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.
I guess I did attend the last GE software conference Minds + Machines. However, the reconstituted and independent GE Digital recently held a user conference where it announced a number of upgrades to its IIoT software. These are firmly within the current trends of connecting and mobility.
The product updates include:
- Predix Essentials, which makes it easier for industrial companies to connect, visualize and analyze their data
- Asset Answers, which helps customers to understand the competitive potential of Asset Performance Management (APM) software
- Webspace 6.0, a new HTML5 interface that seamlessly brings automation data to operators across any mobile device
Predix Essentials is an easy-to-use SaaS solution, helping companies connect to disparate data sources, monitor operations, and leverage edge-to-cloud predictive analytics–reducing time-to-value for operational teams looking to reduce waste, lower costs, and increase performance.
Developed in partnership with a number of customers, including silicon chip manufacturer Intel, Predix Essentials is a natural first step for industrial businesses looking to leverage the power of cloud-based Industrial IoT technologies, providing the connectivity, visualization and analysis capabilities that are the cornerstones of a digital transformation journey, regardless of vertical or maturity.
Suitable for industrial companies of all kinds, Predix Essentials is also the foundation of GE Digital’s APM and OPM application suites, providing core functionality and bridging the entire software portfolio by connecting GE Digital cloud-based solutions to on-premises data from its Automation, MES and Historian solutions.
Identifying Maintenance Strategies
Asset Answers is a benchmarking tool that helps customers quickly import and assess data to better understand how their asset maintenance compares with similar companies in their particular domain, or even against their own internal performance across sites.
With this intelligence, customers can determine where best to invest in updating maintenance regimes or capabilities, and ultimately provide a seamless path to products like APM to manage and optimize assets across their business. Asset Answers is available for many sectors, including power generation, oil and gas and chemicals.
Improving Operator Mobility
Webspace 6.0, a web and mobility solution, brings the full visualization and control capabilities from GE’s iFIX and CIMPLICITY HMI/SCADA software seamlessly across devices, including smartwatches, phones, tablets and desktops.
Offering enhanced encryption and new zero-install HTML5 client, Webspace 6.0 improves the way that operators receive and react to operational insights, whether they are in the field, on the plant floor or at a desk, providing them the flexibility to make informed decisions and share their expertise, regardless of location. By dynamically extending automation solutions, Webspace 6.0 increases information sharing across teams, speeds the right operator actions, and improves agility with real-time visualization and control anywhere, anytime.
“GE Digital continues to release innovations that forge the way for industrial customers working on transforming their operations,” said Pat Byrne, CEO of GE Digital. “By continuing to invest across our portfolio of industrial software, and by making it easier than ever for our customers to unlock the power of the Industrial IoT, GE Digital is strengthening its customers’ ability to become more productive, efficient and safe.”
Predix Essentials, Asset Answers and Webspace 6.0 are generally available today as part of GE Digital’s portfolio of industrial software products covering HMI/SCADA, Historian, Asset Performance Management and Manufacturing Execution System applications. Today’s announcements build on a strong thread of recent investments in product innovations, all designed to solve a broad range of industrial customer challenges, including iFIX 6.0; Historian 7.2, Plant Applications 8.0 and Predix Manufacturing Data Cloud for the manufacturing sector; Grid Analytics for the power transmission and distribution market; and APM Integrity’s Compliance Management for the O&G and Power Generation industries.
Remember the TV ads where the recent college graduate gets a job with GE? He then must explain to his parents that it is not an old-line dirty industrial company but a hip software company.
Send those ads to the never, never land of wherever bits go when they are deleted from servers.
GE has been trying to divest GE Digital for about a year. Evidently there were no takers. It just announced spinning off Digital into a new “IoT Software Company.” Or, if you want the GE spin on the action, “GE Advances Digital Leadership with Launch of $1.2 Billion Industrial IoT Software Company.”
I attended just one GE Digital Minds+Machines conference. It was 2017, and after listening to the new CEO (who is now a former CEO) asked “could this be the last Minds+Machines?” Appears I was right.
Bullet points from the press release:
- New GE-owned, independently run entity will be established to expand company’s leadership in IIoT market and better serve industrial customers
- GE selling majority stake in ServiceMax
The company will start with $1.2 billion in annual software revenue and an existing global industrial customer base. The company is intended to be a GE wholly-owned, independently run business with a new brand and identity, its own equity structure, and its own Board of Directors. The proposed new organization aims to bring together GE Digital’s IIoT solutions including the Predix platform, Asset Performance Management, Historian, Automation (HMI/SCADA), Manufacturing Execution Systems, Operations Performance Management, and the GE Power Digital and Grid Software Solutions businesses.
Additionally, GE announced an agreement to sell a majority stake in ServiceMax, a leading provider of field service management software, to Silver Lake, a leading private equity firm focused on technology investments. With these actions, GE will sharpen the focus of its IIoT portfolio to position the new business for future growth. The transaction is expected to close in Q1 2019, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.
“As an early leader in IIoT, GE has built a strong business with its industrial customers thanks to deep domain knowledge and software expertise,” said GE Chairman and CEO H. Lawrence Culp, Jr. “As an independently operated company, our digital business will be best positioned to advance our strategy to focus on our core verticals to deliver greater value for our customers and generate new value for shareholders.”
GE’s new IIoT business would provide software for these asset intensive industries with a focus on the power, renewables, aviation, oil and gas, food and beverage, chemicals, consumer packaged goods and mining industries.
GE Digital CEO, Bill Ruh, has decided to depart GE to pursue other opportunities. The company intends to conduct an internal and external search to identify the CEO for this new independent company. Further details on GE’s new IIoT software company will be announced in Q1 2019. This plan is subject to customary regulatory approvals, including information and consultation with employee representatives where required.
One of the most important technologies for successful implementation of an Industrial Internet of Things program involves moving more computing and storage power to the edge.
GE has been in the news more often than it would like over the past year—my broker just called and in our discussion I mentioned writing an article about GE and he groaned.
However, GE Digital despite rumors to the contrary still lives and released some new products. One is an edge solution and the other an on-prem server solution.
Predix Edge aims at simplifying edge-to-cloud computing. GE Digital also introduced its Predix Private Cloud (PPC) solution, an on-premises deployment of the Predix platform, which gives customers the privacy, security, data sovereignty, and data isolation provided by a private cloud infrastructure.
“More than 70 percent of industrial companies are stuck in pilot purgatory – that is, they are either still at the start or unable to further advance their IIoT initiatives,” said Eddie Amos, Corporate VP, Platform & Industrial Applications, GE Digital. “Companies often face unexpected complexities in the solution design or integration, steep costs or security vulnerabilities. The custom, one-off solutions that tend to grow out of pilot projects further burden companies with ongoing maintenance, patching and upgrading over time. Realizing the full impact of IIoT requires moving beyond the pilot stage with scalable, interoperable solutions – and GE Digital helps lead them through that journey.”
The offerings GE Digital unveiled help companies bridge this gap – and offer businesses flexibility when and where they operate.
Predix Edge securely captures, processes, and analyzes data that can be managed locally or pushed to the cloud, executing the most demanding workloads at the edge and producing insights in near real time. With new functionality to help businesses accelerate the IIoT, Predix Edge provides:
Simple deployment and management capabilities out of the box, allowing users to remotely monitor and manage all their edge devices and heterogenous industrial data from a centralized management console.
Rapid time to value by supporting edge application development for almost all programming languages – such as Java, C++, Go and Python – and coming pre-integrated for use with GE Digital’s leading industrial apps like Asset Performance Management (APM) and Operations Performance Management (OPM).
Support for data storage and analysis online, offline or with intermittent connectivity in remote environments, such as offshore oil rigs or disconnected use cases where internet connectivity is never available. Predix Edge then transfers key data back to the cloud when re-connected.
Edge-to-cloud security and compliance to protect data and operations. The hardened, embedded edge operating system helps manage connected devices and remotely deploy patches, giving users the ability to control security at a deeper level.
Low latency application deployment closer to the originating data, to enable companies with limited connectivity, regulatory requirements or other constraints a way to accelerate time to value.
Processing data and applying analytics close to the device can dramatically reduce downtime, optimize maintenance schedules, and add operational value, all while reducing network and cloud costs. Predix Edge and the Predix platform work seamlessly together to provide distributed IIoT processing and analytics where they’re needed most.
To further help simplify the IIoT process, GE Digital also unveiled Predix Private Cloud (PPC), an on-premises deployment of the Predix platform and portfolio, that offers companies maximum levels of security and privacy.
Already commercially available, PPC enables IIoT connectivity, data, analytics and applications – such as Predix applications or custom applications – to be hosted on-premises, providing customers with multiple ways to deploy the Predix platform. The on-premises offering helps companies operating in high data volume scenarios access data securely in near real time and also manage edge and disconnected environments. PPC is specifically designed to meet privacy, security, data sovereignty anddata isolation requirements based on a customer’s industry, region or country.
There was plenty of cool new products unveiled at last week’s Emerson Global Users Exchange. As a former product development manager, I liked the “peanut butter and chocolate” moment when Emerson’s engineers were trying to solve the human location in a plant problem. They realized that many customers already have a WirelessHART mesh network. Why don’t we use location tags with WirelessHART as the communications service? Cool.
Topping the news released during the week was announcement that Emerson has agreed to acquire Intelligent Platforms, a division of General Electric. Intelligent Platforms’ programmable logic controller (PLC) technologies will enable Emerson, a leader in automation for process and industrial applications, to provide its customers broader control and management of their operations.
This is a great acquisition. It reveals Emerson as a company that has its act together. This is the consolidation trend in the industry. Siemens has a complete portfolio (well, mostly). ABB recently acquired B+R Automation in a similar move. Schneider Electric added Foxboro and Triconex from Invensys to its mostly factory automation portfolio. So there are four major companies aligning their competitive offerings. And all are focused on digital transformation for their customers.
Even Rockwell Automation has built a process automation business over time. It recently shunned acquisition with its money and instead invested $1 billion for a little over 8% of PTC in order to achieve a closer partnership with ThingWorx (and a seat on the board). Maybe having an executive on the board, it can learn how Jim Hepplemann managed to build a company through acquisition.
Back to Emerson. GE IP (formerly know as GE Fanuc) has a line of PLCs, motion control, and HMIs. It hasn’t promoted its products for years, but they are still alive and well in Charlottesville, VA. This is a great strategic move.
As for GE? Well, we know that it is having a fire sale. I’d wondered about this part of the business. Now we all wonder about what’s left of GE Digital. We know from a Wall Street Journal article that it’s for sale. And also we know that the board just replaced the CEO evidently for not moving quickly enough. But…will anyone want GE Digital? I’m sure everyone has looked. Here’s a thought. What if it wound up with an IT company to complement these burgeoning IoT practices?