MESA Announces Version 7 Release of B2MML-BatchML Specifications

I was happy to see the group behind B2MML and BatchML find a home at MESA International after some abortive attempts with other organizations. Looks like the partnership has been good.  This month’s news is that MESA International announces the release of Version 7 of the B2MML and BatchML specifications. B2MML (Business to Manufacturing Markup Language) and BatchML (Batch Markup Language) are XML schema definitions that are implementations of the ISA-95 Enterprise/Control System Standard. The BatchML schemas were integrated into the B2MML namespace several versions ago, therefore the downloads and documentation of B2MML also includes BatchML files. Great leadership by Dave Emerson and Dennis Brandl and the group.

This major release supports the 2018/19 versions of the ISA-95 and IEC 62264 specifications. Version 7 adds important new elements to B2MML including spatial locations, material and other resource testing information, standardized error message handling, and work calendars. This version also includes the first B2MML-JSON schema definition, supporting transfers of JSON files in addition to XML files. 

Dennis Brandl, member of the MESA XML Committee responsible for the B2MML standard updates, states, “This version has undergone extensive testing and reviews to ensure that the ISA-95 standard is fully implemented in B2MML V7. We’re excited about the updates made to the specifications to bring them up to date with the ISA-95 standard, as well as the new features that have been added.” 

Companies interested in following ISA-95 for integration projects may use B2MML to integrate business systems such as ERP and supply chain management systems with manufacturing systems such as control systems and manufacturing execution systems. B2MML is a complete implementation of ISA-95. Any company may use B2MML royalty free provided credit is given to MESA.

Download the updated version for free by creating an account on MESA’s Online Learning & Resource Center.

Industrial Internet Consortium Technical Report Defines Framework for Distributed Edge Computing

The trend du jour no doubt includes computing at the edge to enhance the Industrial Internet. This news from the Industrial Internet Consortium shows how companies working together can develop a common set of standard frameworks to assure interoperability.

Moving computing from the cloud to the edge increases the performance, trustworthiness, and efficiency of industrial IoT applications

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) announced the publication of the Industrial Internet of Things Distributed Computing in the Edge Technical Report. Designed for IoT system architects and implementers, the report describes a distributed computing framework that moves the capabilities of data center-based cloud computing closer to intelligent IoT devices at the edge.

“In edge computing, data, networking, storage, and computing are distributed throughout layers of edge computing nodes from IoT devices to the data center – distributing the economies of scale of cloud capabilities throughout the system,” said Chuck Byers, Co-Chair, IIC Distributed Computing Task Group, and Associate CTO of IIC. “The migration of cloud capabilities into the edge allows data, storage, and computation to gravitate to where it can be handled most efficiently, whether in a data center or the edge.” 

The technical report includes: 

  • A structural and functional framework for distributing computing in the edge
  • Definitions of key architectural concepts employed in distributed edge computing 
  • Essential capabilities of an edge system’s elements 
  • Security and management functions 
  • Essential interfaces for these elements 

System architects can use the framework as a template to derive a concrete distributed computing architecture. Operations technologists, information technologists, network and business managers can use the report to learn more about the essential elements and advantages of distributed computing in the edge.

“Distributed computing, and the nodes and edge systems that form its key components are essential to the success of organization’s critical IoT systems and digital transformation plans,” said John Zao, Co-Chair, IIC Distributed Computing Task Group. “By moving to a distributed edge computing architecture, organizations across industries can reduce costs and meet critical performance, trustworthiness, and efficiency requirements for their IoT applications.”

The Industrial Internet of Things Distributed Computing in the Edge Technical Report is free of charge. The technical report and a list of authors who contributed to it can be found on the IIC website

The Industrial Internet Consortium has the goal of accelerating adoption of a trustworthy internet of things. The Industrial Internet Consortium is a program of the Object Management Group (OMG).

Industrial Enterprises to Achieve Step Change Operational Improvements

The Open Process Automation Forum strives for a software-defined industrial control system where the hardware and software are dissociated. The specific reason is that upgrades become less expensive. Software must be upgraded more often than hardware in a control system. If the two are tied together as in all proprietary control systems, then upgrades run on a continuum from painful to impossibly expensive.

I’ve been puzzling out this press release from Schneider Electric about a new control software dubbed EcoStruxure Automation Expert. The company says, “it is the world’s first software-centric industrial automation system.” I’m not sure that claim would stand up exactly, but it seems to me that this is a step on that journey toward dissociating software and hardware in the control system. Executives have told me in the past few years that achieving this is an essential long-term strategy. 

Any comments you all have about this are welcome (as long as they’re civil and enlightening).

The press release is written in the tone of a challenge to the rest of the industry to write “apps” that will run on this standards-based (IEC-61499) system.

Schneider Electric promises to unleash a new wave of innovation by championing the widespread adoption of open automation standards unveiling its vision for universal automation with EcoStruxure Automation Expert, “a new category of software-centric industrial automation system.”

Claims closed and proprietary automation platforms restrict the adoption of best-of-breed technologies, present challenges to integrate third-party components, and are expensive to upgrade and maintain. Industry has suffered from a lack of adaptability, modularization and interoperability, which is stunting innovation.

Universal automation is the world of plug and produce automation software components based on the IEC61499 standard that solve specific customer problems in a proven way. Adoption of an IEC61499-based standardized automation layer, common across vendors, will provide limitless opportunities for growth and modernization across industry.

By greatly extending the capabilities of existing IEC61131-based systems and enabling an app-store-like model for automation software components, Schneider Electric believes that the advancements possible in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be fully realized. As its benefits become visible, Schneider Electric believes other vendors will adopt the universal automation approach, and end users will soon begin to demand it from their automation suppliers and ecosystem.

“The IT world has realized the benefits of open operating platforms; now it’s industry’s turn,” said Peter Herweck, executive vice president industrial automation, Schneider Electric. “Industrial automation architectures have done a good job of advancing industry to where we are today, but they are not capable of providing the agility and resilience that are paramount for modern industrial operations. To fully realize the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we need to reimagine our technology model by opening our platforms, decoupling software from hardware, and radically improving system agility and scalability.”

EcoStruxure Automation Expert is a new category of industrial automation system with IEC61499 at its core. EcoStruxure Automation Expert:

  1. Enables automation applications to be built using asset-centric, portable, proven-in-use software components, independent of the underlying hardware infrastructure.
  2. Allows the user to distribute applications to any system hardware architecture of choice —highly distributed, centralized, or both — with minimal to no additional programming effort.
  3. Supports established software best practices to simplify the creation of automation applications that interoperate with IT systems.

The first release of EcoStruxure Automation Expert supports traditional automation platforms, such as Modicon PLCs, and Altivar Variable Speed Drives and PCs. Completing the line-up, a virtualized software controller running in Docker-powered Linux containers supports distributed information and control systems across edge computing architectures.

Leveraging the object-oriented nature of IEC61499, software components known as Composite Automation Types (CATs) are used to model assets by combining real-time control functions with other facets, such as the human machine interface. This asset-centric approach delivers unprecedented cost and performance gains and frees engineers to innovate by automating low-value work and eliminating task duplication across tools. Benchmarking of EcoStruxure Automation Expert against today’s automation systems has demonstrated a 2 to 7X reduction in the time it takes to perform traditional automation tasks.

EcoStruxure Automation Expert’s support for mainstream IT best practices enables step-change improvements in asset and workforce efficiency using advanced technologies like predictive maintenance and digital twin. The system also reduces total cost of ownership by incorporating legacy systems with a wrap-and-reuse approach.

“EcoStruxure Automation Expert is the first step in the journey toward universal automation” said Fabrice Jadot, senior vice president, next generation automation, Schneider Electric. “To fully realize the potential of next-generation industries, we must embrace a new way of thinking. Working to common, open standards is vital to ensuring multivendor interoperability and seamless interfaces from supply chain through manufacturing and production to the end customer. Now is the time for all vendors to fully embrace open implementations with code and function portability to become more connected. Today is the first step in a new direction. We invite industrial developers everywhere to create their own software components and solutions based on the IEC61499 standard, which can easily interoperate with EcoStruxure Automation Expert.”

OPC Foundation Welcomes Emerson to Its Board of Directors

Emerson also joins the OPC Foundation Field Level Communications (FLC) initiative to drive a holistic approach to sensor and device level communications across process and factory automation industries.

This news could be a big win for the OPC Foundation. On the other hand, it sometimes happens that big companies join standards efforts in order to delay adoption. Sometimes, though, big companies see benefits for themselves from standards developments. It saves them a ton of internal development time and money. The news that Emerson is increasing its commitment to OPC and working with the field Level communications development can give a needed boost to the effort. We can hope.

The OPC Foundation is proud to announce Emerson has joined its Board of Directors and sincerely welcomes Peter Zornio, Chief Technology Officer for Emerson Automation Solutions, as Emerson’s representative on the Board of Directors. Emerson is one of the world’s largest automation suppliers, providing engineering services and automation technologies to process and discrete manufacturing industries.

Emerson has a long history with the OPC Foundation. As one of its founding members, Emerson played an important role in the development and adoption of the first OPC data connectivity standard and contributed to the development of OPC UA, today’s open data interoperability standard. Emerson supports OPC UA initiatives by participating in OPC Foundation working groups and by adopting OPC UA in a wide variety of its family of products.

Peter Zornio says: “OPC technology is well established in the automation space as the de facto standard for application-level communications.  It also provides integration between operations technology (OT) and the IT world, including cloud-based environments.  We look forward to growing that role, as well as working with the OPC FLC initiative on expanding OPC technology into real-time communications between control and field-connected devices.  OPC is the best candidate to have a single communication standard cover the entire scope of automation architecture from intelligent field devices to the cloud.”

Peter Lutz, Director FLC Initiative: “Currently, the OPC Foundation is extending use of OPC UA down to the level of sensors and devices on the shop floor via its Field Level Communications (FLC) initiative. The value that a major player like Emerson brings to this initiative is important from both technical and market messaging perspectives. First, OPC Foundation Working Groups benefit from extensive Emerson field level expertise. Second, with its strong support for ongoing OPC UA standard development for use in both process and discrete industries, Emerson helps send a clear message to the market: OPC UA plays an equally important role in both verticals.

Stefan Hoppe, President and Executive Director, OPC Foundation commented “It is gratifying to welcome a company of Emerson’s stature to the OPC Foundation Board of Directors. Working together with Emerson and our other valued board members, the OPC Foundation is now better positioned to deliver on its directive to provide the world with the best single data connectivity and interoperability standard for use throughout the enterprise, regardless of the industry sector.” 

Digital Infrastructure Orchestration Pilot

The thought visited that some time has elapsed since I have heard anything from the Open Process Automation people (OPAF). Then this news of the successful conclusion of a digital infrastructure orchestration pilot project within the scope of the project. A nice step forward on the journey.

CPLANE.ai and ExxonMobil have published the results and findings of their digital infrastructure orchestration pilot. As IT/OT Convergence and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) adoption accelerates, new system management challenges must be addressed. This pilot demonstrated how orchestration can simplify the management of these new, multi-vendor systems while improving security and reliability. The whitepaper describing the methods and results of the pilot can be downloaded HERE.

Key findings from the pilot include:

1. Multi-vendor, open process automation can be integrated into a wholistic system using system orchestration technology.

2. Open standards, such as the Open Process Automation Standard, make inter-operability
orders of magnitude easier to manage and more reliable to implement.

3. An integrated hybrid-architecture of IT/OT digital assets can be managed in one cohesive
framework with limited or no IT expertise.

4. System orchestration is critical for accelerating innovation and adoption of converged IT/OT systems, particularly in an open, multi-vendor and interoperable control system.

Don Bartusiak, Chief Engineer for Process Control at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering said, “CPLANE.ai exceeded our expectations on what is possible in demonstrating the management of a converged IT/OT industrial control system. System orchestration is growing in visibility and importance within the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) and many of the findings of this pilot will help us shape the evolution of our standards.”

Digital infrastructure orchestration automates the provisioning, monitoring, failure-recovery, and evolution of OPA systems while maintaining continuous operations and network-based cybersecurity. Steve Bitar, an automation leader at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, said “this was an ambitious project from the beginning. And the results have really given us a vision for how complex open industrial control systems can be managed and automated.” 

CPLANE.ai is now conducting demonstrations of its Digital Infrastructure Test Bed with partners and members of OPAF. Going forward, CPLANE.ai will be applying the learnings from this pilot project to other OPAF related test beds and pilots globally.

CPLANE.ai automates the orchestration of distributed edge computing across a diverse landscape of hardware and software components. CPLANE.ai removes the complexity of provisioning, managing, securing, and evolving distributed systems. CPLANE.ai’s intelligent software platform automates the coordination and configuration of policies and procedures across multiple layers of distributed cloud infrastructure. 

OMAC Remote Access Working Group

The first end-user driven industry-standards working group I ran into as a new editor at Control Engineering magazine several (22) years ago was the Open Modular Architecture Controller (OMAC) group spearheaded primarily by the major automotive players plus Boeing and then some CPG firms such as P&G and Unilever. The first attempt was a less expensive and more easily updatable machine controller. If it sounds much like today’s Open Process Automation Forum, it should.

Later packaging companies and their suppliers became dominant within OMAC as the organization changed its name a couple of times and eventually found a home with PMMI. I really haven’t heard much about the organization for a few years. Then Mark Fondl, with whom I had many discussions about standards in automation—primarily Ethernet—got involved and started pinging me.

Here is news about a new working group striving for a best-practices handbook for remote monitoring services.

The rationale:

The Covid-19 crisis has pushed manufacturers to actively develop plans for “lights out” factories and supply chains. A recent survey conducted by PMMI shows that 92% of respondents working at CPGs cannot use their existing remote access capabilities due to cybersecurity concerns. The study further noted that 36% of respondents listed that there is no practical guide to help start as their top barrier to adding new remote access service.

The desired result:

OMAC (The Organization for Machine Automation and Control) believes a collaborative review is needed to create a comprehensive best-practices handbook for remote monitoring services that will help manufacturing companies allow secure remote access to machines and automation systems on the plant floor.

Focus:

This Workgroup focuses on timing, safety, and security procedures when allowing inbound connections that link to specific machines and automation systems. This work is essential because inbound connections are more complex and hold more risk than the more common outbound connections.

More than 20 companies are now involved:

  • End-Users: Cargill, Nestle, P&G, Sonoco
  • OEMs: Nordson, Mettler Toledo, Milacron, ProMach, Bobst
  • SIs & Vendors: Siemens, EtherCAT Technology Group, Beckhoff, SICK, Martin CSI, Trola Industries, Omnicon

Timeline:

9 SepIntroduction, Agenda Review
23 SepCurrent State and Stakeholders of Remote Access
7 OctCollaboration with IT
21 OctClassification of Activities
4 NovValidation of Assets being Connected
18 NovMethodologies to engage beyond one-to-one
2 DecSecurity and Safety, Documentation and Change Management
16 DecReview of Draft Report
13 JanFinal Report Approval

You can help, but you must be a member. Find out more here.