Rockwell Automation held its 20th annual TechED (formerly RSTechED) for a record number 2,200 end users, system integrators, distributors, partners and machine builders. All wanted to learn how solutions enabled by the Industrial IoT and “The Connected Enterprise” can work together to better leverage available production data, increase yields, reduce energy costs, build secure networks, and ultimately increase revenue and profits. TechED featured over 170 discussion sessions, training classes, and hands-on labs. These were categorized by control, information, networks and security, process, safety, systems, technology and services, and visualization, as well as application and case studies.
The Journey to the Connected Enterprise
Rockwell Automation President and CEO, Blake Moret, kicked off the event by spelling out the path the company’s customers can take to begin the journey to The Connected Enterprise. This addresses the key question on the minds of many industrial end users: “How does our company get started deploying IIoT technology and solutions?”
According to Mr. Moret, at its simplest level, this involves:
Identifying a desired business outcome
Getting an outside perspective
Assembling a team
Implementing a pilot program
Scaling for expansion
Next, Rockwell Automation Senior Vice President, Frank Kulaszewicz, who runs the Architecture and Software business, discussed the IIoT drivers that are delivering major productivity and profit benefits to manufacturing. These include increasing operational productivity, asset reliability and maintenance, and risk management. Information solution capabilities ranged from remote and on-premise cloud, to edge devices. All leverage Rockwell Automation’s integrated architecture to connect to the IIoT infrastructure and EtherNet IP-enabled network to connect to smart assets. According to Mr. Kulaszewicz, the customer benefits of IIoT and The Connected Enterprise include faster time to market for manufactured products, improved asset utilization, lower total cost of ownership, and more effective enterprise risk management.
FactoryTalk TeamONE Demos New Collaboration Tools
Embedded in IIoT and The Connected Enterprise story are scalable execution systems and analytics software, along with solutions for mobility, collaboration, and connected services. Members of Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk TeamONE demonstrated these using newly released tools for instant device analytics and plant-floor collaboration. The tools included the company’s new FactoryTalk TeamONE Standard Edition app and a new FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices appliance. Both were designed to leverage the connections across industrial operations already established by the smart devices used by plant or distributed workers.
These new tools focus on helping solve common maintenance problems faster to reduce unplanned downtime, improve reaction time for maintenance teams, and assist decision makers with health and diagnostics analytics for industrial devices and systems. Designed to be off-the-shelf offerings, the tools require minimal configuration.
The new Standard Edition of the FactoryTalk TeamONE app is focused on helping manufacturers reduce mean time to repair. This new edition adds an alarm module, enabling teams to collaborate with live alarm details. This gives users the ability to view all active alarms as well as view, share, and post new details and helps increase team collaboration by adding context with alarm information.
Alarms requiring immediate action can be shared with specific team members or posted to the entire team to manage and resolve. As a smart node, the FactoryTalk TeamONE app requires no server, device-to-cloud gateways, or IT setup for deployment. The app is currently available on the Apple App Store and Google Play store. The new Standard Edition is a paid yearly subscription and expands the features available in the free edition of the app.
New Analytics for Devices Appliance
The industrially hardened, FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices Appliance helps avoid downtime and improve productivity by proactively identifying device health. By providing a connection to power and a local control system network, the application detects automation devices on the network without disrupting operations.
It provides specific calls-to-action, instant device displays, and a machine-learning-based “chat bot,” all available from within the appliance. The appliance learns what is important to users by continuously analyzing the devices on the network and delivering recommendations to help maintenance and engineering teams reduce unplanned downtime and quickly repair systems. The Devices Appliance can detect and perform a basic analysis on any EtherNet IP device and has detailed analytics for over 2,000 Allen-Bradley devices. The first year’s subscription is included for each appliance.
These IIoT and The Connected Enterprise offerings are some of the first subscription offerings from Rockwell Automation. To further streamline the adoption process, the company is using a new e-commerce portal to manage the new offerings. All subscriptions and management can take place within a single, self-service portal. These new products are targeted at industrial organizations going through a digital transformation that seek modern tools that are relatively quick and inexpensive to deploy.
ProductionCentre Focus on Performance and Quality
The company also demonstrated The Connected Enterprise in a new suite of capabilities to help improve functionality across its portfolio of MES applications based on Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk ProductionCentre platform. The portfolio includes FactoryTalk Production, FactoryTalk Performance, FactoryTalk Quality, and soon-to-be released FactoryTalk Warehouse applications.
The latest updates provide a simplified, visual drag-and-drop tool to help build out new workflows, eliminate coding, enable quicker product changeovers, and increase flexibility for new product introductions. The FactoryTalk Quality application now also includes more user-friendly and intuitive widgets. Based on choices made in setup, the application recommends pre-configured visual widgets, such as gauges or historical data charts; helping speed time to deploy and reduce the cost of quality management efforts.
The latest MES application, FactoryTalk Warehouse, can help streamline warehouse logistics to allow faster, more precise inventory management and tracking capabilities. These range from goods receipt through stock records and goods issuing. FactoryTalk Warehouse is designed to help improve logistics insight and control. This can benefit manufacturers looking to better manage raw material lots, palette load tracking and work-in-progress (WIP) inventory while accessing sub lot-level details; all synchronized with the company’s ERP system. With this information, personnel can better manage material levels in near real time, including forward and backward product genealogy. The FactoryTalk Warehouse application is scalable to fit individual deployment needs.
Increased Integration for Process Applications
An expanded, out-of-box integration tool in the FactoryTalk ProductionCentre MES application portfolio gives users access to more production data across systems. This helps reduce the barrier to entry for connected and smart manufacturing. Enterprise Integration Hub (EIHub) software helps create a common connectivity method for enterprise applications and external IT systems. The application reviews incoming information from one system and transforms into the appropriate format and template for the receiving system. It also verifies information receipt or sends alerts for transmission failures to further streamline data translation across a connected enterprise.
Using EIHub, process manufacturers can connect FactoryTalk MES applications with their existing DCS, LIMS, QMS, PLM, or CMMS systems and other databases. Through this supplier-agnostic integration, operators can transport batch-reporting parameters; GMP critical alarms for “review by exception;” and consumption, production, and order-completion data. Pre-configured value packs in EIHub software can also help increase productivity in the discrete, automotive, and pharmaceutical industries.
Delivery options have also been expanded. Scalable, cloud-enabled MES applications support centralized deployments in private, public, and hybrid configurations. Rockwell Automation provides infrastructure-as-a-service offerings via pre-configured and managed industrial data centers and will soon provide SaaS offerings via the FactoryTalk Cloud platform.
Real World Examples of the Connected Enterprise
With all the sessions, training, and hands-on labs going on over the five days of TechED, it is always insightful to attend the real-world application and case studies to see examples of how IIoT and The Connected Enterprise solutions are being deployed and the initial results. Case studies included:
ARC Resources, an oil and gas producer that is optimizing artificial lift and gas flow measurement on aging assets by deploying a connected production solution
Arkansas Steel is deploying a FactoryTalk VantagePoint EMI solution that automated the aggregation and reporting of data, increasing yield by at least 3 percent
Enbridge Energy is gathering and managing data from pump sites across North America by deploying a scalable historian system to automatically interpret and integrate tags from hundreds of field controllers
First Solar is deploying the FactoryTalk Gateway Cloud, connecting the plant and enterprise information to eliminate back-up servers, cutting IT costs by millions of dollars
Land O’Lakes is layering a virtualized FactoryTalk information software solution to avoid potential downtime for cheese production
RedViking battery-free, automated guide vehicles leverage FactoryTalk to offer on-board power; measurable data on OEE, MTBF and MTTR; and the ability to connect AGVs into enterprise information systems
StoraEnso is deploying advanced sequencing, alarming and reporting so operators can control nuisances and deviations through the modular sequencing capabilities, reducing alarms to boost uptime
LEWA Bioprocess is ensuring regulatory compliance and consistency by transitioning to an integrated control and information solution.
And this is just of a partial list of the many excellent, real-world examples of how industrial organizations across a broad spectrum of industrial sectors are beginning to leverage IIoT and The Connected Enterprise to improve operational and business performance.
TechED, along with Automation Fair, provide Rockwell Automation with a great opportunity to communicate and demonstrate its IIoT and “The Connected Enterprise” vision, continuing to educate its customers about where and how to further embrace IIoT and advanced analytics capabilities in the context of their own applications and challenges. The opportunity here is to make the most of the automation and control system assets they already have, while helping create a plan for their future digital transformation.
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Keywords: IIoT, The Connected Enterprise, FactoryTalk, Analytics, Collaboration, ARC Advisory Group.