AI Module Provides Predictive Analytics

AI Module Provides Predictive Analytics

Don’t get all worked up over the hype of a dystopian future about Artificial Intelligence (AI). We’ve been using pieces of it for many years. I had a junior programmer in the late 80s who was going off to become an expert in AI as our company was shutting down.

Much of AI we’re using falls into the voice assistant category. We’re seeing this pop up in the industrial space. I don’t want an always listening (and recording?) device in my house. Not sure if we want one in manufacturing. But, there are uses. Users had best figure out security, though.

The other pieces of AI usually involve some sort of machine learning. The program brings new data in, upgrades its algorithms, and provides better outputs—whether predictive analytics or alerts or process improvements.

Rockwell Automation has had a project for several years code named Project Sherlock. I’ve written previously here. It combines voice assistant along with predictive analytics. Engineers first showed it off with a smart phone. Now the company has added it as a module to its PLC line in classic Rockwell Automation fashion.

The new FactoryTalk Analytics LogixAI module, formerly known as Project Sherlock, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect production anomalies and alert workers so they can investigate or intervene, as necessary.

Many existing analytics technologies require deep expertise in both data science and industrial processes. But this add-on module for ControlLogix controllers reduces that burden by doing the job of a data scientist. It fits directly into a control chassis and streams controller data over the backplane to build predictive models. It can continuously monitor a production operation, detecting anomalies against its derived understanding.

“The FactoryTalk Analytics LogixAI module makes predictive analytics more accessible to help more workers make better production decisions,” said Jonathan Wise, product manager, Rockwell Automation. “The module learns your ControlLogix application and tells operators and technicians when things are changing in unexpected ways. This can help them get ahead of product quality issues and protect process integrity.”

For example, the module can help operators spot performance deviations in equipment like mixers that could affect product quality or lead to downtime. It can also be used as a virtual sensor. Instead of workers taking a reading, like the humidity of a packaged food product, the module can analyze variables from line assets like sprayers, dryers and burners to predict a measurement, virtually.

Workers can then be notified of problems by configuring alarms on a human machine interface (HMI) or dashboard. Future features of the module will go further, helping workers focus their problem-solving or automate the optimization of a process.

The FactoryTalk Analytics LogixAI module is the newest addition to the FactoryTalk Analytics portfolio from Rockwell Automation. The portfolio includes FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices, which learns about an automation system’s structure to tell workers about problems with individual devices. The LogixAI module expands on this by learning about an automation system’s application and helping identify anomalies with its overall function.

Both products work individually, but each will benefit the other in future iterations. The FactoryTalk Analytics platform aggregates multiple sources of data, so workers can discover new insights. FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices and the LogixAI module will both be data sources for the platform going forward.

Epicor Unveils AI-Based Virtual Agent

Epicor Unveils AI-Based Virtual Agent

There is so much hype around Artificial Intelligence (AI) that I sometimes want to discount it. However, here is yet another (see last week’s post) example of what AI can really accomplish. This industry-specific application of artificial intelligence technology simplifies interactions with ERP systems, automates tasks, and facilitates faster operations.

Epicor Software, a global provider of industry-specific enterprise software, has announced the release of Epicor Virtual Agent (EVA), its new enterprise-wide digital agent designed to help users work smarter and accelerate pace of operations across the business more easily.

“EVA will enable customers of all sizes, regardless of their operating model, to increase productivity, work smarter, and grow their business in whatever direction they want in today’s Industry 4.0 ecosystem,” Scott Hays, Senior Vice President, Product Marketing, Epicor Software.

Developed to execute tasks and recommend, predict, and adjust actions within set parameters, EVA appears on-screen as a virtual

assistant that users can access via text or voice. Along with cognitive skills such as text and voice, EVA transforms data into visual information creating an intuitive experience to complete actions on native devices. Powered by Natural Language Processing (NLP), users can access EVA from their mobile devices and the agent will deliver targeted information to help them make better, faster decisions.

Beyond the request/response conversational experience, EVA also uses artificial intelligent (AI) capabilities to proactively deliver alerts and carry out targeted actions based on combinations of events, market statistics, and historical data. Designed to extend and support the workforce, EVA can contribute timely insights that improve accuracy, problem-spotting, and can even forecast and automatically adjust production or distribution levels in-line with customer demand.

“New forms of interacting with business software solutions are a key to accelerating the pace of operations and improving the exchange of data and information,” said Hays. “Having an intelligent agent at hand will help companies become more agile and responsive to unexpected events and rapidly changing customer demands.”

According to industry analyst firm Gartner more than 50 percent of all people collaborating in Industry 4.0 ecosystems will use virtual assistants or intelligent agents to interact more naturally with their surroundings and with people by 2022. IDC predicts that by the same year, task-level intelligent applications (apps) that augment human efforts will account for 30 percent of the enterprise apps market. According to IDC, by 2027 the advances in unsupervised and reinforcement machine learning will enable cognitive/AI systems that can detect and sense their environment, learn independently, and make decisions on their own or provide humans with constraint-optimized recommendations.

“With EVA, you interact naturally with your ERP system,” comments Hays. “It’s as easy as just talking or typing to a colleague. This makes the breadth and depth of the industry-specific functionality and information available inside the system directly accessible to a larger audience, boosting productivity and efficiency, and giving the company an improved return on their ERP investment.”

Developed using AI services from Microsoft Azure, EVA can be added to all sizes and types of Epicor ERP implementations—on-premise as well as in the cloud. This ensures customers of any size, including small and medium-sized companies, can take advantage of innovative technologies that will help them grow their businesses.

“As consumers we’re already familiar with conversational technology, EVA will be easy for users to start working with straight away. Furthermore, thanks to its machine learning component, the more you use EVA, the better it will work for you,” said Hays. “We are confident that using an artificial intelligence-based agent that has deep industry-specific applications will make their enterprise systems more predictive, adaptive, and proactive. EVA will enable customers of all sizes, regardless of their operating model, to increase productivity, work smarter, and grow their business in whatever direction they want in today’s Industry 4.0 ecosystem.”

One use case highlighted by Epicor was manufacturing. Using EVA to detect an anomaly early on in a production machine that, if left untouched, could lead to unplanned downtime and sub-standard product quality. Data from machines and IoT sensors, combined with Epicor ERP, provides a virtual nervous system that delivers AI-driven alerts from EVA to a mobile device. With just a few clicks on the device, the production manager can confirm suggestions from EVA to schedule preventive maintenance for a machine and shift production to other available machines.

Bringing Manufacturing Data to the Cloud

Bringing Manufacturing Data to the Cloud

This press release is more than a little puzzling. GE Digital announces its Predix Manufacturing Data Cloud—apparently its own cloud platform. I would swear that I heard 18 months ago about a change in direction where it would leave behind its “not invented here” syndrome and rather than building its own platform from scratch using one of the several available cloud services.

Realistically, IT meets OT in the cloud. Predix Manufacturing Data Cloud exists to fulfill that promise.

Used in concert with a traditional Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Predix MDC gives manufacturers operational analysis in the cloud and greater flexibility of deployment, helping reduce the size of on-premises systems and make them run more efficiently.

“Most companies are only just scratching the surface of realizing their data’s potential. In fact, today manufacturers are losing the value of 70 percent of collected manufacturing data,” said Matt Wells, Vice President of Product Management for GE Digital. “Predix MDC delivers the power of cloud computing to manufacturers, taking the burden of heavy compute loads out of the plant, enabling users to aggregate data from across the business and run analytics that can uncover new insights and unlock even greater efficiencies.”

According to the company, Predix MDC provides next generation cloud functionality to GE Digital’s manufacturing execution system offering, Plant Applications, used by organizations around the world to track and analyze production execution and workflow, as well as manage production data and quality control. Predix MDC provides manufacturers with a secure, reliable way to ingest and store data in the cloud, speeding process implementation by up to 50 percent and giving users rich views into information captured at individual sites as well as the ability to run analytics and comparisons across various locations and data types, including manufacturing, enterprise and asset data. Additionally, MDC can reduce on-premise storage and maintenance costs, freeing up computing systems to focus on core capabilities. Furthermore, moving and storing manufacturing data in the cloud provides an additional level of certainty around data retention regulation compliance and auditing purposes.

It is built to support manufacturing across industries from discrete to process, across sectors like food and beverage, packaging, pulp and paper, automotive, chemical, pharmaceutical and life sciences.

P&G, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of consumer packaged goods (CPG), has been a long-time customer of GE Digital’s Plant Applications Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and is leveraging Predix MDC capabilities by moving manufacturing data and running analytics in the cloud. P&G has already gained a detailed, data-supported view into its manufacturing processes. The new offering is helping the company meet data compliance regulations and significantly increase the speed of its on-premise MES.

Predix MDC is compatible with any third-party application that supports REST APIs for data sourcing, user interface, visualization, analytics and reporting. General availability is expected in Q2 2019.

Emerson Acquires KNet Software

Emerson Acquires KNet Software

The acquisition pace within the industrial technology space continues. Some companies pursue partnerships, but most are growing their portfolios through acquiring. Emerson has been aggressively on the acquisition path. This action is another step.

Emerson has acquired KnowledgeNet (KNet) software from Tunisia-based Integration Objects. KNet’s unique analytics application software accelerates digital transformation initiatives for process and hybrid industries.

KNet is used to extract, clean, transform and analyze operational and manufacturing data. Using libraries of advanced statistical and machine-learning algorithms, the software consumes large quantities of diverse information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) data into actionable knowledge that drives real-time decisions to improve process and asset performance.

“Emerson has had a long-standing alliance with Integration Objects and has used KNet to solve complex operational challenges for its customers,” said Pat Fitzgerald, vice president and general manager of Emerson’s reliability solutions business. “We are excited to leverage KNet’s easy-to-use advanced analytics and automated root cause identification to provide differentiated insights into operational health to improve uptime and performance.”

KNet will be integrated with Emerson’s Plantweb digital ecosystem, which helps customers deliver measurable business outcomes from digital transformation initiatives. Combined with Emerson’s extensive Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) Library and consulting services, KNet will enhance the comprehensive analytics solution Emerson offers to customers.

“Integration Objects is proud of KNet’s industry impact and excited to see the future of this unique software,” said Samy Achour, CEO and founder of Integration Objects. “The integration of KNet into Emerson’s Plantweb ecosystem will help companies continuously improve their operations by making informed decisions with the latest real-time data and expert knowledge, and migrate from reactive to proactive operations.”

“The acquisition of KNet’s application software will further enable Emerson to deploy our industry expertise and solution capabilities to help customers decrease energy use and increase safety, asset availability and production,” said Jim Nyquist, group president of Emerson’s systems and solutions business.

In addition, Emerson will hire several team members from Integration Objects and open a new branch office in Tunis, Tunisia, to support the integration of KNet.

New HMI SCADA IIoT Software

New HMI SCADA IIoT Software

There’s something new for venerable HMI SCADA IIoT software applications? While discussing HMI SCADA announcements at last February’s ARC Industry Forum, a friend observed, “I didn’t think it was possible for there to be something new.”

Ignition 8 from Inductive Automation saw its release April 8. We got a glimpse at the Ignition Customer Conference in September and again at the ARC Forum. Now it’s ready to go. My first training class on this type of software was probably around 1994. Looking at this release, I’d have to say that great advances have been made.

This is a major update to Inductive’s signature software platform that addresses industrial organizations’ needs for expanded architectures, enhanced security, and first-class mobile solutions. This version gives users a powerful new view of their industrial processes that is more mobile, customizable, scalable, and secure than ever before. Ignition 8 arrives along with the new Ignition Perspective Module. Ignition Perspective is a visualization system that brings new capabilities to mobile devices.

“We’re very excited to be sharing Ignition 8 with the world,” said Carl Gould, co-director of software engineering for Inductive Automation. “I can’t wait to see what people build with Ignition Perspective, which was built from the ground up to be a first-class, pure-web, fully mobile solution for industrial applications.”

Ignition Perspective provides full SCADA control from mobile phones, and drag-and-drop capabilities for designing mobile-responsive screens that are ideal for mobile devices. Applications built with the Ignition Perspective Module adapt to fit any size screen, from cellphone to desktop. It also enables users to leverage a phone’s GPS, camera, Bluetooth, orientation-sensing, and more. It runs in any web browser with HTML5, and requires no plug-ins. Perspective allows people to enhance their SCADA systems in new and creative ways.

Ignition 8 provides new capabilities for building enterprise-scale architectures. A faster tag system aids very large deployments, such as those with one million tags or more. Improved concurrent design allows projects to move faster. Project inheritance allows corporate standards to be used in addition to local modifications. Full compatibility with industry-standard source-control tools makes it easy to restore previous versions, resolve code conflicts, and track changes to codebases. And Ignition 8 was built with cybersecurity as a key pillar. It supports industry-leading encryption protocols, uses two-factor authentication, and also includes single sign-on.

“With all the new features in Ignition 8, along with the new Ignition Perspective Module, this is a big leap forward for users of Ignition,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “This software is really going to open up a lot of creative opportunities for people.”

  • Unlimited Licensing Mode–Add unlimited clients, screens, tags, connections & devices.
  • Server-Centric Web-Deployment–Easily deploy at one or more sites or in the cloud.
  • Modular Configurability–Use integrated modules to build the exact industrial application you need.
  • Cross-Platform Compatibility–Ignition works with any major operating system, even iOS and Android.
  • Run Web-Clients on Desktop or Mobile–Launch runtime clients in any web browser with no plugin required.
  • Based on Open Technology Standards–Built on HTML5, SQL, Python, MQTT & OPC UA.
  • Instant Installs and Updates–Install on a server in just 3 minutes, push updates to clients everywhere, instantly.
  • One Universal Platform–Build SCADA, MES, IIoT, alarming, reporting applications and more.
  • Mission-Critical–Add fault tolerance for mission-critical systems by adding redundant servers.

ERP Installation Pain A Thing of the Past

ERP Installation Pain A Thing of the Past

I grew up on (ERP) pain. The quickest way to find unemployment was to be selected to be the program manager implementing the company’s new ERP system. Actually, in reality the death was long, slow, and painful. A new study conducted by my old friend Cindy Jutras lays the old myth to rest.

Ultra Consultants, an independent enterprise solution consulting firm serving the manufacturing and distribution sector, published an industry survey conducted by Mint Jutras, researchers specializing in analyzing the business impact of enterprise applications. The in-depth report resulting from the survey is titled The Real Facts about ERP Implementation: Busting the Myth of Failure, But Are You Overrating Your Success?

In late 2018, Mint Jutras surveyed more than 300 North American manufacturers and distributors, focusing on the success of their ERP implementations in terms of schedule, cost and return on investment (ROI). The study of ERP implementation success by manufacturers and distributors found 67 percent rate their implementations as successful or very successful.

The report findings show that previous statistics related to lack of ERP implementation success rates are out of date, and “flip the script” on often cited success rates from previous years. Highlights of the study include:

  • The Mint Jutras/Ultra Consultants study found that the primary reasons for success had to do with people and process, and not just software. Key success factors include top management support and change management.
  • Reasons for lack of implementation success include inadequate business process re-engineering and inadequate project planning.
  • While many ERP implementations meet expectations in terms of schedule, budget and ROI, the Mint Jutras/Ultra Consultants study shows a significant number of manufacturing and distribution companies over-rate their success and leave additional attainable returns on the table.

“ERP project disasters were quite common in the early days of ERP. It’s noteworthy that this study reveals as myth the once-cited high rates of failure in terms of schedules, costs and payback,” notes Cindy Jutras, President of Mint Jutras. “Solutions today are far more technology-enabled, easier to implement and use. Equally important is management support of the project, and change management initiatives.”

Notes Jeff Carr, Founder and CEO of Ultra Consultants, “This research study reflects the performance of current offerings of modern ERP systems now available to manufacturers and distributors. The report shows that the majority of ERP implementations drive value, are on time and meet budget expectations. It also reveals the importance of setting goals for a project, and putting the focus on people and processes, not just technology.”