 10-inch tablet.
Statistical data process control (SPC) is used in manufacturing to determine if each process is in a state of control. The new SPC application works across all the different apps and modules and helps the user to improve quality and production related performance.
In addition to the existing Batch View and Batch Investigate features, a comparison option has been added to the platform’s batch analysis applications, allowing different types of comparison.
Cyber security remains one of the key issues in the advancement of Industry 4.0, and the new features in MOM include enhanced security.
Emerson Expands Analytics Platform
Plantweb Insight platform adds two new Pervasive Sensing applications that manage wireless networks more efficiently with a singular interface to the enterprise.
Emerson has added two new IIoT solutions to its Plantweb Insight data analytics platform that will enable industrial facilities to transform the way they manage their enterprise-level wireless network infrastructure.
As digitalization and wireless technology adoption continue to rapidly expand in industrial facilities throughout the world, the need for greater visibility of network infrastructure performance is key. These new Plantweb Insight applications provide a quick-to-implement, scalable IIoT solution that helps customers advance their digital transformation strategies and achieve greater operational efficiencies.
The new Plantweb Insight Network Management application provides continuous, centralized monitoring of WirelessHART networks. This first-of-its-kind application provides a singular, consolidated view of the status of all wireless networks in a facility, with embedded expertise and guidance for advanced network management.
A key feature of the Plantweb Insight Network Management application is a configurable mesh network diagram, providing visualization of network design and connections along with device-specific information. It also provides an exportable record of syslog alerts, network details outlining conformance to network best practices and more.
While the new network management application provides a holistic look at wireless networks, the Plantweb Insight Power Module Management application drills down to the device level, allowing facilities to keep their wireless devices appropriately powered so they can continuously transmit key monitoring data. By aggregating power module statuses, users can evolve traditional maintenance planning and implement more efficient and cost-effective practices.
“We were able to infuse a decade of experience with wireless technology into these new offerings,” said Brian Joe, wireless product manager with Emerson’s Automation Solutions business. “Our customers will now be able to manage and improve hundreds of networks through a singular interface, realizing significant efficiencies in individual network and wireless device management and maintenance.”
These new applications further enhance the Plantweb Insight platform, a set of pre-built analytics primarily focusing on monitoring key asset health. Other applications in the platform include pressure relief valve monitoring, heat exchanger monitoring and steam trap monitoring.
Proficy Historian 8.0, that GE Digital recently launched. It is aimed at addressing steadily increasing industrial data as the number of industrial edge devices and sensors increases. New significant enhancements to our industry-leading Historian software are aimed specifically at collecting and aggregating industrial data and extending data migration from edge to cloud. Key benefits include:
- Putting industrial data to work: this scalable solution comes with advanced trend analysis and modeling to help users put data in context with business needs
- Extending asset lifecycle: optimized data aggregation helps operators see around corners by monitoring asset performance, diagnosing asset issues and increasing efficiency
- Total integration: Proficy Historian is tightly integrated with other GE Digital applications, enabling operators to seamlessly manage processes and allowing systems to work together intuitively
I connected with Dan Lohmeyer, GE Digital SVP, Product Management, this week to get some insight into the new Historian along with all the other software in the portfolio. He referred often to the “New” GE Digital. It was reformed following a significant reorganization of GE corporate. The GE Digital CEO has referred publicly to the company as a $1.2 B software company.
With GE bringing in a new CEO from Danaher, and he brought in other Danaher and industrial executives, the company is growing from a Silicon Valley software company to an industrial software company. I think we are all going to have to step back and reevaluate the company and its offerings to see how it manages the changes and perhaps brings improved industrial solutions to market.
It could be good since we all need a new blend of IT and operations technology in order to serve production and the enterprise better.
This release provides customers with a scalable solution for data collection and aggregation across deployments of any size and extending data migration from edge to cloud. The powerful updates include tag mapping, advanced trend analysis with annotations, and the ability to define an asset model, allowing users to put data in context with business needs. As industrial software becomes increasingly vital to production and operations, GE Digital’s Proficy Historian 8.0 is a fundamental building block for industrial companies seeking to improve operational performance, increase efficiency and reduce downtime.
“GE aims to leapfrog market leaders as part of its overall hybrid cloud/premise data architecture initiative. If you haven’t settled on a historian or want to unify multiple historians in a cloud database ready for advanced analytics and enterprise performance management, take a look at Proficy Historian.” says Joe Perino, Analyst at LNS Research.
Today, industrial companies amass millions of data points that require analysis and interpretation throughout various aspects of the production and supply chain as they adopt more and more edge-to-cloud enabled systems across their operations. Proficy Historian collects and distributes data that improves asset lifecycle and performance, allowing customers like automotive leader Subaru, consumer packaged goods companies Toray Plastics and Cascade Tissue Group and water utilities such as the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati to derive greater business value and increase efficiency. It is also the ideal data collector for its cloud and on-premise based Asset Performance Management and Grid Optimization solutions in the power generation, transmission and oil & gas sectors.
“Our customers are demanding more from their data and their equipment, and often there is a disconnect with how one works with the other,” says Lohmeyer. “With GE Digital’s Proficy Historian, customers are able to collect data from any edge device to analyze and apply insights throughout their plant operations, while also easily migrating data across plants in large-scale deployments.”
The Proficy Historian software solution is tightly integrated with GE Digital’s Proficy HMI/SCADA applications, including CIMPLICITY and iFIX, and Proficy Manufacturing Execution Systems. This integration enables operators to seamlessly manage machinery and plant processes. GE Digital also introduced a Linux-based Proficy Historian earlier this year that creates a standard time-series product for edge analytic applications. The Linux version of Proficy Historian revolutionizes data collection by pushing machine data to the plant level instead of polling from higher level systems, providing a new, more efficient mechanism.
Proficy Historian 8.0 is now generally available and follows a number of other recent investments in product innovation and enhancements from GE Digital this year.
GE Digital is transforming how industry solves its toughest challenges. GE Digital’s mission is to bring simplicity, speed and scale to its customers’ digital transformation activities, with software that helps them to better operate, analyze and optimize their business processes. GE Digital’s product portfolio – including grid optimization and analytics, asset and operations performance management, and manufacturing operations and automation – helps industrial companies in the utility, power generation, oil & gas and manufacturing sectors put their industrial data to work.
Rockwell Automation through Blake Moret, chairman and CEO, invested $1 billion in PTC with Moret gaining a seat on the board. The public reason was really to get early information about ThinkWorx, the IIoT product.
The investment valued PTC, a company with $1 billion in sales, at approximately $17 billion. On the surface, we all pondered why.
Speeding up the time, I was able to spend a couple of hours with several people from PTC at last week’s Automation Fair event. This really opened my eyes to the depth and breadth of the ThingWorx offering. There is much technology and usefulness under the hood. This is powerful software.
Now, I understand. Beyond a relationship and most likely some preferential access to ThingWorx and other PTC technologies, I’m surmising that Rockwell Automation can also drop some visualization projects, cut development costs, and utilize the full value of the PTC software. That alone would be a good return on the investment.
Therefore, the most prominent branding at Automation Fair–Powered by PTC.
Revealing more of Rockwell’s piece-at-a-time partnering strategy, it is not using PTC’s CAD and PLM offerings for its digital twin development, but instead it is partnering with ANSYS.
Like I noted in my initial report on Automation Fair, partnering was the centerpiece of news from the event. Looks like it is also the centerpiece of product development. That is most likely financially prudent.