Automation Fair Highlights Benefits of Digital Transformation and The Connected Enterprise

By Craig Resnick



Rockwell Automation hosted its 26th Automation Fair in Houston, Texas November 15th and 16th. This followed its Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) on November 13th and 14th. The common denominator of both connected enterprise crmg1.JPGevents was the company’s continued journey toward “The Connected Enterprise” and the next evolution of industrial automation. That theme was clearly displayed at both PSUG and Automation Fair, which itself featured about 140 Rockwell Automation and partner exhibits, 93 technical sessions, 19 labs, and nine industry forums. Attendance at the Automation Fair was estimated at over 10,000, of which about 7,000 were customers.

Analytics: Increase Intelligence, Improve Performance

Blake Moret, President and CEO of Rockwell Automation, opened Automation Fair for the global press and analyst community on November 14th at Automation Perspectives, the company’s media event. Mr. Moret shared the company’s strategy to integrate control and information across the enterprise to help industrial companies and their people be more productive. Frank Kulaszewicz, Senior VP, Architecture & Software, discussed the digital transformation of the value chain, including digital twins, which are a virtual replication of an as-designed, as-built, and as-maintained physical product; and the digital thread, the trail of information collected throughout the lifecycle of a product, asset, system, or process that can be used to provide context, uncover insights, and support decisions and processes. He emphasized that it’s about users having the tools to make better decisions, whether human- or automation-driven, across the complete manufacturing lifecycle. While digital twins provide users with the tools for viewing and monitoring, digital threads enable users to act. Next, Andrew Ellis, Manager, Commercial Engineering, Information Software, presented Project Scio, a new scalable analytics platform for IIoT applications.

Digital Technology: From Promise to Performance

Gavin Rennick, President, Software Integrated Solutions at Schlumberger, presented the promise of digital to provide rapid payback for oil & gas exploration, well construction, development and planning, and production operations. He emphasized the need to democratize digital technology and connected enterprise Rockwell Automation’s President and CEO Blake Moret crmg2.JPGinnovation across an organization. Rennick discussed the need for an ecosystem that includes partnerships with leading suppliers to bring digital technology “from promise to performance.” By leveraging Rockwell Automation solutions such as engineered analytics, edge analytics, application programming interfaces (APIs), and self-declaring devices, Schlumberger increased many key performance indicators. These include a 15 percent increase in pump availability, 30 percent improvement in service reliability, 50 percent reduction in drilling engineering time, and 1,000 time increase in reservoir simulation productivity.

Chris Layden, Vice President, Manpower Group, addressed the tremendous challenges manufacturers face in recruiting and retaining a qualified, trained workforce. As a viable solution, he sees helping people with relevant baseline qualifications upskill to meet the requirements of today’s digital manufacturers. In one example, he discussed the partnership that Rockwell Automation and Manpower have with the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing, recruiting technically-skilled veterans that are leaving military service, providing targeted training to supplement their existing expertise, and assisting each graduate to find employment in manufacturing. Examples of new roles in manufacturing that require training include digital twin architects, application developers, and data management analysts.

The Connected Enterprise Permeates PSUG

At the Process Solutions User Group (PSUG), Rockwell Automation demonstrated the critical capabilities of its PlantPAx, as a modern DCS and how it is integral to enabling IIoT and The Connected Enterprise. This provides tools to help increase productivity with an architecture designed with cybersecurity in mind. These digital initiatives include scalable Modern DCS Enables IIoT and the Connected Enterprise crmg3.JPGFactoryTalk Analytics integrated with smart connected assets, such as controllers, sensors, actuators, and intelligent motor control via IIoT infrastructure, its Integrated Architecture, and EtherNet/IP network.

Presentations at PSUG emphasized the value of analytics in increasing intelligence and improving performance. Examples ranged from descriptive analytics (what happened) and diagnostic analytics (why it happened), to advanced analytics such as predictive analytics (what is about to happen), and advanced prescriptive analytics (what to do about it).

Process Case Studies

PSUG featured over 25 technical sessions, 10 hands-on labs and more than 25 presentations by Rockwell Automation customers.

Case study presentations included iBio, which discussed how automation Automating for Quality Compliance w connected enterprise crmg4.JPGin the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is mandatory for pharmaceutical quality compliance. The company believes an ideal automation supplier should provide a collaborative development environment, understand the applications, offer multiple levels of global service models with 24/7 support, have a long-term commitment to the pharmaceutical/biotech industry, and offer robust new products while maintaining legacy products.

In other case studies, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals documented the process of how it selected a DCS, a system integrator, and equipment OEMs for a new plant; and how internally converging IT and OT played a key role in the successful project deployment. DowDuPont documented a case study of migrating from its unsupported, legacy control systems and how it leveraged a system integrator to replace obsolete hardware and software with minimal downtime and a virtually seamless transition. Finally, KraftHeinzCo Ore-Ida Potatoes described how it deployed Pavillion8 model predictive control (MPC) while upgrading its control system. The project ROI criteria targeted a 5 percent production increase, but realized a 10.4 percent improvement.

Project Scio, New Scalable Analytics Platform for IIoT

Rockwell Automation introduced many new products and solutions at Automation Fair. Much attention was focused on Project Scio, a new scalable analytics platform for IIoT applications designed for advanced analytics. The platform opens access to ad hoc analytics and performs advanced analysis by pulling structured and unstructured data from Project Scio, New Scalable Analytics Platform for IIoT and connected enterprise crmg5.JPGexisting sources. It can also fuse related data and deliver analytics in “storyboard” dashboards and enable users to perform self-serve drill downs. Data models can be built on the platform and are also portable.

The Project Scio platform can auto-discover Rockwell Automation devices and tags, as well as third-party device data. It brings data into a centralized location and can continually refresh those data. The platform supports flexible machine learning (ML) and is configurable to support SparkML, MLLib, Python, and other industry algorithms. The platform can monitor operations and, if processes start to deviate from allowable parameters, can automatically trigger control adjustments using either ML or predefined settings.  

Scalable Compute Offerings Improve IIoT Data Access

The company also released new scalable compute offerings designed to access real-time data to solve analytical challenges. At the device level, the Allen-Bradley ControlLogix compute module adds Windows 10 IoT directly into the Logix system in existing applications, and provides high-speed access to ControlLogix data across the backplane. The Allen-Bradley CompactLogix 5480 controller combines Allen-Bradley Logix5000 control and Windows-based computing in one controller. The Allen-Bradley VersaView 5000 industrial computers aggregate data, provide visualization for smart manufacturing, and can be used for system- and plant-level computing.

The company is also building IIoT and analytics into these compute offerings. For example, the recently released FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices software delivers real-time asset health and diagnostic information to the VersaView 5000 industrial computers.

IaaS Simplifies and Accelerates Network Deployments

Rockwell Automation also introduced its Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering. IaaS combines pre-engineered network solutions, on-site configuration, and 24/7 remote monitoring into a single five-year contract. The service can help ease budgetary constraints by shifting networking costs from a capital expense to an operating expense.

All aspects of IaaS are aligned to a Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) reference architecture developed by Rockwell Automation and Cisco. IaaS is offered with two Rockwell Automation pre-engineered network solutions, including the Industrial Data Center (IDC) and Industrial Network Distribution Solution (INDS). The IDC provides the hardware and software required to transition to a virtualized environment. These solutions incorporate components from the company’s Strategic Alliance partners, Cisco, Panduit, and Microsoft.

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 system parameters. Support response is guaranteed within 10 minutes, but actual response time averages three minutes.

Project Sherlock Brings Artificial Intelligence

Rockwell Automation released the new Project Sherlock artificial intelligence (AI) module to help create and diagnose analytics solutions that previously required data scientists. The company provides the AI through an algorithm embedded directly into the controller chassis.

Project Sherlock Delivers AI in crmg6.JPGProject Sherlock AI leverages physics-based modeling to learn the controller application. It searches through controller tags to identify the application or allows users to choose what they would like modeled by selecting inputs and outputs via an add-on-instruction (AOI). Large quantities of historical data are not required, nor must the data ever leave the automation layer.

Once the model is built, the Project Sherlock solution watches the operation, looking for anomalies against its derived, principled understanding. If it spots a problem, it can trigger an alarm on an HMI screen or dashboard. The initial version of Project Sherlock AI will include ready-to-use templates for boiler, pump, and chiller operations suitable for both process and hybrid applications. The module does not add to controller CPU load or add to network traffic. Project Sherlock AI pilots have been running for the past 18 months. Customers will be able to purchase the module in mid-2018.

Expanded Connected Services Offering

Rockwell Automation announced the expansion of its Connected Services offerings portfolio. Offerings include industrial infrastructure assessment, design, implementation, support, and monitoring capabilities. These include IaaS, remote asset monitoring and predictive maintenance, cybersecurity threat detection and recovery, training, and consulting. These can make use of the FactoryTalk Cloud gateway, on-premise Rockwell Automation Industrial Data Center servers, or a hybrid model.

Connected Services Key within the Connected Enterprise Vision crmg7.JPGThe portfolio includes Network and Cybersecurity services, which provide 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 complement on-site maintenance teams, ranging from continuous machine monitoring and incident response to 24/7 remote support and software/firmware updates. Also, Data Integration and Contextualization services can help capture data and convert it into actionable information. Additional digital transformation and data scientist consulting services will be available in 2018.

Enhanced Machine Safety Portfolio

The company announced its enhanced machine safety portfolio. The Rockwell Automation machine safety portfolio now includes the new Allen-Bradley GuardLogix 5580 controller, Compact GuardLogix 5380 controller, and Compact 5000 safety I/O. The portfolio has new safety functionality with the Allen Bradley Kinetix 5700 servo drive. These devices are designed to communicate over EtherNet/IP and tested against machine safety standards to help ease compliance. The portfolio also includes smart safety devices, such as safety relays and light curtains that can be connected via the GuardLink safety-based communications protocol.

The GuardLogix 5580 and Compact GuardLogix 5380 controllers provide faster system performance and new options for meeting SIL 2/PLd safety requirements. The Kinetix 5700 servo drive now includes five safe-stop functions and three safe-speed monitoring functions. They also allow operators to perform maintenance and minor servicing tasks while a machine is running. Safety modules are now available in the Compact 5000 I/O family. They provide local and remote safety I/O for the Compact GuardLogix 5380 controller and remote safety I/O for the ControlLogix 5580 controller. They also provide high-speed I/O communications and help reduce the overall panel space required.

Machine Analytics and DCS Enhancements

Rockwell Automation announced its FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines cloud for OEMs. This offers cloud-based analytics that provide machine data organized in dashboards that can pull from machines deployed from any location. A subscription-based model allows OEMs more predictable costs.

PlantPAx 4.5 DCS Release crmg8.JPGThe company also introduced new enhancements coming to its PlantPAx 4.5 DCS. This includes support for Parallel Redundancy Protocol (PRP), an industry standard for redundant Ethernet. The next release features updated human machine interface (HMI) and trending tools. These include an enhanced Library of Process Objects, including integration with electrical protection devices, leveraging both EtherNet/IP and IEC-61850 communication standards.


PSUG, Automation Perspectives and Automation Fair certainly helped attendees see the potential of The Connected Enterprise via case studies and product demonstrations. The case studies demonstrated how the presenting companies got started within the context of their respective business processes and provided guidance for how other industrial organizations can best proceed in their respective paths toward successful digital transformation.

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Keywords: Digital Transformation, Connected Enterprise, Scalable Analytics, Edge, IIoT, IT, OT, Convergence, AI; IaaS, Safety, DCS, Machine Learning (ML), ARC Advisory Group.


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