This is a story about Bill Johnson, vice president of operations for Madison, WI-based Madison-Kipp Corp. (MKC). The company makes precision machined aluminum die castings and subassemblies for the transportation, lawn & garden, and industrial markets. The company faced two objectives to enhance competitiveness—to bring down costs and raise efficiency.
“Technology is very important to us,” said Bill Johnson, vice president of operations for MKC. “We have to keep ahead of our competitors in many different areas. Using Ignition and taking real-time data from our processes helps us understand our data — which helps us make better decisions.”
Note: I very seldom write this type of story anymore. When we laid out the editorial direction for Automation World back in the day, I wanted stories about the intelligent application of automation with the people doing the work as the hero of the story. Typically, these stories come from the marketing department of supplier company. They write about what they know—the hero of the story is their product or service. Since these stories are so hard to come by, I decided not to pursue them for The Manufacturing Connection even though stories are more powerful than a bunch of bullet points.
Back to the story. Unfortunately there are no specific numbers about savings, but Johnson describes the “before” scene—that is, before they implemented Ignition by Inductive Automation, an industrial application platform with tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
“Some of the results we have are in the cost savings realm, and we’ve also seen improved efficiency,” said Johnson. “Before, engineers had to collect data on their own. This would take a long time. Now, we’re able to pull that data in and look at it and solve problems very quickly.”
“Using the built-in connectivity, the Ignition platform has filled a void for us between multiple manufacturers and platforms,” said Jay Sandvick, senior automation controls engineer at MKC. “It’s given us interoperability that we didn’t believe we could have. We now have accessibility to data streams we didn’t have before. And we have the ability to generate seamless reports from machines that were previously thought unconnectable.”
Dotti Jacob, industrial integration engineer at MKC, adds, “We are now allowed us to use different programming languages, and tie into all sorts of different systems, without being held back by proprietary issues.”
The platform’s interoperability has allowed MKC to streamline its systems. “Before Ignition, we were reliant on various software packages that were frankly a nightmare to maintain and pay for,” said Sandvick. “With Ignition, we have a single-point interface, a single cost, and it has more than exceeded our expectations in talking to various machines.”
Remote access has been greatly improved. “Before, if I was at a different facility and there were troubleshooting issues, I would have to travel there to help out,” said Jacob. “Now that we have Ignition, I can access the SCADA from anywhere and see in real time actual images of the different machines and what they’re doing, which is very helpful for troubleshooting. Having real-time data, we can access from anywhere allows us to see and address the issue a lot more quickly than we could in the past — which saves us time and money.”
You can use your software platform to allow customers visibility into the production of their orders. “Our customers really enjoy the ability to see real-time data on their products being produced,” said Scott Sargeant, vice president of sales for MKC. “It allows them to understand things without having to travel to our location — which of course saves them time and money. We’re talking about a paradigm shift in information sharing. It really gives our customers a window into the production environment. And our ability to provide this helps differentiate Madison-Kipp from other manufacturers.”
Sargeant adds, “Now our customers can see that data, can understand impactful events, downtime, and other important issues in production.”
Ignition allows users to import CAD drawings of the plant floor as the background for screens. The screens show real-time movement of robots, so operators always have an accurate view of what’s happening. “Before, we had to use these cookie-cutter images that were not very accurate to what was actually happening on the floor,” said Jacob. “Now we’re able to take a CAD drawing of the equipment, and it can move in real time with however the equipment’s moving, and that’s very helpful.”
Training is a key differentiator for technology suppliers. Jacob said Inductive University—the free online educational center with hundreds of videos allowing users to learn at their own pace has been an additional benefit. “When I started with Madison-Kipp, I’d never heard of Ignition,” said Jacob. “I was able to get up to speed very quickly because Inductive University has videos that teach you anything you need to know in order to be successful using the software.”
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Manufacturing
Enterprise Solution (MES), that is the question. Actually, I didn’t know that
it was a question, or an either/or. I’m thinking false dichotomy.
As you might imagine, I receive a ton of emails from a
variety of marketing and PR people promoting one thing or another. Recently, a message arrived from Brock
Solutions highlighting just that question. Since I know several people at
Brock, including the man whose name is on the building, so to speak, and since
I respect the organization, I bit.
Here is the pitch: Many of our manufacturing customers
have multiple plants around the world. And it’s safe to say that each of
those plants are different. Some plants come from acquisitions. Some have been
around forever. And some plants are brand new.
Inevitably, this mix of sites also means a mix of
technology at the operational layer. As you may know, there is no easy answer
to manage this. Watch our video to see how
we help manufacturers evaluate MES vs. IoT using a
They then sent me to a vlog (video blog). This is, of course, a little promotional at the end. But some good issues are raised about evaluating your business, your technical needs, your application needs and fitting a solution to the need. It’s worth a watch. Only 5 minutes.
I give up. To me, the end of the decade is next year figuring there was not a year 0, then the beginning of the new calendar was year 1 and the end of the first decade was year 10. Oh, well, mainstream media just can’t wait to jump into wrap-up frenzy. So, me, too.
The last 10 years in industrial technology was busy with new buzz words—heavier on marketing than on substance in many ways. We breezed through Industrie 4.0 with its cyber-physical systems. Then we had Internet of Things borrowed from the consumer, largely iPhone, space. But borrowing from GE advertising of the “Industrial Internet”, the “Industrial Internet of Things” became originally the European counterpoint to Germany’s Industry 4.0 and then grew into general adoption.
Not finished with all this buzz, the industry discovered “digital”. We had digital twin (derived from cyber-physical systems). But these had to be connected with the digital thread. And all led into a digital transformation.
Let’s take a look at some specific topics.
Much of the foundation was laid in the decade before. Maybe I should say decades. The industry started digitizing in the 1980s. It’s been building ever since. Through the first decade of this millennium great strides were made in control technology, usability, sensors (both sensitivity and communication), networks moving from analog to digital and through field buses to Ethernet.
In this decade, most companies grew by acquisition of smaller, innovative companies and start-ups. The remaining automation giants pieced together strategies based on visions of which companies to acquire and what customer solutions were required. Looking ahead, I’m considering what additional consolidation to anticipate. I think there will be more as the market does not seem to be growing dramatically.
Most innovation came in the realm of data. Decreasing costs of memory, networking stacks, and other silicon enabled leaps in ability to accumulate and communicate data. Borrowing software advances from IT, historians and relational databases grew more powerful along with new types of data handling and analysis coming from the “big data” and powerful analytics technologies.
Another IT innovation that finally hit industrial companies was adoption of “cloud” with the eventual development of edge. Instead of the Purdue Enterprise Reference Model of the control/automation equipment being the gateway of all data from the processes, companies began to go sensor to cloud, so to speak, breaking down the rigidity of PERA thinking.
It is now old news that digital is everywhere. And, it is not a sudden development. It has been building for 30 years. Like all technology, it builds over time until it’s suddenly everywhere. The question is no longer what is becoming digital, nor is it speculating over marketing terms like digital transformation.
The question about digital everything is precisely how are we to use it to make things better for humans and society.
Sensors—At least by 2003, if not before, I was writing about the converging trends in silicon of smaller and less expensive networking, sensing, processing, and memory chips and stacks that would enable an explosion of ubiquitous sensing. It’s not only here; it is everywhere. Not only in manufacturing, but also in our homes and our palms.
Design—CAD, CAM, PLM have all progressed in power and usability. Most especially have been the development of data protocols that allow the digital data output of these applications to flow into operations and maintenance applications. Getting as-built and as-designed to align improves maintenance and reliability along with uptime and productivity. And not only in a single plant, but in an extended supply chain.
Networking—The emergence of fast, reliable, and standardized networking is the backbone of the new digital enterprise. It is here and proven.
Software—Emergence of more powerful databases, including even extension of historians, along with data conversion protocols and analysis tools provides information presented in an easily digestible form so that better decisions may be made throughout the extended enterprise.
Industry press have talked about IT/OT convergence until we are all sick of the phrase. Add to that stories of in-fighting between the organizations, and you have the making of good stories—but not of reality or providing a path to what works. As Operations Technology (OT) has become increasingly digital, it inevitably overlaps the Information Technology (IT) domain. Companies with good management have long since taken strides to foster better working relationships breaking the silos. Usually a simple step such as moving the respective manager’s offices close to each other to foster communication helps.
Speaking of IT and OT, the modification of the Purdue Enterprise Reference Modal to show data flowing from the plant/sensor level directly to the “cloud” for enterprise IT use has enticed new entrants into manufacturing technology.
If we are not forced to go through the control system to provide data for MES, MOM, ERP, CRS, and the like, then perhaps the IT companies such as Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Hitachi Vantara can develop their compute platforms, partnerships, and software to provide that gateway between plant floor and enterprise without disturbing the control platform.
Therefore we are witnessing proliferating partnerships among IT and OT automation suppliers in order to provide complete solutions to customers.
Remember—it is all meaningless unless it gets translated into intelligent action to make the manufacturing supply chain more productive with better quality and more humane.
OK, the headline came from IHS Markit | Technology, an Informa Tech market analyst company. The answer from me.
One of the value adds of analyst firms is to provide market research studies. Where once I received industrial market information from just one analyst firm, now several send me updates. Helps round out information. But these are always estimates, and prone to some error. It’s a good guide though.
This research looks at Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) nodes. It also does the analyst thing of providing some guidance on implementation. The research is interesting. The guidance requires another post on management practices, I think. However, what I’m hearing is that some executive reads about IIoT and picks an unlucky person to head up the project. A pilot project is authorized, mostly completed, and mostly forgotten.
Notes from the Report
The global IIoT business is arriving at a tipping point, with the industry reaching a connectivity milestone next year that will pave the way for market-changing events like the proliferation of cloud-based technologies. These developments will help propel annual IIOT node shipments to 224 million units in 2023, a 100 million unit increase from 124 million in 2018.
However, despite the industry’s progress, about half of all IIoT deployments are failing. All too often, these deployments are being hamstrung by planning breakdowns, including the failure to set reasonable objectives and to gather support and cooperation from critical personnel within organizations. Without addressing these issues, the global IIoT market could face major challenges in reaching its growth potential.
The connection inflection
Industrial assets have traditionally employed fieldbus for connecting to the industrial network, and while Ethernet solutions have been in place for a couple of decades, their adoption has been slow. However, after years of making progress in the market, Ethernet is set to displace Fieldbus as the primary network medium for the first time in 2020. Ethernet will account for 43 percent of IIOT node shipments next year, compared to 41 percent for Fieldbus.
“There are now more than 1 billion connected devices on factory floors around the world,” said Alex West, senior principal analyst, industrial technology, at IHS Markit | Technology. “This massive installed base is about to reach a tipping point, with Ethernet overtaking Fieldbus in 2020. The proliferation of Ethernet is enabling the transmission of larger volumes of data. This will ultimately bring in technologies like the cloud that are going to supercharge the IIOT business.”
Connecting to reduce downtime
The arrival of a faster connectivity solution will allow manufacturers to utilize cloud-based solutions to reduce downtime.
“One of the really significant challenges faced by industrial companies is unplanned downtime,” West said. “Just to quantity that challenge, it’s estimated in the automotive industry that $20,000 to $30,000 per minute is lost through unplanned downtime. New applications enabled through IIoT, maintenance and asset-health monitoring, are really helping overcome these challenges. We’ve estimated around a 30 percent average saving or reduction in unplanned downtime can be achieved through industrial IoT solutions.”
The benefits of IIoT solutions facilitated by enabled devices can be realized across the entire lifecycle of production, from product design, to monitoring inventory levels in the supply chain.
For example, Harley Davidson, a few years ago was facing business challenges in terms of fulfilling customer requirements. By improving the connectivity of its plant, the company was able to reduce the time to meet new orders filled from 21 days down to six hours.
Addressing IIoT deployment fails
While faster connectivity holds great promise for expanding the IIoT market, the reality is that current deployments are failing as often as they succeed.
“At the proof-of-concept phase, about half of IIoT projects are failing—which is acceptable for companies attempting to be agile and trial new applications,” West said. “However, there is a similar failure rate when companies move to the deployment stage. This means companies are investing enormous sums in these projects but aren’t getting the payback they expected.”
The failure of a project is defined as not meeting the customer’s expected payback. Many times, the high failure rate can be attributed to inflated expectations. A total of 50 percent of companies expect to see payback within one year, although many of these projects can take much longer to generate returns.
IHS Markit | Technology recommends manufacturers take the following steps to increase their chances of IIoT success:
- Specify the project by determining in advance which exact challenges you want IIoT to address.
- Start small, with some pilot projects of concepts to see how the technology can be utilized.
- Go right to the top, with senior-level management support for projects.
- Get the urge to converge, by ensuring support from all relevant functional groups.
- Leverage your people power, by getting staff involved with deploying the technology and encouraging them to view IIoT not as a threat, but as an augmentation to their job capabilities.
The IT architecture of industrial / manufacturing applications increasingly boosts the role of cloud and edge. These technologies have become core to Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and improved Software as a Service (SaaS).
These recent acquisition news items reflect the acceleration of the trend. One is from Siemens and the other PTC.
Siemens plans acquisition of Edge technology
- Siemens further expands its digitalization portfolio for industry
- Technology basis is the Docker IT standard
- Siemens Industrial Edge ecosystem enables easy and flexible use of Edge apps
Siemens is planning the acquisition of Edge technology from the US company Pixeom. With this action, Siemens is strengthening its Industrial Edge portfolio by adding software components for Edge runtime and for device management. Siemens Industrial Edge provides an ecosystem, which enables the flexible provision and use of apps. This means for example that appropriate apps can analyze data locally at the machine and send relevant data to the higher-level Industrial Edge Management System for global analytics. With this acquisition, Siemens is driving forward the expansion of its Digital Enterprise portfolio and the integration of cutting-edge technologies for the digital transformation of industry.
With the resulting Industrial Edge ecosystem, industrial companies can use production data even more efficiently and react more flexibly to changes in conditions.
Ralf-Michael Franke, CEO of Siemens’ Factory Automation Business Unit, explains: “Cutting edge technologies such as Edge Computing open up new scope for automation. With Siemens Industrial Edge, we are creating an open edge ecosystem which offers benefits for companies of any size.”
Siemens is using Docker standard container technology: the provision of apps in the management system will therefore be just as simple as functional upgrades and updates of Edge devices in the factory from a central point.
Siemens intends to acquire this technology from Pixeom and use it in the Factory Automation Business Unit, which is part of Siemens Digital Industries. Pixeom has sites in San José, California and Udaipur, India and employs 81 people worldwide. Closing of the transaction is planned for the fourth quarter of 2019. Both companies have agreed not to comment on the financial details of the transaction.
PTC Makes SaaS Acquisition
I sat in on the analysts/press conference where PTC president and CEO Jim Heppelmann discussed the reason for this announced acquisition of Onshape, creators of the “first” Software as a Service product development platform. The company had also just released fourth quarter results. PTC has a little more than $1 billion in revenues, with about 45% CAD and 35% PLM. Interestingly, the IoT business contributes just over 10% of revenues.
Onshape’s product development platform unites computer aided design (CAD) with data management and collaboration tools, for approximately $470 million, net of cash acquired. The acquisition is expected to accelerate PTC’s ability to attract new customers with a SaaS-based product offering and position the company to capitalize on the inevitable industry transition to SaaS. Heppelmann believes that that cloud-based SaaS is the future of CAD. Pending regulatory approval and satisfaction of other closing conditions, the transaction is expected to be completed in November 2019.
Located in Cambridge, MA, Onshape was founded in 2012 by CAD pioneers and tech legends, including Jon Hirschtick, John McEleney, and Dave Corcoran, inventors and former executives of SolidWorks. Onshape has secured more than $150 million in funding from leading venture capital firms and has more than 5,000 subscribers around the world. The company’s software offering is delivered in a SaaS model, making it accessible from any connected location or device, eliminating the need for costly hardware and administrative staff to maintain. Distributed and mobile teams of designers, engineers, and others can benefit from the product’s cloud nature, enabling them to improve collaboration and to dramatically reduce the time needed to bring new products to market – while simultaneously staying current with the latest software.
“PTC has earned a reputation for successfully pursuing new innovations that drive corporate growth,” said Heppelmann. “Building on the strong momentum we have with our on-premises CAD and PLM businesses, we look to our future and see a new growth play with SaaS.”
This acquisition is the logical next step in PTC’s overall evolution to a recurring revenue business model, the first step of which was the company’s successful transition to subscription licensing, completed in January 2019. The SaaS model, while nascent in the CAD and PLM market, is rapidly becoming industry best practice across most other software domains.
“Today, we see small and medium-sized CAD customers in the high-growth part of the CAD market shifting their interest toward SaaS delivery models, and we expect interest from larger customers to grow over time,” continued Heppelmann. “The acquisition of Onshape complements our on-premises business with the industry’s only proven, scalable pure SaaS platform, which we expect will open new CAD and PLM growth opportunities while positioning PTC to be the leader as the market transitions toward the SaaS model.”
For customers, the SaaS model enables faster work, improved collaboration and innovation, with lower up-front costs and with no IT infrastructure to administer and maintain. For software providers, the SaaS model has been proven to generate a more stable and predictable revenue stream, increase customer loyalty as customers benefit from earlier adoption of technology innovations, and enable expansions into new segments and geographies.
“At Onshape, we share PTC’s vision for helping organizations transform the way they develop products,” said Jon Hirschtick, CEO and co-founder, Onshape. “We and PTC believe that the product development industry is nearing the ‘tipping point’ for SaaS adoption of CAD and data management tools. We look forward to empowering the customers we serve with the latest innovations to improve their competitive positions.”
Onshape will operate as a business unit within PTC, with current management reporting directly to Heppelmann.