by Gary Mintchell | Jan 12, 2023 | News, Software
[Updated headline: darn autocorrect, anyway.]
I’ll be honest, the main reason I’m picking up this news is that I know PQ Systems located on the south side of Dayton, Ohio. Back in the early 80s I interviewed for a position there. It was not a fit for me, and I was not a fit for them. But it was an interesting company. I’ve never heard of Advantive. It looks like a software company on the move.
Advantive, a mission-critical software provider for specialty manufacturing and distribution businesses, announced December 6, 2022 the acquisitions of DataNet, a leader in Statistical Process Control (SPC), and PQ Systems, a provider of manufacturing quality and gage calibration software solutions. These acquisitions will expand Advantive’s current offerings in the manufacturing and distribution space, while allowing the company to continue delivering the highest quality solutions to its customers across industries.
Advantive, which comes together through the combination of Advantzware, DDI System, Distribution One, InfinityQS, Kiwiplan and VIA, has more than 2,500 customers today across a number of industries including corrugated and packaging manufacturing, equipment and supply wholesale distributors, and automotive and other specialty manufacturers. Advantive will be headquartered in Tampa, Florida.
With a global footprint across more than 2,500 facilities worldwide, DataNet’s flagship product, WinSPC, provides statistical decision-making and delivers real-time, actionable data to manufacturers, which will serve to complement Advantive’s existing offerings.
PQ Systems helps manufacturers optimize process performance and improve product quality with its two key product offerings. Both solutions, SQC Pack, an easily scalable SPC software solution, and GAGEpack, a calibration management solution, optimize the manufacturing process for customers.
by Gary Mintchell | Jan 10, 2023 | Automation, Edge, Sensors, Software, Technology
Video as a sensor has been a topic for several posts here at The Manufacturing Connection. One notable case study involved detecting unwanted critters wandering into the facility when gates were opened to allow train cars to enter or leave. Machine vision has been usable since the 1980s to detect flaws, presence, and other quality issues, as well as to guide robots.
Anurag Maunder, CEO and founder, and Subbu Kuchibhotla, VP Growth and Development, of a new company in the video streaming market called Sensable.
They told me this is the first vision platform built for industrial engineering. Almost all current vision and video applications involve narrowly focusing on a part or a piece of a machine. The idea of the Sensable platform is to broaden the focus of the camera, or combine multiple camera, such that an entire operation or segment of the plant can be viewed, captured, and analyzed.
My grandfather told me of the time he was summoned to the front office of the GM plant where he was a production superintendent. The US had entered World War II and his plant was converting to production of aircraft armaments. Production ramp up was slow. Management picked him to organize things and get production up to expectations.
He explained to 8-year-old me how he went up on the mezzanine and watched the process. Guys were performing a process, dragging a crate of parts to the next operation across the department, where the next operation took place, and that operator dragged the crate across the facility to the next operation. He told me how he organized the process to minimize material handling. That and other things boosted production and won the war—well, anyway, he did his part. And I learned a lesson.
Now imagine that you don’t have people to just stand and observe and take notes over three shifts a day for a week or so. What if you could position a few cameras in strategic locations. The video is captured and run through analytics. Engineers, operators, and managers would not have to manually parse through hours of video. They would be presented with data visualization designed to help them get to root causes of problems, assist worker ergonomics, improve safety, and boost productivity.
That is what the Sensable solution does.
Imagine another scenario. You are an operator on a production line. You have been trying to point out bottlenecks to production on your machine. Then engineers install streaming video pointing not just at a specific point on you or the machine but with wide enough scope to see the larger process. The video analytics point out the bottleneck. Voila. Vindicated. Proof in the data.
The video is not for spying on employees. It is designed to help them. Just what true digital transformation is—an aid to decision making and continuous improvement.
- Missed throughput targets—station utilization lower than expected, unplanned downtimes more than planned
- Low process efficiency—cycle time variability, too many interruptions
- Low operations visibility—safety challenges due to best practices violations, missed inspection or assembly steps
- Manage work area or assembly line—real-time feedback, identify bottlenecks, performance reports by shift/day, remote visibility-ideal for managing off shifts
- Perform long duration time studies—data-driven Kaizen setup/changeover analysis, run/analyzed over weeks, compare across time and facilities, store metrics for Kaizen, perform SMED analysis in large areas
- Identify missed inspection steps with 360 degree analysis—rapidly identify root cause of defects, search for video clips associated with product assembly
- Achieve healthier, safer, well trained workforce—capture near misses and best practice violations, capture the impact of fatigue by measuring throughput at beginning and end of shift, capture and share the best practices for training
- Build realistic engineering standards—capture data for the entire shift or multiple shifts before creating a standard to be enforced
by Gary Mintchell | Nov 7, 2022 | Cloud, Data Management, Manufacturing IT, Operations Management, Software
I think that hybrid might just be the future as IT managers review the costs and constraints of depending too much on cloud vendors (AWS, Microsoft, Google). Customers of Inductive Automation’s Ignition platform must be asking for a public cloud implementation, though.
I’ve highlighted a blog post by Dante Augello of Inductive discussing some of the reasoning and features of a Cloud Edition coming in 2023. Following that announcement are notes about the latest update to Ignition—8.1.22.
Ignition Cloud Edition
- Many hybrid architectures have taken advantage of the cloud over the years, allowing controls applications to run on-premise while communicating and sending data to the cloud in order to take advantage of virtually unlimited storage and computing power.
- This connection to the cloud also offers better integration with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other cloud-native technologies.
- The goal of Ignition Cloud Edition is to enable a hybrid architecture that connects one or more on-premise gateways and numerous edge gateways that send information to a Cloud Edition gateway for enterprise-wide data aggregation and monitoring.
- This new product will differ from the standard version of Ignition in three key ways: distribution, purchasing, and features.
- Unlike standard Ignition, Ignition Cloud Edition won’t be a service provided directly through Inductive Automation, so it won’t be downloaded from the Inductive Automation website. Like other cloud-based applications, it will be made available through your preferred cloud infrastructure marketplace.
- Since Ignition Cloud Edition will be purchased through a cloud infrastructure marketplace, there is no need to buy an upfront license as with standard Ignition. This allows for elastic deployments, scalable payment options like pay-as-you-go, as well as the ability to adapt compute size and number of instances as needed.
- Ignition Cloud Edition will run in the cloud, so it won’t be ideal for direct data acquisition from plant-floor PLCs. For this reason, it won’t have Ignition’s original device drivers built in. Instead, Cloud Edition will have a collection of cloud connector modules for cloud-native technologies such as document databases, message queues, and key-value stores like MongoDB, Kafka, and Redis.
- A key benefit of Ignition Cloud Edition’s infrastructure is elasticity. If you find that you need more or less computing power than you anticipated, you will be able to scale the infrastructure much more easily than with an on-premise infrastructure.
Ignition 8.1.22: New Configuration Explorer, Enhanced SVG Importer, and CSS Stylesheet Resources
This blog post by Aaron Block gives points about the latest update.
- Ignition 8.1.22 arrives with major upgrades to Perspective, the Gateway Network, and redundancy, plus improvements focused on general quality of life.
- Perspective gets the majority of attention in Ignition 8.1.22, with three big updates: a new Configuration Explorer, SVG Importer enhancements, and resources for CSS stylesheets.
- The Configuration Explorer locates active bindings on any particular Perspective view. Now in Ignition 8.1.22, simply right-click and choose “Configuration Explorer” to display the location, type, and state of all enabled bindings. Embedded views and root containers are also represented in this overview.
- In prior versions of Ignition, it was sometimes difficult to import complicated SVGs with intricate shading or other non-supported components within the raw SVG file. 8.1.22 offers more support for these complex SVGs, as well as most common SVG elements.
- The “convert to drawing” function stays true to its name, allowing users to simply choose the function in the right-click menu and convert existing components into SVGs.
- Rounding out the trio of major Perspective updates is an advanced project-scoped CSS stylesheet resource and resource editor. Users can now conveniently add their own CSS stylesheets into the Perspective project itself instead of spending time inserting CSS through the gateway’s style directory.
- And there are many more updates. Check out the blog for more detail.
by Gary Mintchell | Nov 4, 2022 | Asset Performance Management, Operations Management, Software
Festo engineers continually amaze me with innovations I would never have expected. I first heard of it as a pneumatics company. What new and interesting could come out of that milieu? Then came a visit to the German headquarters followed with many other meetings. Turns out many interesting things.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not the new discovery marketers would have us believe. It does, despite the hype, solve many real world problems. Take Festo Automation Experience (AX). This AI platform provides predictive maintenance, predictive quality, and energy optimization.
Using advanced analytics, Festo AX maps data to learn a component, machine, product, or energy system’s healthy state. Festo AX provides actionable information to correct anomalies when data begins trending out of normal.
Putting numbers to the innovation:
Festo finds that Festo AX can improve process transparency by 100%. It can lower waste by more than 50% and product rejection costs by more than 45%. Machine availability can improve by more than 25%. Unplanned downtime can fall by more than 20%.
In a predictive quality application for silicon wafers production, Festo AX provided early detection of wafer defects. It improved accuracy for quality assurance sample selection and delivered high positivity in quality observations. Festo AX lowered waste per machine per year by $100,000.
by Gary Mintchell | Nov 1, 2022 | Manufacturing IT, Operations Management, Software
SCADA software continues life into the IoT age generating benefits to users and profits to some companies. GE Digital’s iFIX and CIMPLICITY products have longevity in the field and are still updated regularly. This update brings some modern technology into the fold and aims to strengthen the connected worker.
• Modern, web-based UI improves transparency, decision making and efficiency by extending HMI to consume analytics and business application data, unifying OT/IT visualization
• No-code / Low-code environment and flexible centralized deployment speed time to value
• New MQTT bridge simplifies connectivity and communication with smart IoT sensors and devices to support data collection and operations optimization
The key technologies include HTML5, MQTT, centralized deployment, and common portfolio configuration.
Proficy Operations Hub no-code/low-code environment is engineered to support easier mobility, responsive design, added value with modern web functionality, security by design, and rich information where and when users need it, on the devices of their choice.
A new MQTT5 client can help to simplify communication and support operations optimization. The new client brings data from smart IoT sensors and devices into the SCADA application and subscribes to MQTT message bus data.
by Gary Mintchell | Oct 31, 2022 | Automation, Data Management, Manufacturing IT, Networking, Process Control, Services, Software
The control and automation market I’ve been in since the late 90s has definitely become a software market. Yes, the main players that remain do still have their legacy controllers, instrumentation, sensors, and networking. The excitement that remains is mainly software and services. Domain expertise within the supplier community becomes increasingly important.
I was coming off a vacation (not planned by me) and couldn’t work out the logistics of making it to Dallas. I kept up with things through press releases and reports from social media guru Jim Cahill. I survived missing presentations by the inimitable CTO Peter Zornio. News came through, anyway.
Announcement summaries follow.
This next-generation architecture will empower companies through “boundless automation” to manage, connect and deliver operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) data seamlessly and easily across the enterprise. Moving data freely and securely across OT and IT domains – from the intelligent field to the edge and cloud – will enable operational and business performance optimization across the enterprise.
It really is all about the data.
Check out Jim Cahill’s report.
- Emerson’s Latest Control System Update Lays Foundation for Software-Driven, Data-Centric Automation Platform
- DeltaV version 15 helps drive faster, easier digital transformation to accelerate IT/OT convergence, enabling easy upgrades and modernization
PlantWeb plus recent acquisition AspenTech = Emerson’s Plantweb digital ecosystem, optimized by AspenTech, enables industrial manufacturers across all industries to “See, Decide, Act and Optimize” their operations. Leveraging a robust suite of sensors, software and control technologies, Plantweb now enables companies to optimize the business and sustainability performance of their plants and enterprise through advanced asset and business optimization software.
Movicon.NExT 4.2 is a flexible, modular platform that provides local HMI, supervision and analytics that scale from small IIoT or WebHMI applications on embedded Linux devices to large Windows server systems, allowing users to achieve sustainability and performance improvements, one step at a time, easily and cost effectively.
Emerson has released DeltaV IO.CONNECT, a new subscription software service designed to help plants simplify modernization with an open architecture pathway that makes it possible to transition to more efficient control schemes without the need to completely overhaul existing infrastructure. In a traditional plant with tens of thousands of I/O points and many controllers, this can save hundreds or thousands of hours of labor and up to 40% of the capital required for a total rip-and-replace upgrade.
Southern California Gas (SoCalGas), a regulated subsidiary of Sempra, has selected Emerson’s digital technologies, software and services to demonstrate the resiliency and reliability of its new [H2] Innovation Experience in Southern California. One of the first microgrid projects of its kind in the United States, the [H2] Innovation Experience is a technology demonstration that aims to show how carbon-free gas made from renewable electricity can be used in pure form or as a blend to fuel clean energy systems of the future.