Agile MES With Microservices Architecture Streamlines System Integration

Here it is, yet another press release of an “industry-first” or “world’s-first” product. I can’t verify that, but this looks like an attack on a fundamental problem of manufacturing execution solutions software (MES)—the many components of it that only add to complexity and confusion. I don’t know, but this may be the first time I’ve written about iBASEt although I have known a few executives there.

The company has launched Solumina iSeries, an agile platform for industrial manufacturers that leverages dozens of pre-configured microservices to simplify how complex manufacturing operations are executed. The iSeries Software Developer Kit (SDK), a new feature to easily create Application Protocol Interfaces (APIs), offers a critical capability when it comes to simplifying how to manage and expand a digital ecosystem. 

“Unlike traditional applications on a three-tier architecture, the iSeries leverages microservices to deliver superior flexibility in design and integration while enabling continuous delivery of new features and capabilities,” said Sung Kim, Chief Technology Officer, iBASEt. 

“The iSeries captures our vision of helping manufacturers better adapt, add performance, and roll out new features faster,” said Naveen Poonian, CEO, iBASEt. “Solumina has leap-frogged the competition by delivering a way to simplify how complex manufacturing is performed as part of a larger enterprise digital ecosystem – capturing the essence of an Industry 4.0 strategy.”

As a cloud-native solution, Solumina iSeries offers benefits beyond easing how new features and updates are deployed. The iSeries can accelerate adoption of new transformative technologies, including augmented reality and artificial intelligence, as an operations platform to continuously drive performance and efficiency on an ongoing basis. 

The Solumina iSeries version i030 will be Generally Available on December 4, 2020.

AI Solutions to Accelerate the Journey to the Self-Optimizing Plant

Before Artificial Intelligence (AI) became such a marketing hype-word, process automation suppliers had versions of it in a variety of guises. I always felt that Aspen Technology, aka AspenTech, was at the engineering forefront if not quite there financially and in the market. The company has turned around over the past few years. It seems to be back on track. 

This announcement discusses the latest release of its flagship aspenONE V12. Before diving in, I digress to look at the AspenTech definition of hybrid as it applies to this announcement.

Hybrid Modeling uniquely combines the first principles of engineering and mathematics and the built-in industry experience (as encapsulated in Aspen Plus and Aspen HYSYS) with empirical relationships derived from plant data, employing the latest advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning. This combination enables the best of both worlds (rigorous and first principles) to provide effective modeling of complex units that cannot be easily modeled today. It also speeds up model construction, applies AI to plant data to streamline data cleansing and model calibration, and can substitute for engineering experience in developing predictive insight into process units and complex assets.

Then on to the meat of the release:

Aspen Technology announced the general availability of the aspenONE V12 software release, which embeds artificial intelligence (AI) across the portfolio and uses the cloud for delivery of enterprise-wide analytics and insights for increased safety, sustainability, and improved margins. AspenTech’s Industrial AI solutions democratize the application of AI where it can deliver most value and is a vital step towards the Self-Optimizing Plant.

“Aspen Hybrid Models are a major advance in the field of chemical engineering. Hybrid models are a major step forward in bringing together AspenTech’s process models and machine learning and are a game changer in process engineering and plant improvement,” said Dr. Karuna Potdar, Vice President, Technology Centre of Excellence, Reliance Industries Limited.

aspenONE V12 solutions have the first Industrial AI hybrid model capability that is purpose-built for the process industries and other capital-intensive industries. Aspen Hybrid Models capture data from assets across the enterprise, and then apply AI, engineering first principles and AspenTech’s domain expertise to deliver comprehensive, more accurate models at enterprise speed and scale. With AspenTech’s four decades of knowledge about the unique challenges of building solutions for process industries and other capital-intensive industries, aspenONE V12 enables customers to apply AI to critical processes without additional data science expertise and offers better support for new users without deep process knowledge or experience.

The process industries have embraced digital transformation to drive operational excellence and innovation as they respond to meet the needs of growing populations and expectations for sustainability. The new solutions in aspenONE V12 address these unique challenges with better modeling accuracy, greater insights and improved total cost of ownership that can support evolving business needs and take advantage of the new digital native workforce.

“The process industries and other capital-intensive industries are experiencing new levels of volatility in supply and demand, and the need to be agile in response to all market conditions requires a new approach to asset optimization,” said Antonio Pietri, President and CEO, Aspen Technology. “In addition, they face higher expectations for efficiency and profitability, and increasing pressure to meet sustainability targets. This next generation of Industrial AI solutions will change how process industries work. The Self-Optimizing Plant represents the future of operational excellence, and we continue our commitment to innovate and deliver solutions that can accelerate our customers’ journey toward it.”

Francesco Mura, Digital Platform Manager, Process and Technology for Saras, sees the advantage for updating planning models. “Aspen Hybrid Models provide very efficient nonlinear planning model generation, taking information from Aspen HYSYS rigorous refining reactor models and offering a great deal of promise as a new approach for updating planning models.”

New Features of aspenONE V12 software include:

  • Aspen Maestro – new capability for Aspen DMC3and Aspen Mtell which automates the development of better models faster by guiding a less experienced user on how to build a particular model or agent.
  • Aspen Deep-Learning IQ – enables the building of more accurate models and predictions.
  • Aspen Verify for Planning – uses AI to capture knowledge and check against plan to prevent costly mistakes.
  • Aspen Multi-Case – easily runs thousands of simulations cases concurrently, on-premise or in the cloud, allowing a more complete analysis so results can be used to navigate operational complexity and make more accurate decisions faster.
  • Aspen Event Analytics – provides rapid insight into production events. Fast, easy investigation of unexpected production events accelerates corrective action decision-making. Monitors and detects real-time events to enable rapid early intervention.
  • Aspen MES Collaborative – delivers the connected enterprise. Aggregates data with an enterprise-level historian and connects small sites to eliminate stranded data.
  • Aspen Cloud Connect – provides flexible connectivity with high performance and security to transfer data from edge to cloud.
  • Aspen Capital Cost Estimator Insights (ACCE) – streamlines the user experience with out-of-the-box integration with ACCE and Aspen Enterprise Insights to provide visualization and collaborative workflow within a hybrid cloud environment.

Inductive Automation Announces 2020 Ignition Firebrand Awards

One of the things I miss about attending conferences is the Moleskin-type 5.5 x 8.5-inch notebooks the organizers hand out. I have not purchased a notebook for years. I take notes with a pen (Uniball Signo Micro 207) in a journal-type notebook. I can make sketches, mindmaps, draw arrows from thought to thought, and so forth. By the way, studies continue to show that writing enhances memory.

Another aspect of a conference I miss are hearing application stories from people who apply the technology. It’s a chance to go beyond technology to human factors, decision making, management, and the like. This press release is from the Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference where they hand out awards—this year virtually—to the best applications. You should get an idea or twol

Inductive Automation has selected the recipients of its Ignition Firebrand Awards for 2020. The announcements were made at the virtual Ignition Community Conference (ICC), which took place online on September 15.

The Ignition Firebrand Awards recognize system integrators and industrial organizations that use the Ignition software platform to create innovative new projects. Ignition by Inductive Automation® is an industrial application platform with tools for the rapid development of solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), manufacturing execution systems (MES), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

The Ignition Firebrand Awards are presented every September at ICC. The award-winning projects are selected from the ICC Discover Gallery, which features the best 18 Ignition projects submitted by integrators and industrial organizations.

“This year’s Firebrand Award projects all made a big impression on us,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “The engineers came up with custom solutions featuring mobility, edge computing, MQTT, stronger remote connections, interfaces with ERP, and much more. The results included significant cost savings, greater efficiency, and enterprise-wide data sharing. Terrific projects!” 

The 2020 Ignition Firebrand Award winners:

  • Brock Solutions replaced seven SCADA systems with one for Toronto Pearson International Airport’s baggage handling system. The new system has more than 280,000 tags, enables greater efficiency and data-sharing, and is the ideal platform for future expansion. See the video.
  • Controtek Solutions leveraged Ignition to connect 93 sites to a central SCADA system for Manila Water Company in the Philippines. The new system provides remote data gathering, operations monitoring, and enterprise integration. The solution makes extensive use of maps and data-rich dashboards. See the video.
  • Flexware Innovation implemented a new SCADA/MES system at a California production facility for Veoneer, a leading global supplier to the automotive industry. Veoneer makes advanced safety systems for vehicles. The new SCADA/MES system provides more data and gives Veoneer the ability to quickly make changes itself. See the video.
  • The Integration Group of Americas (TIGA) created a SCADA system that’s saving more than $500,000 per year for WaterBridge, a water-management company serving the oil & gas industry. TIGA’s solution included greater mobility, edge computing, and MQTT for 65 saltwater disposal facilities. See the video.
  • Vertech provided the SCADA/MES system for a large greenfield plant in New Jersey for AriZona Beverages. Six distinct Ignition projects were created, including ISA-88 batch control, interfacing with SAP via Sepasoft, downtime analysis, and dashboards. See the video.
  • Waste Management, North America’s leading provider of integrated environmental solutions with more than 20 million customers, used Ignition Perspective to create a mobile-first SCADA system for its landfills. The new solution provides a significant improvement in day-to-day operations. See the video.

Information on all 18 Discover Gallery projects can be seen here

The ICC 2020 Keynote and other conference videos can be seen here.

Enabling Enterprise Agility In Volatile Energy Market

This news release from AVEVA reads like something I’d have written more than 10 years ago from the predecessor company about enterprise control solutions. It has taken years, two acquisitions, and the retirement of the thought leaders behind the idea, but this looks like a step in a beneficial direction.

AVEVA announced the launch of the latest enhancement to its AVEVA Unified Supply Chain platform, Real-time Crude, designed to help customers gain visibility into their business and operations in order to quickly understand how crude quality impacts their value chain.

With the Oil and Gas industry facing disruption, a lack of visibility into the supply chain has led to difficulties with reacting to market changes in real time. AVEVA Real-Time Crude, a solution developed with Schneider Electric, combines cutting-edge analytical equipment with powerful machine-learning techniques to provide rapid and reliable crude oil assays across the enterprise in a matter of minutes. Timely information leads to advantages, including more intelligent purchasing decisions, improved operational planning, better allocation of refining resources, and more certain product volume and quality predictions.

Actually, O&G is always facing disruption, so any help managers can get will surely be appreciated.

AVEVA Unified Supply Chain is a single source of knowledge enabling enterprises to share and communicate decisions between diverse teams, promoting collaboration and discussion across global locations delivering increased visibility which enables rapid reaction to changing market conditions. It comprises modules for planning, scheduling, assay management and supply distribution that can share common information promoting an understanding of the entire plant and of the business. Utilizing common data, models, and user management, it promotes collaboration and visibility across the entire supply chain.

“Given the fluctuating oil prices, volatile markets and the severe global economic downturn projected, the launch of Real-Time Crude is opportune as it addresses many of the known issues that have been plaguing the energy industry. In an industry that survives by being nimble to fluctuations in prices of crudes and products, AVEVA’s offering provides fast information on crude quality to improve efficiency, reliability and agile decision making,” said Harpreet Gulati, Senior Vice President for Planning & Operations Business Unit, AVEVA.

“Real-Time Crude is at the cutting edge of much needed developments within the volatile energy industry, and Schneider Electric and AVEVA are committed to helping customers quickly navigate these uncertain times to function safely, efficiently and reliably. This key feature of the AVEVA Unified Supply Chain demonstrates the true potential of bringing advanced analytical equipment and machine learning technologies to the forefront without being complicated. Our combined goal is to deliver innovative solutions that will not only create efficiencies but also help customers to stay ahead of the curve,” commented Matthew Carrara, Vice President – Process Analyzers and Instrumentation, Schneider Electric, Industry Business – Process Automation.

The AVEVA Unified Supply Chain platform is unique because legacy solutions use a set of point solutions that require manual data transfer between different solutions, while AVEVA’s solution is a single, unified solution that leverages common data, models, and user management to promote enterprise collaboration and visibility across the supply chain. This eliminates the need for data transfers as well as potential errors resulting from data transfers. Everyone always has completely up-to-date information. 

Enabling Enterprise Agility In Volatile Energy Market

This news release from AVEVA reads like something I’d have written more than 10 years ago from the predecessor company about enterprise control solutions. It has taken years, two acquisitions, and the retirement of the thought leaders behind the idea, but this looks like a step in a beneficial direction.

AVEVA announced the launch of the latest enhancement to its AVEVA Unified Supply Chain platform, Real-time Crude, designed to help customers gain visibility into their business and operations in order to quickly understand how crude quality impacts their value chain.

With the Oil and Gas industry facing disruption, a lack of visibility into the supply chain has led to difficulties with reacting to market changes in real time. AVEVA Real-Time Crude, a solution developed with Schneider Electric, combines cutting-edge analytical equipment with powerful machine-learning techniques to provide rapid and reliable crude oil assays across the enterprise in a matter of minutes. Timely information leads to advantages, including more intelligent purchasing decisions, improved operational planning, better allocation of refining resources, and more certain product volume and quality predictions.

Actually, O&G is always facing disruption, so any help managers can get will surely be appreciated.

AVEVA Unified Supply Chain is a single source of knowledge enabling enterprises to share and communicate decisions between diverse teams, promoting collaboration and discussion across global locations delivering increased visibility which enables rapid reaction to changing market conditions. It comprises modules for planning, scheduling, assay management and supply distribution that can share common information promoting an understanding of the entire plant and of the business. Utilizing common data, models, and user management, it promotes collaboration and visibility across the entire supply chain.

“Given the fluctuating oil prices, volatile markets and the severe global economic downturn projected, the launch of Real-Time Crude is opportune as it addresses many of the known issues that have been plaguing the energy industry. In an industry that survives by being nimble to fluctuations in prices of crudes and products, AVEVA’s offering provides fast information on crude quality to improve efficiency, reliability and agile decision making,” said Harpreet Gulati, Senior Vice President for Planning & Operations Business Unit, AVEVA.

“Real-Time Crude is at the cutting edge of much needed developments within the volatile energy industry, and Schneider Electric and AVEVA are committed to helping customers quickly navigate these uncertain times to function safely, efficiently and reliably. This key feature of the AVEVA Unified Supply Chain demonstrates the true potential of bringing advanced analytical equipment and machine learning technologies to the forefront without being complicated. Our combined goal is to deliver innovative solutions that will not only create efficiencies but also help customers to stay ahead of the curve,” commented Matthew Carrara, Vice President – Process Analyzers and Instrumentation, Schneider Electric, Industry Business – Process Automation.

The AVEVA Unified Supply Chain platform is unique because legacy solutions use a set of point solutions that require manual data transfer between different solutions, while AVEVA’s solution is a single, unified solution that leverages common data, models, and user management to promote enterprise collaboration and visibility across the supply chain. This eliminates the need for data transfers as well as potential errors resulting from data transfers. Everyone always has completely up-to-date information. 

AVEVA Unified Supply Chain can help improve and optimize workflows in small and large enterprises. Flexible and modern integration mechanisms make working with existing business systems and processes simple, providing easy access to underlying data and results, while still retaining the security and versioning model used to ensure consistency between colleagues.

Universal Platform For The Edge

When there is a message for me on LinkedIn, it’s almost always a recruiter or SEO marketer trying to sell me something. So, there was a pleasant surprise the other day when it was a marketing person for a software company with a new take on the Edge, datacenters, and software. That company is NodeWeaver.

Here is a statement of the problem. Most of the software in the world runs outside of clouds or datacenters—it runs at the edge. But the edge is made of small systems deployed in tens of thousands of locations, in stores, inside industrial systems, on top of telecom towers. Places that may have limited connectivity, or be difficult to reach, all sharing the fact that they run critical systems, and if something stops, your users are not getting services, or production lines grind to a halt. What happens if something fails?

Existing solutions require manual interventions by skilled technicians to resolve problems. They are complex and difficult to manage. They are difficult to scale to thousands of locations. What is needed has the flexibility of the cloud, but the ability to run everywhere, even on the smallest devices, and run without requiring user intervention. 

That’s the idea behind NodeWeaver—a platform that runs any application and manages the distribution, control, and operation thanks to its intelligent autonomous system. Each system learns from what happens on all the others. It becomes smarter the more it expands and able to do more on its own.

NodeWeaver is a software defined operating platform that installs on the bare metal of nearly any x86 hardware and enables the deployment of highly resilient, agile and scalable compute clusters capable of running multiple virtual machines and container-based workloads, optimized for running workloads at the edge fully autonomously, integrating self-management, self-optimizing, self-healing features that dramatically reduces cost of ownership.

NodeWeaver nano clouds consist of 1 to 25 x86 compatible servers of any manufacturer/configuration, from very small to quite large. Connecting a new server to the nano cloud layer 2 switch automatically adds the server components to the virtual resource pool and relevels all applications across the updated server pool. 

NodeWeaver delivers full datacenter infrastructure/functionality, optimized for running workloads at the edge, taking less than 1.3GB of RAM to provide all services, leaving the maximum amount of system resources available for actual workloads. NodeWeaver integrates orchestration, software-defined storage, software-defined networking, multiple hypervisors all managed by the intelligent autonomous system. 

Customers who need to manage a large fleet of deployments already have their own monitoring framework in place. NodeWeaver has a full API that allows them to monitor (and manage) their edge systems using their existing monitoring framework. Tools like Ansible, Puppet, Chef, Terraform, and OneFlow Services are for operating system and application automation and management. NodeWeaver fully supports those as well, via a combination of pre-built Marketplace VMs (in the case of Terraform) or built-in services (OneFlow), or simply via API and network connection. 

The NodeWeaver marketplace enables users to quickly download complete, pre-configured application stacks [including operating system] and service templates, using any of the software products in the catalog, and deploy them with minimal effort; automatically load balanced across nodes in a highly resilient, agile and scalable compute cluster capable of running multiple virtual machines and container-based workloads.

Industrial control systems used to drive production equipment in factories and plants were installed more than 20 years ago and are now becoming outdated, presenting major business challenges. While this infrastructure has provided a stable platform for control systems for many years, it lacks flexibility, requires costly manual maintenance, and does not easily allow process information to be exported and analyzed. Virtualization overcomes the limitations of legacy control systems infrastructure and provides the foundation for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Control functions that were previously deployed across the network as dedicated hardware appliances can be virtualized and consolidated onto commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers, which not only leverages the most advanced silicon technology but also reduces capital expenditure, lowers operating costs, reduces risk, and improves ability to manage change and implement continuous improvement.

One of the leading providers of solutions for large-scale industrial laundry systems has been a NodeWeaver customer for over 2 years. They control and monitor all processes, provide predictive analytics, as well as automated deployment and management of all systems.

With no IT staff at these locations, system resiliency and the ability to autonomically address failures and maintain uptime is crucial. Additionally, the environments in these locations are characterized by high temperatures and humidity, thus requiring fanless, ruggedized hardware that can withstand these conditions.

NodeWeaver’s software-only approach provided the flexibility to choose the hardware necessary for the application, and its lightweight codebase enables it to run on smaller devices that competing solutions simply can’t support, equating to an unmatched combination of reliability, flexibility, and time to value.

Another Well Done Virtual Conference—Ignition Community Conference

Just to keep my perspective in balance, I attended a national soccer referee instructor virtual training. It was terrible. The presenters were not familiar with the technology and the presentation was incoherent.

Therefore, what a joy to attend another well done industrial technology conference. The Ignition Community Conference sponsored by Inductive Automation was Tuesday Sept. 15, but you can click the link and see the presentations for a while. I attended two other conferences (unfortunately not the Apple one) and therefore ran out of time to watch more today. But, I’ll be back to catch other presentations.

Chief Marketing Officer Don Pearson always has a relevant quote to serve as a theme for the conference. “Let’s stop trying to predict the future; let’s build it!” Stop and ponder.

The Ignition platform has greatly expanded over the years without losing the core ideas founder Steve Hechtman first explained to me in 2003. Built upon IT-friendly technology with a core strategy of unlimited licensing, the result is a robust HMI/SCADA offering that is affordable. [Note: Inductive Automation is a sponsor, but I’ve been a fan since long before that happened.]

They call it a “community conference” because they consider themselves, their customers, and their partners as a community. And when they gather physically (and even virtually), the people all act like a community. I always enjoy the conference feeling.

Hechtman discussed how the executive team met at the very beginning of hearing about the pandemic to begin preparing for remote work. Among other things they bought a lot of laptop computers. As things went along, they discovered that overall everyone was more productive working remotely. This will become a new way of life for most at the company. 

Preparing for business in the Covid environment, they improved the support function and added more people. They improved remote training–and a significant number of customers would prefer to continue remote training although many still wish to return to in-person classes when it’s possible. 

Speakers extolled the stories returning about how people are using the Maker edition unveiled in June. Ignition Perspective is another key new product that serves as a base for the main product Ignition 8.1. 

Key themes included filling out the promise of IoT broached back in 2016, mobility, remote control, large enterprise solutions, and working with AWS and Azure. Inductive has come a long way.

Ignition 8.1 is a release that will be supported five years. Its development them was refining version 8.0 released last year. It’s vision is based on Perspective. They worked to make it the best visualization platform. Perspective makes it easier to create in a variety of platforms–including the new Workstation edition. It’s now not only Web-based, but also has this Workstation edition to enhance speed. They have developed an easier-to-use and improved symbol library. They’ve added first-party Docker support. Plus a Quick Start application to help people new to the platform to get configured and ready to use.

Be sure to visit the ICC website and examine all the use cases and partners.