Industrial Ethernet

The Connected Enterprise of the future

A simplified and system-wide approach collects data for more intelligent operations.

By Mike Bacidore, editor in chief, Control Design

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 When “Back to the Future” premiered on the big screen in 1985, Frank Kulaszewicz was just starting his career in automation. Now, in his 30th year in the industry, he addressed many of the more than 2,000 individuals representing 45 countries attending Rockwell Automation TechED 2015 in San Diego.

“Everyone in this room is involved with industrial automation,” said Kulaszewicz, who is senior vice president, architecture and software, at Rockwell Automation.

“We’ve seen solid-state control and the convergence of IT and OT for a more unified approach. We’ve seen things change.”

Also read: Learn how The Connected Enterprise puts the power of your information to work 

As much as the technologies have changed, the people have changed, too. “Domain expertise is becoming a challenge,” explained Kulaszewicz. “The younger folks entering the workforce are important because they understand new technologies, and they grew up with the Internet and social media. 

“These Millennials and Gen Zs work differently,” Kulaszewicz said. “This changing workforce is one of the aspects of smart manufacturing. As we move into the future, your information becomes somebody else’s business. Technology will continue to bring us closer together, and the convergence will fuel growth.”

The challenge isn’t the amount of data, said Kulaszewicz. The Connected Enterprise as the Rockwell Automation vision is about getting the right data from multiple sources and turning that data into information, turning information into knowledge and turning knowledge into wisdom.

“We design faster. We commission faster. And we operate machines with better information,” he explained.

“Just two years ago, we introduced The Connected Enterprise as the Rockwell Automation vision. It’s an enterprise that can be optimized and transformed to deliver value. We’re achieving that vision today with our customers. We deliver it through our three core platforms—integrated architecture, intelligent motor control, and solutions and services.”

The Connected Enterprise is part of a changing world, said Kulaszewicz. “The future of manufacturing is quite bright,” he explained. “Smart automation solutions deliver faster time to market, improved asset utilization, lower total cost of ownership, and enterprise risk management through secure network infrastructures. Automation, such as Rockwell Software Studio 5000, will impact how enterprises design, operate and maintain. Security becomes an imperative. A secure automation environment includes infrastructure, authentication and policy management, tamper protection and content protection.”

Simplified and system-wide

This enlightened and secure new world requires a very different way of looking at networks, explained Ryan Cahalane, director of software product management, control & visualization business, at Rockwell Automation. The ability to interface with information must be simplified, as users’ queries can take almost any form and originate from any interface, but they all require wisdom that leads to better-optimized operations. Similarly, that wisdom needs to be ubiquitous, whether it’s in a localized device, in the cloud or in any node on the network.

“One of the biggest challenges of big data is data movement and normalization. More intelligence and context at the source of the data means you don’t have to move or spend effort translating that data, and can perform smarter analytics in real time and within 'edge' devices,” said Cahalane, whose group also has broken down product silos to deliver system level value leveraging an integrated yet open platform to optimize investments.

As plants’ adoption of new system technologies is largely based on the retirement of non-working assets, how does Rockwell Automation advance implementation without waiting for system failures of existing networks to occur?

"This is an area that’s overlooked when it comes to IoT,” explained Cahalane. “The IoT opportunity is generally cast like a greenfield message, but the real opportunity is with mixed, and even brownfield, applications. With The Connected Enterprise, it gives us a chance to look at our portfolio as a system, and look at the user from a simplification standpoint. When you look at a plant, the last thing you want to do is touch a working system. If I have a new line going in, that’s easier.

“But The Connected Enterprise gives the opportunity to overlay intelligence in your existing assets,” Cahalane said. “I can revisit things that used to be hard, and acquire and share data. The real opportunity is in hybrid applications where I have new and I have existing. If I’m doing a new line or system, the device will come with rich and well integrated data, but there is also a great deal of data locked away in existing assets.

With system thinking, the change is that we look at which diagnostics we put into, say, that PowerFlex drive, and we are already thinking about how that data will be used across the platform. How can we streamline that configuration? How can we make our user experience consistent across products to reduce learning curves? How can we automatically compare performance or expose diagnostics in the HMI?

The approach is system-level thinking with simplification, explained Cahalane. “We are doing a much better job of sharing the concepts of information as part of our integrated controls infrastructure,” he said. “Each device, each software package—we’re thinking about it from a system standpoint, rather than from a product standpoint. My next-generation HMI will serve up information and allow you to interact with data and other people.

“Historically, data management has been through a top-down, standards-driven, centralized data-management system or repository," Cahalane said. "The Internet is diametrically opposed to that. The semantic Web is much more organic and new. The concepts are fundamentally driving what we’re doing with our platform development. A smarter asset comes pre-tagged. I want to ‘historize’ information and make it available as I create the control system.”

Mobility plays a role in the system’s information sharing, as mobile devices become nodes on the network. “Every device becomes a node in The Connected Enterprise,” said Cahalane. “With Studio 5000, you can now design the control layer and the visualization layer in one environment. You can build the interaction with your drives and with your Logix controller. You can drag and drop, and it builds the system for you. The integrated design environment is a huge deal. Components within our system work together even more fluidly, have a consistent user experience, and integrate more seamlessly into our customers environments. As we look at things from a system standpoint, we’re unlocking new value that might have been underappreciated or underutilized, and solving our customers needs in fresh and more modern ways.”