Schneider Electric Foxboro and Triconex Innovation Days 2019

Schneider Electric Foxboro and Triconex Innovation Days 2019

I’ve followed Foxboro and Triconex for many years now in my coverage of the process automation business. A great company that, not unlike too many others, suffered now and again with very poor management. The company has now settled in nicely at its home in Schneider Electric and appears to be healthy here.

Much credit must go to Gary Freburger. He provided a steadying hand as the leader before and through the transition, as well as guiding the integration into the new home. He is retiring at the end of the year. I’ve met a number of great leaders and a few stinkers in my 20 years at this side of the business. Gary’s one of the great ones. And his chosen successor (see more below) seems more than up for the task of building on his successes.

Marcotte Succeeds Freburger as Process Automation President

This week’s major announcement revealed that Nathalie Marcotte has been selected to succeed Freburger as president of its Process Automation business, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Nathalie Marcotte Official Picture  jpg

“After a long, successful industry career, including more than 15 years serving Invensys and Schneider Electric in various senior leadership roles, Gary has decided to retire,” said Peter Herweck, executive vice president, Industrial Automation business, Schneider Electric. “We thank him for his many contributions and his strong legacy of success. We wish him well, and I congratulate Nathalie on her appointment. She brings more than 30 years of industry knowledge, expertise and experience, as well as a long record of success. I look forward to working with her as we build on the success Gary has delivered.”

Since joining the Schneider organization in 1996, Marcotte has held several positions of increasing responsibility, including vice president of Global Performance and Consulting Services; vice president, North America marketing; general manager for the Canadian business; and, prior to her current position, vice president, marketing, Global Systems business. As the company’s current senior vice president, Industrial Automation Services, she is responsible for Schneider Electric’s Services business and offer development, ranging from product support to advanced operations and digital services. She is also responsible for the company’s Global Cybersecurity Services & Solutions business, including the Product Security Office.

“As we move through this transition, it will be business as usual for Schneider Electric and our Process Automation customers,” Marcotte said. “Gary and I are working very closely together to ensure there will be no disruptions to our day-to-day operations. This ensures our customers have the same access to the exceptional people, products and technology they have come to trust and rely on to improve the real-time safety, reliability, efficiency and profitability of their operations.”

“I thank Gary for his many contributions to Schneider Electric and to our industry in general. Under his leadership, our customers, partners and employees have never been better situated to succeed, today and tomorrow,” Marcotte said. “This transition will have no impact on our technology strategy and portfolio roadmap. We remain committed to our continuously-current philosophy, which means never leaving our customers behind. Now, by leveraging the strength of the full Schneider Electric offer, we can take the next step toward enabling an easier, less costly digital transformation for our customers, while keeping them on the path to a safer, more secure and profitable future.”

Following the opening keynotes, I had the opportunity to chat privately with Freburger and Marcotte. Following summarizes a few key takeaways.

Digitalization and Digital Transformation.

These topics were prominently displayed in the ballroom before the keynotes. In fact the welcome and opening presentation were given by Mike Martinez, Director of Digital Transformation Consulting. These are common themes in the industry—in fact, not only process automation, but also at the IT conferences I cover. Each company has its own unique take on the terms, but it still boils down to data, data integrity, databases, and data security. All of which were discussed.

Key Points From the Presidents.

Integration across Schneider Electric. One priority has been working with other business units (and their technologies) across the Schneider Electric portfolio. This could be PLCs and drives, but power is a huge emphasis. Schneider Electric management wants very much for its process automation acquisition to integrate well with its historic electric power business. This is seen as a strategic opportunity. One thought-provoking observation—is the process engineer/electrical engineer divide as serious as the IT/OT divide? No direct answer. But these domains have historically had little to no collaboration. One to watch.

Close working relationship with AVEVA. If you recall, Schneider Electric bundled its various software acquisitions including the ones from Invensys (Wonderware, Avantis) and used them to buy into AVEVA—the engineering software company. Bringing automation and software together was a constant source of pain for Invensys. Schneider Electric dealt with it through a separate company. Along the way, cooperation seems to be better than ever. Marcotte explained to me that Foxboro combines its domain expertise with the more broadly general software platforms to achieve customer values. See for example my previous post on Plant Performance Advisors Suite.

Cybersecurity.  Marcotte has been leading Schneider’s cybersecurity efforts. These are seen as a key part of Schneider Electric’s offer. See especially the establishment of the ISA Global Cybersecurity Alliance. They don’t talk as much about Internet of Things as at other conferences, when I probed more deeply about IT, cybersecurity was again brought up as the key IT/OT collaboration driver.

It’s been a struggle, but the Schneider Electric process automation business (Foxboro and Triconex) seems as strong as ever. And the people here—both internal and customers—are optimistic and energetic. That’s good to see.

Integrating Engineering and Project Execution

Integrating Engineering and Project Execution

The design engineering function originates data. It includes data about the structure of the plant or factory, data about the equipment and processes used to make the product, and data about the product(s) itself. In my early career, I embodied the movement of the data from design to operations and then back to design in a continuous loop of as designed—>as built—>as designed. I was also involved for a while in the development of a platform to automate this process using standards.

To say I’m interested in this area would be an understatement. And this process is important to all of you, too. Including those who siphon off some data for other uses such as accounting, customer service, maintenance, and reliability.

AVEVA, the integration of its iconic design engineering software and Schneider Electric’s software business, just introduced integrated engineering software designed to help customers transform the way capital projects are engineered, executed, and integrated into operations and maintenance.

The integrated portfolio comprises three software solutions. AVEVA Unified Engineering integrates process design with front-end engineering and detailed 3D based design. AVEVA Unified Project Execution links and streamlines procurement and construction processes for capital projects. AVEVA Enterprise Learning enables the rapid skilling of operators and engineers using Extended Reality (XR) and simulation tools, to ensure efficient startups and shutdowns, normal operations, and the ability to handle abnormal situations

“This launch builds on the recent news describing AVEVA’s capabilities as the first company in the engineering and industrial software market to comprehensively address the end-to-end digital transformation imperatives with an integrated portfolio of solutions that deliver efficiency, unlock value and empower people across the lifecycle of capital assets and operational value chains,” commented Craig Hayman, CEO, AVEVA. “It changes the way that owner operators engage with Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) companies in designing, building, commissioning, and operating their capital assets.”

The functionality provided in these integrated solutions enables the realization of an EPC 4.0 strategy for owner operators, central to digital transformation in the capital-intensive process sectors. This allows collaboration on a global scale, through hybrid cloud architectures and on a common platform. The entire manufacturing process can be traced, tracked, and linked – from engineering and design, through procurement and construction, to handover and to operations and maintenance, as a comprehensive Digital Twin for the capital asset.

“As competition in the business world accelerates the time has come for industrial organization to innovate to facilitate the transition from the manual, document-centric processes, towards a data-driven vision of project design, procurement, and execution in order to increase safety, reduce costs, and minimize delays, “ commented Craig Hayman, CEO AVEVA. “With the launch of AVEVA Unified Engineering, a first of its kind solution, we are breaking down the silos between engineering disciplines and enabling our customers to turn conceptual designs into 3D models quickly, accelerating engineering to estimation and ensuring designs can be operated before committing billions of dollars.”

New AVEVA Unified Engineering enables the integration of the process model and plant model lifecycles from concept to detailed design, delivering frictionless collaboration for multi-discipline engineers to collaborate in the cloud. The net result is a minimum 50% improvement in engineering efficiency in FEED and up to 30% in detail design, which can yield a 3% total installed cost improvement. These savings can be re-invested to ensure engineering quality, accuracy, and maturity for downstream project execution business processes.

AVEVA Unified Project Execution solutions integrate with AVEVA Unified Engineering to further break down the silos within Procurement and Construction by combining key disciplines covering Contract Risk Management, Materials and Supply Chain Control, and Construction Management into one cloud based digital project execution environment. AVEVA Unified Project Execution solutions deliver up to 15% reduction in material costs, 10% reduction in field labor costs and reduces unbudgeted supplier change orders by up to 50%, which translates to 10% total installed costs savings opportunities for our customers.

AVEVA’s Enterprise Learning solutions combine traditional simulation-based learning with 3D connected learning management solutions. AVEVA’s learning solutions extend process models and 3D models from AVEVA Unified Engineering to fast track DCS panel operator training, field operator training, process and maintenance procedural training, and process safety situational awareness training using cloud and Extended Reality (XR) technology to deliver up to 2% Total Installed Cost reduction by improved operations readiness.

“Our Engineering portfolio enhancements will deliver increased agility for our customers, enabling them to reduce cost, risk, and delays, minimizing errors and driving rapid capital project execution. The cost savings are realized by mitigating capital investment risks at the process design stage, cutting engineering man-hours by up to 30% in plant design, reducing material costs in procurement by up to 15% as well as reducing field labor costs in construction by up to 10%,” commented Amish Sabharwal, SVP, Engineering Business, AVEVA. “With these new solutions AVEVA is providing integration across all stages of the capital project, from conceptual design to handover, to optimize collaboration and break down silos between both engineering disciplines and project stages.”

Digitalization or Digital Enterprise Hannover Messe Word of the Day

Obama and Merkel at HannoverEchos of Industrie 4.0 were present around the Hannover Messe 2016, but times have moved on since 2013. The word of the week was digital–in many forms, such as digitalization, digital enterprise, digital factory.

Chancellor Merkel and President Obama (two friends says the headline) were not digital, however, as they made a grand tour through parts of the trade fair highlighting the latest manufacturing technologies. And when the US President appears, the rest of the world stops. There were a reported 10,000 police in Hannover. The building I was in during the tour was surrounded by police, we could see snipers on the buildings around us, and we were locked in from 9 am until 1 pm. Fortunately, we had food.

Fortunately also for Siemens, they had a “captive” audience for their press conference for an extra couple of hours.

Siemens captured a large chunk of my time in Hannover. (Disclaimer, two divisions of the company paid some of my expenses.) Because I had some good contacts, I was able to get many interviews and looks behind the scenes. But the main reason I spent much time there was that Siemens had much to show.

Digital Manufacturing Vision

The digital manufacturing vision that Anton Huber laid out for me at the ARC Forum in Orlando in 2006 has progressed considerably. With a backbone of Internet of Things technologies and adding in digital everywhere, Siemens revealed the benefits of bringing everything together.

Take a tour through automobile production, for example. Sebastian Israel took me through the process from designing in Siemens CAD solution (NX), to production planning and engineering (TeamCenter, both from Siemens (PLM). The process continues through designing and engineering the line–digitally of course. Because it is digital first, engineers can simulate the line removing constraints and interferences before any steel is cut.

Integrating the automation and controls to the process is the hardest part of the system. Siemens has begun this process. It does acknowledge much work remains in this area. Mechatronics integration is well along. Things do not stop here, though. TeamCenter helps with change management. TiA Portal enables control engineering collaboration. The process feed the execution level (MES) for production scheduling and other functions including feeding the resource manager of CNC tools to help select the proper next tool to use. This integrates into services–data is usable for such analyses as predictive maintenance.

So far as I can tell, no other company comes close to the ability to do all this within its own umbrella. Although remarkable for what I’d call the “old” Siemens, the “new” Siemens actually uses partnerships to fill the gaps in the system. This is not the same company I met 15 years ago.

I congratulate Mr. Huber for the vision and seeing it through to its current state.

Other Siemens News

Rihab Ehms led a personal tour on TIA Portal Engineering Software. This product continues to develop and flesh out gaps. The first glimpse from a few years ago was pretty much that of an Integrated Development Environment for programming control. Slowly, the Siemens team added drives, HMI, and now motion control and motor management. Also included is energy management. It is a multiuser environment enabling broad collaboration among engineers using a “smart library” concept and common data management.

Ulli Klenk, next on my list, discussed Industrial Additive Manufacturing. I mentioned some interviews I’ve had on additive manufacturing research at North Carolina State. A Duke grad, he was a bit disappointed. His passion showed on the ways Siemens is helping customers with additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing). Leveraging expertise from Siemens PLM and working with partner machine builders, the company has systems working in a number of application.

Not part of this exhibit but thoroughly fascinating as well, Local Motors sent an engineer to participate in the Siemens booth showing how the company is building a complete car (and now a minibus) using additive manufacturing methods.

The paper industry faces challenges as we all reduce the amount of paper we use. It is searching for alternatives to its product lines. Therefore the broadening of the industry term to “fiber.” Siemens is there, of course, to  blend its process control, drive systems, simulation, and predictive maintenance capabilities. Dr. Hermann Schwarz explained the technologies and then said these technologies will help the paper industry broaden into the fiber industry.

One last technology that I didn’t tour but heard much about is MindSphere. Partnering with SAP HANA, this is an industrial cloud providing data driven services and eventually an App Store so that customers can wring the most value possible from their own data.

Not a Chance

When this vision was explained in 2006 and 2007, I didn’t think there was any chance Siemens could pull it off. The pieces are coming together well. They still have much work to do, but customers can certainly benefit right now with increased manufacturing flexibility, product quality, and efficiency.


Engineering Software and Industrial Networking Trends

Engineering Software and Industrial Networking Trends

National Instruments is a company started by technologists and continues to this day as a company full of technologists–many studying industrial networking and engineering software. They really watch new technologies and watch for trends. The past couple of years the company has been issuing a “Trend Watch” document.

Two items in the 2016 Trend Watch piqued my interest, so I was able to talk with Jeffrey Phillips, Section Manager, Software Platform Marketing, and Nick Butler, Sr. Group Manager, Embedded Systems Product Marketing, to flesh out the two trends and what they mean in the area I cover–Consumerization of Software and  Standardization of Networks for Internet of Things.

Consumerization of Software

Trendwatch16_IIoT_23608_ill (1) The idea behind the “consumerization of software” trend is an expansion of things we’ve seen building for years–new engineers are coming into the marketplace with far different experiences interacting with technology than us old guys. I still like text. I started out with BASIC, C, scripts, Java–text things. Ladder Diagram is a visual “language” and I found it arcane and difficult to work with.

Think about todaTrendwatch16_Software_23608_illy’s engineers. We pretty much learned one language at a time and specialized. Today, graduates move fluidly among several language. But their experience is with touch and graphic interfaces.


NI Software Trend Description

Engineering software users of the past typically graduated from a university with an understanding of one programming language. Some were even experienced users who demanded exposure to the darkest corners of programming, with custom memory calls, from-scratch multithreading commands, and hand-optimized performance demands. Software was hard and unapproachable to those who dared to enter without proper training and previous exposure.

And just like that, things started to change. First, graduating engineers were required to have a broad skillset of programming languages to tackle the challenges handed to them in the workplace. Like a trained warrior switching from sword to axe to bow, today’s engineer can jump in and out of Python, C#, HTML, JavaScript, LabVIEW, and Swift. This puts an unprecedented demand on approachability and removes the expectation of expertise. Today’s engineer expects to use multiple tools for any given application.

Secondly, the cost of accessing and acquiring data has rapidly decreased while the need for data has risen. And as technology has become more connected, the cost of processors has declined. According to DataBeans, the price of a processor decreased over 30 percent between 2011 and 2015. This has accelerated the need for highly approachable software by introducing more “nontraditional” programmers to the worlds of robotics, home automation, and even general data acquisition and analysis. Likewise, cultural trends like the Maker Movement and the emergence of consumer product start-ups being acquired for unreal amounts of money further illustrate this shift.

An Inevitable Convergence

For engineers, who are defined by the pride of conquering complex challenges, this confluence of usability and technical sophistication couldn’t come at a better time. No longer tethered and bogged down by the intricate details of multiple languages, tools, and approaches (like writing an actor framework), they can now refocus on engineering’s most grand and impactful challenges (like 5G research and the IoT). In this new tightly integrated future, engineers can find better, faster ways from point A to point B instead of spending their time making better maps.

Likewise, this convergence means that engineers can embrace a future in which they aren’t sole proprietors of innovation. With software that is (gasp) easy to use, the rest of the world is catching up. And by acknowledging the prevalence of simplicity and beauty in software of all stripes, more and more smart people will play meaningful roles in major problem solving.

Standardized industrial networking for IoT

Trendwatch16_IIoT_23608_ill (1)The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) promises a world of smarter, hyper-connected devices and infrastructure where electrical grids, manufacturing machines, and transportation systems are outfitted with embedded sensing, processing, control, and analysis capabilities.

NI technologists are evaluating (and working on the standard) a new standard for Ethernet networking. Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) will evolve Ethernet to provide reliable, remote, and secure access to smart edge devices. One key aspect is the development of edge devices that can combine local control and information filtering such that only important data are transmitted rather than the flood of all data.

From the Trend Watch paper an explanation of TSN:

TSN: The Time is Now

Industrial suppliers, IT vendors, and silicon providers are collaborating within IEEE 802 and the recently formed AVnu Alliance to update standard Ethernet protocols and provide bounded, low-latency data transfer for time-critical data in IIoT applications.

The AVnu Alliance, working with companies such as Broadcom, Cisco, Intel, and NI, will drive the creation of an interoperable ecosystem through certification, similar to how the Wi-Fi Alliance certifies products and devices to be compatible with the IEEE 802.11 standard. The new TSN standard will provide numerous benefits, including the following:

Bandwidth—Large data sets from advanced sensing applications such as machine vision, 3D scanning, and power analysis can put a strain on network bandwidth. Proprietary Ethernet derivatives commonly used for industrial control today are limited to 100 Mb of bandwidth and half-duplex communication. TSN will embrace standard Ethernet rates and support full-duplex communication.

Security—TSN protects critical control traffic and incorporates top-tier IT security provisions, while segmentation, performance protection, and temporal composability can add multiple levels of defense to the security framework. 

Interoperability—By using standard Ethernet components, TSN can integrate with existing brownfield applications and standard IT traffic to improve ease of use. TSN inherits many features of existing Ethernet, such as HTTP interfaces and web services, which enable the remote diagnostics, visualization, and repair features common in IIoT systems. As an added benefit, leveraging standard Ethernet chipsets drives component cost down by virtue of high-volume, commercial silicon.

Latency and Synchronization—TSN prioritizes the low-latency communication required for fast system response and closed-loop control applications. It can achieve deterministic transfer times on the order of tens of microseconds and time synchronization between nodes down to tens of nanoseconds. To ensure reliable delivery of this time-critical traffic, TSN provides automated configurations for high-reliability data paths, where packets are duplicated and merged to provide lossless path redundancy.

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