Let me try to summarize a number of other news items gleaned from the ARC Forum featuring edge computing, IIoT Platforms, and technology. When ARC’s Paul Miller told me it would be the best ever, he turned out not to be exaggerating. More people, more news.
Stratus Technologies, known for years for secure servers, released an edge computing device. Interest in computing at the edge of the network has blossomed lately, with many companies releasing products. Lots of choices for users.
Integration Objects, firmly within another important trend, introduced an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Platform. I’m beginning to see articles about users latching on to these platforms rather than building their own ad hoc connections among IoT devices and applications.
UL discussed standards with me during the show. The company known for developing safety standards and then testing for compliance has developed also a security standard. And it tests to it for compliance.
HIMA is another company combining safety and security technologies. There is so much in common between the two–especially thought processes and planning.
Yokogawa has extended and rebranded its process automation offering, now called Synaptic Business Automation. Among other things, it has refined the dashboard into a “karaoke” style.
Bentley Systems discussed the combining of engineering design tools with digital photography and other digital technologies to better represent the engineering and design of a plant. This is the most cutting edge technology I saw during the week, but I cannot do it justice in a paragraph. I encourage a tour of the Website.
Interoperability spurs innovation. After years of technological consolidation in the process automation industry with “distributed control systems” becoming ever more centralized, we are witnessing a resurgence of distributed, along with open and interoperable.
Open Process Automation Forum
Yesterday I discussed Foxboro promoting the Open Process Automation Forum. Today, I can report that the OPC Foundation has also formally joined the forum. It fits given that OPC UA is one of the key standards that the OPAF will need for its interoperable system to work.
The OPC Foundation has developed a whitepaper, an introspective on process automation, elaborating on the vision of OPC UA and why the OPC Foundation is engaging in The Open Process Automation Forum.
The OPC Foundation vision includes the key element of information modeling, providing a foundation for other standards organizations to directly plug-in their data/information models into OPC UA.
OPC UA Seminar Tour
Here is a free opportunity to learn about open standards, OPC UA, a chance to meet with leaders in the interoperability field – in one day, in one place. Oh, and at two of those sessions (Milwaukee and Cleveland) one of those leaders will be me!
The seminar is designed for corporate leaders, IT professionals, students and all interested in IT to learn more about open standards, their place in this constantly changing arena of IIot, Industre 4.0, the Cloud and beyond and how this knowledge will benefit their life, their career and their company.
This seminar tour will focus on the rich feature set of OPC UA and the unique ways these features are put to use in real applications. By attending these conferences you will:
- Learn how OPC UA provides Industrial Interoperability for the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0
- Learn about OPC UA in the world of the IIC, China 2025, Korea Manufacturing Innovation 3.0
- Hear why end-users are requiring vendors to build OPC UA into their products
- Get latest update on OPC-UA technology and further roadmap enhancements
- Learn how active collaborations with other industry organizations are working to revolutionize the transformation of data, providing an infrastructure for the modeling of information
- Network with industry experts and peers
- Hear how Microsoft is positioning Azure with OPC UA extensions
- How to connect your machine to SAP easily and standardized
- Learn why OPC UA is the one and only recommendation for communication channel for RAMI4.0 – the Reference Architecture Model Industrie 4.0
Here are the event details:
September 26 – San Diego
September 27 – Santa Clara
September 28 – Seattle
September 29 – Vancouver
October 3 – Minneapolis
October 5 – Toronto
October 9 – Milwaukee
October 11 – Cleveland
The future of process automation was front and center of discussions last week at the Foxboro User Group—The Foxboro Company being the process automation arm of Schneider Electric.
During the week I was involved in quite animated discussions with SVP Chris Lyden and VP Peter Martin regarding the future of process automation. These executives are convinced that there is an inflexion point we are reaching where we are returning to the open architecture we started with years ago. The pendulum swung toward centralized, integrated systems. Technology has progressed to a point of realizing the old dream of distributed control, interoperable systems, systems of systems, and open systems based on standards.
Martin used his closing remarks to the group to talk about the Open Process Automation Forum, which is organized under The Open Group. You may recall I’ve written about this group following each of the last two ARC Industry Forums in Orlando.
The spark was provided by a group from ExxonMobil who saw a dire need to upgrade its systems. Leaders looked at the huge upfront cost of the control upgrade plus the likelihood of being locked into a single supplier and then facing huge lifecycle costs during the life of the equipment.
“When we released our first DCS 30 years ago, we tried to make it as open as possible,” said Martin. “We felt for future innovation, the system needed to be as open as possible. But the level of standards necessary just didn’t exist.”
When ExxonMobil said they wanted to build an open platform, “we jumped in” added Martin.
Foxboro’s Trevor Cusworth is co-chair of the OPAF. He asked attendees to consider the benefits of joining in the effort. “We need more end users,” he said, “since we have only about 11 right now.”
The key benefit noted was reducing lifecycle costs, while the key technology is a new type of I/O.
From the OPAF brochure:
Not only can you contribute to the creation and development of a new process automation system, you can also:
- Ensure your experience and requirements are included
- Advocate that your industry sector is represented
- Validate that existing standards important to you are used
- Sustain the benefits of the standard and subsequent certification programs
Takeaways: This is an ambitious undertaking. The last one of these I saw eventually fell apart due to a “vicious circle”—suppliers got into the discussion hoping for new sales or the ability to knock off the incumbent; end users failed to not only write the system into their specs even if they did they weren’t enforced; suppliers lost interest due to no sales.
One important thing: If this catches on, it will greatly shake up the process automation supplier market.
Open Process Automation and IT/OT Convergence. Thursday, the last day of the ARC Forum, is not always all that well attended. The 2017 edition witnessed two sessions that held the attention of the later departing attendees. These two attracted a reasonably good attendance.
I didn’t do the IT/OT one, but I had great interest in the Open Process Automation Forum (Open DCS?).
This was my 20th ARC Forum. My first Forum featured another open control series of meetings on Thursday morning—The Open Modular Architecture Controller group. That group of engineers and managers sought to specify a PLC based upon the computing standards of the time. The culmination of that effort was a CompactPCI chassis cobbled together by an entrepreneur. It was not picked up. Meanwhile OMAC pivoted when end user companies principally P&G and Nestle moved the focus to packaging machines. The goal became machines that used standard states and HMI in order to reduce training time for operators as they moved from machine to machine.
ExxonMobil appeared at the Forum last year with an idea. It wished to reduce the cost to deploy and eventually upgrade its control systems. It had worked with Lockheed Martin to devise a plan from the avionics industry (FACE).
This session at the Forum updated attendees with progress. It has formed under The Open Group as the Open Process Automation Forum. Although driven by ExxonMobil initially, the goal is to form a broad alliance of owner/operators, end users, systems integrators, and suppliers developing this new automation platform.
Many people at the conference relate this effort to the old OMAC work. They see the end game as a customer trying to drive down the cost of the system. Especially a customer who faces two problems: the immediate problem of upgrading old technology; the long range cost of upgrading technology to newer levels.
Another way to view this initiative is more altruistic in the sense of driving disruptive change in the market for all users using standards.
I am conflicted in trying to understand the dynamics of the situation. As a proponent of standards, I applaud the effort to find ways to implement standards and interoperability. Interoperability has been proven in many industries as a driver for business growth. The idea of decoupling hardware and software holds great promise for future upgrades.
But if, in effect, the customers simply wish to drive automation components and software to commodity level, then I see problems. Such ideas have killed entire industries in the past.
I also look at the old PC technology when there many players developing cards for the PC bus to add on to an “IBM PC.” But over time, technology enabled chip manufacturers to incorporate all those features into the main CPU and the industry returned to basically a single source for a computer.
Predictions? I’m not making any right now. However…
This process is now more than a year old, and yet, the theme of the Forum in Orlando was a plea for participation. There were few other owner/operators. Even though almost all major suppliers have signed on, only two (Schneider Electric and Yokogawa) appear to be active. The leaders have put forth an ambitious timing plan. The group is going to have to build a critical mass of participants quickly.
One more point. There is an age-old tension between an end-user wishing to reduce procurement costs by being able to competitively bid everything. However that means that someone must assemble all the components. On the other hand, end user companies also like partnerships with suppliers for joint development and better service.
By decoupling end user from supplier, something or someone must fill the gap. That would be the system integrator, I guess.
There are many questions.
Without further comment, I’ll leave you with the Open Process Automation Forum’s Vision Statement.
Composed of a broad group of end users, product suppliers, systems integrators, and academics, the Forum will create a technologically appropriate open process automation architecture and specifications along with business guidance for its adoption and use.
- This will result in a standards-based open, secure, and interoperable process automation architecture and instances thereof that have the following characteristics:
Easily integrates best-in-class components to provide timely access to leading edge performance
- Employs an adaptive intrinsic security model
- Enables the procurement and modular interaction of certified conformant components into systems that are fit-for-purpose for the end users’ needs
- Is commercially available and applicable to multiple industry sectors
- Protects suppliers’ Intellectual Property within conformant components
- Enables portability and preservation of end users’ application software
- Significantly reduces the difficulty of future replacements and reduces the lifecycle cost of systems
A long-time dream of enabling operators to see the profit impacts of process changes is a giant step closer to reality.
Much of my early career involved the intersection of engineering and profitability. No surprise that I valued my conversations with Peter Martin over the years. He has long been a proponent of just such technology and workflow.
Now at Schneider Electric (but still Foxboro), he has an organizational stability that may get the job done. Enter “EcoStruxure Profit Advisor.”
Developed through a partnership with Seeq, a leading provider of software and services that enable data-driven decision making, EcoStruxure Profit Advisor uses Big Data analytics to measure the financial performance of an industrial operation in real time, from the equipment asset level of a plant up to the process unit, plant area, plant site and enterprise levels. On-premise or cloud-enabled, it works seamlessly with any process historian to mine both historical and real-time data. It then processes that data through Schneider Electric’s proprietary segment-specific accounting algorithms to determine real-time operational profitability and potential savings.
Controlling Business Variables in Real Time
“While many companies are getting really good at controlling the efficiency of their operations in real time, they’re still managing their business month to month. That just doesn’t work anymore,” said Peter Martin, vice president of innovation, Schneider Electric Process Automation. “Business variables are changing so quickly—sometimes by the minute—that by the time companies receive updates from whatever enterprise resource planning systems they use, the information is no longer relevant to the business decisions they need to make or should have made. If they want to change the game, they need to control their other real-time business variables, including their safety, their reliability and especially their operational profitability. Profit Advisor allows them to do that.”
Because current cost accounting systems only measure the financial performance of the industrial operation at the overall plant level, it is difficult for companies to truly understand the financial impact—positive and negative—operational changes have on business performance. To address that need, Profit Advisor allows plant personnel to see and understand the ROI and business value their actions, activities and assets are contributing to the business in real time. It empowers the workforce to make better business decisions with a variety of data analytics, which can be displayed in various formats, to help drive operational profitability improvements, safely.
Innovating at Every Level to Deliver Value-focused IIoT
“Our customers are struggling with many issues, including the sheer speed of business and how to manage and use emerging technology to their advantage,” said Chris Lyden, senior vice president, Process Automation, Schneider Electric. “Everyone wants to talk about all this new technology without focusing on what value it can deliver. From our perspective, the digitization of industry is a real opportunity for our customers. We’re taking a value-focused approach to IIoT because we know our ability to innovate at every level can help our customers control their productivity and profitability in real time. That’s the only reason we should be talking about IIoT to begin with.”
Profit Advisor layers real-time accounting models onto the Seeq Workbench to become a scalable, repeatable and easy-to-implement solution for multiple segments, enabling customers to both measure and control their profitability. And because it can be integrated with Schneider Electric’s simulation and modelling software in a digital twin environment, users are further enabled to forecast profitability under different conditions or if changes to the operation are made.
Overall, the software provides
- Historical Data Review: Profit Advisor can evaluate the historical performance of the plant to assess its operational profitability, helping plant personnel analyze and understand how the
operation performed during different conditions. It enables the workforce to identify true performance-improving initiatives. And since it can be tied to individual pieces of equipment, it can provide that information down to even the smallest asset in the operation.
- Real Time Performance Indication: Profit Advisor can indicate current performance and inform plant personnel when their operating decisions are making the business more profitable. Actual ROI and return on improvements will be visible, enabling plant personnel to concentrate and refine their efforts to the actions that provide the greatest financial returns. It also enables plant personnel to determine which parts of operation are constraining operational profitability and accurately estimate the business value their decisions might actually create.
- Profit Planning: Profit Advisor empowers process engineers to predict the profitability of the changes they are proposing, which will substantially minimize project risk and help to eliminate waste.
Check out this YouTube video.
Schneider Electric, the global specialist in energy management and automation, has added a new enterprise-wide IIoT plant performance and control optimization software to its PES and Foxboro Evo process automation systems and Foxboro I/A Series distributed control system. Leveraging Expertune PlantTriage technology, EcoStruxure ControlAdvisor, a native smart decision-support tool, provides plant personnel actionable real-time operating data and predictive analytics capabilities so they can monitor and adjust every control loop across
multiple plants and global sites 24/7. The software empowers them to optimize the real-time efficiency of the process throughout the plant lifecycle and to contribute directly to improved business