FactoryTalk Batch v13 fulfills promise of modern batch platform

Latest batch management software release from Rockwell Automation integrates with the company’s controller-level Sequence Manager

By Jim Montague


The legendary principles of the ANSI/ISA-88 (S88) standard have long inspired engineers, system integrators and other professionals in batch processing and beyond. Everyone wants to break up their applications into more comprehensible and controllable steps.

"We find it helps to ask 'where is batch needed?'” said Dan Updyke, batch product manager, Rockwell Automation. “People think of batch manufacturing as all tanks and pumps, but it's really any discontinuous process with a beginning, middle and end. This means potential users need to think about what problem they're trying to solve, such as how do we address the needs of process or clean-in-place (CIP) skids, even though they don't fit the traditional batch profile."

However, despite S88's many attractions and potential benefits, bringing them to real production lines on real plant floors is more challenging because many batch software and support tools are still evolving, and many specific applications have difficult snags and individual characteristics that can make it hard to implement generally stated S88 batch methods.

"We also have to ask, ‘What must a modern batch system be able to do?’" added Updyke. "The differentiation for modern batch solutions is they deliver core capabilities expected from S88-based sequential control, while providing faster and more reliable control, intuitive experiences for deployment and operations, information-enabled connectivity throughout the enterprise, and secured data. The Rockwell Automation portfolio is uniquely positioned to leverage multiple technologies and partnerships to deliver the vision of a modern batch."

The release of FactoryTalk Batch, Version 13 (V13), software and support tools in the first quarter of 2017 aims to tackle many of these obstacles. And attendees of the Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) conference, held this week in the run-up to Automation Fair in Atlanta, got a detailed preview of FactoryTalk Batch V13. Updyke presented "Batch—what's new and what's next" on the first of PSUG 2016's two-day run.

State of the batch

Updyke reported that FactoryTalk Batch software provides comprehensive batch management for efficient, predictable operations; handles complex unit coordination, resource arbitration and route optimization; manages recipes including formulations, scaling, secure approvals and versioning; and includes integrated visualization and reporting. Its latest tools include:

  • eProcedure, which provides automated operator instructions for manual processes by automating the process without needing to automate the equipment, and providing instructions to operators using web technologies. It also integrates manual instructions into automatic batch recipe execution by providing manual prompts, data acquisition and standard operating procedures during running sequences.
  • Batch Material Manager that provides an active material management/inventory system by defining storage locations, containers and materials, recording critical data about material and equipment use, and allowing lot tracking and material genealogy. It also enables material-based phase definitions in batch execution by providing just-in-time material and equipment selection to provide flexible batch manufacturing and real-time production scheduling.
  • Logix Batch and SequenceManager (LBSM) delivers basic, controller-based batch management appropriate for single-unit or multiple independent operation; supports PhaseManager or custom sequences; and includes HMI objects supporting configuration and operation for PanelView and distributed applications.
  • PhaseManager embeds S88 state model directly in a Logix-based controller; provides consistent structure and interfaces for batch management software; manages transitions between states with minimal coding; and easily synchronizes with FactoryTalk Batch.
  • SequenceManager is a program type in Logix controllers that serves as an editor, viewer and reporting tool. It provides basic management; directs PhaseManager programs inside a Logix-based controller in an ordered sequence to carry out process-oriented tasks; includes integrated vision and reporting; and will integrate with FactoryTalk Batch in future releases.

"SequenceManager stores batch data in an SQL database, but it also enables input parameters or 'expressions' for sequences and parameters, so users can build more intelligence into their recipes," explained Updyke. "For example, if a process is supposed to produce 100 gallons of product but only produces 98 gallons in practice, then that difference can be integrated into the calculations for subsequent batches."

To deliver and let users access all the useful batch data they generated and send to FactoryTalk Batch, Updyke added that Rockwell Automation offers several other support tools. They include:

  • Batch reporting includes web-based reporting for FactoryTalk Batch, SequenceManager and LBSM, and includes up to nine pre-configured reports for batch history and analysis.
  • Batch portfolio provides a real-time interface to data from FactoryTalk Batch View via HTML 5 software, which scales graphics to fit any interface device, such as smart phones and tablet PCs.
  • Batch Application Toolkit provides documentation code and HMI components to help develop batch applications. It serves as a starting point for batch projects, and is even available as a free download.

Because users are increasingly likely to view their batch production data on mobile, web-enabled devices, Updyke added, "Batch portfolio and FactoryTalk Batch View will be the primary batch interface and user experience (UX) for many batch users, and their mobility will enable them to make added performance gains.

New version, big collaboration

FactoryTalk Batch V13's release in the new year will also include a host of new capabilities, tools and features for helping end users get the greatest efficiency, productivity and profits out of their batch and related applications. It will include:

  • Migration of operator interface graphics and support for language switching;
  • Integration of SequenceManager that promotes unit-level control in Logix or the Batch server;
  • Improved editing and managing of versioned recipes with a find feature;
  • Improved database management tools;
  • First release to take full advantage of FactoryTalk Batch View software. New features include Active Step Change and integrated eProcedure manual instructions.

"FactoryTalk Batch V13 is the true story of achieving the Rockwell Automation vision of a modern batch system," said Updyke. "The most significant advance is FactoryTalk Batch V13 integrating with Sequence Manager, which allows users to connect to and command SequenceManager sequences, scale up from small systems, and distribute batch control.

“The value of this is that users with small sequences in existing applications will be able to bring them in without needing to reprogram their older equipment, and do unit procedures with the code that's already there. For example, a user will be able to leverage an existing skid during a factory acceptance test (FAT) without reprogramming it. This has the potential to save users millions of dollars in time and labor. Pretty much everything users do in their batch applications will be possible with FactoryTalk Batch V13."

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