Acquisitions Bolster Incumbents Further Consolidate Industry

Acquisitions Bolster Incumbents Further Consolidate Industry

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

In brief:

  • 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.

Intelligent Sensor Grid Powering Digitized Commerce at the Edge

Intelligent Sensor Grid Powering Digitized Commerce at the Edge

Successful digitalization requires data. Data, in turn, originates often from sensors. The Industrial Internet of Things runs on this data providing a valuable use case of tying a manufacturing enterprise together from supply chain through customer experience.

Mahesh Veerina, CEO of Cloudleaf, walked me through an application based on his company’s technology that indeed ties a supply chain in the pharma industry together. Start with sensors on approximately 5,000 pallets. Each meshes via sub-MHz unlicensed radios through 30 intelligent gateways reporting 16 million data points. Cloudleaf’s SaaS software gathers the data, performs the analytics, then feeds custom dashboards for different roles at the customer’s company. Oh, and continuous learning through Artificial Intelligence (AI) creates a virtuous cycle that constantly improves the system.

The return on investment (ROI)? Estimated at between $70 million and $100 million.

Cloudleaf has announced the next generation of its patented Sensor Fabric, the IoT-at-scale solution that optimizes management of distributed assets throughout any enterprise value chain.

Cloudleaf’s next-generation Sensor Fabric maintains an intelligent grid at the edge for global commerce, making digitization a reality for enterprise customers and value chain partners. Its easy-to-deploy intelligent sensors, gateways and cloud technologies minimize costs and maximize quality, efficiency and reporting standards. At the same time, Cloudleaf’s patented solution generates a continuous stream of increasingly predictive data that enables an enterprise to monitor, measure and manage distributed assets –– on the ground and on the fly. Key enhancements include:

• Comparative multi-location movement history maximizes yield and improves asset utilization.

• Lifecycle tracking optimizes business processes, managing dwell times, cycle times, asset condition changes and other variables.

• Value Loss analytics measure inefficiencies in asset handling, storage and usage.

• Path Modeling provides compliance tracking, monitoring and reporting.

• Next-gen control center enables on-the-fly deployment, calibration, and management of Sensor Fabric, with easy to use web and mobile dashboards.

Unlike products that occasionally add new features and functionalities, Sensor Fabric essentially upgrades itself. Tens-of-millions-per-day messaging sparks multiplier machine learning. The result is agile and actionable insights in virtually any industrial process. The longer Sensor Fabric is deployed, the smarter the industrial process is.

“We are extremely gratified by the extraordinary market acceptance that Cloudleaf is achieving,” said Veerina. “More and more extended enterprises in a wide range of industries are asking Cloudleaf to help them achieve the kinds of efficiencies and ROI that our current customers are gaining. In the very near future, we expect to begin announcing the addition of a number of industry leaders –– including internationally known household names – to our rapidly growing customer base.”

Augmented Reality and Internet of Things Meet In Hannover

Augmented Reality and Internet of Things Meet In Hannover

Let’s talk augmented reality and Internet of Things (IoT) today.

The first day of Hannover Fair began with much buzz about the Dell / Linux Foundation announcement (see yesterday’s post) about the open source “unify the IoT” project. But that buzz died off after people digested the news and determined that for the time being it was not going to disrupt the industrial world.

I have only a little time between appointments today, so I’ll do a quick recap of some highlights.

OPC Foundation has brought me along to investigate and write about what’s happening with OPC UA and especially with Time Sensitive Networks (TSN).  This will not be easy–I see the OPC Foundation logo everywhere. More on this later.

I devoted much time to the Microsoft stand yesterday and again already today.  It had the “OPC wall” showing a number of products serving OPC data. Microsoft’s play is moving OPC UA to the Azure cloud. It also showed integration with Time Series Insights, a real-time data base. It also has an IoT suite and recently added IoT Central which is an SaaS application that walks customers through the process of setting up analysis and visualization of the operations data through the OPC UA connection to Azure.

Microsoft had many partners showing authentic working applications of its Hololense augmented reality product–mostly for the enhancement of service technicians including TetraPak and Thyssen Krupp among others.

SAP took me for a walk around its IoT wall. It is building a system where, if all other suppliers opt in and put all their documentation and data into the SAP cloud, then it can serve up a variety of operations and predictive information to operators and maintenance.

ABB announced a partnership with IBM Watson to help customers improve productivity.

Parker has brought all of its products into a network uniquely called Voice of the Machine–an interesting take on IoT.

There’s more, but I’m late for another appointment.

Intelligent Sensor Grid Powering Digitized Commerce at the Edge

GE, The Digital Thread, The Digital Twin, The Digital Company

UPDATED: Carpenter’s title changed after I wrote this. Also GE Intelligent Platforms is now called GE Digital.

GE now bills itself as the “digital industrial” company. It has realized the benefits of technologies such as the Watchdog Agent developed by the Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems for monitoring and prognostics and the Industrial Internet of Things within its own manufacturing processes—especially aircraft engines.
Evidently it now all starts with the “digital thread.” To understand what was meant by this term, I was chatted with Rich Carpenter, Chief of Strategy Technology Strategist for GE Intelligent Platforms Digital.

I asked if this was essentially just a marketing term. “The digital thread is a way to describe a concept,” he told me. “People have become good at “leaning” out the manufacturing process. Now we are leaning out the entire new product introduction cycle. They are optimizing to the end of the path from design to engineering. Closing that loop and carrying forward to manufacturing.”

Companies have accumulated big data infrastructures, so they are also leaning out interactions between digital silos by managing the data flows. This enables remote diagnostics.

Carpenter also mentioned a process I’m beginning to hear around the industry. First you connect things—people, sensors, machines. Then you collect and analyze the data you get from the process. Finally given all this, you can begin to optimize the process.

Official word

Here is a definition from GE, “While the Industrial Internet may be unchartered territory to some manufacturers, early adopters are starting to understand the benefits of the ‘Digital Thread – a web of data created the second they initiated their Industrial Internet journey. The digital thread is the result of several advanced manufacturing initiatives from the past decade, creating a seamless flow of data between systems that were previously isolated.

“This data is essentially the manufacturing health record, which includes data from everything to operator logs to weather patterns, and can be added to as needed. For example, you could compile the digital threads across multiple plants to get a full understanding of the efficiency and health of particular processes and product lines. This record provides data context and correlations between downtimes and outside factors, allowing operators to be proactive in their maintenance strategies.”


I especially appreciate the term “manufacturing health record.” That’s a term Jay Lee at the IMS Center used often in the first phase of prognostics and the Watchdog Agent—a consortium that GE played an active part in.

Digital twin

We’ve heard of cyber-physical systems, and then Industry 4.0 which is a digital manufacturing model based upon it. Now we have a new term, “digital twin” which Carpenter says is a new way to describe a real world physical asset. Then, trying to optimize it, we’ll create a digital representation—a model based on statistics or physics. We run the model, then apply successes of the simulation in the real asset. Then feedback the information.

News release predictive analytics

GE held a conference in September that I could not attend. So, I talked with Rich Carpenter and some marketing people and obtained these press releases. These technologies and applications reveal where GE is heading as a Digital Industrial Company—and where it can take its customers, as well.

GE’s predictive analytics solution, SmartSignal, will be available as part of GE Digital’s Asset Performance Management (APM) solutions on the Predix platform, the purpose-built cloud platform for industry. SmartSignal powered by Predix will deliver anomaly detection with early warning capabilities that is SaaS-based and therefore at a lower cost and at a higher speed, making it accessible to a broader range of distributed equipment.

“Until now, advanced equipment monitoring and predictive anomaly detection capabilities have only been available to enterprises with significant resources, both in terms of machinery expertise and capital,” said Jeremiah Stone, General Manager, Industrial Data Intelligence Solutions for GE Digital. “Because of this, insight gained through predictive analytics has been limited to high value assets due to these cost and knowledge barriers.”

Companies see condition-based maintenance as a means to cut existing operations & maintenance costs. With SmartSignal powered by Predix, they will be able to capitalize on cloud and Big Data platforms to drive more efficient and productive operations.

“There is an unmet need in the industry for a cloud platform that supports the unique requirements of industrial data and operations,” said Harel Kodesh, Chief Technology Officer and Vice President & GM of Predix. “GE Predix is the first cloud platform to meet these demanding requirements. By leveraging GE’s deep domain expertise in information technology and operational technology, Predix provides a modern cloud architecture that is optimized for operational services like asset connectivity, managing and analyzing machine data, and industrial-grade security and regulatory compliance.”

Today, SmartSignal technology provides early warning detection for more than 15,000 critical assets in customer operations. According to May Millies, Manager of Power Generation Services, Salt River Project, “SmartSignal has us listening to the right data and using that data to impact our work operations.” Salt River Project provides reliable, reasonably priced electricity and water to more than two million people in Central Arizona. Integrating data to improve visibility into operations was a key to maintaining their standing with customers. “Now that we have realized the incredible performance of the software and how strong and robust it is, we are improving asset utilization across the enterprise.”

Brilliant manufacturing

In a second announcement, GE announced the next version of its Brilliant Manufacturing Suite. Field-tested and optimized within GE’s own factories, the suite maximizes manufacturing production performance through advanced real-time analytics to enable all manufacturers to realize GE’s Brilliant Factory vision.

“Today’s demands on manufacturers are driving an unprecedented rate of change, innovation and agility,” said Jennifer Bennett, General Manager for GE Digital’s Manufacturing Software initiatives. “Manufacturers are challenged to decide what to build, how to build it, where and when to build it, and how to efficiently maintain it. We believe that the key to optimizing the full product life cycle from design to service is through analytics of data that has been traditionally locked inside corporate silos.”

GE’s Brilliant Manufacturing Suite allows customers to begin to realize their own vision of a Brilliant Factory. Integrating and aggregating data from design to service and leveraging analytics to support optimal decision-making allows manufacturers to drive improvements in end-to-end production. Analyzing data in context and providing the right information at the right time allows for better decision support throughout the manufacturing process. Data-driven analytics encompassing machines, material, people and process will transform the factories of today into Brilliant Factories.

GE’s next generation Brilliant Manufacturing Suite includes:

  • OEE Performance Analyzer – available for early access today, it transforms real-time machine data into actionable production efficiency metrics so that Plant Managers can reduce unplanned downtime, maximize yield and increase equipment utilization.
  • Production Execution Supervisor – digitizes orders, process steps, instructions and documentation with information pulled directly from ERP and PLM systems. Factories are able to ship higher quality products and deliver new product introductions faster by getting the right information in the right hands to focus on the highest priority manufacturing tasks.
  • Production Quality Analyzer – real-time identification of quality data boundaries that catch non-conforming events before they occur. Quality engineers can analyze this information to identify patterns and trends that enable factories to ship higher quality products faster.
  • Product Genealogy Manager – builds a record of all personnel, equipment, raw materials, sub-assemblies and tools used to produce finished goods. Service personnel can respond to customer and regulatory inquiries with confidence, knowing who, what, when, where and how for an individual shipment.
Refinery Supply Chain Software Release from Schneider

Refinery Supply Chain Software Release from Schneider

Here is news from a press release I just received from Schneider Electric (which dubs itself the global specialist in energy management) which has introduced a unified supply chain management solution for the hydrocarbon processing industry.

This new product appears to be a major step on the road laid out at the old InFusion launch by Invensys in Boston several years ago. I knew that the vision was ambitious. The gradual release of products is not a surprise–except that it is releasing product just after acquisition by Schneider. That in itself is good news.

Built on its Spiral Suite platform, the new offering closes the value gaps left by poorly integrated legacy tools. By improving collaboration across the refinery, Spiral Suite software helps traders, planners and schedulers make reliable decisions, manage risks and ultimately increase profitability.

“Spiral Suite promises to transform the refinery business environment from being a place where hundreds of people work in isolation—not seeing or understanding how their bits of individual work contribute to the whole—to a place where workers first see and understand how their decisions impact others and then cooperate to collectively unlock the maximum value of their economic forecasts,” said Ravi Gopinath, Ph.D., executive vice president, Schneider Electric Global Solutions, Software Business. “It improves understanding and cooperation between traders, planners and schedulers and replaces several disjointed point solutions with a single, easy-to-use application.”

Spiral Suite users can contribute to and add value to one another’s decision making without the risk of overwriting data or causing downstream processing issues at the plant. Combined with powerful, intuitive visualizations, everyone is able to view, understand and respond to incidents. All refinery activities are supported within a single, highly intuitive environment, and accurate, up-to-date information is available across the business. Planners can see future scheduling constraints; schedulers can assess their decisions against commercial impact and operational feasibility. Users from different disciplines and locations are now able to work together effectively to create the most flexible, optimal plan for any set of circumstances, unlocking potential cost savings and margin improvements that could total millions of dollars each year.

According to Schneider, Spiral Suite’s SaaS deployment model, off-the-shelf integration and ease of use mean the application can be learned within days. Legacy point solutions can be replaced quickly and simply, without incurring the high cost of implementing or maintaining data transfer. Inadequate, unsupported integration bridges are removed, as is the need for application experts and extensive training courses, which lowers total cost of ownership. Data from in-house and external systems can be made available automatically within workflows, and people from across the business can work in parallel to build the supply chain model within weeks, without needing to know matrix math. [Gary’s note: This paragraph comes from the press release. There is no mention of how this happens. I’ll flesh out this information next week at the Schneider Software User Conference in Orlando.]

Spiral Suite takes advantage of the advanced features of modern processors, exploiting multi-core and cloud environments to generate results in seconds and then presenting them in a way everyone can understand. Users can explore the business and operational implications of millions of scenarios and receive real-time feedback on how their changes would impact the rest of the supply chain. Integral cargo tracking and assay management mean crude oil quality variations can be analyzed within minutes, rather than weeks, to swiftly assess their financial impact on the business, as well as any potential operational and reliability issues prior to purchase. The software also automatically reconciles all available data and performs backcasting to understand how and why there are deviations to the plan.

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