Automation Perspectives Kicks Off Rockwell’s Automation Fair 2016

Automation Perspectives Kicks Off Rockwell’s Automation Fair 2016

Every year as part of the Automation Fair experience for media and analysts, Rockwell Automation hosts a “Perspectives” forum on the Tuesday prior to the two-day trade show. Executive and guest experts discuss trends and technologies affecting manufacturing, production, and automation.This is a short introduction. I had two days of deep dives into technology. A bunch of posts to follow. The photo is a panel led by CTO and SVP Sujeet Chand.


This year’s event featured several Rockwell executives plus guest speakers from McKinsey & Company, Microsoft, Cisco, and Georgia Tech. Reflecting a new mood within the company, the Architecture and Software group featured a couple of demos including some bantering and “gee whiz” moments. I have long felt that a technology company should show off some products that way. They did a good job–especially for a first effort.

Bob,Stemfels, senior partner, McKinsey & Company, gave a strategic overview presentation. “Digital disruption will fuel the next industrial revolution,” he noted. Some of the underlying drivers include increasing levels of data, ubiquitous connectivity, pervasive sensing, analytics driving understanding, and advance in cyber physical systems.

John Genovesi, vice president and general manager of Information Solutions and Process Solutions, provided an update on digitization in his areas. First, of course, Rockwell’s vision is based upon EtherNet/IP (did I hear “standard, unmodified Ethernet” again?). Genovesi pointed out that the cost of Ethernet is dropping enough so that devices of around $100 can be networked.

Fran Wlodarczyk, vp gm control and visualization, discussed Integrated Architecture. It is built on EtherNet/IP. They are working with “industry leading PLM suppliers” to build interfaces to integrate Design into the process. The Operate function is enhanced through analytics born in the automation system featuring self-aware devices. Maintain function is enhanced through the new TeamOne product—a mobile friendly app that incorporates chat, sharing pictures/videos and then also the thin client products added through the acquisition of ACP.

Scott Lapcewich, VP and GM of the Services business, discussed Connected Services–the latest addition to the Connected Enterprise. One of the key features about the offering involves managed services and remote services. These are sold on a subscription model involving operating budget monies while avoiding capital expenditure hassles. Network services, also involving Panduit, Cisco, and VMware, is the fastest growing segment.

There was more, but I’ll cover the topics discussed in depth later.

Automation Fair Number 25 Unveils Rockwell Automation’s New Leader

Automation Fair Number 25 Unveils Rockwell Automation’s New Leader

blake-moret-2016There is a discernible change in atmosphere around Rockwell Automation these days. The statement is not meant in anyway to reflect on former President and CEO (and still chairman) Keith Nosbusch. Newly elected President and CEO Blake Moret appears to be settling in to the new role, and he brings a distinctly new personality to leadership.

I was greatly honored that due to some schedule changes that created disruption with the usual media interviews on Tuesday he still worked out some time late Monday afternoon for a private interview.

When I left my last position, I searched for a focus and name for a new, Web-based media site. The Manufacturing Connection made the most sense—and I could get the domain name. Then I went to the first Rockwell Automation event following and found a new theme—Connected Enterprise. We’re all thinking about the importance of connections.

Moret started with the Connected Enterprise theme. His vision for the company’s direction includes and expands upon the theme. It’s not only EtherNet/IP (they still talk about “standard, unmodified Ethernet”). Networking is important. Beyond the network are connecting people, projects, services.

Not only did Moret present the importance of the Information Solutions business, the topic came up later in a general session. Rockwell has definitely grown the capabilities of its software solutions. Its analytics capabilities appear to be robust (Rockwell is using it internally in its own manufacturing processes) with the goal of continually improving its ease of use.

The foundation of Rockwell Automation’s Connected strategy lies with plant floor devices. “Since the majority of devices come from us,” Moret said, “we can connect easily to obtain the information necessary for the MES and enterprise levels.”

Several integrators pinged me before my trip to ask me to investigate the repercussions of the acquisition of system integrator Maverick Technologies. “We’ve always had a dual approach,” Moret told me. (That reminded me of my sales engineer days in the 90s when I had Rockwell quote a couple of projects as the integrator.) “We have no intention of walking away from our partners. But there are customers who want a single source of responsibility. We can handle those projects now.”

“And, by the way,” he added, “we doubled the number of Chemical Engineers in the company with this acquisition. We added a lot of domain expertise.”

The transition seems to be smooth so far. Leadership changes are a critical event in an organization. Handled well, the organization gains renewed vitality and direction. Rockwell Automation is on the right path.

Standards, Technology Lead Way To Collaborative Robots

Standards, Technology Lead Way To Collaborative Robots

The most exciting thing happening now with industrial robots is the new intimacy of human and machine–collaborative robots.

Since I had other plans and could not attend the Rockwell Automation track at the EHS Conference coming up in Pittsburgh, Rockwell brought a piece of the safety symposium to me. George Schuster, a member of the global safety team at Rockwell and a robotics safety expert, discussed the current state of the art with me.

Schuster told me that Rockwell Automation is working with Fanuc Robots to change the way people and machinery interact.

There is much interest in the work in the user community to create manufacturing processes that leverage the strengths of machines (stability, reliability, strength) and the intelligence and adaptability of humans.

“In the past we engineered to keep them separate or at least arbitrate the shared space. Now we’ve found good benefits to engineer ways for people and machines to work together,” said Schuster.

Three things are enabling this approach. First, there are the standards. ISO 10218 and ANSI/RIA 15.06-2012 give guidance for designers. They also make it clear that thorough risk assessments must be carried out when designing these processes. Next, Rockwell is blending its safety technology with robotics. Then design approaches are looking holistically at what is possible with human and machine working together. Together, this is actually more of an application space rather than just technology.

Increasingly working on removing barriers between robotics and controllers, technology includes connectivity and safety–EtherNet/IP Safe; GuardLogix system; Add-on profiles in software-pre-engineered common data structure; part of the Connected Enterprise, includes connection of devices plus communication to upper levels to collect and analyze information–all working together.

There are four key current applications: ability to stop robot without killing power to allow operator to interact for instance load/unload, can quickly enter/leave area; hand guided operation, person can move/guide robot kind of like ergonomic load assist; speed and separation monitor, sensor system detects presence and position of personnel, modulates robot, can stop if person gets too close, coordinates robot speed and approaching person; power force limiting-this one is a little tricky, it’s hard to know where the robot will come in contact and what force is acceptable to the human, difference between soft flesh and hard place, etc.

This is all cool. It is ushering in a new era of manufacturing.

Hannover News: ODVA Begins Work on CIP to the Cloud

Hannover News: ODVA Begins Work on CIP to the Cloud

Do we need an OPC UA replacement?

I’ve gone from one trip to another and had some allergy attacks in the middle. That’s my excuse. So I’m catching up on Hannover news plus my experience as an ERP analyst (not) at the QAD user conference

I didn’t intend to lead with this one, but for the first time in a while I’ve hit a bit of controversy. My YouTube video essay on the subject garnered my first “like” and first “dislike”. Read and listen and decide who might not like the analysis.

CIP Cloud Interface

In surely the most discussed announcement in automation at Hannover, ODVA announced a “significant” new area of technical work to develop standards for the gateway and interface technology needed to transport data between the cloud and CIP-enabled industrial control systems (ICS) populated with EtherNet/IP and DeviceNet devices. “Ultimately, this work will result in The Common Industrial Cloud Interface Specification, a major new addition to ODVA’s technology portfolio.”

This is from the press release: ODVA’s scope of work for developing the Common Industrial Cloud Interface will encompass two elements in the ecosystem for the industrial cloud: a cloud gateway appliance (Gateway) and an application program interface (API) for the transport of data from the Gateway to the cloud and from the cloud back to the ICS and its devices. Based on open and interoperable standards supported by multiple vendors, ODVA’s new Common Industrial Cloud Interface will accelerate an architectural transformation inclusive of cloud computing to support device management, process analytics, notifications, remote access, virtualization, visualization and, in the future, control.

“The Common Industrial Cloud Interface will enable an enterprise architecture inclusive of cloud computing resources, based on industry standards, and will optimize high performance, secure communications between devices, an ICS and the cloud, as well as simplify common tasks that must be performed by the Gateway. ODVA’s view of its cloud ecosystem is agnostic with respect to the deployment of cloud computing resources in off-premise, on premise, public, private and/or hybrid models. Furthermore, ODVA‘s scope of work for its Common Industrial Cloud Interface excludes services and applications within the cloud itself.“

Replacing OPC UA Embedded?

As the press conference proceeded, attendees became aware that this work is a direct attack on OPC UA. Several major automation technology vendors have voiced disappointment with the embedded version of UA seeing it a a threat to their own messaging protocols.

This is typical of the open standards movement. End users and owner/operators love them. Suppliers try to finesse them away. Only today I heard about a Microsoft response to IFTTT designed to give the same functionality while keeping users within the Microsoft ecosystem. It’s a never-ending battle for users of technology. I think for the 13 years I’ve been writing here that I’ve been consistently on the side of users. Suppliers can develop lots of value add while giving users some freedom for their own innovation.

I asked Rockwell Automation for comment since it is seen as the internal champion for this SIG. It sent this carefully constructed statement:

At Hannover last week, ODVA announced a significant new area of technical work to develop standards for the gateway and interface technology needed to transport data between the cloud and EtherNet/IP and DeviceNet devices. Ultimately, this work will result in The Common Industrial Cloud Interface Specification, a major new addition to ODVA’s technology portfolio.

ODVA’s cloud announcement does not diminish Rockwell Automation’s support for OPC – as demonstrated by Rockwell’s active role within the OPC UA Technical Advisory Committee and the Specifications Working Group. Similarly, it does not diminish Rockwell Automation’s support for other global standards, as it has experts, project leaders, conveners, secretaries and chairpersons on many of the global standards committees, such as the IEC Strategic Group (SG8) focused on Industry 4.0/Smart Manufacturing.

The ODVA announcement simply outlines ODVA’s plans to offer the best solution to connect the world of EtherNet/IP and DeviceNet with the cloud. This will further support EtherNet/IP and DeviceNet customers in configuring devices and streaming data. Because of the benefits this will bring customers, the initiative is supported by the full ODVA board, including Bosch Rexroth, Cisco, Endress+Hauser, OMRON, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric, and Weidmuller.

This continued innovation is why recent studies by HMS, IHS, and others show that EtherNet/IP is the leading Ethernet network, followed by Profinet, EtherCAT, Modbus-TCP and Powerlink.

A couple of comments. First, notice that Rockwell’s support for OPC and other open standards is limited to participating at the technical committee level. Therefore, it learns the technology, but notice nowhere in this statement is it suggested that Rockwell will actually implement these open standards.

And, in the end, will it really matter? If you are in the Rockwell Automation ecosystem, then it becomes easy to continue to tie yourself to it. If you are not, you’ll not use it. If you’re on the fence, you’ll have to decide. Probably a little of both.

You can see my comments on YouTube or listen on my podcast. And you can vote on YouTube thumbs up or down. It should be interesting.

Hannover News: ODVA Begins Work on CIP to the Cloud

GE Opens Advanced Manufacturing Works

The world of advanced manufacturing and digitization continues its steady advance. GE recently announced opening of its first advanced manufacturing facility—a power products manufacturing plant in Greenville, SC.

Interesting that Rockwell Automation just announced a CEO transition leading analysts to look back on Keith Nosbusch’s tenure. Certainly at a time when rivals such as Siemens, Schneider Electric, and, yes, GE have made strong moves in the digital manufacturing space, Rockwell stuck with the “Connected Enterprise.”

That strategy essentially refers to EtherNet/IP networking. I recall my last conversation with CTO Sujeet Chand. I thought maybe he was going to talk about adopting some new technologies. Instead, he introduced a Cisco executive who talked about switches.

I’m en route to Hannover where I have appointments already with Siemens and GE Digital to talk about their digital strategies. Throw in Dell and SAP, and things get interesting.

I think Blake Moret, the next CEO, has his work cut out for him to keep Rockwell Automation relevant in the new age. I’m not usually too critical of Rockwell. I know its reputation for being conservative. Nosbusch stayed the course firmly. I’m starting to think that if Moret doesn’t provide some new directions, there is a risk.

Meanwhile, Back to GE

  • The bullet points from its press release:
    New Facility Will Deploy Best-in-Class Technologies to Accelerate Improvements in Every Aspect of the Manufacturing Process Including Design, Engineering, Product Development, Production, Supply Chain, Distribution and Service and Will Unlock New Productivity and Growth across GE’s Power Portfolio
  • GE Has Invested $73 Million to Date and Will Invest an Additional $327 Million across the GE Power Greenville, S.C., Campus to Boost Innovation and Accelerate the Commercialization of Development of Best-in-Class Technologies for Customers across the Globe
  • Eighty Engineering and Manufacturing Jobs Created with the Facility’s Opening, Expected to Have a Multiplier Effect across the Supply Chain

GE celebrated the grand opening of its new state-of-the-art Advanced Manufacturing Works (AMW) in Greenville as the GE Power business continues to introduce tomorrow’s technologies, today. The announcement comes on the heels of GE’s grand opening of its first additive manufacturing center in Pittsburgh in early April and represents the next step forward in GE’s journey as the world’s premiere digital industrial company.

“The opening of the AMW is a pivotal moment for us. We’re building a skilled workforce and culture that’s devoted to delivering breakthrough innovations that deliver better, faster outcomes for our customers and unlock new productivity and growth.”

GE has invested $73 million in the facility to date and will invest another $327 million across the GE Power Greenville campus over the next several years to drive innovation and the faster development of best-in-class technologies that deliver more value for customers across the globe. At least 80 engineering and manufacturing jobs are being created with the facility’s opening.

GE Power President and CEO Steve Bolze was joined by South Carolina elected leaders for the grand opening of the 125,000-square-foot facility at GE’s Greenville manufacturing campus. The facility broke ground in mid-2014.

“GE is leading the transformation of manufacturing in the power industry, and this facility will ignite the digital industrial revolution for our company and the industry,” said Bolze. “The opening of the AMW is a pivotal moment for us. We’re building a skilled workforce and culture that’s devoted to delivering breakthrough innovations that deliver better, faster outcomes for our customers and unlock new productivity and growth.”

The AMW is GE Power’s first advanced manufacturing facility. The facility will revolutionize the way GE Power designs, creates and improves products by serving as an incubator for the development of advanced manufacturing processes and rapid prototyping of new parts for GE’s energy businesses—Power, Renewable Energy, Oil & Gas and Energy Connections. New techniques and production processes developed at the facility will bring new best-in-class products to global customers quicker than ever.

Advanced manufacturing brings a convergence of the latest technologies together to transform every aspect of the production process to make new, better things, faster. Industrial innovations, from new materials science, 3-D printing (additive manufacturing) and automation to advanced software platforms and robotics are redefining manufacturing for the future.

Advanced manufacturing has a huge and growing significance worldwide. Recent research1 found that nearly 24 million people are already employed in advanced manufacturing industries in the U.S., creating about 19 percent of GDP, and that each job in an advanced manufacturing industry supports another 3.5 jobs through the supply chain.

GE started in Greenville more than 40 years ago with a 340,000-square-foot site. With the latest addition of the AMW, the site has grown close to 1.7 million square feet of factories, offices and laboratories focused on manufacturing advanced products for customers worldwide. GE has more than 3,200 employees in Greenville and has invested more than $500 million in the last five years to bolster critical manufacturing activities housed on the campus. The company has established valuable relationships with local community schools, universities and technical programs to develop new technologies and create a system to support those who are passionate about growing with the industry.
1 The workforce of the future: Advanced manufacturing’s impact on the global economy, April 2016, GE. Authors: John Paul Soltesz, Marni Rutkofsky, Karen Kerr, Marco Annunziata

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