Our schedules finally aligned and I was able to catch up with Ed Harrington, director of the Open Process Automation Forum for The Open Group. A few months ago I talked with Gary Freburger and Peter Martin of Schneider Electric’s process automation unit. We discussed the OPAF and what had been going on since the ARC Forum in Orlando last February.
OPAF has laid out an ambitious agenda moving automation toward an era of open connectivity and interoperability.
The original plan broached a couple of years ago at ARC Forum by representatives of ExxonMobil and Lockheed Martin was to prod suppliers into reducing the problem of upgrading systems in the field without the huge expense of rip-and-replace. Considerable industry jockeying ensued. Schneider Electric (Foxboro) eventually taking a leadership position in the effort with assistance from Yokogawa and to a degree Siemens. Other suppliers are watching and evaluating.
Smaller suppliers such as Inductive Automation have become involved along with some of the major automation systems suppliers.
The OPAF specification is really a standard of standards. The group wishes to build upon existing standards, assembling them in such a way as to advance the cause of open automation.
Harrington told me that so far this year, the group has published three items (that are open to the public). One is a business guide, The Open Process Automation Business Guide: Value Proposition and Business Case for the Open Process Automation Standard.
The industrial control systems that manufacturers use to automate their processes are critical to the company’s productivity and product quality. To increase the business contribution from control systems, manufacturers need:
1. Increases in operational benefits from improved capabilities
2. Improvements in cybersecurity compared to currently available systems
3. Reductions in the system’s capital and lifecycle costs
The organization has also published The Open Group Snapshot—Open Process Automation Technical Reference Model: Technical Architecture and a white paper Requirements for an Open Process Automation Standard.
Harrington also told me to expect an announcement of further work at next week’s Open Group Quarterly Meeting in Singapore.
I have seen a number of these initiatives in my career. Few succeed in entirety. However, the thinking that goes into this work always moves industry forward. I don’t know if we’ll ever see a truly OPAF control system. Anything that brings more rationality to the market keeping in minds the goals of OPAF will do much for helping manufacturers and producers improve performance. And that’s what it’s all about.
Let me try to summarize a number of other news items gleaned from the ARC Forum featuring edge computing, IIoT Platforms, and technology. When ARC’s Paul Miller told me it would be the best ever, he turned out not to be exaggerating. More people, more news.
Stratus Technologies, known for years for secure servers, released an edge computing device. Interest in computing at the edge of the network has blossomed lately, with many companies releasing products. Lots of choices for users.
Integration Objects, firmly within another important trend, introduced an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Platform. I’m beginning to see articles about users latching on to these platforms rather than building their own ad hoc connections among IoT devices and applications.
UL discussed standards with me during the show. The company known for developing safety standards and then testing for compliance has developed also a security standard. And it tests to it for compliance.
HIMA is another company combining safety and security technologies. There is so much in common between the two–especially thought processes and planning.
Yokogawa has extended and rebranded its process automation offering, now called Synaptic Business Automation. Among other things, it has refined the dashboard into a “karaoke” style.
Bentley Systems discussed the combining of engineering design tools with digital photography and other digital technologies to better represent the engineering and design of a plant. This is the most cutting edge technology I saw during the week, but I cannot do it justice in a paragraph. I encourage a tour of the Website.
Honeywell released three announcements while I am still recapping the ARC Forum. There are one or two more to go. Thèse regarded maintenance management, simulation, and safety under the umbrella of Connected Plant.
The first is a new offering as part of Honeywell Connected Plant that allows customers to more effectively manage the maintenance and operations of their industrial equipment. The new Honeywell Connected Plant Asset Performance Insight connects the customers’ assets and equipment to the cloud, and applies analytical models from Honeywell and its partners, so that customers can avoid unplanned downtime and unnecessary maintenance.
“In today’s competitive business climate, in which asset capacity is often sold out, equipment performance is key to increased profitability,” said Richard Shaw, general manager, Honeywell Connected Plant. “With operational and maintenance-induced equipment failures accounting for most of the unplanned downtime, industrial companies are looking to digital transformation and IIoT to make sense out of huge amounts of data. Honeywell Connected Plant and our new Asset Performance Insight will help our customers operate more strategically and effectively.”
Honeywell designed the Asset Performance Insight solution to be rapidly deployed to customers through pre-configured templates. These templates are based on the company’s deep industry experience and real-world customer challenges enhanced with advanced analytics. The offering can also be configured and tailored to customers’ specific needs, making it extremely flexible.
The second is a cloud-based simulation tool that uses a combination of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to train plant personnel on critical industrial work activities. With as much as 50 percent of industrial plant personnel due to retire within the next five years, the Honeywell Connected Plant Skills Insight Immersive Competency is designed to bring new industrial workers up to speed quickly by enhancing training and delivering it in new and contemporary ways.
Honeywell’s advanced training solution combines mixed reality with data analytics and Honeywell’s 25 years of experience in worker competency management to create an interactive environment for on-the-job training. It uses Microsoft’s HoloLens, the world’s first and only self-contained holographic computer, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets to simulate various scenarios for Honeywell’s C300 controller – such as primary failure and switchovers, cable and power supply failure – that train and test personnel on their skills.
“Megatrends such as the aging workforce are putting increased pressure on industrial companies and their training programs,” said Youssef Mestari, program director, Honeywell Connected Plant. “There is a need for more creative and effective training delivered through contemporary methods such as Immersive Competency, ultimately empowering industrial workers to directly improve plant performance, uptime, reliability and safety.”
Simulating specific job activities through virtual environments, which are accessed through the cloud, Honeywell’s solution offers a natural way to interact and communicate with peers or a trainer. Similar to a flight simulator, trainees can safely experience the impacts of their decisions. This approach improves skill retention versus traditional training methods by up to 100 percent and reduces the length of technical training by up to 66 percent. Additionally, the employees’ training progress is tracked as part of a formal competency management system.
And wrapping up is a new solution for real-time safety monitoring of workers in plant and remote operations. Honeywell Connected Plant Skills Insight Personal Gas Safety helps to protect lives and enable faster response in case of hazardous leaks or worker injury.
The solution’s wearable gas detectors monitor gas, radiation and dust, and are tightly integrated with Honeywell’s distributed control system, Experion® Process Knowledge System (PKS). In case of harmful exposures, man-down or panic alarms of workers in the field, accurate, automated alarms now alert control room operators in real time. In addition, safety teams can take advantage of powerful tools embedded in Experion PKS to provide detailed trending, reporting and data analysis of the gas detectors to further ensure safe operations.
“Monitoring worker safety and ensuring proper response to emergencies are top priorities for industrial producers,” said Adrian Fielding, marketing director, Integrated Protective Solutions for Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS). “Personal Gas Safety gives plant operators eyes and ears in the field to improve their situational awareness, helping avoid potentially life-threatening conditions while also providing workers with the assurance that help will be on the way quickly if they need it.”
So last week I shared an update on Schneider Electric from the ARC Forum–mostly on cybersecurity. A helpful marketing person guided me to the press release with all the data that updated the software side of the week’s news–specifically asset performance management. For the most part the discussion did not center on product updates but on “increasing momentum surrounding customer adoption”. In other words, Schneider wanted to highlight an area of software not often brought to center stage and show that it is a growth area.
Kim Custeau (I misspelled her name in my last post, I believe–thank you autocorrect), Asset Performance Management Business Lead, shared how investments in the cloud, advanced machine learning, and augmented reality, coupled with new partnerships, have empowered customers.
“Defining and executing an asset performance strategy is a critical component to improving productivity while safeguarding business continuity,” she said. “We have been delivering proven, industry leading asset performance solutions for nearly 30 years, and continue to invest in a long-term strategy to drive innovation in this area. Our focus is to provide real value to our customers by empowering them to maximize return on capital investment and improve profitability. We are proud to see our customer results speak for themselves with significant savings.”
Machine learning and prescriptive analytics:
- Duke Energy prevented an estimated $35 million cost from early warning detection of a steam turbine problem
- Ascend Performance Materials now responds faster to alerts saving an estimated $2 million through avoided plant shutdowns
- BASF is implementing AR to improve asset performance, reliability, and utilization while increasing production efficiency and safety because technicians leverage an augmented digital representation of the asset.
Cloud and Hybrid Deployment:
- WaterForce partnered with Schneider Electric to develop and IIoT remote monitoring and control system in the cloud that allows farmers to operate irrigation pivots with greater agility, efficiency, and sustainability.
- MaxGrip and Schneider Electric announced a partnership to expand APM consulting and add Risk-based Maintenance capabilities. The APM Assessment is a first step for industrial companies to evaluate asset reliability and digital transformation strategy.
- Schneider Electric and Accenture completed development of a Digital Services Factory to rapidly build and scale new predictive maintenance, asset monitoring, and energy optimization offerings. As a result, a large food and beverage company saved over $1 million in maintenance costs
Cybersecurity, digitalization, and asset performance management headlined the various press events with Schneider Electric at the recent ARC Forum. I took notes from Kim Cousteau’s presentation on APM at the main press conference and expected a follow up press release for details. I have not received one yet.
Remember the “reverse acquisition” of Aveva where Schneider Electric placed all of its software divisions into Aveva and then took a 60% share in the company? The deal is about to close. Schneider spokespeople assured me that digitalization is proceeding apace with the leveraging of Aveva design through construction applications into operations and maintenance applications—Schneider’s strong suit. This, on paper, brings the company into the competitive marketplace with Siemens and its UGS acquisition of several years ago. This is an interesting area to watch.
Schneider called a special press event, with lunch, to talk specifically about cybersecurity. This response to an incident in which the company’s Triconex safety system earned some publicity—but not always accurately portrayed. The incident was a cyber attack that caused a situation that the safety system caught and initiated a safe shut down.
However, the event caused renewed concern for cyber defense. ARC Vice President, Larry O’Brien, said, “This is a wake up call for people to follow existing security standards.” Gary Freburger, who heads that division of Schneider, said, “It’s everybody’s job.”
We received this official statement from Peter Martin, vice president of business innovation and marketing, Schneider Electric
At Schneider Electric, we heartily encourage all collaborative efforts to strengthen cybersecurity. The growing problem of cybersecurity is not specific to any single company, institution or country. Rather, it’s a threat to business and public safety that can only be addressed and resolved when suppliers, customers, integrators, developers, standards bodies and government agencies work together. This collaboration starts with common standards, agreed-upon rules, appropriate funding and active cooperation. It extends beyond national borders and transcends competitive interests.
Schneider Electric continues to work diligently with our customers, partners, developers and industry peers to make the shift from reactive to proactive cybersecurity management through compliance with evolving industry standards, agreement that cybersecurity is a journey not a destination, and a commitment to standing together in the face of cyber threats.
Today, we commend the signatories to the “Charter of Trust.” It’s another important step toward ensuring that the promise of digital transformation and automation will prevail over the threat of cyberterrorism.
Regarding APM, Kim Cousteau discussed a new release of Avantis that expanded machine learning from the power industry to oil & gas. For maintenance, it incorporates a team system for operator rounds and improved workflow. It incorporates augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) “because workers are so new and need help to get up to speed. Look for updated analytics to aid in catching anomalies ahead of failure. She cited a customer who has been tracking savings from this feature alone and is up to $65 million.