Why should OEMs care about The Connected Enterprise?

End users need smart machines with better use of data that enables them to make intelligent decisions

By Christopher Zei, Vice President, Global Industry Group Rockwell Automation

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This article was originally published on RockwellAutomation.com.

Rockwell Automation is seeing more and more end users pursue The Connected Enterprise in response to the need for Smart Manufacturing―and that directly impacts OEMs. As end users look to optimize their production and supply chain by bringing together islands of information, they need OEM partners to provide smart machines that:

  • Easily integrate into their facility
  • Provide access to production information
  • Enable agile reaction to changing markets and demands.

OEMs need to understand these end-user goals and react to them. Their machines must be smarter―able to complement their customers' Connected Enterprise efforts to access and capitalize on operational, business and transactional data for improved enterprise, plant and supply-chain performance. That requires building smart machines using technologies that allow better use of data and enable end users to make intelligent decisions based on that data.

OEMs are also pressured to keep costs competitive. They face different challenges, depending on their locations around the world and their customer base. To remain competitive, OEMs will have to go outside their comfort zone and look at more innovative, strategic ways to reduce costs and time to market and stay ahead of their competitors.

Who is driving this change?

Ultimately, end users' desire for Smart Manufacturing is driving this change. To effectively build smart machines and compete in a new world of manufacturing, OEMs need to:

  • Navigate unfamiliar regulations and end-user requirements
  • Take advantage of enabling information-sharing technologies
  • Anticipate and respond to customer needs.

Rockwell Automation underwent its own Connected Enterprise journey and understands the end-user challenges, as well as the opportunities for OEMs serving them. Through its industry expertise, technology and partners, Rockwell Automation is helping OEMs design connected, compliant and competitive machines that help enable The Connected Enterprise for end users.

What do you mean by connected?

In a word, connected machinery means information. End users are increasingly realizing the benefits that more information, insights and data offer them―to improve production, perform proactive maintenance and better diagnose any issues. OEMs can respond by building smart machines that help connect the plant floor with the enterprise.

Rockwell Automation and its collaborators help OEMs create smart, EtherNet/IP-connected machinery that more easily integrates with end-user facilities and supports their Connected Enterprises. The connected machinery shares production data with the end user's automation and information systems. As a result, end users gain access to data about what's happening in throughput, quality, asset health, energy efficiency, operational efficiency, etc.―in immediate updates and production trends.

This recently happened for machine builder OCS IntelliTrak Inc., a producer of overhead conveyor systems. The company built its systems using information-enabled PACs, motor controllers and I/O blocks synchronized via EtherNet/IP-to provide real-time feedback to customers. Through the power of an EtherNet/IP-network, OCS IntelliTrak can help end users integrate the conveyor into ERP/MRP or customized systems for better product management. In addition, with the use of historian software, operators can review production stops to evaluate if any employees need more training or stations need more time allotted, as well as if new zones or stations need to be added.
OEMs can also set up automatic diagnostic alerts with connected machinery. With the alerts, they know when a part needs to be replaced, and can order and ship the parts as needed. They gain better control of their parts inventory and don't need to stock unused parts in warehouses around the world.

What do you mean by compliant?

As OEMs look to deliver more connected machinery to end users around the world, they encounter a variety of unfamiliar global standards and regulations across industries. Rockwell Automation provides information software and solutions, network and security expertise, and deep knowledge of industry-specific standards and regulations to help OEMs ensure that their Connected Enterprise machinery meets the appropriate standards.

An example of this is with Rockwell Automation customer Harmony Enterprises. The machine builder received an order for a new baler from a large, multinational beverage company, and worked with Rockwell Automation to design the new machine to meet international safety standards, including ISO 13849 and IEC 62061. By fulfilling the end user's time-to-market request and meeting these standards, Harmony opened the door for additional orders from other global customers.

What do you mean by competitive?

The Connected Enterprise isn't just an opportunity for end users. It's also a significant business opportunity for OEMs. Helping end users turn production data into working information capital helps OEMs become more valuable to end users and in the marketplace. Instead of reacting to end user needs, OEMs become more like partners by thinking about potential future needs and proactively meeting them.

OEMs can also gain a competitive edge through new sources of revenue. Delivering connected machinery allows OEMs to provide aftermarket support services, such as remote access. Remote access can cut operational costs throughout the lifecycle of machinery. OEMs can respond to critical situations without actually being on-site at the end user facility,helping end users maintain uptime and OEMs deliver more value to customers.

M.G. Bryan, a heavy-equipment provider for the oil and gas industry, needed a way to remotely manage its fracturing vehicles, often in extreme, isolated environments. They implemented a new information system developed by Rockwell Automation, which leverages the Microsoft® Azure cloud-computing platform to securely and remotely access real-time vehicle performance data. Current customers are ordering additional retrofits to their current M.G. Bryan vehicles, and M.G. Bryan can now also offer this innovative aftermarket support service to potential customers.

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