Digital Transformation Impacts Manufacturing Innovation and Supply Chain

Digital Transformation Impacts Manufacturing Innovation and Supply Chain

Digital transformation professional services companies provide value to owner/operators and manufacturing companies. But their services are often expensive. I have done some work on platforms such as MIMOSA’s OIIE (which is still in development) that are designed to use standards and interoperability to help these customers reduce their expense and dependence on these firms.

It’s sort of a “good news, bad news” thing.

At any rate, the PR firm representing Cognizant contacted me toward the end of December with an opportunity to interview an executive. The purpose of this interview would be to update me on the company and talk a little about digital supply chain, workforce, and other manufacturing innovation topics.

Anxious to get something done before the end of the year (billable hours?), they even offered times between Christmas and New Years. Prasad Satyavolu, global head of innovation, manufacturing, and logistics practice, talked with me shortly before Christmas.

When I laid out the conversation on a mind map, the map was huge. So I thought about it off and on for the past couple of weeks. These thoughts reflect about half of the conversation. There is a lot to think about.

Cognizant was a very familiar name, but I couldn’t place it. “We are familiar with SCADA and plant floor,” Satyavolu told me. “We acquired Wonderware’s R&D operations. In fact, we still work with Schneider Electric. We also work with Rockwell Automation.”

Core Manufacturing services include:

• Transportation/Material Handling

• Process industry

• Energy/Oil & Gas

• Aerospace (some)

• Automation

• Utilities/Smart Grid/Smart Meters

When Cognizant evaluates a customer’s processes and lays out a plan, it includes everything from incoming supply to manufacturing to shipping to customer. The demand and supply chain.

One opportunity Satyavolu sees considers more instrumentation leading to additional sensing of movement of materials and workers in order to capture better decisions and enable efficiencies.

Then consider the confluence of changing workforce and technology. “Consider reality on shop floor. 5-10 years ago a maintenance engineer listened to a machine, diagnosed the problem, and fixed the machine.

The next generation doesn’t have that knowledge. Today the time to fix has gone from 15 minutes to 4 hours. How can we tackle knowledge gap? Further, is the next generation even interested in this sort of work?

Looking ahead, by 2025 we will be short 8 million people with manufacturing skills. How does this impact global mid-sized companies? How can we further leverage robotics to help solve this problem? Would robotics technology even make the work more attractive to a new generation of workers from the world of gaming and drones?

Huge opportunities exist with visibility outside the plant to planning and execution. It’s the Amazon effect—velocity so high that you almost have to produce on demand. Predictive maintenance systems enable managers to manage schedules and demands. This leverages infastructure such as cloud, digital technologies. These improve scheduling, reschedules lowering carrying costs; aids risk management / mitigation; global organizations bringing parts from around the world, global demand/supply increases uncertainty.

On shop floor, plant has fixed schedules / horizons. Scheduling systems and a lot of modeling bring stability and improve effectiveness. You can simulate production quickly, get status of inbound parts, changes in demand side, sync with labor requirements. With better scheduling, you get better visibility—you can save 12-13% of costs with sync. You can track supply chain, transportation, and change schedules in advance improving risk management.

Software-Powered Connected Services Drive Digital Transformation

Software-Powered Connected Services Drive Digital Transformation

Rockwell Automation continues its path of Connected Enterprise. In the grand scheme of RA products, I’ve never thought of software and networking as having a major impact on sales numbers. But the company continues to roll out some innovation. The “Shelby” bot and Project Scio analytics reveal some unexpected software advances for what has been a devotedly hardware-centric company.

To accompany software and networking and connectivity, Rockwell has beefed up its services offering. Its Connected Services offerings are designed to help customers plan for, deploy, and maintain new digital transformation solutions.

This is the last of my reports from interviews during Automation Fair in November in Houston. It seems the more work that I complete, the more that comes my way. I don’t think I’ll catch up in January either since it appears that my off-season soccer administrative responsibilities keep growing.

Back to Connected Services.

Connected Services offerings include industrial infrastructure assessment, design, implementation, support and monitoring capabilities including Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), remote asset monitoring and predictive maintenance, cybersecurity threat detection and recovery, training and consulting offerings. These software-powered services build on existing application and product support services to help organizations access and use production data to improve asset utilization and productivity, while reducing risk and time-to-market.

“Industrial operators have been using cutting-edge technology since the Industrial Revolution,” said Sherman Joshua, global portfolio manager for Connected Services, Rockwell Automation. “Our customers understand that digitizing operations or building a Connected Enterprise is about much more than rolling out new technology. They need the right infrastructure, process and people in place to transform operations and capture the value new technology is unlocking. That value is huge. Our Connected Services are making it easier and faster for our customers to uncover it.”

For example, according to ARC Advisory Group, the cost of unscheduled downtime in industrial operations exceeds $20 billion. Through traditional means of detecting, diagnosing and fixing downtime, approximately 76 percent of downtime occurs before any corrective action is undertaken. Connected Services can help users detect and resolve issues quickly, reducing downtime by as much as 30 percent.

Connected Services offerings start with building a secure information infrastructure. Network and cybersecurity services include assessments and design, technical support, IT/OT training, remote monitoring, threat detection and recovery, turnkey implementation, pre-engineered network solutions, and network monitoring and management. These services can speed the integration of new equipment and systems, vastly improve security and help reduce downtime with access to technical resources.

Remote support, monitoring and response services can prove especially valuable for critical processes through around-the-clock operations and remote operations. These services can complement on-site maintenance teams, providing everything from continuous machine monitoring and incident response to 24/7 remote support and software/firmware updates. Deployments can make use of the FactoryTalk Cloud gateway, on-premise Rockwell Automation Industrial Data Center servers, or a hybrid model that combines both options to help improve productivity and reduce downtime.

Data integration and contextualization services can help capture a wealth of data and convert it into actionable information. These services can provide new opportunities to help increase productivity. Producers can reduce skills gap challenges by relying on Rockwell Automation to monitor, maintain and manage the network, equipment or entire applications. Additional digital transformation and data scientist consulting services will be available in 2018.

Connected Services offerings are also scalable, allowing producers to build ROI as they go, and rely more on OPEX than CAPEX funding. Rockwell Automation can deliver and execute Connected Services offerings globally, giving organizations consistent support across operations.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service Simplifies and Accelerates Network Deployments

Infrastructure-as-a-Service Simplifies and Accelerates Network Deployments

Infrastructure-as-a-Service. Remember several years ago when Amazon started selling space and time on its servers? And people thought they were crazy. Is this a business?

Well, as the old vaudeville comedian and TV pioneer Jimmy Durante used to say, “Everybody wants to get into the act.”

We have lots of “–as-a-service” things going on over the past 15 years or so. Software, Application, Platform. Here Rockwell Automation leverages its partnerships with Cisco, Panduit, and Microsoft (who has its own Infrastructure-as-a-Service) to offer an extension to its longtime strategy of using Ethernet as a networking backbone to its Connected Enterprise vision.

Designing, deploying and maintaining this infrastructure can be complex and time consuming for many companies, and is often too costly for their capital budgets. Rockwell Automation has introduced its Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering to address these challenges.

Rockwell’s IaaS reduces the burden of network deployments by combining pre-engineered network solutions, on-site configuration and 24/7 remote monitoring into a single five-year contract. The result is simplified ordering and commissioning upfront, and can help improve network reliability long term. The service can also ease budgetary strains by shifting networking costs from a capital expense to an operating expense.

Rockwell’s Solution

All aspects of IaaS are aligned to the Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) reference architectures developed by Rockwell Automation and Cisco. Leveraging best-in-class technologies and architectures, companies can optimize their network infrastructure’s performance, efficiency and uptime, as well as address security risks.

“Companies of all sizes are eager to digitally transform their operations in a Connected Enterprise, but many are limited in their ability to connect their infrastructure,” said Sherman Joshua, connected services portfolio manager, Rockwell Automation. “Often, a combination of time, talent and budgetary constraints hold them back. IaaS helps relieve these pressures by combining turnkey networking solutions with our highest level of support.”

IaaS is offered with two Rockwell Automation pre-engineered network solutions, including the Industrial Data Center (IDC) and the Industrial Network Distribution Solution (INDS). These solutions are designed for industrial use and incorporate industry-leading technologies from Rockwell Automation Strategic Alliance partners Cisco, Panduit and Microsoft.

The IDC provides all the hardware and software needed to transition to a virtualized environment, and is designed to deliver high availability and fault tolerance. The INDS is a network distribution package that helps end users achieve secure, high-capacity connectivity between the control room and throughout the plant floor.

Under an IaaS contract, Rockwell Automation will size, assemble and test the infrastructure, including configuration and on-site deployment at the customer’s facility. Contracts include 24/7 remote monitoring of critical system parameters to help prevent outages and failures, as well as proactive system maintenance and checks to improve reliability. Support response is guaranteed within 10 minutes, but actual response times average three minutes.

GE Extends Predix But Where Lies Its Future

GE Extends Predix But Where Lies Its Future

GE has a new CEO coming soon. Jeff Imelt led the industrial push that led to Predix and Industrial Internet of Things, services based upon data, predictive maintenance. He spurred development of GE Digital and the transformation into a software company (check out the TV ads).

The company has announced some extensions to Predix. But we need to wonder where the new CEO will take the company. One software entrepreneur I know unleashed on the company in a LinkedIn post hoping that the new guy would trash Predix and build “something better.” We’ll have to wait and see, of course.

First a little context for one of the announcements.

The facility electrical engineer and I were speculating on an idea of linking measurement of electricity usage at perhaps the bus level for different areas of the plant with machine performance. Perhaps he could detect a machine problem through electrical changes. That was somewhere around 1993.

I quoted something, but we never did it.

Here are the high points of the announcements:

  • GE Digital announces integration of ServiceMax field service management solution and Asset Performance Management portfolio to transform service operations, reduce cost and eliminate unplanned downtime
  • GE Ventures launches Avitas Systems, a new venture that will transform inspection services with advanced robotics, data analytics and artificial intelligence
  • GE Power releases Predix-powered ‘Digital Utility’ to connect real-time machine and operations data with energy trading to drive more profitable utilities businesses

The asset optimization organizations within a plant have a variety of new tools to take them beyond maintenance into an enhanced role. Growth of the Internet of Things and analytics capabilities especially leading into predictive and eventually prescriptive strategies are the keys to the future.

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.


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