Rockwell Automation Scalable Analytics and Connected Services Support Digital Transformation

By Craig Resnick



Rockwell Automation continues to add and enhance solutions to help its customers move forward with digital transformation and continue on the path towards The Connected Enterprise. The company crrasa1.JPGleverages its Integrated Architecture installed base to serve as the Rockwell Automation IIoT infrastructure and utilizes its industry application experience to pro-actively impact the plant floor performance of its products and solutions.  The company’s scalable portfolio includes solutions deployed at the device, control, edge, and cloud levels.  Its customers play a major role in the co-innovation development process for new applications and key functionalities.  As a result, all parties have an intimate knowledge of the real-time data and its role and context throughout the architecture.  This knowledge was used to produce many of the today’s solutions for execution, advanced analytics, and optimization and will be used to help develop future solutions.

Scalable Analytics: Increase Intelligence & Performance

The digital transformation process requires establishing digital threads.  This refers to 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 procedures. The digital transformation Categories of Analytics crrasa2.JPGprocess also requires tools that provide users with the intelligence needed to make optimized decisions (human- or automation-driven), along the complete manufacturing and production lifecycle.  The information trail provided by the digital threads is processed by advanced analytic tools to provide users with actionable insights.  This includes FactoryTalk Analytics, a new scalable platform from the company’s Project Scio.

The company developed the latest expansions and additions to the FactoryTalk Analytics portfolio to help reduce the complexity of the operations environment for operational personnel in factories and other industrial production sites. FactoryTalk Analytics allows users to oversee operations with alerts about abnormal situations; observe product quality; notify and define the cause of equipment or process issues before unplanned downtime or catastrophic failure occurs; and leverage data to increase capacity, reduce energy, and improve quality…all without requiring data scientists.

Machine Learning Key to FactoryTalk Analytics

FactoryTalk Analytics has been developed to be scalable, helping to dis-cover and connect data sources from the edge of the network up through the enterprise.  It then uses intelligence to fuse the information to help resolve issues closer to the source. This can often speed resolution of production issues by picking the lowest level at which the needed data is readily available, typically at the edge or the device itself.

Designed with machine learning capabilities, FactoryTalk Analytics can learn the process and look for trends in the data, proactively presenting users with insights, often before an issue arises. Machine learning enables FactoryTalk Analytics to learn without explicit programming. The Rock-well Automation philosophy on executing machine learning is to run the analytics where it makes the most sense based on the data location, the focus of the analytics, where the action is triggered, and the required response time.  This way, machine learning can continue to add value as additional information is accumulated.  FactoryTalk Analytics is configurable to support SparkML, MLLib, Python, and other machine learning industry algorithms.  The platform can monitor operations and automatically trigger control adjustments if processes start to deviate outside allowable parameters, using either machine learning or predefined settings.

Rockwell Automation has also launched a complementary Predictive Maintenance-as-a-Service offering.  The service, which is applied on critical assets identified by the customer, analyzes data from connected technologies such as sensors, control systems, and smart machines. By leveraging FactoryTalk Analytics and applying machine learning technology, engineers from Rockwell Automation can identify normal operations and build out data models to predict, monitor for, and mitigate future failures or issues as part of a preventive maintenance strategy.

This service enables customers to monitor predictions and analyze details of an alert without needing to build their own data models or engineer their own solution.  Rockwell Automation delivers the data collection, machine learning, and engineering support to build the models, validate and monitor patterns and predictions, and keep those models up to date as data sets evolve.

Scalable Analytics Platform for IIoT Applications 

As a scalable analytics tool for IIoT applications, FactoryTalk Analytics opens access to ad-hoc analytics and performs advanced analysis by pulling structured and unstructured data from existing 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 platform can also monitor operations and automatically trigger control adjustments if processes start to fall outside allowable parameters using either machine learning or predefined settings. This can help users optimize control, improve product quality and consistency, and reduce scrap and waste.

Traditional Analytics Platform Architecture (Top) and FactoryTalk Analytics Platform (Bottom) crrasa3.JPGTo reduce risk and save time, FactoryTalk Analytics can auto-discover Rockwell Automation devices and tags.  In the future, it will also be able to do so for third-party devices. This reduces or eliminates the need for users to have to manually map software to each plant-floor device, a typically time-consuming and error-prone process. The auto-discovery process gives users access to more detailed information than typically available through manual mapping. It also brings data into a centralized location and can continually refresh that data. Connections to data sources only need to be established once. This allows users to create custom analytics and refresh these at their preferred rate without the support of a data scientist.

Key Components of FactoryTalk Analytics Platform crrasa4.JPGFactoryTalk Analytics is an open-architecture platform designed to be extended to a full ecosystem of IIoT data sources.  This is important since industrial producers cannot be expected to rip and replace all their legacy control and information systems to be able to gain value from analytics. A range of systems including controllers, MES software, and edge devices can be quickly connected to feed data into a Connected Enterprise.

FactoryTalk Analytics has three primary components. Analytics Edge is where the assets are connected and data from both IT and OT accessed and streamed.  Analytics DataFlowML is where data is orchestrated, mashed, and staged leveraging machine learning. Analytics DataView leverages purpose-driven storyboards for driving outcomes in asset management and reliability, operational productivity, and enterprise risk. 

Connected Services Enable The Connected Enterprise

Rockwell Automation offers customers a range of Connected Services for network integrity, security, asset performance and reliability, remote equipment monitoring (including predictive maintenance), and infrastructure design and maintenance. These services can help customers with many aspects of their Connected Enterprise journey, including developing an IIoT infrastructure and strategy and providing remote monitoring and analytics. Rockwell Automation Connected Services work together with FactoryTalk Analytics to enhance business value.

Rockwell Automation Connected Services Journey cronemore.JPGProfessional Services include pilots and business consulting, data scientists, implementation services, and ongoing support for projects, such as developing roadmaps, custom applications, and implementing turnkey systems.  Infrastructure Services include on-premise hosting for a project (CAPEX) or continuous hosting (OPEX), managing the security and robustness of network infrastructure, infrastructure monitoring and administration, and cloud hosting to help customers reduce risk, guarantee availability, and add flexibility to their operations. Managed Services include connecting assets to remote expertise, deploying application-specific machine learning algorithms, providing visualization-enabled alerts and closed-loop actions along with streaming analytics insights.  Information software can be embedded into a service contract. Business results of these services include increased asset utilization, reduced enterprise risk, including un-planned downtime, and improved operational efficiency.

Rockwell Automation Connected Services offerings help enable the Connected Enterprise and provide customer value in three key areas.  Out-come-Based Managed Services focus on asset management, operational productivity, and enterprise risk mitigation in the safety and security areas.  They leverage remote monitoring capabilities, XaaS integrated solutions, and analytics software, relying on domain experts and a focus on achieving key customer outcomes. Information Infrastructure & Security Services include consultative assessments and designs, network implementation, and cybersecurity design and threat detection. Lifecycle Sup-port Services are built on a global organization with OT domain experts, providing a digital install base and service platform, tiered support con-tract offerings, and modernization support.

IaaS Simplifies and Accelerates Network Deployments

The company’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering reduces the burden of network deployments by combining pre-engineered network solutions, on-site configuration, and 24/7 remote monitoring.  Upfront, Rockwell Automation’s Holistic Approach to Connected Services for Industrial Network Infrastructure crrasa5.JPGthis simplifies ordering and commissioning.  IaaS can also help improve network reliability long term. IaaS can ease budgetary strains 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 co-developed and tested by Rockwell Automation and Cisco. IaaS is offered with pre-engineered network solutions, including the Industrial Data Center (IDC) and the Industrial Net-work Distribution Solution (INDS). The IDC provides the hardware and software required to transition to a virtualized environment. These solutions are designed by Rockwell Automation 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 – according to the company - actual response times average three minutes.

Authorized Service Providers Help Customers Prepare for The Connected Enterprise

As the Industrial IoT drives IT/OT convergence and digital business transformation is happening across industry, manufacturers are changing the way they do business.  Many know that they need to begin their journey to increased connectivity and security, but don’t always know where to begin.  Assessment services allow industrial facilities to establish a baseline and prioritize where they should make investments in the journey.

In response, Rockwell Automation is evolving its distributor network to become Authorized Service Providers capable of selling and delivering Rockwell Automation services and complementary third-party services.  Locating domain expertise closer to the customer helps strengthen the distributors’ relationship with their customers, providing local value-add through consultative services. To ensure consistent delivery of these services, Rockwell Automation is providing training and certifications.  Initially, distributors will focus on providing assessment services, but the Authorized Service Provider program is intended to scale to include additional design and implementation services over time.

Digital Services Platform Foundation

When combined with FactoryTalk Analytics, Rockwell Automation Connected Services can provide the basis for a digital services platform.  This will create a foundation for deriving, analyzing, and presenting crrasa6.JPGcustomer intelligence and service management data to enable users to make optimized business decisions. It is here that machines, drives, controllers, IDCs, instrumentation, and even process skids can come together and exchange data bi-directionally from the edge to the Microsoft Azure-based FactoryTalk Cloud.  This data is processed by operations productivity, asset utilization, enterprise risk, and other tools from the FactoryTalk software suite, with the results converted into actionable information visualized on the digital business portal. Supporting services such as contract management, delivery, and execution, along with installed base information and data gathered from the edge work together to help provide a state-of-the-art, data-driven customer experience.


Customers leveraging Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk Analytics and Connected Services are likely to experience productivity and profitability increases that should provide a quick return on investment. But to maximize their investment, customers should first build a roadmap to provide direction for their digital Asset & Plant Optimization Improves Operational & Financial Performance with Data-Driven Services crrasa7.JPGtransformation.  A roadmap is the governing document that dictates how technology will support a company’s business strategy and help drive businesses priorities over the next three to five years.  Roadmap characteristics include defining a strategy with a list of business priorities; defining OT/IT convergence goals with a potential timeline; getting executive-level support and buy-in; achieving consensus within the business; and specifying actionable projects with owners, value, cost, and payback.

As opposed to the traditional point-solution approach that often creates pockets of value that tend to resist integration with the neighboring value-chain functions, Rockwell Automation customers that build a roadmap will be in a good position to move forward with their digital transformation process to ultimately fulfill The Connected Enterprise vision.

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Keywords: Digital Transformation, Connected Enterprise, Scalable Analytics, Edge, IIoT, IT, OT, Convergence, AI, Machine Learning, Connected Services, ARC Advisory Group.


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