It’s not the technology; it’s what you do with it. Here are companies (and their engineers) who have done some cool projects with HMI/SCADA software. Inductive Automation has selected the recipients of its Ignition Firebrand Awards for 2018. The announcements were made at the Ignition Community Conference (ICC) in September.
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). Ignition is used in virtually every industry, in more than 100 countries.
The Ignition Firebrand Awards are presented every year at ICC. The award-winning projects are selected from the ICC Discover Gallery, which features the best 15 Ignition projects submitted by integrators and industrial organizations.
“Once again, we had a lot of variety with the Firebrand Award winners this year,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “Many industries were represented — automotive, oil & gas, food & beverage, water/wastewater, and more. It was great to see quality projects in all kinds of settings.”
“It’s inspiring to see the creative applications people are building on top of the Ignition platform,” said Travis Cox, co-director of sales engineering for Inductive Automation. “Every year, people create some really interesting projects, and this year was no exception.”
These Ignition Firebrand Award winners demonstrated the versatility and power of Ignition:
- Brown Engineers (Little Rock, Ark.) took a unique approach to improving the filter backwash process for a water treatment plant at the City of Hot Springs. Brown used the Ignition SCADA platform to dramatically improve the automatic backwash, conserve water, improve water quality, and initiate collection of filter data needed to extend regulatory run-time limits. See the video here.
- ECS Solutions (Evansville, Ind.) and Blentech Corporation (Santa Rosa, Calif.) partnered on a project that brought a unified platform to JTM Food Group’s new state-of-the-art plant in Harrison, Ohio. The result was a SCADA system that included the full spectrum of process automation. The Ignition application includes material management, formulation control, batch processing, and process control. See the video here.
- Open Automation SRL (Santa Fe, Argentina) improved operations for a Cargill-owned animal nutrition plant. The project used Ignition to increase efficiency, productivity, and traceability without increasing labor. Greater access to data, less paper, and improved product quality were just a few of the benefits. See the video here.
- Roeslein & Associates (St. Louis, Mo.) helped global automotive supplier Dana Incorporated increase productivity by 30 percent at some of its sites. The project provided real-time statistical analysis and visualization of machine data to enable better and faster decision-making. The flexible solution can be leveraged by Dana in numerous additional plants. See the video here.
- Tamaki Control (Auckland, New Zealand) created a comprehensive clean-in-place scheduling system for the largest yogurt-manufacturing facility in the world: the Chobani plant in Twin Falls, Idaho. The solution increased visualization and made it much easier for operators to share information. It can also be leveraged for other uses at Chobani plants. See the video here.
- Weisz Bolivia SRL (Buenos Aires, Argentina) solved weather-related data-communication problems for the largest offshore oil operation in Argentina. Results included better access to data, easier reporting to a government agency, and streamlined processes. See the video here.
Information on all 15 Discover Gallery projects can be found here.
Dreamforce, the Salesforce annual customer conference, was this week in San Francisco. I should have been there. Along with 100,000 of my closest IT friends. But, my project hit a crisis and I didn’t travel. All is not lost, however, since I received this information about ABB and Salesforce partnering.
The first item of interest is that I went to Salesforce’s “small” summer conference in Chicago with 3x-5x the attendees of a typical industrial technology conference. Then there is the big one with 30x or more the size. It blows the mind.
Then I consider the strategic moves that the largest industrial players are making. Siemens nailed a couple of acquisitions to bolster its MindSphere IoT platform. Schneider takes a majority stake in AVEVA to integrate design to process. ABB aligns with Salesforce (see below). And Rockwell Automation spends major dollars for a small stake in PTC evidently for a tighter integration with ThingWorx and Kepware.
Although there was a lot of marketing buzz to sort through, what ABB gets with a partnership with Salesforce is substantial. The company under the leadership of Ulrich Spiesshofer for the past five years has staged a remarkable turnaround. Don’t forget it also bolstered its machine control / discrete manufacturing portfolio with the acquisition of B+R Automation.
You can see more by watching this Fireside Chat with ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer and Salesforce chairman and co-CEO Marc Benioff on the future of work and Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The stated objective of the partnership is for Salesforce to provide a single view of customers across ABB’s global sales, service and marketing operations.
The partnership will combine the power of Salesforce IoT, Einstein artificial intelligence, and ABB Ability, the cross-industry digital offering supporting an installed base of 70 million connected devices worldwide, to drive enhanced service and faster solutions for customers
Explaining Industry 4.0, otherwise known as The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Salesforce states it is a wave of innovation and technology that is radically transforming every business and industry. It’s no longer enough for manufacturers to differentiate on product—they must also predict customer needs and deliver smarter, more personalized customer experiences. With Salesforce, ABB is unifying its CRM globally, across every region, brand and department, to embrace the opportunities created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and help its customers pursue important, new openings for service, innovation and growth.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is creating massive opportunities for our customers, making the work we do with them to drive innovation and create value more important than ever,” said Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of ABB. “That’s why we’re growing our relationship with Salesforce. The wealth of information we’ll get by unifying our data on Salesforce and combining it with our ABB Ability digital offering will allow us to use artificial intelligence and IoT more effectively, so we can anticipate our customer’s needs and write the future together.”
“ABB is undergoing incredible digital transformation and connecting with their customers in revolutionary ways,” said Marc Benioff, Chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce. “Our relationship with ABB is another example of the extraordinary power of artificial intelligence and IoT technologies to drive customer success.”
ABB’s expansion of Salesforce includes Einstein, Salesforce IoT, Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Community Cloud and Success Cloud advisory services.
Einstein will enable ABB to drive smarter sales and service with artificial intelligence. For example, ABB will use Sales Cloud Einstein for intelligence-driven decision making, automated data entry, identification of potential opportunities and predictive forecasting. Einstein Vision, used with Service Cloud Field Service Lightning, will be used to give ABB’s 15,000 field service technicians the ability to take a photo of an ABB product or component when they arrive onsite to automatically surface information about the product on their screens, resulting in faster, more accurate service.
Salesforce IoT will allow ABB to make data from its connected devices actionable and measurable. The company’s vision is to combine Salesforce IoT with ABB Ability so that its installed base of 70 million connected devices can use predictive intelligence, powered by Einstein, to generate and trigger actions directly into Salesforce. With Salesforce IoT and ABB Ability together, ABB will be able to improve customer experiences by getting ahead of performance and maintenance needs.
Two Polish software developers engage in conversation weekly on The Podcast. One wrote the original version of Nozbe the Getting Things Done app I use. Michael Sliwinski talked of using open source software to help him write his app and start his company. His Apple developer Radek Pietruszewski in episode 157 discussed how they wrote a piece of database code they dubbed WatermelonDB and released it into open source on GitHub.
I talk about the benefits of open source as an introduction to things I gleaned from last week’s annual trip to the Sacramento, CA area and the Inductive Automation Ignition Community Conference. Community was the operative word as the gathering of several hundred (I never heard an exact count, but the rumor was there were more than 600) integrators and users crowded into the Harris Center in Folsom for conversation, training, and updates.
On a side note, I’ve been unusually swamped with my annual project of assigning referees to high school and US Soccer youth contests. It seems as if half of the preliminary work I put in assigning before the season were washed away in an unusually wet late summer. Rescheduling is hell. Referees are tired of hearing from me. But I have only 2.5 weeks left in the high school season and two weeks beyond that will close the club season. Then I take a six-month break. Therefore, my energy level for writing has been sapped and the frequency here and on my podcast have suffered.
Founder and CEO Steve Hechtman betrayed his usual laid back demeanor talking about company growth and especially the latest release—Ignition 8—to be released in a few months. I have few details, but developers solved many platform problems caused by integrators pushing the envelop of HMI SCADA software.
Chief Strategy Officer Don Pearson told how the company has always embodied the OT/IT convergence meme with Hechtman coming from an OT background as an integrator and co-developers and now co-directors of software engineering Carl Gould and Colby Clegg were trained in IT technologies.
Pearson began the discussion of open source that continued throughout the conference. While Inductive Automation has always been a proponent of open standards—it still fully supports OPC UA, for example—it is also an open source user and contributor. The technologies strongly promoted at the conference were MQTT (a transport protocol) and Sparkplug (an information carrier in this case used to communicate Ignition tag information from source to consumer). Developer Cirrus Link has placed Sparkplug in the open source Eclipse Foundation.
Speakers talked with assurance about open source, but there was a thread of defensiveness in the discussion, too. Pearson quoted Maeterlinck, “At every crossroad on the way that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past.” Eclipse Foundation Executive Director Mike Milinkovich proclaimed, “Software is eating the world, and open source is eating software.”
I like both open source and open standards. They both have propelled industry enabling innovation and limiting lock-in. I remember downloading the first Java JDK in the 90s and trying out the eclipse platform in early 2002. All pretty cool stuff. The Inductive Automation adoption of open source is refreshing in the industry.
Here are a few bullet points from the Carl-Colby show introducing Ignition 8:
- Building on the past, but with a new beginning
- New platform:
- Revamped tag system to reduce memory overload
- New scripting app
- Subscription and data model
- Dynamic writable UDT parameters
- Deployment architecture, true project inheritance
- Project resource management
- Ignition perspective, new mobile module, built up from ground new
I really should add that while Ignition is very good software, most of the people at the conference told me that they were enticed into the system by the pricing. From the beginning, Inductive Automation decided to upset the software pricing model prevalent in the industry. It is a growing company…
Inductive had acquired an MES company, integrated with Ignition, and has now spun it off into a separate company run by Tom Hechtman, brother to Steve. Its modular software includes many typical MES applications such as track and trace, workflow, OEE, recipe management, and more. Hechtman discussed a Lean Six Sigma tool kit. He noted the staff has doubled in the nine years since acquisition. It is an ISA 95 and B2MML solution. And also now a MESA International member.
Other notes from the conference
Table top exhibits from the conference sponsors were always packed with curious engineers seeking solutions.
Opto 22’s VP Marketing Benson Hougland told me they can’t build the Groov EPIC PLC fast enough for demand. That product combined with Ignition is a powerful control and SCADA platform—as sales attest.
Albert Rooyakkers, founder/CEO of Bedrock Automation told me that his sub-$1000 controller is selling well. Bedrock specializes in secure and hardened controllers—ideal for power, pipeline, and other such applications. He told me, “Secure SCADA with Ignition is coming.” His key word is secure.
I haven’t been here for a while. I do project work (when I can get it), and every late summer/early fall my for 30 years has been assigning referees to soccer matches. This year western Ohio has witnessed more rain than I remember. My rain gauge showed 11 inches from last Wednesday evening until early Sunday. (I know compared to the hurricane coming, that’s nothing. But if the rain from the hurricane hits us as it often does, then we will have standing water everywhere.)
Since Thursday, I’ve spent 8 hours or more a day reassigning referees to rescheduled games. Looks like things are calming down.
I drove up to IMTS in Chicago Monday morning. Walked 10 miles Monday and Tuesday, saw lots of people, got some industry gossip…and saw some cool technology.
- Sat in an OPC Foundation briefing—many good things are happing with the Foundation and OPC UA adoption and extension.
- 3D printing has really come of age already as a production-ready technology. I saw many cool demonstrations. If you are manufacturing piece parts with complex geometries, you had better check this out.
- Collaborative robots (Universal was everywhere) including Universal and Rethink Robotics are gaining acceptance and broadening the idea of applications.
- Intelligent end of arm tooling for these robots is growing—I talked with OnRobot among others.
- Marrying robotic technology to factory autonomous vehicles is a growing category. I’ve interviewed MiR a few times.
- I talked with a developer with Energid who sells a SDK for robotics. If you need to design multi-axis motion coordinated motion, check it out.
I will do more in-depth later. Just taking a lunch break on the way back home.
Who buys enterprise software applications, how and why? I ran across this article by a contact of mine, Gabriel Gheorghiu, Founder and principal analyst at Questions Consulting, with a background in business management and 15 years experience in enterprise software. I thought it would be most useful. I’m not an ERP analyst, but I have some background and training on the financial side of things. I think this analysis fits with other large-scale software acquisition projects, though, including MES/MOM, analytics, asset performance, and the like.
This will summarize some interesting points. I highly recommend reading the whole thing.
Before we begin, my brief take on enterprise software applications. How many of you have been involved with an SAP acquisition and roll out? How many happy people were there? Same with Oracle or any other ERP, CRM, MES, APM, etc. application. Why did using Microsoft Excel seem to go better?
Well, the big applications all force you to change all your business processes to fit their template. You build Excel to fit what you’re doing. It’s just not powerful enough to do everything, right?
Gheorghiu conducted interviews with 225 companies who were all looking for enterprise resource planning (ERP). The goal of this survey was simple – listen and learn from what these companies had to say about their individual decision-making strategies. We all agree that this is not a simple task. But we also agree that selecting the best ERP software is a critical factor for business success.
Here is why the research phase of this process is considered to be so vital:
- It has the greatest impact on all the subsequent phases and consequently, your final decision.
- Research begins at home – in other words, the first step is to determine your company’s specific and unique needs.
- Once your company has thought through and determined its software requirement, then and only then does the process to evaluate vendors and their offerings begin. This can be a very challenging step because many companies are not equipped with the time, knowledge, or tools to perform this step.
Buyer Profiles: Who’s Looking for ERP and Why?
One problem for analysis is that many are not doing business in just one industry. The breakdown of companies in our business sample, by industry, was as follows: manufacturing (47%), distribution (18%), services (12%), construction (4%), retail (3%), utilities (3%), government (3%), healthcare (3%), and other (10%). However, to complicate matters a little, 20% of manufacturers also manage distribution and some distributors include light manufacturing in their operations, like assembly.
“Companies looking to invest in business software may very well be addressing this additional challenge – looking for a comprehensive package that integrates all aspects of a business. ERP software systems are powerful and comprehensive but are not necessarily known for their agility and ability to accommodate many disparate functions.”
Gheorghiu identifies as a strong influencer consumerization, which changes focus from organization-oriented offerings to end-user focused products. “This was a highly significant turning point in the IT marketplace. By developing new technologies and models that originate in the consumer space rather than in the enterprise sector, software producers opened up the market to a flood of small and medium-sized businesses looking for more cost effective, and less complicated solutions to run their businesses.”
The consumerization of software (as noted above) has precipitated the move by many companies away from enterprise IT towards more streamlined and user friendly consumer-oriented technology. This change is equally relevant for ERP software and manufacturing companies have participated in this very significant development, albeit more cautiously and slowly than SMBs.
Most industries follow a “purposeful implementation” strategy, managing software adoption as a series of “sprints in a well-planned program” rather than insisting on the “all or nothing” approach.
For example, a small company looking to invest in software might decide to begin with an accounting system which can be used alongside point solutions and spreadsheets. As companies grow and their transactions become more complex, they may find that they have also outgrown their initial software selections.
The chart below provides a visual analysis of the mix of software that is currently utilized by our business sample:
Some relevant comments we extracted from our survey included:
- The CEO of a small services company mentioned that he was “tired of the hodgepodge of systems”
- A manufacturer considered their current arrangement to be “very siloed.” Reconciling the inventory balance is a “constant battle.”
Buyer Behavior: How are Companies Approaching ERP Selection?
The selection process is most successful when companies adhere to some basic selection rules: involve as many direct stakeholders as possible and keep business priorities and strategies firmly in mind when making the final decision.
A software change can trigger a vast administrative upheaval within the company. It is important to carefully analyze the business case for the change and whether it supports the level of disruption as well as the implementation time and spending that will be required. Even if the change may be entirely justified, a well thought out analysis is well worth the time and effort.
The Vendors in the Spotlight
According to our survey results, the chart below identifies the vendors under consideration by the companies surveyed. A majority of companies (53%) were not, for the moment, looking at specific vendors. However 47% of respondents had narrowed their search to specific vendors.
Who’s Involved in this Decision Selection Process?
Our sample results indicate that the people in charge of the selection process are distributed as follows: employees in the finance and accounting departments (23%), IT department employees (23%). The other important categories were independent consultants helping companies with the selection process (17%), operations managers (17%) and presidents or CEOs (12%). It is worthwhile mentioning that project managers and business analysts only made up 5% of the total.
By far, the most effective method of choosing a software is to employ a collaborative system whereby the actual stakeholders of that system (the end-users) have a direct voice in the decision outcome. As the front-line users of the system, their insight and knowledge is very valuable. Their input along with all the other stakeholders input will produce the best possible outcome of this process.
An ERP system is a major business investment and is best handled with the appropriate amount of time and diligence given to the process.
The advent of cloud computing has indeed radically changed the landscape for deployment of business software. According to a recent press release by Gartner, “by 2020, a Corporate “No-Cloud” policy will be as rare as a “No-Internet” policy is today”. In other words, cloud deployment will become the default by 2020.
Our survey results, in fact, support Gartner’s analysis. Ninety-five percent of companies responded that they were open to a cloud deployment model, while just over 50% were willing to also consider on premises ERP. Of this latter group of respondents, 65% of them were manufacturers and distributors. This makes sense of course, given that these industries made significant investments in hardware and IT personnel and may not be as ready or as willing to move to the cloud model.
As for the preference for cloud computing (as demonstrated by our responses), we argue that it reflects the very strong tendency in the market to opt for simpler, more streamlined and less expensive computing solutions. As more information and assurances of security and stability by cloud providers enter the marketplace, more and more businesses will be convinced that the many benefits of the cloud outweigh some of their remaining concerns. Gartner’s prediction that cloud will increasingly be the default option for software deployment looks to be right on course.
An important consideration for companies embarking on an ERP software selection process – the average lifespan of an ERP system is approximately 5 to 10 years. If we consider important factors like the investment of capital, time, and loss of productivity that the selection and replacement of an ERP system requires, perhaps all companies would be more willing to invest the necessary effort in this process.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been convinced that there is a coming consolidation within the industrial software market. You would think that this would be a profitable business, but evidently it’s harder than it looks.
This thought converges with all the Industrial Internet of Things plays. We have platforms and a large variety of software—not to mention a variety of hardware plays. As buyers begin to sort out preferences, there will be changes.
GE Digital on the block
I was trying to figure out where GE was going to wind up in all this. Last fall I thought that GE Digital’s Minds + Machines conference was doomed. Then the 2018 edition was announced. Then yesterday morning I scan news feeds about 6 am and see that most of the GE Digital assets are on the auction block—evidently including Predix.
GE had a “not invented here” syndrome. Rolling your own platforms when other tried and perfected ones already exist is always shaky. So the new CEO mandated partnerships. There’s no reason to build a platform when Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure are available. Now it appears that much of the portfolio is for sale.
But all is not lost. At the smaller end of the spectrum of industrial software there is investment money available according to a note I received from OSIsoft. The note pointed out IIoT company Seeq raised $23 million; Trendminer, Falkonry and Toumetis all recently received investments; and last year, SoftBank also invested in OSIsoft.
When we are consolidating at the top, that usually means it’s time for innovation in the newly available openings for small companies.
I could obviously point to PTC doing its part to consolidate in the IoT software space. But news just came about Plex Systems, a cloud-based ERP and MES supplier.
It announced it has acquired DATTUS Inc. Its solutions connect manufacturing equipment and sensors to the cloud, manage high-volume data streams, and analyze in-motion equipment data. The acquisition is expected to accelerate Plex’s IIoT strategy, extending the Plex Manufacturing Cloud to new streams of machine data and the underlying intelligence. The acquisition was completed in July 2018.
DATTUS brings to the Plex Manufacturing Cloud three major capabilities that will become central to Plex’s long-term IIoT roadmap: IIoT Connectivity, IIoT Data Management, and IIoT Data Analysis. IIoT Connectivity: DATTUS has simplified machine connectivity, providing plug-and-play solutions that work with the wide variety of protocols and data types used by equipment and sensors on the manufacturing shop floor. IIoT Data Management: the DATTUS IIoT platform captures and manages the extraordinary volume and variety of machine data to support real-time visibility into activity across production operations. IIoT Data Analysis: DATTUS analytics enable operational and business leaders to understand IIoT data in motion, providing decision support in areas such as predictive maintenance and machine performance.