Connecting Plant to Execution to Business

When it was time to leave paid employment and head out on my own, I looked for a domain name I could buy with “connection” in it. Surveying the landscape of technology and applications in 2013, I saw that despite a couple of decades of thought on connecting sensors at one end to business systems on the other this was still the future.

I also thought that I’d make a living in the MES space. Wrong! That space has never supported media or analysts. But Internet of Things came along and changed the conversation. And the technologies that evolved with IoT have enabled connectivity at new levels.

Here is the story of plant level (Ignition SCADA from Inductive Automation) to the execution level (Sepasoft MES) to business level (SAP).

In brief, Sepasoft launches Sepasoft Business Connector & Interface For SAP ERP Modules for connecting Ignition to business systems. Easy-to-integrate toolset democratizes connectivity between manufacturing and the enterprise.

Sepasoft Business Connector and Interface for SAP ERP is a suite of modules for connecting Ignition by Inductive Automation to business systems like SAP ERP. Connecting the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Manufacturing Execution System (MES) layers of manufacturing operations, the Sepasoft Business Connector provides intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces for developing business logic, transforming data, and mapping data between Ignition and other systems.

The combination of Sepasoft and Ignition by Inductive Automation becomes a first-class MES and connectivity platform for the enterprise.

To ensure that the new product suite would present a unique offering and adhere to industry best practices, Sepasoft teamed up with 4IR Solutions due to their deep expertise in enterprise and SAP integration. “The Sepasoft Business Connector offers increased flexibility and substantial cost savings versus existing solutions. When factoring in licensing, maintenance, training, engineering, and support, customers can expect to pay an order of magnitude less compared to leveraging other middleware or developing custom solutions,” said Joseph Dolivo, Principal of Digital Transformation at 4IR Solutions.

“The Sepasoft Business Connector will allow our customers to improve their operations while reducing their costs,” said Keith Adair, Product Manager at Sepasoft. “The Sepasoft Business Connector can link directly to SAP via the Interface for SAP ERP module and provides built-in templates for common data exchange scenarios. With the addition of our Web Services module, the Sepasoft Business Connector can communicate with other ERP and business systems that support SOAP and RESTful endpoints.”

“We’re very excited to welcome a native SAP connector and business connectivity tool to the Ignition ecosystem,” said Don Pearson, Chief Strategy Officer for Inductive Automation. “As an integrated part of the Ignition platform, the Sepasoft Business Connector supports familiar idioms like drag-and-drop, tag binding, and scripting, while requiring minimal configuration of third-party systems.”

4IR Solutions Corp is the leading provider of Life Sciences and enterprise integration consulting services for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and beyond. 4IR’s consultants have decades of experience providing companies with enterprise-wide connectivity, partnering with leading vendors to capture and encapsulate that experience into new and innovative products.

ABB Updated MOM

ABB Updated MOM

Suppliers of manufacturing software, some from surprising places, are putting sizable investments into products that will help customers reap the rewards of digitalization. Today, I’m looking at both ABB and Emerson Automation Solutions. Previously I checked out GE Digital and Rockwell Automation. Each has taken a slightly different course toward the goal, but notice the common thread of enhancing software products to help customers prosper.

ABB enhances manufacturing management technology

The new version of ABB Ability Manufacturing Operations Management will offer new features including:

  • Enhanced user experience based on new HTML 5 web client;
  • A new smart interactive dashboard application that provides greater visibility and collaboration;
  • A new statistical process control (SPC) application, to determine if each process is in a state of control;
  • A new Batch Compare application – for advanced batch analysis.

“ABB Ability Manufacturing Operations Management is a comprehensive, scalable and modular software suite that optimizes visibility, knowledge and control throughout the operations domain,” said Narasimham Parimi, Head of Digital Products – Product Management, Process Control Platform. “This release provides a range of rich new functionality and a new enhanced user experience that enables operations to become more productive and responsive.”

ABB Ability Manufacturing Operations Management is designed to simplify production management by enabling performance monitoring, downtime management, and maintenance support, as well as providing statistical production analysis tools. It provides solutions and tools to facilitate the collection, consolidation and distribution of production, quality and energy information via the plant’s web-based reports, trends, and graphs.

A new, self-service dashboard application promotes increased collaboration, providing visibility from shop floor to top floor and spanning IT and OT environments. It increases data connectivity to all apps and modules within the MOM suite, combining historic and manufacturing data and providing the user with improved customization capabilities. Dashboards can be shared amongst users, further promoting collaboration between teams. Trends and events are displayed together, which enables customers to identify issues and opportunities enabling informed and timely decisions.

The new common services platform features an HTML 5 web platform that runs across all suites ensuring customers have a seamless user experience, so that applications can be viewed on different devices right down to a 10-inch tablet.

Statistical data process control (SPC) is used in manufacturing to determine if each process is in a state of control. The new SPC application works across all the different apps and modules and helps the user to improve quality and production related performance.

In addition to the existing Batch View and Batch Investigate features, a comparison option has been added to the platform’s batch analysis applications, allowing different types of comparison.

Cyber security remains one of the key issues in the advancement of Industry 4.0, and the new features in MOM include enhanced security.

Emerson Expands Analytics Platform

Plantweb Insight platform adds two new Pervasive Sensing applications that manage wireless networks more efficiently with a singular interface to the enterprise.

Emerson has added two new IIoT solutions to its Plantweb Insight data analytics platform that will enable industrial facilities to transform the way they manage their enterprise-level wireless network infrastructure.

As digitalization and wireless technology adoption continue to rapidly expand in industrial facilities throughout the world, the need for greater visibility of network infrastructure performance is key. These new Plantweb Insight applications provide a quick-to-implement, scalable IIoT solution that helps customers advance their digital transformation strategies and achieve greater operational efficiencies.

The new Plantweb Insight Network Management application provides continuous, centralized monitoring of WirelessHART networks. This first-of-its-kind application provides a singular, consolidated view of the status of all wireless networks in a facility, with embedded expertise and guidance for advanced network management.

A key feature of the Plantweb Insight Network Management application is a configurable mesh network diagram, providing visualization of network design and connections along with device-specific information. It also provides an exportable record of syslog alerts, network details outlining conformance to network best practices and more.

While the new network management application provides a holistic look at wireless networks, the Plantweb Insight Power Module Management application drills down to the device level, allowing facilities to keep their wireless devices appropriately powered so they can continuously transmit key monitoring data. By aggregating power module statuses, users can evolve traditional maintenance planning and implement more efficient and cost-effective practices.

“We were able to infuse a decade of experience with wireless technology into these new offerings,” said Brian Joe, wireless product manager with Emerson’s Automation Solutions business. “Our customers will now be able to manage and improve hundreds of networks through a singular interface, realizing significant efficiencies in individual network and wireless device management and maintenance.”

These new applications further enhance the Plantweb Insight platform, a set of pre-built analytics primarily focusing on monitoring key asset health. Other applications in the platform include pressure relief valve monitoring, heat exchanger monitoring and steam trap monitoring.

A Look At IoT Trends for 2020 and More

A Look At IoT Trends for 2020 and More

Top Tens and Top Twenties of the past or future year have never been my favorites. However, one can perceive trends and strain out little nuggets of gold by scanning several. Especially industrial taken broadly along with Internet of Things (IoT) and other current digital trends. I just had an interesting chat with Sean Riley, Global Director of Manufacturing and Transportation for Software AG, who released his Top Ten for 2020.

Following are his ideas interspersed with a few of my comments.

Cost Management Becomes Exceptional

As uncertainty enters the global manufacturing outlook, enterprises will become myopically focused on cost reductions. This will drive organizations to find more efficient methods of providing IT support, leveraging supplier ecosystems and simplifying value chains. [GM-much of my early work was in cost management/reduction; this is a never-ending challenge in manufacturing; however, tools continue to evolve giving us more and better solutions.]

A Blurred Line Between Products & Services

Manufacturers continue their product innovation quest and more manufacturers will begin focusing on how to deliver products as a service. The Manufacturers that have already created smart products and have elevated service levels will now begin to work out the financing considerations needed to shift from a sales based to a usage based revenue model. [GM-This is a trend most likely still in its infancy, or maybe toddler-hood; we see new examples sprouting monthly.]

Moving To Redefine Cost Models To Match Future Revenue Streams

Anticipating the shift to continual revenue streams, manufacturers will seek to shift costs to be incurred in a similar manner. This will be initially seen as a continued push to subscription based IT applications. While much progress has already been made, a larger focus will occur. [GM-I like his idea here of balancing capital versus expense budgets, continually finding the best fund source for shifting costs.]

IT Focuses on Rapid Support for Growth

The lines between business and IT users become blurred as no-code applications allow for business users to create integration services. IT professionals will leverage DevOps & Agile methodologies alongside of microservices and containers to rapidly develop applications that are able to generate incremental growth as requested by business users. This will be critical to the near term success for manufacturers, especially with economic headwinds that seem to be growing stronger. [GM-I didn’t ask about DevOps, but this idea is springing into the industrial space; cloud and software-as-a-service provide scalability both up and down for IT to balance costs and services.]

Industrial Self-Service Analytics Become Mission Critical

Industrie 4.0 / Smart Manufacturing initiatives continue to receive greater amounts of investment but in the near term, manufacturers will focus on unleashing the power of the data they already have. Historians, LIMS, CMMS’ have valuable data going to and in them and enabling production engineers to leverage that data rapidly is critical. Industrial Self-Service Analytics that allow production and maintenance professionals to leverage predictive analytics without IT assistance will sought as a powerful differentiating factor. [GM-we are beginning to see some cool no-programming tools to help managers get data access more quickly.]

Industrie 4.0 / Smart Manufacturing Initiatives Continue to Draw Investment

It’s no surprise that Manufacturers will continue to invest in Industrie 4.0 as the promises are great however, the scaled returns have not been realized and won’t be realized in the near term. The difficult of implementing these initiatives has surpassed manufacturers expectations for several reasons. First, traditional OT companies were trusted to deliver exceptional, open platforms and that wasn’t delivered. Secondly, collaboration efforts between IT & OT professionals proved to be more convoluted and difficult than expected. [GM-I’m thinking these ideas became overblown and complex, and that is not a good thing; to swallow the whole enchilada causes stomach pain.]

Artificial Intelligence Enters the Mix

AI won’t allow for users to sit back and relax while AI handles all of their tasks for them but it will make an appearance in back office tasks. Freight payment auditing, invoice payment and, in some select areas, chatbots will be the initial main stream uses of AI and will be seen as not becoming an anomaly but be understood to be more mainstream this year. [GM-I think still an idea looking for a problem; however some AI ideas are finding homes a little at a time.]

3D Printing Find New Uses

While this technology has steadily crept into production lines, the push towards usage based product pricing will have the technology move into after market services. Slow moving parts will be the first target for this technology which will help to free up much needed working capital to support financial transformation. [GM-watch for better machines holding tighter tolerances making the technology more useful.]

5G & Edge Analytics Enable New Possibilities

As Industrie 4.0 is continued to be pursued, Manufacturers will implement new initiatives that could not previously be realized without the high speed data transmission promises of 5G or the ability to conduct advanced analytics at the edge where production occurs. This will also provide manufacturers with new methods to securely implement Smart Manufacturing initiatives and in new locations that were not previously feasible due to connectivity issues. [GM-5G is still pretty much a dream, but there is great potential for some day.]

Security Still Remains a Critical Focus

With the increasing rate of IoT sensors, IT-OT convergence, the usage of API’s and the interconnectivity of ecosystems ensuring data security remains a top priority for manufacturers. As more data becomes more available, the need to increase levels of security becomes ever greater. [GM-ah, yes, security–a never-ending problem.]

Honeywell Wireless To Support Next-Gen Cisco Access Points

Honeywell Wireless To Support Next-Gen Cisco Access Points

Suddenly the wireless networking side of IoT connectivity is hitting my radar. Since the culmination of the “wireless wars” of 10 years ago, this technology/market area has settled into supplying usable products. This information came from Honeywell—In short, by supplying ISA100 Wireless and WirelessHART connectivity to Cisco’s next-generation Wi-Fi Access Point, Honeywell’s OneWireless IoT Module can help users increase industrial plant productivity, worker safety, and digital transformation readiness.

Honeywell is developing a OneWireless IoT Module for the next-generation of Cisco’s industrial access points, the Cisco Catalyst IW6300 Heavy Duty Series Access Point. The Honeywell and Cisco technologies will form the backbone of Honeywell’s OneWireless Network.

The joint wireless solution enables Honeywell customers to quickly and easily deploy wireless technologies as an extension of their Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS). Combining the leading IT network technology by from Cisco and the leading Honeywell OneWireless multi-protocol technology provides customers with a single infrastructure that meets all their industrial wireless needs.

“For the past decade, Cisco and Honeywell have worked together to deliver secure, wireless solutions to connect mobile workers and field instrumentation in the most challenging process manufacturing environments,” said Liz Centoni, senior vice president and general manager, Cisco IoT. “We’ve had great success in bringing IT and operational teams together to reduce complexity and improve efficiency. Now, we are building on that foundation to extend the power of intent-based networking to the IoT edge.”

When combined with the Honeywell OneWireless IoT Module, the Cisco Catalyst IW6300 Heavy Duty Series Access Point offers the security, speed, and network performance needed to allow the seamless extension of the process control network into the field.

“The OneWireless IoT Module is Honeywell’s latest innovation as a leader in wireless technology,” said Diederik Mols, business director Industrial Wireless, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Our customers will benefit from OneWireless functioning as a seamless extension of Experion PKS and simplified deployment made possible by integrating the IoT module and aerials into a single unit.”

The IIoT market is booming—so why are half of all IIoT deployments failing?

The IIoT market is booming—so why are half of all IIoT deployments failing?

Management!

OK, the headline came from IHS Markit | Technology, an Informa Tech market analyst company. The answer from me.

One of the value adds of analyst firms is to provide market research studies. Where once I received industrial market information from just one analyst firm, now several send me updates. Helps round out information. But these are always estimates, and prone to some error. It’s a good guide though.

This research looks at Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) nodes. It also does the analyst thing of providing some guidance on implementation. The research is interesting. The guidance requires another post on management practices, I think. However, what I’m hearing is that some executive reads about IIoT and picks an unlucky person to head up the project. A pilot project is authorized, mostly completed, and mostly forgotten.

Notes from the Report

The global IIoT business is arriving at a tipping point, with the industry reaching a connectivity milestone next year that will pave the way for market-changing events like the proliferation of cloud-based technologies. These developments will help propel annual IIOT node shipments to 224 million units in 2023, a 100 million unit increase from 124 million in 2018.

However, despite the industry’s progress, about half of all IIoT deployments are failing. All too often, these deployments are being hamstrung by planning breakdowns, including the failure to set reasonable objectives and to gather support and cooperation from critical personnel within organizations. Without addressing these issues, the global IIoT market could face major challenges in reaching its growth potential.

The connection inflection

Industrial assets have traditionally employed fieldbus for connecting to the industrial network, and while Ethernet solutions have been in place for a couple of decades, their adoption has been slow. However, after years of making progress in the market, Ethernet is set to displace Fieldbus as the primary network medium for the first time in 2020. Ethernet will account for 43 percent of IIOT node shipments next year, compared to 41 percent for Fieldbus.

“There are now more than 1 billion connected devices on factory floors around the world,” said Alex West, senior principal analyst, industrial technology, at IHS Markit | Technology. “This massive installed base is about to reach a tipping point, with Ethernet overtaking Fieldbus in 2020. The proliferation of Ethernet is enabling the transmission of larger volumes of data. This will ultimately bring in technologies like the cloud that are going to supercharge the IIOT business.”

Connecting to reduce downtime

The arrival of a faster connectivity solution will allow manufacturers to utilize cloud-based solutions to reduce downtime.

“One of the really significant challenges faced by industrial companies is unplanned downtime,” West said. “Just to quantity that challenge, it’s estimated in the automotive industry that $20,000 to $30,000 per minute is lost through unplanned downtime. New applications enabled through IIoT, maintenance and asset-health monitoring, are really helping overcome these challenges. We’ve estimated around a 30 percent average saving or reduction in unplanned downtime can be achieved through industrial IoT solutions.”

Monitoring assets

The benefits of IIoT solutions facilitated by enabled devices can be realized across the entire lifecycle of production, from product design, to monitoring inventory levels in the supply chain.

For example, Harley Davidson, a few years ago was facing business challenges in terms of fulfilling customer requirements. By improving the connectivity of its plant, the company was able to reduce the time to meet new orders filled from 21 days down to six hours.

Addressing IIoT deployment fails

While faster connectivity holds great promise for expanding the IIoT market, the reality is that current deployments are failing as often as they succeed.

“At the proof-of-concept phase, about half of IIoT projects are failing—which is acceptable for companies attempting to be agile and trial new applications,” West said. “However, there is a similar failure rate when companies move to the deployment stage. This means companies are investing enormous sums in these projects but aren’t getting the payback they expected.”

The failure of a project is defined as not meeting the customer’s expected payback. Many times, the high failure rate can be attributed to inflated expectations. A total of 50 percent of companies expect to see payback within one year, although many of these projects can take much longer to generate returns.

IHS Markit | Technology recommends manufacturers take the following steps to increase their chances of IIoT success:

  • Specify the project by determining in advance which exact challenges you want IIoT to address.
  • Start small, with some pilot projects of concepts to see how the technology can be utilized.
  • Go right to the top, with senior-level management support for projects.
  • Get the urge to converge, by ensuring support from all relevant functional groups.
  • Leverage your people power, by getting staff involved with deploying the technology and encouraging them to view IIoT not as a threat, but as an augmentation to their job capabilities.