Automation Fair / Mobility

Empowering industry with on-the-go operational intelligence

Mobile, quality control and asset management applications highlight the Rockwell Automation array of information solutions.

By Paul Studebaker, editor in chief, Control

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The Connected Enterprise begins with using technology to improve visibility into plant-floor operations, then networking those plant-floor systems together and into IT systems, and finally integrating them with those of suppliers, customers and partners.

“The data is there, so get the networks in shape and bring it up a level,” said Paula Puess, global market development manager, Rockwell Software, as we toured the Information Software exhibit at Automation Fair this week in Chicago. “Our software does all that— it brings together data from drives, motor control centers, process and discrete control systems, and delivers it to HMIs, dashboards and mobile devices,” she said.

Producing relevant, timely, and collaborative support for decision-makers used to be hard, but FactoryTalk VantagePoint EMI enterprise manufacturing intelligence software leverages Microsoft Azure to make manufacturing data easily accessible in real time on any mobile device. It connects to real-time data via FactoryTalk Live Data and to historical data via FactoryTalk Historian, as well as to other real-time and historical data sources. Automatic report and email generation based upon configured events delivers timely data even when users are not logged into the system, and role-based reports and browsing ensure the right users are viewing the right data.

“Mobile capabilities put dashboards across everything using the same software, same development, for all devices, without downloading any apps,” Puess said.

Manage quality

Many smaller manufacturers rely on myriad quality management software programs and paper-based processes to monitor production. In contrast, the Rockwell Software Quality Management Application is an out-of-box solution that allows users to easily model and enforce their plants’ in-process quality regiments. They can remove disparate systems and antiquated paper processes. A built-in notification engine lets personnel know when a quality check needs to be completed, and, if the check fails, a configurable escalation capability can guide additional quality sampling and corrective actions.

Mobile capabilities, too, are now part and parcel of the Quality Management app, which is one module of the company’s broader FactoryTalk ProductionCentre MES system. Managers can see metrics such as the number of completed, suspected and wasted batches, and quick data exchange helps identify non-conformance issues before product leaves the plant. The app can be expanded with others within the FactoryTalk ProductionCentre MES system, or run as a standalone application. “It lets smaller manufacturers quickly and inexpensively monitor quality for compliance without an ERP-scale investment of time and money,” Puess said. “It lowers the entry level and lets them put a toe in MES. If they like it, they can add other MES modules.”

Monitor assets

Despite—or maybe because of—the pervasive use of mobility in commercial applications, many plants fail to see its potential as an industrial tool. “Mobility—what’s the big deal?” asked Puess. “Well, for example, FactoryTalk AssetCentre’s mobile capabilities allow machinery builders and owners to quickly check for programming changes while they’re troubleshooting their machines.”

Also on display at Automation Fair were the fruits of a collaboration between Rockwell Automation and Fanuc America to provide secure remote monitoring of Fanuc CNCs, robots and Robomachine high-speed precision machining centers. Live production data is displayed on local HMIs powered by FactoryTalk View, as well as contextualized to provide remote users with a picture of asset health, performance and energy usage. Cloud-based data analytics also can predict and help prevent unexpected downtime of the machines.