Virtual Trade Show and Conference

This week I am attending the Festo Virtual Trade Show and Conference . The website provider is the same one as the Danish company I “toured” last week. It is similar to a concept I saw 20 years ago, but modern technology and design have made the experience very good.

I sat in a couple of conference sessions deepening my understanding of the latest in pneumatics and digitization. The discussion of digitizing and motion was good showing examples from OEE and energy savings. I am not a fan of OEE, but many companies seem fixated on it. It is a number–but I learned how the sausage was made 30 years ago and I remain unconvinced of its real utility. However, if you can digitize to calculate OEE, then you have data you could use in better ways for decision making.

I also learned about applications in process and water treatment.

The metaphor is a trade show lobby with doors for the auditorium for conference sessions, the show floor, information booth. Entering the show floor, there are a number of icons representing booths. Click on a booth and you can choose from short video demonstrations, downloadable papers, and product overviews.

You can attend yet today. It’s worth a look to see what perhaps may be a chunk of the future. I miss the energy and serendipity of live events. But this is an efficient way to collect information saving both the exhibitor and me great expense.

Why Invest in DataOps?

DataOps began popping onto my radar last fall. First there was a startup of former Kepware people developing DataOps for manufacturing enterprises, and then it had a featured role at an IT conference.

I have mentioned the two previously, which attracted the attention of Kevin E. Kline, who is working with Sentry One. He has a heck of a bio—Principal Program Manager, Bestselling author of SQL in a Nutshell, Founder & President Emeritus, PASS.Org, and a Microsoft MVP since 2003. He pointed me to a blog he had written that explains much about the topic. 

These passages are lifted from that blog to give you a taste. Check out the entire post for more details. Here is a description.

DataOps is a collaborative practice that improves integration, reliability, and delivery of data across the enterprise. It builds on the foundation of strong DevOps processes. Like DevOps, DataOps fosters communication between business functions like data platform, IT operations, business analytics, engineering, and data science. It focuses on streamlining and automating the data pipeline throughout the data lifecycle:

  • Data integration—simplifying the process of connecting to disparate data sources
  • Data validation—testing data to ensure that business decisions are supported by accurate information
  • Metadata management—maintaining a clear understanding of the topography of the data estate, origin, dependencies, and how the data has changes over time
  • Observability—capturing granular insights about data systems along with rich context to help DataOps teams better understand system behavior and performance

DataOps paves the way for effective data operations and a reliable data pipeline, delivering information that people trust with shorter development and delivery cycles.

This part discusses benefits. Later he discusses obstacles.

4 Benefits of DataOps Maturity

1. Collaboration

Terms that refer to effective collaboration are alignment, tearing down silos, “synergy,” and a newer term—interlock. These terms are prevalent in business because getting them right creates a force multiplier across departments. Imagine being in a rowboat with 10 other people, and none of them are rowing in the same direction. You might never get to where you’re trying to go.

A mature DataOps practice promotes up-front planning and construction, then automated ongoing execution. In other words, teams work together to define what will happen, and various software tools ensure that it happens the same way every time.

2. Reliability

Similar to the benefit of collaboration, the automation of data and analytics operations removes a potential element of human unpredictability. We, as human beings, are capable of great things like free thought and reason. These abilities serve us well in many situations. However, they can introduce problems when dealing with repetitive processes that must always follow the same steps.

3. Adaptability

With a mature, documented, and automated DataOps process, plans to introduce change require fewer hands, less time, and a lower probability of introducing errors. Using this approach also makes it easier to adapt testing procedures. This effectively reduces the time it takes to move from development to production for changes.

4. Agility

DevOps and DataOps have emerged from Agile project management practices. Because of those roots, agility becomes table stakes in DataOps processes. Data teams that already practice Agile methodologies will find it easier to define, implement, and mature their DataOps practice.

Collaborative Robots Find New Uses

I learned to program robots and design them into work cells in the mid-80s. For years, I would tell people I was involved with automation and they would exclaim, “Robots!” And I’d say, “Well, yes, those, too.”

Robots for industrial use, and there were few for other uses, over the years got faster, stronger, more accurate, better communicators—but, they were basically the same thing. They moved something from one place to another or performed repetitive (and often dangerous) work such as welding or painting.

The next step toward more usable and user-friendly robots which may develop into more general use sprang from the work on collaborative robots in Denmark. I imagine a greater possibility of use cases as these robots become ever better at working alongside and for people—and not just in industry, but in the home as well.

But, before we get ahead of ourselves, back to the present we have some announcements from two of these cobot manufacturers—OnRobot and Universal Robots.

OnRobot vision-guided robots

OnRobot Launches “Eyes”, a 2.5D Vision System, Bringing Unrivaled Ease-of-Use to Vision-Guided Robotic Applications

OnRobot screwdriver application

OnRobot Launches Complete Plug-and-Play Intelligent Screwdriver for Fast, Easy and Flexible Deployment

Universal Robots Injection Molding application

With the Injection Molding Machine Interface (IMMI), Universal Robots has launched a user-friendly and quick solution for plastics manufacturers to integrate Universal Robots with injection molding machines.

Eyes

OnRobot’s “Eyes” advanced, affordable 2.5D vision adds depth perception and parts recognition for all. Eyes can be flexibly mounted both on the robot wrist or externally, making it ideal for almost any unstructured application in need of vision guidance.

Robotic arms are often tasked with picking items not presented in the same orientation, shape or size. To provide consistent positioning, manufacturers frequently add fixtures, bowl feeders and other hardware, adding cost and complexity to what ends up being rigid applications that lack the ability to easily pick different objects or achieve quick changeover times.

“A significant part of our customer base does not want to be tied to a fixed incoming position of a product they want to pick,” says CEO of OnRobot, Enrico Krog Iversen. “They would love to eliminate complicated, bulky and expensive part feeders and fixtures to achieve this, but until now, vision systems have felt out-of-reach. Our new Eyes vision system changes all that.”

As opposed to other vision systems on the market, Eyes just needs to take a single image for calibration and part recognition and has automatic focus to work at different distances within the same application.

Eyes is ideal for sorting a wide variety of objects or for CNC machine tending with metal parts that are defined by outer shape, as well as many other pick-and-place applications where orientation is important. Eyes also offers depth perception within its affordable and easy-to-deploy 2.5D vision.

“2.5D is rapidly emerging as the perfect technology for vision-guided applications,” says Iversen. “Compared to 2D it adds not only length and width but also height information for the specific part, which is ideal when objects may vary in height or if objects must be stacked.”

Eyes can be easily mounted on the robot wrist or externally, and integrates seamlessly with all leading collaborative and light industrial robot arms through OnRobot’s One System Solution, a unified mechanical and communications interface based on the company’s Quick Changer, now an integrated part of all OnRobot products.

The new vision system directly interfaces with other OnRobot devices making it is very easy to use Eyes together with any of OnRobot’s grippers. With a dual setup, using a dual Quick Changer, the gripper’s tool center point (TCP) can be automatically configured by Eyes, eliminating any potential conflict between different software packages from different tool vendors. The optimal mounting depends on the application. Some of the advantages of having Eyes mounted externally is not having to worry about cables running alongside the robot and the ability to optimize cycle time, as Eyes can take the picture and process this, while the robot is doing another operation.

Screwdriver

The new OnRobot Screwdriver can be deployed and redeployed for different applications in minutes, with built-in smart features—including precise torque and embedded axis control—that simplify programming and drive productivity, quality, and ROI. This provides welcome relief for manufacturers who are eager to automate repetitive, unergonomic, and often inconsistent manual screwdriving processes, but who struggle to integrate and program typical piecemeal screwdriving systems.

Programming the OnRobot Screwdriver is as easy as entering the appropriate screw length and torque value into the user interface that is integrated into the teach pendant of any leading robot. With precise torque control and embedded axis, the OnRobot Screwdriver automatically calculates the speed and force required for consistent, accurate screwdriving. The Screwdriver can detect incorrect screw length, which can help improve overall quality and reduce scrap. With the Screwdriver’s unique “z-axis,” screws are retracted inside the tool and driven automatically once the robot arm moves into position, which reduces robot arm movement and additional programming. Screws up to 35mm long are retracted completely inside the Screwdriver when moving until the screwdriving process is safely initiated, enhancing its collaborative capabilities.

The Screwdriver can handle a wide range of screw sizes and lengths, from M1.6 to M6, and up to 50mm long. With its simple programming and easily exchangeable bit system, the Screwdriver can be quickly changed over to a different screw size, length or product line in minutes, which minimizes downtime and improves productivity.

The Screwdriver includes the following robust and intuitive features:

● Embedded axis for accuracy and easy programming

● Precise torque control from 0.15Nm to 5Nm

● Screw sizes from M1.6 to M6, and up to 50mm long

● Available screw feeders

● ESD safe for electronics assembly

● Mounting via OnRobot Quick Changer

The Screwdriver is compatible with OnRobot’s One System Solution, a platform that provides a unified mechanical and electrical interface between leading robot arms and any OnRobot product. The One System Solution has been newly expanded to include integration with robots from ABB Robotics and Hanwha Precision Machinery. Users of those robots can now also take advantage of the unified mechanical and electrical interface of any OnRobot product, for easier integration and faster ROI.

Injection Molding

Plastics manufacturers are increasingly turning to collaborative robots to tend injection molding machines. With the launch of the new Injection Molding Machine Interface (IMMI), Universal Robots makes the communication between its e-Series cobots and injection molding machines fast and easy. IMMI supports injection molding machines with EUROMAP 67 and SPI AN-146 communication interfaces.

The global market for collaborative robots in the plastics and polymers industry is expected to grow exponentially over the next five years, from $250M in 2020 to $1.5B in 2025. According to BIS Research, 15 percent of all cobot applications in 2020 will be within injection molding, automating tasks such as placing inserts into molds and moving parts through post-mold processes. These are tasks that require high repeatability, complex motions, and demanding angles, making them perfectly suited for the six-axis cobots from Universal Robots (UR). The cobots can be mounted on top or beside an injection molding machine and they can work alongside human operators without safety cages (subject to risk assessment), saving valuable space on the workshop floor.

“Injection molding machines have many inputs and outputs to manage the complexities of the molding process,” says Joe Campbell, senior manager of applications development at Universal Robots. “Standardized interfaces allow for ease of integration and exchangeability. With the IMMI, we give the manufacturer the ability to set up, program and control the entire application cycle through the UR cobot’s teach pendant. Combine this with the positioning flexibility and the additional degrees of freedom found in UR cobots compared to traditional cartesian robots, and you have a very powerful solution.”

The IMMI is installed in the UR cobots’ control box in less than ten minutes, providing deep integration with the robot system, including safety functionality, and leveraging the e-Series cobots’ control box expansion port for easy mounting and cable management. An IMMI template for the Universal Robots Polyscope operating system is provided for easy use in the programming tree. IMMI is now available through Universal Robots’ rapidly expanding UR+ platform of products certified to work seamlessly with UR cobots.

Integrated Service Delivery Model Assess, Manage and Optimize Automation Assets

Continuing coverage of this week’s Honeywell Process Virtual Technical Experience.

[Note: You can have these posts sent to you via email simply by signing up at the appropriate link. There is normally one post per day, however covering two conferences and a couple of press conferences this week necessitates a little extra coverage.]

Continuing the theme of “remote” and also support and services, Honeywell Process Solutions announced this week Enabled Services program powered by Honeywell Forge. This automation lifecycle services offering focuses on ensuring Industrial Control System (ICS) health, reliability and compliance.

In brief:

  • End-to-end solution enables remote preventive maintenance and support
  • Plant operators can reduce number of incidents per year by 40% and improve total cost of ownership

“Honeywell developed the Enabled Services program as a subscription-based service for ICS users dealing with increasing system complexity, an aging industrial workforce and the constraints imposed on plant operations by global health concerns,” said Mark Dean, director of offering management, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Through this Enabled Services offering, Honeywell’s experts can conduct rapid analysis and make fast recommendations to solve the issues and be onsite only when necessary. Honeywell has created a powerful tool for customers to significantly improve maintenance efficiency and redirect expensive resources to high priority corrective maintenance.”

Honeywell estimates it’s Enabled Services solution can deliver increased value by reducing the number of incidents per year by 40%, with a net decrease in total cost of ownership of 15%. These capabilities not only help improve system health, performance and compliance, but also allow customers to redirect existing high skill resources to use more time to work on systems improvements and to focus on their core business.

Based on Honeywell’s step-change Lifecycle Solutions & Services delivery model, which responds to customer-driven feedback from around the world, the Enabled Services solution is designed around three key pillars:

  • System health and performance – in other words, what is going wrong in the plant
  • System compliance — why it is going wrong
  • Prescriptive maintenance and remediation – how the issues can be resolved.

Honeywell’s program uses intuitive and consistent dashboards powered by Honeywell Forge technology, which provides users with real-time intelligence to enable peak performance. It also employs remote connection and/or local data collection, predictive and diagnostic tools, and global resource centers – all to support improved operational and business performance.

Enabled Services remote support capabilities were specifically developed with security in mind. The services employ protected network connections built on industry recognized standards, such as IEC 62443, to transfer data from the customer’s site to Honeywell’s global resource centers.

Through its proactive approach, Enabled Services offer improved efficiencies compared with ad hoc maintenance regimens, homegrown solutions that compromise migration readiness, and/or delaying service and repairs until assets fail. This comprehensive solution can help company executives, plant managers and control engineers to:

  • Understand and improve operational effectiveness and risk profiles
  • Leverage operational benefits from systems, applications and people
  • Focus efforts on core competencies by deploying suitably skilled resources
  • Improve the health, security and stability of control assets

Honeywell’s Enabled Services offering includes two levels of support to meet diverse customer requirements. Enabled Services Enhanced employs fully connected systems and offers continuous insights on system health, performance and compliance with actionable recommendations. Enabled Services Essential is intended for a non-connected system and offers less frequent updates.

Continual Market Development Pays Off For Process Control Supplier

Continual Market Development Pays Off For Process Control Supplier

I have known Eddie Habibi, founder and CEO of PAS (now PAS Global) for about 20 years. So I’ve followed the development of his company for that long. There was alarm management, and process safety, and process asset management. And the company grew at a typical pace for the market.

Then he went all-in on process control system cybersecurity. He accepted some investment money, hired some pros in the field, and combined security with what the company was already known for.

The results are in the latest press release from PAS Global LLC where it announced a 45% increase in term revenue year-over-year and increased market recognition of its solutions.

In March 2019, the company introduced an expanded Cyber Integrity offering with risk analytics for continuous operational technology (OT) endpoint security. Following this milestone, the company marked record growth in the adoption of this solution across multiple geographies and verticals including the United States, Europe, and the Middle East with leading organizations in the chemicals and oil & gas industries, in particular.

A Fortune 50 independent petroleum refiner was challenged with increasing cybersecurity risks as they deployed connected technology to achieve faster and more efficient production operations. PAS Cyber Integrity was deployed as the foundation for the refiner’s OT cybersecurity program to create an automated, comprehensive, evergreen OT asset inventory and to more quickly identify and remediate security vulnerabilities. What used to take the company months to assess “critical” or “high” ICS-CERT vulnerabilities can now be done in minutes across all refineries.

A global, integrated oil & gas company operating across five continents is pursuing digital transformation to grow its business, enter new markets, and compete more effectively. Underpinning this initiative is a cloud-based analytics platform. The team chartered with this program sought to leverage their multi-vendor industrial control system (ICS) data and ensure reliable data flows from field-level devices to their data lake. They sought a platform-independent solution that could not only deliver this data, but also provide a topological view of assets and site connections, monitor configuration baselines, and manage change. Additionally, the company’s cybersecurity team sought a solution that could provide comprehensive OT asset inventory and rapid vulnerability assessment capabilities. PAS Automation Integrity and Cyber Integrity were selected to address these needs.

A major electronic materials firm with operations in North America and Asia sought to establish an enterprise-wide cybersecurity program on an aggressive schedule to eliminate gaps in visibility and security controls. Cyber Integrity was selected to automatically build a detailed OT asset inventory for each site, identify patch levels across systems, and implement change management workflows. The company now has the inventory and configuration visibility it needs to support digitalization efforts including data lake, 5G, and artificial intelligence initiatives.

“Industrial organizations are increasing investment in cybersecurity solutions specifically built for OT not only to reduce their overall cyber risk but to ensure they can accelerate their digital transformation efforts safely,” said Eddie Habibi, Founder and CEO of PAS. “We are pleased to be working with a growing list of global companies who are leveraging PAS Cyber Integrity to give them the foundation they need for managing industrial cyber risk.”

The company also saw significant year-over-year growth in purchases of its operations management and process safety solution, PlantState Suite.

“Of equal importance is the work we do to help companies improve process safety through effective operations management,” Habibi added. “We are pleased to have been recognized once again as the market leader for both alarm management and safety lifecycle management. This is a testament to the hard work of the PAS team over many years and the confidence our customers place in our solutions.”

PAS cybersecurity and process safety management solutions are installed in more than 70 countries in over 1,450 industrial facilities for over 535 customers, including 13 of the top 15 chemical companies, 13 of the top 15 refining companies, 7 of the top 20 power generation companies, 4 of the top 5 pulp and paper companies, and 3 of the top 5 mining companies in the world.