Rockwell Automation recently held its 22nd annual TechEd conference in Orlando, Florida. With a record attendance of about 2,500 people, the event included more than 180 sessions. Conference tracks included: Control, Digital Engineering, Information & Analytics, Networks, Process, Safety & Security, System, Technology & Services, and Visualization & Collaboration. The theme for TechEd 2019 was, “Bringing ‘The Connected Enterprise to Life’ by expanding human possibility.”
Keynote speaker for the event was Colonel Nicole Malachowski, the first woman Thunderbird pilot in the USAF, combat veteran, fighter squadron commander and White House Fellow & Advisor. Colonel Malachowski spoke about the importance of harnessing the headwinds of change. “In flying, headwinds slow you down. At their worst, they cause you to change your plans and impact the effectiveness of weapons in combat. Headwinds demand that pilots be resilient and resourceful, literally on the fly. Headwinds are the perfect metaphor for the change impacting manufacturing organizations and individuals today,” said the retired Air Force veteran. Colonel Malachowski also spoke about the health challenges she has had to overcome, which led to her retirement from the Air Force. ARC Advisory thanks Colonel Malachowski for her long and distinguished service to the United States.
Expanding Human Possibility by Improving Industrial Productivity
Rockwell Automation Chairman and CEO Blake Moret kicked off the event. Mr. Moret discussed how the company is finding new ways to differentiate itself and provide new value to its customers. Rockwell Automation recognizes the potential of human imagination and machines working together. “It’s about people being able to interact with the technology – being able to understand, design systems, operate and maintain those systems. Having more intelligence, connected and productive - is what we mean by bringing The Connected Enterprise to life” stated Mr. Moret.
Some of ARC Advisory Group’s key takeaways from the event include:
- Rockwell Automation continues to work to “bring The Connected Enterprise to life” by expanding its technologies and making them easier to connect, design, operate, and maintain.
- The company’s partnership program continues to expand and flourish, embedding new best-of-breed products, such as augmented reality, into its digitalization solutions.
- The company’s open, yet secure infrastructure combined with IEC 62443 industrial certification provides a platform for securely converging IT and OT technology and services.
- Expanded service offerings include new network services to help further ensure security.
- The company is working hard to further improve ease of use and embed domain expertise into its solutions.
Expanding the Portfolio of Products and Services
Rockwell Automation continues to integrate its entire portfolio with new safety features, simplified design features and automated tools, augmented reality (AR)-based operator training solutions, and software suites for automation – all with a similar look and feel.
New products include new Logix programmable automation controllers (PACs) with faster execution speeds and advanced AI-enabled analytics. The company’s new safety architecture includes embedded failsafe technology for machines across I/O modules. The company continues to collaborate with partners such as Cisco to refine the security of its infrastructure.
Rockwell Automation has embedded analytics into its products to help predict abnormal behavior and prescribe actions to help improve maintenance and prevent unplanned downtime. The company is streamlining information and enabling intelligence to be moved across applications. For example, SmartTags create a digital thread by preserving tag metadata from the automation system and information gateways. This information can be streamed into other applications, such as PTC’s ThingWorx Industrial IoT technology.
The company’s batch management offering, SequenceManager, has been enhanced with the ability to shorten time to implement new recipes and product changeovers and improve batch flexibility. Also, Emulate3D, a dynamic digital twin of a machine or system, now uses simulation models and interactive avatars to test and debug the control system under realistic operating conditions and real-life loads.
Solution Suites Accelerate and Simplify Digital Transformation
Rockwell Automation has created or enhanced comprehensive solution suites to help simplify digital transformation for its clients. We highlight several in this report.
FactoryTalk InnovationSuite Powered by PTC
FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, enables customers to grab vast amounts of data from multiple data sources quickly, organize it, and add insights. It improves connectivity to operational technology (OT) devices on the plant floor, natively supporting the rapid connection of legacy and new industrial equipment. By merging this data with data from information technology (IT) applications and systems, decision makers can gain a full picture on the health and performance of their operations from anywhere in the enterprise.
FactoryTalk InnovationSuite demonstrates how PTC and Rockwell Automation are delivering on the promise of their strategic alliance. This solution is designed to help simplify digital transformation for industrial businesses. Enabled by the Microsoft Azure IoT cloud infrastructure, the FactoryTalk InnovationSuite brings together FactoryTalk MES platforms with FactoryTalk Analytics and PTC’s ThingWorx and Vuforia AR technologies. The suite supports connectivity, MES, edge-to-enterprise analytics, machine learning, industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and augmented reality (AR) to simplify industrial data management and enable users to access, understand, and leverage information to make better, data-driven decisions.
FactoryTalk Analytics Suite
The FactoryTalk Analytics Suite blends advanced analytics with information from MES software to add context to analytics and support quality initiatives, compliance, and continuous improvement. AR features support visibility and operational effectiveness. Expanded centralized dashboard capabilities provide “single pane of glass” visibility across a single facility or the entire enterprise. The suite bundles FactoryTalk Analytics DataView, FactoryTalk Analytics DataFlowML and FactoryTalk Analytics Edge. The suite can digest data from many different sources and provide scalable analytics from the edge to the enterprise.
FactoryTalk Production Suite
The FactoryTalk Production Suite brings together MES, performance, automated order management, quality control, and logistics applications to improve efficiencies and quality across production and associated operations. The suite helps improve the balance between orders and production; improve efficiencies on the plant floor; connect, manage, validate, and optimize production; enforce quality; and manage warehouse logistics.
Presentations and Updates from Partners
Rockwell Automation used TechEd to feature many of its partners, introduce updates, and make announcements. Some highlights follow.
PTC Discusses Progress of the Partnership
Rockwell Automation’s $1 billion investment for an 8.3 percent stake in PTC announced at last year’s TechEd is paying off. About half of the new orders for solutions, such as FactoryTalk InnovationSuite powered by PTC, were for new customers. This partnership provides Rockwell Automation with an exclusive relationship and a board of directors’ seat for CEO Blake Moret. Components of the FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, such as the ThingWorx IIoT platform enable customers to connect multiple devices and sensors, systems, and other assets. The platform contains a broad set of features, application development tools, and analytics. ThingWorx provides the ability to build IIoT solutions. The IIoT platform can also monitor asset health and predict failures to improve maintenance efficiency.
Also, about 40 percent of all orders (much higher than forecast) now leverage the Vuforia AR product. Vuforia tools make it quicker and easier to create and deliver AR and virtual reality (VR) content that can help to transform operations and facilitate knowledge transfer. The tools create and deliver instructions with new or existing media content/capture, 2D and 3D content, sequences, IIoT data, and real-time annotations. AR experiences in the cloud or on-premise provide users with a single universal view from smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices.
Sensia Joint Venture with Schlumberger
Rockwell Automation and Schlumberger discussed their agreement announced several months ago to create a new joint venture, Sensia, an integrated digital oilfield automation specialist. Sensia brings together the process automation, real-time control and IoT technologies of Rockwell Automation, combined with the measurement and instrumentation, analysis, software and analytics capabilities of Schlumberger. The new company is further strengthened by the oil and gas domain expertise and artificial lift experience shared by both parties. As a result, Sensia is positioned as a leading ‘pure play’ automation specialist in oil and gas.
Under the terms of the agreement, Sensia will operate as an independent entity, with Rockwell Automation owning 53 percent and Schlumberger 47 percent of the joint venture. Sensia is expected to generate annual revenue of $400 million and will employ approximately 1,000 persons serving customers in over 80 countries, with global headquarters in Houston, Texas.
Stratus Technologies Living on the Edge
Stratus Technologies presented its recently released ztC Edge, a zero-touch, secure, highly automated computing platform designed specifically for industrial edge environments. Purpose-built for operational technology (OT), ztC Edge is designed with a built-in virtualization and availability layer, automated data protection, and application recovery. The platform helps reduce dependence on IT for virtualized computing at the edge. Its self-protecting and self-monitoring features help reduce unplanned downtime and ensure the continuous availability of business-critical industrial applications.
ztC Edge includes new features that address and solve a major threat to an industrial control system: adding devices to the network that do not protect themselves. This new solution offers a host-based firewall, restricted USB ports, improved authentication, updated secure communications protocols, and a more secure trusted boot. The new solution offers additional hardware sensors, application and VM performance monitoring, and OPC UA support. The product introduces support for mixed fault-tolerant and high-availability workloads. This provides the ability to meet recovery time and recovery point objectives, while allowing users to match the level of protection to the criticality of their applications. ztC Edge is designed for critical business applications, including those that support collecting and analyzing real-time data at the edge.
Panduit Accelerating IT/OT Convergence, Ethernet/IP
Panduit presented best practices strategies for deploying the physical layer. These are designed to help bridge the gap between the IT and control domains, typically leveraging Ethernet. The presentation was designed to help manufacturers understand the various cabling standards and environment considerations, MICE (Mechanical/Ingress/Chemical-Corrosion/Electromagnetic) environmental guidelines, the standards features and available choices for industrial infrastructure, and how to determine which components to use.
Most IT/OT convergence projects involving Rockwell Automation on the OT side utilize Ethernet/IP, a subset of the ODVA’s Common Industrial Protocol (CIP) Framework for AI Transformation, built on unmodified IP standards. The ODVA physical layer specification, which defines layer 1 cabling and connectivity, calls for cabling types that address industrial environmental risks as described in TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) standards. For example, for harsh industrial environments as characterized by MICE, TIA, and IEC, industrial-grade cabling is recommended. This is especially important for IT/OT convergence projects.
This year’s TechEd brought together innovative applications, partners and new products that support digital transformation and help bring The Connected Enterprise to life. The goal is to result in:
- A more connected and integrated digital journey from design to operations to maintenance across the enterprise
- Seamless integration of enterprise and operations systems
- Access to a centralized dashboard and a single version of the truth
- Ability to easily connect users to data and insights from across the enterprise
- Secure access to real time and historical data from across the enterprise
- Use of augmented and virtual reality to enhance effectiveness and productivity
- Improve the overall user experience from design to production
Clearly, digital transformation can improve productivity and efficiencies and provide huge value for end users across a broad swath of industrial sectors. It appears that through its technologies, services, partnerships, and strategic investments, Rockwell Automation is in an excellent position to support its clients on this journey.
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Keywords: Digital Transformation, The Connected Enterprise, PTC, Augmented Reality, Analytics, Ethernet/IP network, Sensia, Stratus Technologies, Panduit, ARC Advisory Group.