Using Software Technology To Be Competitive In An Industrial Market

This is a story about Bill Johnson, vice president of operations for Madison, WI-based Madison-Kipp Corp. (MKC). The company makes precision machined aluminum die castings and subassemblies for the transportation, lawn & garden, and industrial markets. The company faced two objectives to enhance competitiveness—to bring down costs and raise efficiency.

“Technology is very important to us,” said Bill Johnson, vice president of operations for MKC. “We have to keep ahead of our competitors in many different areas. Using Ignition and taking real-time data from our processes helps us understand our data — which helps us make better decisions.”

Note: I very seldom write this type of story anymore. When we laid out the editorial direction for Automation World back in the day, I wanted stories about the intelligent application of automation with the people doing the work as the hero of the story. Typically, these stories come from the marketing department of supplier company. They write about what they know—the hero of the story is their product or service. Since these stories are so hard to come by, I decided not to pursue them for The Manufacturing Connection even though stories are more powerful than a bunch of bullet points.

Back to the story. Unfortunately there are no specific numbers about savings, but Johnson describes the “before” scene—that is, before they implemented Ignition by Inductive Automation, an industrial application platform with tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

“Some of the results we have are in the cost savings realm, and we’ve also seen improved efficiency,” said Johnson. “Before, engineers had to collect data on their own. This would take a long time. Now, we’re able to pull that data in and look at it and solve problems very quickly.”

“Using the built-in connectivity, the Ignition platform has filled a void for us between multiple manufacturers and platforms,” said Jay Sandvick, senior automation controls engineer at MKC. “It’s given us interoperability that we didn’t believe we could have. We now have accessibility to data streams we didn’t have before. And we have the ability to generate seamless reports from machines that were previously thought unconnectable.”

Dotti Jacob, industrial integration engineer at MKC, adds, “We are now allowed us to use different programming languages, and tie into all sorts of different systems, without being held back by proprietary issues.”

The platform’s interoperability has allowed MKC to streamline its systems. “Before Ignition, we were reliant on various software packages that were frankly a nightmare to maintain and pay for,” said Sandvick. “With Ignition, we have a single-point interface, a single cost, and it has more than exceeded our expectations in talking to various machines.”

Remote access has been greatly improved. “Before, if I was at a different facility and there were troubleshooting issues, I would have to travel there to help out,” said Jacob. “Now that we have Ignition, I can access the SCADA from anywhere and see in real time actual images of the different machines and what they’re doing, which is very helpful for troubleshooting. Having real-time data, we can access from anywhere allows us to see and address the issue a lot more quickly than we could in the past — which saves us time and money.”

You can use your software platform to allow customers visibility into the production of their orders. “Our customers really enjoy the ability to see real-time data on their products being produced,” said Scott Sargeant, vice president of sales for MKC. “It allows them to understand things without having to travel to our location — which of course saves them time and money. We’re talking about a paradigm shift in information sharing. It really gives our customers a window into the production environment. And our ability to provide this helps differentiate Madison-Kipp from other manufacturers.”

Sargeant adds, “Now our customers can see that data, can understand impactful events, downtime, and other important issues in production.”

Ignition allows users to import CAD drawings of the plant floor as the background for screens. The screens show real-time movement of robots, so operators always have an accurate view of what’s happening. “Before, we had to use these cookie-cutter images that were not very accurate to what was actually happening on the floor,” said Jacob. “Now we’re able to take a CAD drawing of the equipment, and it can move in real time with however the equipment’s moving, and that’s very helpful.”

Training is a key differentiator for technology suppliers. Jacob said Inductive University—the free online educational center with hundreds of videos allowing users to learn at their own pace has been an additional benefit. “When I started with Madison-Kipp, I’d never heard of Ignition,” said Jacob. “I was able to get up to speed very quickly because Inductive University has videos that teach you anything you need to know in order to be successful using the software.”

A Decade of Digitalization

A Decade of Digitalization

I give up. To me, the end of the decade is next year figuring there was not a year 0, then the beginning of the new calendar was year 1 and the end of the first decade was year 10. Oh, well, mainstream media just can’t wait to jump into wrap-up frenzy. So, me, too.

The last 10 years in industrial technology was busy with new buzz words—heavier on marketing than on substance in many ways. We breezed through Industrie 4.0 with its cyber-physical systems. Then we had Internet of Things borrowed from the consumer, largely iPhone, space. But borrowing from GE advertising of the “Industrial Internet”, the “Industrial Internet of Things” became originally the European counterpoint to Germany’s Industry 4.0 and then grew into general adoption.

Not finished with all this buzz, the industry discovered “digital”. We had digital twin (derived from cyber-physical systems). But these had to be connected with the digital thread. And all led into a digital transformation.

Let’s take a look at some specific topics.

Innovation

Much of the foundation was laid in the decade before. Maybe I should say decades. The industry started digitizing in the 1980s. It’s been building ever since. Through the first decade of this millennium great strides were made in control technology, usability, sensors (both sensitivity and communication), networks moving from analog to digital and through field buses to Ethernet.

In this decade, most companies grew by acquisition of smaller, innovative companies and start-ups. The remaining automation giants pieced together strategies based on visions of which companies to acquire and what customer solutions were required. Looking ahead, I’m considering what additional consolidation to anticipate. I think there will be more as the market does not seem to be growing dramatically.

Most innovation came in the realm of data. Decreasing costs of memory, networking stacks, and other silicon enabled leaps in ability to accumulate and communicate data. Borrowing software advances from IT, historians and relational databases grew more powerful along with new types of data handling and analysis coming from the “big data” and powerful analytics technologies.

Another IT innovation that finally hit industrial companies was adoption of “cloud” with the eventual development of edge. Instead of the Purdue Enterprise Reference Model of the control/automation equipment being the gateway of all data from the processes, companies began to go sensor to cloud, so to speak, breaking down the rigidity of PERA thinking.

Digital Everything

It is now old news that digital is everywhere. And, it is not a sudden development. It has been building for 30 years. Like all technology, it builds over time until it’s suddenly everywhere. The question is no longer what is becoming digital, nor is it speculating over marketing terms like digital transformation.

The question about digital everything is precisely how are we to use it to make things better for humans and society.

Sensors—At least by 2003, if not before, I was writing about the converging trends in silicon of smaller and less expensive networking, sensing, processing, and memory chips and stacks that would enable an explosion of ubiquitous sensing. It’s not only here; it is everywhere. Not only in manufacturing, but also in our homes and our palms.

Design—CAD, CAM, PLM have all progressed in power and usability. Most especially have been the development of data protocols that allow the digital data output of these applications to flow into operations and maintenance applications. Getting as-built and as-designed to align improves maintenance and reliability along with uptime and productivity. And not only in a single plant, but in an extended supply chain.

Networking—The emergence of fast, reliable, and standardized networking is the backbone of the new digital enterprise. It is here and proven.

Software—Emergence of more powerful databases, including even extension of historians, along with data conversion protocols and analysis tools provides information presented in an easily digestible form so that better decisions may be made throughout the extended enterprise.

IT/OT

Industry press have talked about IT/OT convergence until we are all sick of the phrase. Add to that stories of in-fighting between the organizations, and you have the making of good stories—but not of reality or providing a path to what works. As Operations Technology (OT) has become increasingly digital, it inevitably overlaps the Information Technology (IT) domain. Companies with good management have long since taken strides to foster better working relationships breaking the silos. Usually a simple step such as moving the respective manager’s offices close to each other to foster communication helps.

New Entrants

Speaking of IT and OT, the modification of the Purdue Enterprise Reference Modal to show data flowing from the plant/sensor level directly to the “cloud” for enterprise IT use has enticed new entrants into manufacturing technology.

If we are not forced to go through the control system to provide data for MES, MOM, ERP, CRS, and the like, then perhaps the IT companies such as Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Hitachi Vantara can develop their compute platforms, partnerships, and software to provide that gateway between plant floor and enterprise without disturbing the control platform.

Therefore we are witnessing proliferating partnerships among IT and OT automation suppliers in order to provide complete solutions to customers.

Strategy

Remember—it is all meaningless unless it gets translated into intelligent action to make the manufacturing supply chain more productive with better quality and more humane.

A Decade of Digitalization

Acquisitions Bolster Incumbents Further Consolidate Industry

The IT architecture of industrial / manufacturing applications increasingly boosts the role of cloud and edge. These technologies have become core to Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and improved Software as a Service (SaaS).

These recent acquisition news items reflect the acceleration of the trend. One is from Siemens and the other PTC.

Siemens plans acquisition of Edge technology

In brief:

  • Siemens further expands its digitalization portfolio for industry
  • Technology basis is the Docker IT standard
  • Siemens Industrial Edge ecosystem enables easy and flexible use of Edge apps

Siemens is planning the acquisition of Edge technology from the US company Pixeom. With this action, Siemens is strengthening its Industrial Edge portfolio by adding software components for Edge runtime and for device management. Siemens Industrial Edge provides an ecosystem, which enables the flexible provision and use of apps. This means for example that appropriate apps can analyze data locally at the machine and send relevant data to the higher-level Industrial Edge Management System for global analytics. With this acquisition, Siemens is driving forward the expansion of its Digital Enterprise portfolio and the integration of cutting-edge technologies for the digital transformation of industry.

With the resulting Industrial Edge ecosystem, industrial companies can use production data even more efficiently and react more flexibly to changes in conditions.

Ralf-Michael Franke, CEO of Siemens’ Factory Automation Business Unit, explains: “Cutting edge technologies such as Edge Computing open up new scope for automation. With Siemens Industrial Edge, we are creating an open edge ecosystem which offers benefits for companies of any size.”

Siemens is using Docker standard container technology: the provision of apps in the management system will therefore be just as simple as functional upgrades and updates of Edge devices in the factory from a central point.

Siemens intends to acquire this technology from Pixeom and use it in the Factory Automation Business Unit, which is part of Siemens Digital Industries. Pixeom has sites in San José, California and Udaipur, India and employs 81 people worldwide. Closing of the transaction is planned for the fourth quarter of 2019. Both companies have agreed not to comment on the financial details of the transaction.

PTC Makes SaaS Acquisition

I sat in on the analysts/press conference where PTC president and CEO Jim Heppelmann discussed the reason for this announced acquisition of Onshape, creators of the “first” Software as a Service product development platform. The company had also just released fourth quarter results. PTC has a little more than $1 billion in revenues, with about 45% CAD and 35% PLM. Interestingly, the IoT business contributes just over 10% of revenues.

Onshape’s product development platform unites computer aided design (CAD) with data management and collaboration tools, for approximately $470 million, net of cash acquired. The acquisition is expected to accelerate PTC’s ability to attract new customers with a SaaS-based product offering and position the company to capitalize on the inevitable industry transition to SaaS. Heppelmann believes that that cloud-based SaaS is the future of CAD. Pending regulatory approval and satisfaction of other closing conditions, the transaction is expected to be completed in November 2019.

Located in Cambridge, MA, Onshape was founded in 2012 by CAD pioneers and tech legends, including Jon Hirschtick, John McEleney, and Dave Corcoran, inventors and former executives of SolidWorks. Onshape has secured more than $150 million in funding from leading venture capital firms and has more than 5,000 subscribers around the world. The company’s software offering is delivered in a SaaS model, making it accessible from any connected location or device, eliminating the need for costly hardware and administrative staff to maintain. Distributed and mobile teams of designers, engineers, and others can benefit from the product’s cloud nature, enabling them to improve collaboration and to dramatically reduce the time needed to bring new products to market – while simultaneously staying current with the latest software.

“PTC has earned a reputation for successfully pursuing new innovations that drive corporate growth,” said Heppelmann. “Building on the strong momentum we have with our on-premises CAD and PLM businesses, we look to our future and see a new growth play with SaaS.”

This acquisition is the logical next step in PTC’s overall evolution to a recurring revenue business model, the first step of which was the company’s successful transition to subscription licensing, completed in January 2019. The SaaS model, while nascent in the CAD and PLM market, is rapidly becoming industry best practice across most other software domains.

“Today, we see small and medium-sized CAD customers in the high-growth part of the CAD market shifting their interest toward SaaS delivery models, and we expect interest from larger customers to grow over time,” continued Heppelmann. “The acquisition of Onshape complements our on-premises business with the industry’s only proven, scalable pure SaaS platform, which we expect will open new CAD and PLM growth opportunities while positioning PTC to be the leader as the market transitions toward the SaaS model.”

For customers, the SaaS model enables faster work, improved collaboration and innovation, with lower up-front costs and with no IT infrastructure to administer and maintain. For software providers, the SaaS model has been proven to generate a more stable and predictable revenue stream, increase customer loyalty as customers benefit from earlier adoption of technology innovations, and enable expansions into new segments and geographies.

“At Onshape, we share PTC’s vision for helping organizations transform the way they develop products,” said Jon Hirschtick, CEO and co-founder, Onshape. “We and PTC believe that the product development industry is nearing the ‘tipping point’ for SaaS adoption of CAD and data management tools. We look forward to empowering the customers we serve with the latest innovations to improve their competitive positions.”

Onshape will operate as a business unit within PTC, with current management reporting directly to Heppelmann.

A Decade of Digitalization

Camera-Based Quality Control System for Flat Sheet Industries

Years ago I dabbled in machine vision integration. It was fun and creative. My customers and I did some pretty cool quality control applications. So I maintain a liking for the technology even though the price of the hardware plummeted and ease-of-use skyrocketed. So, I bring you this interesting news.

Honeywell is collaborating with Papertech to develop and market TotalVision, a connected, camera-based detection system for the flat sheet industries. The system enables customers to identify and resolve defects on the production line, improving quality and efficiency. The fully integrated total quality control solution is designed for flat sheet and film processes in which surface detection and production break monitoring capabilities are critical for competitive success. This new solution is designed for paper, pulp, tissue, board, extruded film, calendaring, lithium-ion battery, copper and aluminium foil producers.

Combining Honeywell’s ExperionMX technology with market-leading Papertech’s TotalVision defect detection and event capturing capabilities, the solution provides a single-window operating environment for all aspects of process and quality control. Customers benefit from faster root cause determination of runnability and quality problems, thereby saving significant time in lost or downgraded production. When integrated with connected offerings such as Honeywell QCS 4.0, system data and analytics can be accessed anytime, anywhere, from any device.

“Honeywell represents an ideal collaborator for Papertech as our industry-leading WebInspector WIS and our WebVision web monitoring system (WMS) single platform TotalVision camera system seamlessly integrate with Honeywell’s quality control systems for a range of industries,” said Kari Hilden, CEO of Papertech Inc. “We look forward to working with the global Honeywell team and their customers.”

Honeywell will continue to support existing camera system users with parts and services, while offering an easy migration path to the new solution. Given the collaborative nature of the agreement, customers can choose to take a single party, single-window approach or to engage with Honeywell and Papertech separately.

“As the world moves from plastic to biomaterial-based packaging, and from hydrocarbon-based transportation to electric vehicles, flat sheet producers are under increased pressure to ensure output consistently meets a variety of performance and safety requirements,” said Michael Kennelly, global business leader for sheet, film and foil industries, Honeywell Process Solutions. “By bringing together Honeywell’s core strengths of measurement, control, connected applications and services in flat sheet production with Papertech’s leadership in web monitoring and inspection systems, we uniquely provide customers with that capability along with industry-beating lifecycle costs.”

Papertech is the global industry-leading machine vision system supplier for a range of web-based production lines with more than 1200 TotalVision installations in 42 countries. It is part of the IBS Paper Performance Group, a company with a more than 50-year history in delivering papermakers a full range of proven machine efficiency and product quality optimization solutions.

For more information visit Honeywell Quality Control Systems and Papertech TotalVision solutions.

A Decade of Digitalization

The Salesforce Economy Bolsters Manufacturing Cloud

Salesforce recently began reaching out to me. I found a (to me) surprising connection to industrial / manufacturing applications beyond CRM and the like. In general, more and more applications are moving to the cloud. In Brief: New research finds The Salesforce Economy will create more than $1 trillion in new business revenues and 4.2 million jobs between 2019 and 2024. Salesforce ecosystem is on track to become nearly six times larger than Salesforce itself by 2024, earning $5.80 for every dollar Salesforce makes.

Financial services, manufacturing and retail industries will lead the way, creating $224 billion, $212 billion and $134 billion in new business revenue respectively by 2024.

Salesforce announced new research from IDC that finds Salesforce and its ecosystem of partners will create 4.2 million new jobs and $1.2 trillion in new business revenues worldwide between 2019 and 2024. The research also finds Salesforce is driving massive gains for its partner ecosystem, which will see $5.80 in gains for every $1 Salesforce makes by 2024.

Cloud computing is driving this growth and giving rise to a host of new technologies, including mobile, social, IoT and AI, that are creating new revenue streams and jobs that further fuel the growth of the cloud — creating an ongoing virtuous cycle of innovation and growth. According to IDC, by 2024 nearly 50 percent of cloud computing software spend will be tied to digital transformation and will account for nearly half of all software sales. Worldwide spending on cloud computing between now and 2024 will grow 19 percent annually, from $179 billion in 2019 to $418 billion in 2024.

“The Salesforce ecosystem is made possible by the amazing work of our customers and partners around the world, and because of our collaboration we’re able to generate the business and job growth that we see today,” said Tyler Prince, EVP, Industries and Partners at Salesforce. “Whether it’s through industry-specific extensions or business-aligned apps, the Salesforce Customer 360 platform helps accelerate the growth of our partner ecosystem, and most importantly, the growth of our customers.”

Because organizations that spend on cloud computing subscriptions also spend on ancillary products and services, the Salesforce ecosystem in 2019 is more than four times larger than Salesforce itself and will grow to almost six times larger by 2024. IDC estimates that from 2019 through 2024, Salesforce will drive the creation of 6.6 million indirect jobs, which are created from spending in the general economy by those people filling the 4.2 million jobs previously mentioned.

“The tech skills gap will become a major roadblock for economic growth if we don’t empower everyone – regardless of class, race or gender – to skill up for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Sarah Franklin, EVP and GM of Platform, Developers and Trailhead at Salesforce. “With Trailhead, our free online learning platform, people don’t need to carry six figures in debt to land a top job; instead, anyone with an Internet connection can now have an equal pathway to landing a job in the Salesforce Economy.”

Industry Economic Benefits of the Salesforce Economy

Specifically, Manufacturing industry will gain $211.7 billion in new revenues and 765,800 new jobs will be created by 2024.

Salesforce’s multi-faceted ecosystem is the driving force behind the Salesforce Economy’s massive growth:

  • The global ecosystem includes multiple stakeholders, all of which play an integral part in the Salesforce Economy. This includes the world’s top five consulting firms, all of whom have prominent Salesforce digital transformation practices; independent software vendors (ISVs) that build their businesses on the Salesforce Customer 360 Platform and bring Salesforce into new industries; more than 1,200 Community Groups, with different areas of focus and expertise; and more than 200 Salesforce MVPs, product experts and brand advocates.
  • Launched in 2006, Salesforce AppExchange is the world’s largest enterprise cloud marketplace, and hosts more than 4,000 solutions including apps, templates, bots and components that have been downloaded more than 7 million times. Ninety-five percent of the Fortune 100, 81 percent of the Fortune 500, and 86 percent of Salesforce customers are using AppExchange apps.
  • Trailhead is Salesforce’s free online learning platform that empowers anyone to skill up for the future, learn in-demand skills and land a top job in the Salesforce Economy. Since Trailhead launched in 2014, more than 1.7 million Trailblazers have earned over 17.5 million badges; a quarter of all learners on Trailhead have leveraged their newfound skills to jump-start their careers with new jobs. Indeed, the world’s #1 job site, included Salesforce Developer in its list of best jobs in the US for 2019, noting that the number of job postings for that position had increased 129 percent year-over-year.