Rockwell Automation–A Software Company?

Rockwell Automation–A Software Company?

I put on the pair of magic glasses. Immediately I was transported to a magic land of another reality. I saw things floating in front of me. I could walk around objects and view them from every angle, but I couldn’t touch them.

There was a white dot. I focused on the dot and brought my hand up to eye level forming a fist with fingers on top. Then I opened my fist like a jasmine bud you drop into hot water to make fragrant tea. And a computer screen appeared before my eyes.  I raised a finger, pointed to a button, brought my finger down and then back up as if clicking. And a machine started.

No, I had not smoked something. (Although people suspect that in my days at university… well that’s another topic for another day!)

Perhaps you’ve seen the TV ads for the Samsung phone with Virtual Reality (VR) goggles? I was wearing a real product–the Microsoft Hololense. This is Augmented Reality (AR). I could see people walking through the first machine. I could see the actual machine in the second scenario. I controlled the fan speed of the real machine without touching anything. People watching would only see me waving my hand.

Yes, this was last week in Atlanta at Automation Fair sponsored by Rockwell Automation. At a stand called modestly enough The Future of the Connected Enterprise, they showed these working examples of AR in a manufacturing setting.


Let’s be honest. In 20 Automation Fairs I’ve attended, I’ve never felt like I’ve seen the bleeding edge of technology. Cool new products? Sure. Rockwell kept advancing with the times. The Logix engine was an advance in the state of the art followed by Studio 5000. But that has been some time ago. This year just felt differently.

First there was a live demo during the media day that included information solutions. Next was the Innovation Zone demo of AR. Finally was a dive into Information Solutions–something initially highlighted by new CEO Blake Moret.

First an admission and some definitions. I stole the headline of the piece from both ControlGlobal and Automation World. I think I saw it in both places on the Web last week. Now the description–Rockwell calls “Software” its software for HMI, programming, and the like. What really has been building is “Information Solutions.” More accurately, the headline should have been, “Rockwell Automation, An Information Solutions and Services Company.”

An Information Solutions Company

11-10-16-scalable-analyticsInformation Solutions and Process Solutions are headed by the same VP/GM, John Genovesi. Process had been growing for several years, but it seems to have leveled off lately. Information Solutions was front and center featured this year. My industry research this year revealed that IS accounts for the bulk of revenue increases within the “Connected Enterprise” strategy. And that makes sense.

One of the deep-dive interview opportunities offered me this year was the Information Solutions group. Spokesperson Khris Kammer told me that there were four pillars to discuss this year–Scalable MES, Scalable Analytic, Connected Services, and Collaboration/Teams. I’ll have more detail on product releases from the first two. Connected Services was touted by Moret during our interview.

The traditional challenge for MES has been its monolithic nature. If you want MES, you must buy a big chunk. Rockwell has been working on this customer challenge and barrier to entry. Rockwell introduced “suites”, but that did not address the entire problem. Now are “fit-for-purpose” apps–quality, production, performance. Read more below.

Analytics became the domain of data scientists through “Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence” (EMI) which was a spin-off from enterprise Business Intelligence. Rockwell partners with Microsoft PowerBI, but it also worked on the scalable aspect to bring customers in a little at a time. Built upon existing products Historian and VantagePoint, developers built Analytics for Devices and Analytics for Machines–a cloud-based broader solution. Read more below.

Connected Services blends service in networks, security, and managed services. This has been a growing part of Rockwell’s business and now receives the attention and focus of landing as part of the Connected Enterprise strategy.Collaboration features a Web-based, HTML5 app called TeamOne. The team demonstrated it to media in perhaps the first live demo at a Rockwell keynote. Figuring that pretty much everyone already brings a smart phone to work, this app is IT-friendly and allows chatting, information access, video capability, and more among selected members of a team. These personnel may be in the same area, scattered around a facility, or even remote if necessary.

Scalable Analytics

“Our Connected Enterprise vision has always had analytics and collaboration at its core,” said Genovesi. “As we expand our Information Solutions offerings, a primary goal is to make analytics more approachable and right-sized for the customer. New analytics solutions help our customers move ahead on their Connected Enterprise journey, no matter where they are today.”

The new offerings expand capabilities for analytics across the plant floor for devices, machines and systems, as well as throughout the enterprise. In this approach, analytics are computed and gain context closest to the source of decision at the appropriate level in the architecture to return the highest value – from edge devices to the cloud on a variety of new appliances, devices, and on- or off-premise cloud platforms.

FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices appliance provides health and diagnostic analytics from industrial devices. It crawls your industrial network, discovers your assets and provides analytics by transforming the data generated into preconfigured health and diagnostic dashboards. The system also delivers “action cards” to your smartphone or tablet if a device requires attention.

At the machine level, FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines cloud application provides equipment builders access to performance analytics from deployed systems to help support their customers via the FactoryTalk cloud. For manufacturers, this capability capitalizes on connected technologies to help drive higher availability and output while reducing maintenance costs.

Rockwell Automation now provides a predictive maintenance solution that can predict failures before they happen and generate a maintenance work order to avoid costly downtime.

Scalable MES

Rockwell Automation has released the following applications, with more to come in the future:

FactoryTalk Production Application a scalable MES solution that addresses the challenges associated with enforcing processes in manufacturing. This application integrates with ERP, and tracks the order and recipe parameters necessary for production.

FactoryTalk Quality Application allows manufacturers to easily and efficiently model and enforce their plant’s in-process quality regimens at a scalable rate. Manufacturers can use the Quality application on a project basis and scale up when value is proven.

FactoryTalk Performance Application is a modular application that assists manufacturing companies with factory efficiency and production improvement. By providing visibility into the operations performance, this application allows for lean and continuous improvement, preventive manufacturing, improved asset utilization and operational intelligence.

Each expanded MES application is implemented on thin clients for a modern user experience and reduced, IT infrastructure cost. Users can add on each application to their current framework, helping protect their current investments while realizing these additional benefits.

Improve Productivity With Mobile and HTML5

Improve Productivity With Mobile and HTML5

I spent more time and took far more notes at the Operational Intelligence stand on my tour of Rockwell Automation’s annual fete, Automation Fair, than any other–even Integrated Architecture which I reported last week.

One reason was a press release that I received regarding a “co-invention” between Rockwell Automation and Microsoft on a mobility solution. This will become a great enabler of the Connected Enterprise according to the release. Unfortunately, when I studied the release, I couldn’t figure out what “it” was. Probably too many companies and too many marketing managers trying to get their two cents in resulting in too many nice-sounding but vague words 😉

Thanks to Ryan Cahalane, director of software product management, and others, I came away with enough of an understanding to see how potentially valuable this project could be.


Rockwell Project Stanton MobileLet’s start with mobile devices. Workers at all levels are bringing them to work whether IT is ready or not. When you own one, you want to use it. So, why not leverage commercial technologies developed by Microsoft (its Project Thali) with industrial application and robustness from Rockwell (Project Stanton).

Rockwell is making extensive use of HTML 5. But this toolkit in development includes a technology called JXcore from Nubisa. JXcore is a Node distribution. It is designed for developing applications for mobile and embedded devices using JavaScript and leveraging the Node ecosystem. Use the same codebase for server and mobile applications.

The toolkit enables Rockwell Automation offerings with a consistent web-based user interface for a specific device; tablet, smartphone or desktop and now includes a prototype app, dubbed Project Stanton (@Project_Stanton).

Operational Intelligence From Logix

VantagePoint Operational IntelligenceThe second technology I wish to discuss is the latest release of FactoryTalk VantagePoint 7.0. Rockwell Automation says, “For manufacturers, making swift use of big data just got easier. The addition of import and configure mobile-based work flows in the FactoryTalk VantagePoint enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI) v7.0 software enables the one-time configuration of a manufacturing intelligence solution.”

This software provides users a seamless way to access their Logix-based data by providing a simple, guided work flow to store and visualize information. Everything from installation, configuration and visualization has been enhanced and consolidated – so users can interact with their Logix-based control data from their device of choice: PC, tablet or smartphone. To promote intelligent decision-making, the new work flows enable authorized users to store and visualize specific data views and trends, and easily share these views with collaborators across the enterprise.

“The FactoryTalk VantagePoint experience now provides access to manufacturing information faster than ever,” said Angela Rapko, product manager, EMI Software Portfolio, Rockwell Automation. “For users, this more cohesive and intuitive experience is a significant step forward. The less time operators spend configuring systems, the more they can focus on how their plants are actually functioning. We have truly reduced the time to trend data with this release.”

Additionally, FactoryTalk VantagePoint software will now silently install with FactoryTalk Historian SE software from Rockwell Automation. Upon completion, the user will be greeted with a VantagePoint mobile Web page, including the new import and configure options.

From any PC or tablet, a user can browse through the FactoryTalk Directory server to an online controller; select the tags from which they aim to collect associated data; and configure scan rates and additional historian parameters. Once this process is complete, the selected tags are stored in the FactoryTalk Historian solution and automatically configured for the FactoryTalk VantagePoint software. By simultaneously configuring tags, a user within the VantagePoint mobile work flow makes a few simple selections in order to begin collecting data, and creating dashboards and trends.

Also new, FactoryTalk VantagePoint v7.0 software offers SQL Server Express with install. This removes complex licensing options from the install process.

Improve Manufacturing Operations With EMI Applications

Improve Manufacturing Operations With EMI Applications

Mark DavidsonOne of my prognostications from my last post on 2015 prognostications riffing off Jim Pinto’s post, dealt with analytics. I think this will not only be big, it will be essential to making you and your manufacturing enterprise competitive.

Mark Davidson of LNS Research, just wrote about the subject, Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI) software, on the LNS blog site.

He asks, “1) What are the business results that manufacturing/production companies are achieving utilizing these software capabilities? And 2) What should you and your company be doing in regard to the opportunities presented by these technologies?”

He correctly addresses the core capability—operational and business performance dashboards that provide timely information to different users and roles.

Are people using these now? “61% of companies in the LNS Research Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) survey of over 550 professionals indicated that their companies either currently have EMI dashboards or are planning to install them in the next year.”

Here’s why this is important. “The joint LNS Research and MESA ‘Metrics That Matter’ survey uncovered a significant difference in average annual improvements in the costs of producing a unit of goods. Current users of EMI software recorded 24.1% average annual improvements in Total Cost per Unit Excluding Materials versus the 13.1% overall improvement of all respondents.” And, “Companies that have implemented EMI software solutions are experiencing 7.2% higher OEE performance than those who have not. The average OEE for those who have EMI solutions in place was 74, versus 69 for those who do not.”

Make sure your stars are aligned

And, his last thought, “It is imperative that you not only focus on these supporting new technologies, it’s important to also align your organization’s key resources: people and processes, along with your technology strategy.”

Check out Mark’s complete article. Then check out potential partners for implementing EMI applications. Let me know how you’re doing.

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