Some Takeaways from Supplier Press Announcements at ARC Forum

Industry Trends

With the gradual demise of most large industry-wide conferences (in North America at least), the ARC Industry Forum held every February for the last 21 years has become the place for technology suppliers to make press announcements.   Our recent ARC Industry Forum, Feb. 6-9, 2017 was no exception.  Apparently, it’s also a great place for their media relations people to schedule one-on-one meetings with trade editors and publishers.  That’s because everywhere I looked I saw these meetings taking place.

Long-time clients know that many of us here at ARC wear several different hats (that’s one of the things that makes it so interesting to work here…).  In my case, in addition to overseeing the content of our reports, I also handle ARC media relations.  This includes organizing and hosting our traditional Monday afternoon press announcement session at the Forum.  It’s something I enjoy doing, since it gives me an opportunity to interface directly with technology suppliers and spend some time with many of my good friends in the trade media.

At this year’s Forum press session, we heard some especially interesting announcements.  Most had a common thread: information is key to business success, digitization and analytics enable organizations to transform data into actionable information, and technology suppliers are partnering to deliver new and innovative solutions in this space. 

Here’s a brief summary of this year’s supplier press announcements:

HIMA – “Smart Safety Meets Big Data”

Steffen Philipp, Managing Partner, HIMA Paul Hildebrandt GmbH; and Buddy Creef, Sales Director, HIMA Americas; introduced the company’s smart safety solutions.  These are designed to turn previously untapped data (such as HART diagnostics from safety instrumentation) into beneficial information.  According to Stefen and Buddy, companies can use this information to reduce downtime, increase security, and potentially prevent outages.  Safety systems in the process industry are intended to take the plant to a safe state in a process event. Currently, that function represents not only the last resort to protect employees and equipment, but also the limit of what traditional safety systems are expected to do. As Buddy asked rhetorically, “Beyond shutting down your plant when needed – what can your safety system do for you?”  In the past, the large amount of potentially beneficial data that resides in HIMA safety systems had previously gone unused.  As we learned, HIMA has developed “smart” solutions that use this process, diagnostic, and instrument data to increase security and uptime.  Built in sequence of events functionality also enables users to identify the root causes of safety trips, so when the plant manager asks, “What went wrong?” they have an answer.

Honeywell – “A Holistic Approach to Addressing the Needs of Industrial Plants”

Paul Bonner, Honeywell Connected Plant Vice President of Consulting and Data Analytics, introduced the company’s Honeywell Connected Plant (HCP) business, a holistic approach to addressing the challenges of industrial customers.  As Paul explained, HCP leverages the power of the IIoT, machine learning, and big data analytics; coupled with the company’s first-principles and empirical modeling technologies and deep process domain expertise.  This new business brings together HPS’ Advanced Solutions, Honeywell UOP’s Connected Performance Services (CPS), and Digital Transformation organizations.   “The connected plant is about connecting plant, people, and assets.  Here, Honeywell has the control expertise, UOP brings process expertise, and our INspire partner ecosystem s bring in additional domain expertise, as needed.”

Paul also discussed the Honeywell Sentience industrial cloud platform, one of several we heard mentioned over the course of the Forum.

Inductive Automation – “End-to-End IIoT”

Don Pearson, Chief Strategy Officer, Inductive Automation; Travis Cox, Co-Director of Sales Engineering, Inductive Automation; and Arlen Nipper, President and CTO, Cirrus Link Solutions (an Inductive Automation strategic partner), introduced Ignition Edge, a new solution “for the edge of the network.” According to Don, Ignition Edge empowers enterprises to build complete IIoT infrastructures — from the network's edge to the Cloud to local sites — all on one platform.  He referred to this as “end-to-end IIoT.”  Travis then demonstrated the solution and Arlen described several real-world use cases that helped demonstrate that Inductive’s fresh approach to automation software seems to be catching on with companies around the world.

L&T Technology Services – Helping Companies Develop Real-World IoT Solutions

Samir Bagga, Chief Marketing Officer, L&T Technology Services, a global engineering services supplier, discussed some of the company’s partnerships and their significance for industrial organizations.  These include a ten-year partnership with Rockwell Automation and plans to set up an “Internet of Everything” lab with that company at L&T Technology Services’ expansive campus in Bangalore, India.  Here, the two companies will jointly develop next-generation IoT and Smart City solutions. Samir also discussed the company’s collaboration with Dell EMC to roll out modular smart building solutions, and with Microsoft Corporation to delivery Microsoft Azure Engineering Solutions for industry.  My observation here is that L&T TS appears to have the specific engineering expertise needed to help its customers (major suppliers and end users alike) develop real-world IIoT solutions that can go beyond the hype to develop real value.     

Yokogawa – New Solutions to Increase Customers’ Value

For many industries, an agile and innovative approach is necessary to achieve sustainable growth in today's VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world.  (I had to consult with Google for the meaning of that acronym…). Since announcing its mid-term business plan, Yokogawa has been accelerating its transformation, including developing new solutions to increase customers’ value. Satoru Kurosu, Director and Executive Vice President, Yokogawa Electric Corporation presented the company’s new vision to support customers’ best-in-class operating performance and its solution business roadmap to maximize the synergistic effects of strategic acquisitions.  Andrew Howell, CEO, KBC Advanced Technologies, discussed the KBC Co-Pilot Solution, a unique co-innovation solution designed to provide new perspectives that can help end users strengthen their asset value and overcome challenges.   I find it really impressive that Yokogawa – once among the most conservative of automation suppliers – has been transforming itself in recent years with targeted acquisitions and innovative new solutions.

Siemens – “An Essential Element on the Path to the Digital Enterprise”

Jagannath Rao, Sr. Vice President, Data Services, Siemens U.S, presented the company’s MindSphere industrial cloud infrastructure as “a cloud-based, open IIoT operating system,” making it an essential element on the path to the digital enterprise.  Connectivity on the production floor and acquiring and analyzing data can provide significant opportunities for businesses. But, how can a manufacturer store, manage, and gain value from the large data that can be acquired from their machines and production lines? Jagannath explained that without a proper infrastructure for data management, companies would have very limited possibilities to realize the potential benefits of data-driven intelligence.  ARC couldn’t agree more.

Bentley Systems – “Going Digital”

Bentley Systems’ always-impressive CEO, Greg Bentley, explained how the company’s “Going Digital” strategy provides open and live access to engineering models through a connected data environment.  These models go beyond design, into construction and operations.  Greg discussed how this opens new opportunities for industrializing building information modeling and management to improve the speed and quality of project delivery and for leveraging the “digital DNA” within engineering models to improve asset reliability, safety, and performance.  Greg then demonstrated the company’s “continuous surveying” approach, a digital mesh of low-res digital photo images and laser scans (where higher resolution in required) that automatically creates highly realistic 3D digital models of as-built facilities and for continuous inspections to support maintenance and reliability.  He referred to the latter as “Inspectioneering,” since engineers are often in the best position to determine what needs to be inspected and the best angles for doing so.  Greg also discussed the company’s partnership with Siemens to create digital models for Siemens’ Walkinside training simulation solutions.

Schneider Electric – “Industrial Profit Engines”

Chris Lyden, Senior Vice President, Global Business Development at Schneider Electric; and Peter Martin, the company’s Vice President Business and Innovation Marketing, discussed new technology and capabilities that enable end users to move beyond just controlling the efficiency of their operations in real time; to measuring and controlling other critical business variables, including real-time operational profitability. According to Chris, “We’re envisioning a world in which there will be intelligent autonomous devices.”   Chris and Peter explained how the company’s value-focused approach to IIoT (that utilizes Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure operating environment and incorporates big data analytics developed in conjunction with Seeq) can help its customers convert their process control and automation systems into “industrial profit engines.”   Peter added that this “extends process control to real-time profit control.”  This appears to be a logical and natural evolution of the company’s patented “dynamic performance measures.”    

Videos of the above press announcements at the 2017 ARC Industry Forum will soon be available on ARC’s YouTube Channel.  Stay tuned!

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