Without Analytics The IIoT Is Meaningless

Without Analytics The IIoT Is Meaningless

Connecting your plant devices through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) generates lots of data; but, without powerful analytics and visualization, it’s all meaningless.

Therefore, Plex today announced a new analytics product.

The IntelliPlex Production Analytic Application, available now, taps IIoT data to provide manufacturing leaders with enterprise-wide insight into the performance of production operations, including processes and equipment on the shop floor.

This application adds to Plex’s IntelliPlex Analytic Application Suite, which includes applications for sales, order management, finance and procurement. This suite, with the addition of production analytics, delivers to manufacturers the industry’s most comprehensive cloud analytics, uniquely providing visibility all the way down to the shop floor.

The Plex Manufacturing Cloud is a comprehensive platform for manufacturing enterprises, connecting suppliers, customers, people, equipment, materials and finances across multiple facilities to form the technology backbone of an organization. Plex uses real-time IIoT connections as a core mechanism for managing manufacturing operations and enterprise resource planning.

That comprehensive view means Plex not only streamlines and automates operations, but also enables unprecedented access to companywide information including IIoT data. The IntelliPlex suite of analytic applications turns that data into configurable, role-based, decision support dashboards – with deep drill-down and drill-across capabilities. Plex first introduced the IntelliPlex Analytic Application Suite in 2016 with turnkey analytics for sales, order management, procurement and finance professionals.

  • The IntelliPlex Production Analytic Application provides insight into key performance measures such as overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), scrap rates, first pass yield, inventory turns, on-time jobs and machine availability.
  • IntelliPlex is configurable, so users can create custom performance dashboards and combine metrics to form their own analysis based on the wealth of data stored in the Plex Manufacturing Cloud.
  • IntelliPlex analytics are also drillable, enabling users to instantly go from top-line performance analysis directly into data and details across plants, time and geographies.
  • IntelliPlex applications are easy to activate as part of the Plex Manufacturing Cloud, and can be quickly extended and configured to match an organization’s evolving needs over time.
  • The Production Analytic Application is available now.

Plex is planning to deliver additional analytic applications, including supply chain and human capital management. All applications are accessible to customers without the need for a lengthy implementation process.

“At Plex, we know that the best manufacturing organizations are built on the shop floor and that operational excellence is the foundation of product quality, company growth, and profitability,” said Karl Ederle, group vice president of products for Plex. “The IntelliPlex Production Analytic Application is unique because it provides an enterprise-wide view of manufacturing performance, combined with the ability to tap into the IIoT signals from equipment on a specific production line. Plex now offers customers analysis of their organization that truly spans from shop floor equipment to the financial bottom line.”

“This is not an IT tool, it’s an empowerment tool,” said Janice D’Amico, Plex specialist lead, Hatch Stamping. “The IntelliPlex Production Analytic Application has given Hatch access to accurate, near real-time data cross-enterprise that is user-friendly – easy to create, understand and share. We see this application being used at all levels of the organization to make better business decisions. The opportunities are endless.”

“In many manufacturing organizations, there is a communication breakdown between the front office and the shop floor,” said Alexi Antonio, Plex Analytics product lead. “Because the three OEE production metrics—performance, quality, and availability—are not expressed in monetary units, daily efforts to improve processes using OEE alone do not always translate into bottom-line savings. Plex puts OEE and financial metrics into a single dashboard, for the first time giving manufacturing leaders the ability to see and manage complete business performance.”

MESA International Announces Smart Manufacturing Conference 2017 Dates

MESA International Announces Smart Manufacturing Conference 2017 Dates

MESA International

MESA International has found a willing home for its annual North American conference once again aligning with the IndustryWeek Manufacturing & Technology (M&T) Conference & Expo. Both events will be held at the Huntington Convention Center in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, May 8 – 10, 2017.  Registration for the global MESA community is now open.

I remember when one of the early leaders of the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition was worried that it would lose its branding for Smart Manufacturing. Lately I’ve held conversations with marketing directors in the industry who use the SM term in a more or less generic way. So that leader was correct—Smart Manufacturing has become a phrase in alignment with other global phrases such as Industrie 4.0.

Saying that, the theme of the MESA North American Conference is “The Real Value of Smart Manufacturing” and will focus on highlighting the quantified business value realized by practitioners who have implemented “Smart” solutions.  The MESA event will have one dedicated track of speakers and a pre-conference networking and problem-solving workout within the IndustryWeek M&T schedule-of-events. MESA will also have a booth in the M&T Expo, International and Americas Board-of-Directors meetings, committee and Working Group collaboration and networking opportunities for the global MESA community.  Event information is available here.

Commenting on the event, Stephanie Mikelbrencis, Chair of MESA’s Americas Board, said, “The business leaders who read IndustryWeek want to know how to demystify Smart Manufacturing.  I encourage them to join us in Cleveland to learn and to interact with others on the same journey to improved operations and business performance.”

The three-day IndustryWeek M&T Show brings together over 1,200+ senior manufacturers, 100+ exhibitors and 50+ conference sessions across eight tracks in manufacturing operations and design engineering. Conference content focuses on the key elements of advanced manufacturing: technology integration, leadership, operational excellence, design/engineering, talent development and supply chain.

Mike Yost, MESA President, added, “This is our 3rd year formally co-locating our NA Conference with IndustryWeek because it’s our opportunity to connect a company’s drive for continuous improvement to the IT-based solutions that can empower them.  If your ‘Manufacturing-IT Strategy’ and the expected business value aren’t clear to everyone in your organization, you need to get your teams to this event.”

About MESA
MESA (Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association) International is a global, not-for-profit community of manufacturers, producers, industry leaders and solution providers who are focused on improving Operations Management capabilities through the effective application of Information Technologies, IT-based solutions and best practices.  Goals:

  • Enable members to connect, contribute, cultivate understanding, and exchange strategies to drive operations excellence.
  • Collect, share, and publish best practices and guidance to drive greater productivity and the overall profitability of the manufacturing enterprise.
  • Educate the marketplace on manufacturing operations best practices through the MESA Global Education Program.


Modular Manufacturing Management Software

Modular Manufacturing Management Software

The major manufacturing management software trend of the year is modular. Let’s make it easier to buy, install, configure, and use.  The latest company with a major upgrade is Parsec. The company has announced launch of the latest version of its modular manufacturing management software: TrakSYS. A unified, 100% web-based platform with multiple, fully-integrated modules, TrakSYS can be used as a full manufacturing execution system (MES), or deployed to solve one or more business challenges — from performance and quality to e-records, maintenance, workflow, and more.

TrakSYS gathers critical operations data from machines and people, and delivers insights to help operations run more productively, safely and profitably. Leveraging 30 years of experience in delivering manufacturing solutions, Parsec designed this version of TrakSYS to simplify manufacturing operations in a variety of industries –  from pharmaceutical and packaged goods to food and beverage, automotive and more.

“Manufacturing is complex, but your software shouldn’t be,” said Eddy Azad, CEO for Parsec.  “The key advantage of TrakSYS lies in its flexibility. TrakSYS has all of the power of traditional MES, without the ‘weight’ and cost. Manufacturers can simply turn on the features they want at any time and customize a solution that specifically addresses their needs.”

Manufacturing Management – Simplified

Under the strain of increased regulations for accurate, accessible electronic recordkeeping, manufacturers need a real-time view of manufacturing operations. The pressure to increase quality and quantity, while reducing costs, also has manufacturers seeking a deeper understanding of trends and patterns and new ways to drive efficiency. Custom software and traditional MES solutions can be used to address these concerns, but they are costly and complicated to manage.

Azad, explains, “It’s all about making software easier to use and more cost-effective to deploy, maintain and scale.”

One Platform, Many Applications

TrakSYS is an integrated platform that contains all of the functionality in one package. The modular nature of TrakSYS brings complete flexibility to deploy only the functions that are required, without a major software upgrade. TrakSYS business solutions include OEE, SPC, e-records, maintenance, traceability, workflow, batch processing, sustainability, labor and more.

“Whether a factory has one line or 100, uses manual or automated production processes, relies on PLCs or an IIoT infrastructure, TrakSYS can help. We designed this powerful version of our proven software with the idea that software should help manufacturers to do their job, not become the job,” added Azad.

The latest version of TrakSYS is now available.

Real-Time Cyber Attack Detection for SCADA Devices

Real-Time Cyber Attack Detection for SCADA Devices

cybersecuritySCADA devices and networks remain a prime target for cyber attacks. Everything I’ve written has approached cybersecurity from a different angle. This is the first solution that has come my way that uses a deception approach.

Attivo Networks announced Dec. 7, 2015 a release of its deception-based Attivo BOTsink solution that provides continuous threat detection on Industrial Control Systems (ICS) SCADA devices used to monitor and control most manufacturing operations as well as critical infrastructure such as natural gas, oil, water, and electric power distribution and transmission systems around the world. Cyberattacks on these targets can and have resulted in disruption of critical local, regional, and national government and commercial infrastructures. As a result, when they are breached, the impact on societies they serve stands to be catastrophic.

According to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 60 percent of the technology experts interviewed believe that a major cyberattack will happen. The damages to property and ensuing theft will amount tens of billions of dollars, and the loss of life will be significant.

Scalable SCADA protection

“We are proud to be the first in the industry to provide customers a globally scalable, deception-based threat detection solution for SCADA protection,” emphasizes Tushar Kothari, CEO of Attivo Networks. “Many of our customers from the energy industry have requested the extension of our Attivo Deception Platform into their production and manufacturing control networks so they can get real-time visibility and the ability to promptly identify and remediate infected devices. As one stated, ‘a breach on those networks can be catastrophic and Attivo wants to do everything we can to prevent a disaster or risk to lives.”

SCADA systems had originally been designed to monitor critical production processes without consideration to security consequences. Security had been generally handled by keeping the devices off the network and the Internet using “air gaps” where malware could only be transmitted by the thumb drives used by technicians. However, today vulnerable SCADA systems are increasingly being connected to the corporate IT infrastructure and Internet, making them easily accessible to a remote attacker.

Examples of this would be the Sandworm malware that attacked Telecommunications and Energy sectors, Havex malware that infected a SCADA system manufacturer, and BlackEnergy malware that attacks ICS products manufactured by GE, Siemens, and Advantech. These attacks primarily targeted the operational capabilities of these facilities. With the increased malicious and sophistication of malware, concerns are now escalating to fears of an irreversible disaster.

Situational awareness

“Industrial systems have increasingly come under scrutiny from both attackers and defenders,” said Chris Blask, Chair of the Industrial Control System Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ICS-ISAC). “Situational awareness is the focus of the ICS-ISAC and its membership, including the ability for asset owners to detect and respond to incidents on their systems.”

These devices generally have long lifecycles creating an exposed environment driven by equipment that is less hardened and patches made infrequently. Additionally, because of their critical functions, SCADA devices cannot be taken offline frequently or for any length of time. This, along with costs that can run into the millions for every hour the network is offline, has made patching very difficult, often as infrequent as once a year, leaving many industrial facilities open to attacks. These risks are quite large considering these devices are found everywhere in electrical facilities, food processing, manufacturing, on-board ships, transportations and more.

“Companies operating in critical infrastructures like energy, utilities, nuclear, oil and gas know that they are not only vulnerable to the same security issues faced by most enterprises, they have the added enticement as a rich target for cyber terrorism,” stated Tony Dao, Director Information Technology, Aspect Engineering Group. “They recognize that securing their industrial control processes is not only critical to them, but to the institutions they serve. A loss would not only have repercussions throughout their economic sector but throughout the entire economy.”

The vulnerabilities begin with the use of default passwords, hard-coded encryption keys, and a lack of firmware updates, which pave the way for attackers to gain access and take control of industrial devices. Traditional perimeter-based solutions are designed to detect attacks on these devices by looking for suspicious attack behavior based on known signature patterns. SCADA supervisory systems are computers running normal Windows operating systems and are susceptible to zero day attacks, in which there are no known signatures or software patches. Several vulnerabilities also exist in the standard and proprietary protocols within Logic Controllers. Popular protocols include MODBUS (supervision and control), DNP3 (Energy and Water), BACNET (Building Automation), and IPMI (Baseboard Management Control).

Deception technology

Attivo Networks takes a different approach to detecting cyber attacks on ICS- SCADA devices. Instead of relying on signatures or known attack patterns, Attivo uses deception technology to lure the attackers to a BOTsink engagement device.  Customers have the flexibility to install their own Open Platform Communications (OPC) software while running popular protocols and PLC devices on the BOTsink solution making it indistinguishable from production SCADA devices. This provides real-time detection of BOTs and advanced persistent threats (APTs) that are conducting reconnaissance to mount their attacks on critical facility and energy networks.  Additionally, BOTsink forensics capture information including new device connections, issued commands and connection termination, enabling administrators to study the attacker’s tools, techniques, and information on infected devices that need remediation.

The Attivo SCADA solution is provided through a custom software image that runs on its BOTsink appliance or virtual machine. SCADA BOTsink deployment and management are provided through the Attivo Central Manager, which provides global central device management and threat intelligence dashboards and reporting.

“To a significant degree, the growing security problems impacting industrial control systems have originated from the fact that ICSs are increasingly less and less isolated from outside networks and systems, and ICSs are now more susceptible and vulnerable to attacks,” comments Ruggero Contu, Research Director at Gartner in his Market Trends: Industrial Control System Security, 2015 report.  “At the heart of this change is the demand to integrate enterprise IT systems to operational technology, and for remote connectivity.”

Check out this whiter paper. Dynamic Deception for Industrial Automation and Control Systems

More Robots Do Not Equal Manufacturing Job Losses

More Robots Do Not Equal Manufacturing Job Losses

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) today published a white paper entitled “Robots Fuel the Next Wave of U.S. Productivity and Job Growth” in which data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and a wide range of manufacturing firms document how and why increasing the use of robots is associated with increased employment.

A3 White Paper Robots and Employment

Key statistics from the A3 white paper show that during the non-recessionary periods – 1996-2000, 2002-2007, and 2010-2014 – general employment and robot shipments both increased. Since 2010, the robotics industry in the United States has grown substantially. Even during this period of record-breaking robot sales, U.S. employment increased. This new data is in stark contrast to media coverage and a perception that increasing use of robots causes higher rates of unemployment in the U.S.

At a glance:

  • Robots save and create jobs
  • Robots take care of the dull, dirty, or dangerous jobs
  • Robots extend workplace functionality, improving the bottom line
  • Robots are reviving American manufacturing
  • Robots create better, safer, higher paying jobs

“We are seeing concrete shifts in the factors that resulted in cuts to the U.S. manufacturing work force over the past few decades,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of A3. “Manufacturing automation increasingly provides the flexibility in the variety of tasks robots perform to drive improvements in overall product quality and time to market.”

Burnstein concluded, “One of the biggest challenges we now face is closing the skills gap to fill jobs. Robots are optimizing production more than ever, increasing global competitiveness, and performing dull, dirty and dangerous tasks that enable companies to create higher-skilled, better-paying, and safer jobs where people use their brains, not their brawn.”

Correlation does not equal causation

The white paper overlays graphs of robot sales and US employment. I asked Burnstein if he is trying to show causation from the correlation. He said that was not the intent. “It is not so much to show causation as it is simply to refute the argument,” he told me in an interview preceding the release. Taking the argument that robots cause unemployment, one would expect climbing robot sales to be reflected in declining employment. Statistics do not support that supposition.

Anecdotal evidence

As companies seek to bring manufacturing operations stateside while remaining cost-competitive, they continue to turn to automation to help lead the new wave of productivity and job growth in the U.S.

“The whole premise for our company is to bring manufacturing back to this country, and our new robot fits perfectly with that master plan,” said Geoff Escalette, CEO of faucet-maker RSS Manufacturing & Phylrich in Costa Mesa, California. “Our robot not only makes it possible to increase production speed without buying additional CNC machines, but also helped us open up 30 percent more capacity on existing machinery.”

Robotics also helps companies stay competitive when seeking new talent—particularly those who are interested in long-lasting careers working with technology.

“It’s really an opportunity for us to grow,” reports Matt Tyler, president and CEO of Vickers Engineering, a contract precision engineering manufacturer in Michigan. “Because we have robotics and are able to compete on a global scale, it makes the U.S. more competitive in manufacturing, and that’s good for all of us.”

The white paper includes notes from other manufacturers who both acquired additional automation and people.

The Association for Advancing Automation is the global advocate for the benefits of automating. A3 promotes automation technologies and ideas that transform the way business is done. A3 is the umbrella group for Robotic Industries Association (RIA), AIA – Advancing Vision + Imaging, and Motion Control & Motor Association (MCMA). RIA, AIA, and MCA combined represent some 850 automation manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, research groups and consulting firms from throughout the world that drive automation forward.


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