Are Partnerships the Future of Fieldbuses

Are Partnerships the Future of Fieldbuses

I have been wondering about the future of fieldbuses for quite some time. These include Profibus/Profinet, CC-Link, EtherNet/IP (CIP technologies), and even EtherCAT and PowerLink. Even HART, though not technically a fieldbus, fits the application. And the merger of HART’s organization with Foundation Fieldbus hints at the future.

I think that there will continue to be some development work with these technologies, but I also think that the next big advance will be with Time-Sensitive Networking. At some point in the not-to-distant future, TSN with commercially available components, will be the next communications revolution.

In the meantime, we are seeing what I’ve always believed to be the next useful application whether wired or wireless in industrial networking–gateways and connectors. Here is some news I received from the CC-Link Partner Association relating announcements from the SPS show (which I was unable to attend).

This case involves cooperation between the CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) and PROFINET & PROFIBUS International (PI). CLPA unveiled the first working coupler device that implements the CC-Link IE/PROFINET interoperability specification. This will enable easy transmission of information between the two protocols, leading to end users and machine builders benefiting from total transparency between CC-Link IE and PROFINET, the two most prevalent networking protocols in Asia and Europe respectively.

Developed by CLPA and PI partner Hilscher, the unveiling of the device marks another milestone in the on-going cooperation between the two associations. The announcement of the first working coupler on the CLPA stand at SPS/IPC/Drives 2017 less than a year after the completion of the specification underlines the importance that the market ascribes to the cooperation between CLPA and PI.

CLPA-Americas Director Robert Miller comments: “The 2015 fair saw the announcement of the cooperation between CLPA and PI, and at the 2016 fair we announced the completion of the specification to enable seamless integration between the two protocols. Now we have the first operating coupler, demonstrating that CLPA and PI, working with their partners, have delivered on the promise to produce working solutions. Hence the promise of increasing transparency and offering maximum flexibility to end users and machine builders as they operate globally has been realized.”

With the new Hilscher coupler, users can effectively achieve communication between different parts of a line on separate networks, hugely increasing transparency and integration. Hilscher’s NT 151-CCIE-RE coupler transmits data bi-directionally between CC-Link IE and PROFINET, offering simple network integration. The NT 151 works as a CC-Link IE Field Intelligent Device on one side and as a PROFINET IO-Device on the other, allowing both network controllers to communicate with each other. Fundamental mechanisms include a mapping model to map data from both sides, diagnostics for coupler and networks, and a SyCon-based DTM which works as the coupler configuration tool.

Hilscher Business Development Manager Armin Pühringer comments: “The simple bridge between the two networks will dramatically reduce the engineering work that has traditionally been necessary to achieve integration across the heterogeneous network architectures that are a fact of life in numerous plants around the world.”

Pühringer adds: “Hilscher has a long relationship with CC-Link based technologies and PROFINET technologies, and going forward both of these will be essential for our business on a global scale. And by facilitating transparency and ease of integration between these two global leaders we are addressing a primary goal of the transition to Industry 4.0: allowing ever greater connectivity by providing end users with a simple method of achieving interoperability in brownfield applications. And all of this without the effort, cost and complexity of requiring communication architectures to support additional technologies or protocols.”

PI Chairman Karsten Schneider comments: “What CLPA and PI have proven here is that two competing organizations can work together for the good of our users. If you really mean what you say about Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things, then we will need to see more of this sort of collaboration. CLPA and PI are paving the way, with a level of cooperation that has not been seen before.”

Miller concludes: “The cooperation between CLPA and PI really can help many companies make their vision of Industry 4.0 a reality. The introduction of this first coupler from Hilscher gives machine builders and end users the hardware they need to achieve seamless integration. We are also in discussions with other CLPA partners, so we hope the NT 151 marks the start of the arrival of other products onto the market. The delivery of such solutions to meet end user requirements shows just how committed CLPA and PI have been to deliver tangible results from their cooperation, and how partners such as Hilscher have recognized the market opportunity this represents. They also provide ample evidence of the benefits that can be gained when supposedly competing organizations work together to address their users’ needs.”


Software-Powered Connected Services Drive Digital Transformation

Software-Powered Connected Services Drive Digital Transformation

Rockwell Automation continues its path of Connected Enterprise. In the grand scheme of RA products, I’ve never thought of software and networking as having a major impact on sales numbers. But the company continues to roll out some innovation. The “Shelby” bot and Project Scio analytics reveal some unexpected software advances for what has been a devotedly hardware-centric company.

To accompany software and networking and connectivity, Rockwell has beefed up its services offering. Its Connected Services offerings are designed to help customers plan for, deploy, and maintain new digital transformation solutions.

This is the last of my reports from interviews during Automation Fair in November in Houston. It seems the more work that I complete, the more that comes my way. I don’t think I’ll catch up in January either since it appears that my off-season soccer administrative responsibilities keep growing.

Back to Connected Services.

Connected Services offerings include industrial infrastructure assessment, design, implementation, support and monitoring capabilities including Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), remote asset monitoring and predictive maintenance, cybersecurity threat detection and recovery, training and consulting offerings. These software-powered services build on existing application and product support services to help organizations access and use production data to improve asset utilization and productivity, while reducing risk and time-to-market.

“Industrial operators have been using cutting-edge technology since the Industrial Revolution,” said Sherman Joshua, global portfolio manager for Connected Services, Rockwell Automation. “Our customers understand that digitizing operations or building a Connected Enterprise is about much more than rolling out new technology. They need the right infrastructure, process and people in place to transform operations and capture the value new technology is unlocking. That value is huge. Our Connected Services are making it easier and faster for our customers to uncover it.”

For example, according to ARC Advisory Group, the cost of unscheduled downtime in industrial operations exceeds $20 billion. Through traditional means of detecting, diagnosing and fixing downtime, approximately 76 percent of downtime occurs before any corrective action is undertaken. Connected Services can help users detect and resolve issues quickly, reducing downtime by as much as 30 percent.

Connected Services offerings start with building a secure information infrastructure. Network and cybersecurity services include assessments and design, technical support, IT/OT training, remote monitoring, threat detection and recovery, turnkey implementation, pre-engineered network solutions, and network monitoring and management. These services can speed the integration of new equipment and systems, vastly improve security and help reduce downtime with access to technical resources.

Remote support, monitoring and response services can prove especially valuable for critical processes through around-the-clock operations and remote operations. These services can complement on-site maintenance teams, providing everything from continuous machine monitoring and incident response to 24/7 remote support and software/firmware updates. Deployments can make use of the FactoryTalk Cloud gateway, on-premise Rockwell Automation Industrial Data Center servers, or a hybrid model that combines both options to help improve productivity and reduce downtime.

Data integration and contextualization services can help capture a wealth of data and convert it into actionable information. These services can provide new opportunities to help increase productivity. Producers can reduce skills gap challenges by relying on Rockwell Automation to monitor, maintain and manage the network, equipment or entire applications. Additional digital transformation and data scientist consulting services will be available in 2018.

Connected Services offerings are also scalable, allowing producers to build ROI as they go, and rely more on OPEX than CAPEX funding. Rockwell Automation can deliver and execute Connected Services offerings globally, giving organizations consistent support across operations.

Refinery of the Future with IoT

Refinery of the Future with IoT

An enterprise computing and IT infrastructure company user event seems a weird place for a discussion of the Internet of Things and the Refinery of the Future. But there I was moderating a bloggers’ Coffee Talk with Doug Smith, CEO, and Linda Salinas, plant manager, of Texmark Chemicals, along with an executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and one from PTC (ThingWorx).

HPE invited me to Madrid, Spain, (and paid my expenses) as an Operations Technology blogger to participate in Influencer sessions, interview a number of technologists, and experience its Discover Madrid user conference. Several times during each of the three days November 28-30 we participated in coffee talks. These were Live Streamed by Geekazine. This is a link to the first day. My session was toward the beginning of the first day, and I appear at the end of day three.

Telling the IoT Story

Texas toll manufacturer Texmark Chemicals teamed with HPE and Aruba to build a Refinery of the Future featuring advanced IIoT capabilities. The results: better process analytics, increased up-time, uninterrupted productivity, satisfied customers, and safer workers.

Every IoT implementation I have seen so far relied on predictive maintenance as the justifying application. Here, the first priority was safety. Then came predictive maintenance, improved operations, and consistent quality.

Texmark produces dicyclopentadiene (DCPD), a polymer precursor for everything from ink to boats. DCPD manufacturing processes involve flammable materials requiring stringent safety measures — and as demand increases, so does the complexity of the supply chains that rely on it.

Its manufacture involves heat and highly reactive chemicals, making safety a top priority. And as demand for DCPD grows, the global supply chain becomes increasingly complex, requiring ever more stringent controls, granular visibility, uninterrupted productivity, and regulatory oversight. Texmark must ensure its workers adhere to Process Safety Management (PSM) procedures at all times, and that its facility is managed in ways that put worker and community safety first.

As a contract manufacturer, Texmark must be prepared to adapt to customer requirements, which can change with little advance warning.

And it must continually drive plant efficiency and productivity. Historically, Texmark has depended on physical inspections of process equipment to ensure all systems remain in working order. However, these plant walk-downs can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. Texmark has 130 pumps in its plant, and spends nearly 1,000 hours a year on walk-downs and vibration analysis.

Depending solely on physical inspections also carries risk, because it relies on employees who — based on years of experience — can tell if a pump is starting to malfunction by recognizing slight variations in its noise and vibrations. But what happens if an employee with that skill is out sick, or reaches retirement age? Texmark needs ways to institutionalize that type of intelligence and insight.

Texmark’s vision for next-generation worker safety, production and asset management hinges on the emerging promise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): sensored devices combined with advanced analytics software to generate insights, automate its environment, and reduce the risk of human error.

The IIoT architecture must eliminate the need to transmit device data over a WAN, but instead support analytics at the edge to deliver real-time visibility into equipment and processes.

Texmark launched a multi-phase project to implement an end-to-end IIoT solution. Phase 1 and 2 established the digital foundation by enabling edge-to-core connectivity. Aruba deployed a secure wireless mesh network with Class 1 Div 1 access points and ClearPass for secure network access control. Aruba beacons provide location-based services for plant safety and security purposes. The wireless solution cost about half of what it would have cost to deploy a hardwired network.

For its edge analytics, Texmark selected the HPE Edgeline Converged IoT platform, an industrialized solution that supports robust compute capabilities. HPE Pointnext implemented the system as an HPE Micro Datacenter, which integrates its compute and networking technology within a single cabinet. HPE also upgraded Texmark’s plant control room to enable seamless edge-to-core connectivity and high-speed data capture and analytics, and to meet Texmark’s safety and security standards. The Edgeline system runs Texmark’s Distributed Control System software, integrating its operations technology and IT into a single system.

Phase 3 builds on the foundation established by these technology solutions to support Texmark’s use cases: predictive analytics, advanced video analytics, safety and security, connected worker, and full lifecycle asset management.

Texmark’s new IIoT solution will help make its workers even safer. It can monitor fluid levels, for example, reducing the risk of spills. It can alert Texmark immediately if a system starts to malfunction, enabling the company to respond before workers or production are endangered. And in the event of an emergency, it can help protect workers by ensuring Texmark knows their precise location and movements within the facility.

Other benefits will improve the company’s bottom line. Texmark can use data from IIoT sensors to identify which systems require hands-on evaluations, for example, so it can conduct physical inspections in a more focused and efficient manner.

The new IIoT solution makes it easier for the company to plan inspections and maintenance. To work on distillation columns, Texmark must often take systems offline and erect costly scaffolding. Improved maintenance planning will reduce these associated costs by at least 50%.

Software Is Center Stage at Rockwell Automation Event

Software Is Center Stage at Rockwell Automation Event

Data is the new currency.

I heard that somewhere. There is much truth buried in the thought. That makes software and connectivity key technologies. I hear this everywhere. I am thinking through what I learned at the Rockwell Automation event while at an enterprise computing event in Spain. Enterprise IT has discovered Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Silos are collapsing everywhere.

Still, it is surprising that Rockwell Automation, the quintessential hardware company, emphasizes software. This has become the key component of the Connected Enterprise. There must be sales dollars here, also. Theory is nice, but sales are nicer.

By the way, here is proof I was there. A “Robot Selfie” from the Innovation Booth.

The Rockwell software portfolio has been growing a step at a time. This year it looks like it has most of the pieces assembled for a full manufacturing software suite. And this is not only MES. That is a component, for sure. But also there is connectivity, historian, databases. And now what appears to be a robust analytics application.

John Genovesi, Vice President of Information Software, told me during our interview, that the company had made a couple of small acquisitions (in Silicon Valley they call it “aquihiring”) last March and already the new team has written an analytics engine that forms the guts of the new application.

Project Scio (see-oh, from the Latin to know) is the next step. To make decisions when and where they matter most, new capabilities offered through Project Scio reduce hurdles to unleashing information. These capabilities open up access to ad-hoc analytics and performs advanced analysis by pulling structured and unstructured data from virtually any existing source in the enterprise. Project Scio can also intelligently fuse related data, delivering analytics in intuitive dashboards – called storyboards – that users can share and view. Users then have the ability to perform self-serve drill downs to make better decisions, dramatically reducing the time to value.

“Providing analytics at all levels of the enterprise – on the edge, on-premises or in the cloud – helps users have the ability to gain insights not possible before,” said Genovesi. “When users gain the ability to fuse multiple data sources and add machine learning, their systems could become more predictive and intelligent. Scio puts analytics to work for everyone. By its addition to the scalable and open FactoryTalk Analytics Platform, Project Scio gives users secure, persona-based access to all data sources, structured or unstructured. And a configurable, easy-to-use interface means that all users can become self-serving data scientists to solve problems and drive tangible business outcomes.”

Key attributes of Project Scio include the following:

  • Device Auto-Discovery: Manually mapping software to each plant-floor device can be a time-consuming and error-prone process. Project Scio can auto-discover Rockwell Automation devices and tags, as well as third-party device data, to save time and help reduce risk. Additionally, the auto-discovery process gives users access to more detailed information than is typically available through manual mapping, such as device name, line location and plant location.
  • Leave Isolated Analytics Behind: Rather than leave data at its source and take database snapshots, Project Scio brings data into a centralized location and can continually refresh that data. Additionally, connections to data sources only need to be established once. This connection allows users to create custom analytics and refresh them at their preferred rate without the support of a data scientist.
  • Flexible Machine Learning (ML): Use the right ML algorithm for the right use case. Project Scio is configurable to support many industry-leading algorithms, including SparkML, MLLib and Python.
  • Closed-Looped Analytics:Using either ML or predefined settings, Project Scio includes capabilities that can monitor operations and automatically trigger control adjustments if processes start to fall outside allowable parameters. This can help users optimize control, improve product quality and consistency, and reduce scrap and waste.
  • Applications Marketplace: Rockwell Automation will introduce an applications marketplace for applications developed in-house and by third parties. The ability to access any data source and create custom analytics for each user’s application is a central feature. However, users can also take advantage of pre-engineered FactoryTalk Analytics applications from Rockwell Automation. These applications allow users to monitor common KPIs, such as OEE and quality, in a standardized way and without any configuration.
  • Open Architecture: Industrial producers cannot be expected to rip and replace all their legacy control and information systems before gaining value from analytics. These scalable and open-architecture capabilities are designed to be extended to a full ecosystem of IIoT data sources. The quick connection to the full range of systems that feed data into a Connected Enterprise includes controllers, MES software and edge devices.

In addition to these Information Solutions, Rockwell Automation offers a range of Connected Services which helps provide customers the ability to ensure network integrity, security, infrastructure design and maintenance, and remote monitoring of equipment including predictive maintenance. These services can help customers with every aspect of their Connected Enterprise journey, including developing an IIoT infrastructure and strategy, and providing remote monitoring and analytics.

New OPC UA Support

Rockwell spokespeople made sure that I understood two things with this year’s message. Scalable. And Open. The company is adopting open, interoperable communications. Notice above that the self-discovery is not only Rockwell’s products, but also those from other companies.

Another interoperable standard that Rockwell has not supported much for years is OPC United Architecture (UA).

Interesting quote from the news release, “We actually helped develop the OPC UA specification, and we’re now adding OPC UA support into our portfolio.”

The initial offering on the software side includes OPC UA client/server functionality in the FactoryTalk Linx software, which it will be launching in early 2018. There also are future product-line extensions planned for both software and hardware portfolios. Second, the FactoryTalk Linx Gateway provides an OPC UA server interface to deliver information collected by FactoryTalk Linx from Logix 5000 and other Allen-Bradley controllers to external OPC UA clients. This permits third-party software to coexist with FactoryTalk software.

For example, custom-built MES applications can interact directly with the control layer to better coordinate production. The FactoryTalk Linx Gateway also will include a new FactoryTalk Linx Data Bridge software service that will transfer sets of tag data from one data source to another at a user-defined rate. This permits movement of data between servers and, more importantly, enables Logix 5000 controllers to indirectly interface with OPC UA servers. Among its many uses, this software could allow Logix 5000 controllers to interact and control a robot, weight scale or similar automation device using OPC UA.

Emerson Launches IIoT-Enabled Controller Taking Aim At PLCs

Emerson Launches IIoT-Enabled Controller Taking Aim At PLCs

Just when I thought I’d never write about Controllers, here comes a very interesting announcement from Emerson Automation Solutions [note new name]. Taking direct aim at its competitors who have moved aggressively from discrete control into process systems, Emerson announced launch of the DeltaV PK Controller.

This controller targets fast-growth industries traditionally less reliant on large-scale automation. The next-gen controller provides scalable automation control to all process industries, particularly parts of the life sciences, oil and gas, petrochemical, and discrete manufacturing industries that have relied on complex, non-integrated programmable logic controllers (PLCs) with limited operational capabilities. The fit-for-purpose DeltaV PK Controller is the process industry’s first controller that manufacturers can scale down for skid units or scale up to be natively merged into the DeltaV DCS in a larger plant.

These industries tend to use PLCs for smaller applications, which can create disconnected “Islands of Automation,” and limits plant production improvements. The DeltaV PK Controller bridges small and large control applications. Organizations can leverage the DeltaV PK Controller for effective, easy-to-implement standalone automation control akin to a PLC but with the features of a full-scale DCS, including advanced batch production, recipe management, execution, and historization. Users can then choose to leave the DeltaV PK Controller standalone, or natively merge it into their DeltaV DCS. This capability eliminates operational complexity and dramatically improves the performance, safety, and efficiency of their entire project and operational lifecycle.

“The DeltaV PK Controller delivers a business-effective solution for organizations of all sizes to improve automation control and integration,” said Jessica Jordan, Emerson product manager. “The controller is capable of powerful standalone control for advanced automation on skids today while still being able to easily integrate into a full-scale DCS for total plant production control.”

The DeltaV PK Controller is the latest addition to Emerson’s Project Certainty initiative, targeting radical transformation in capital project execution. The new controller will simplify capital projects by enabling OEM skid-builders to design and produce skids in the same way they do today, while eliminating the costs, time, and risks associated with integrating a PLC into their control system.

The DeltaV PK Controller was designed from the start with connectivity, particularly into the IIoT, in mind. The scalable controller leverages an assortment of communication protocols, including the first Emerson controller with a built-in OPC UA server. It is also the first Emerson controller with six Ethernet ports and can operate using any Emerson DeltaV I/O type, including DeltaV Electronic Marshalling, traditional marshalled I/O, wireless I/O, and integrated safety instrumented systems. In addition, it has built-in protocols to communicate with Ethernet devices such as drives and motors. Together, these features make connectivity easier at every stage and help plants achieve operational benefits of cloud-based tools and analytics through the IIoT. The DeltaV PK Controller also features built-in redundancy for controllers, communication, and power supplies, allowing organizations to improve uptime without adding to complexity or footprint.


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