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Ecosystem partners ignite practical transformation

Nov. 16, 2020
ANSYS’ Prith Banerjee credits partnerships with companies like Rockwell Automation and Microsoft as enabling simulation to improve everyday industrial operations.

“This lets us take physics and simulations that used to be mostly only on the design side, and instead use them to add real-time value in the real world.” ANSYS’ Prith Banerjee credits partnerships with companies like Rockwell Automation and Microsoft as enabling simulation to improve everyday industrial operations.

Sometimes you need a little help from your friends, and sometimes you need a lot. Well, turning the promise of digital transformation into actual performance gains is a tall order that definitely needs all hands on deck, so Rockwell Automation and five of its ecosystem partners are collaborating to make digital twin models and digital thread designs into practical tools their customers can easily use to increase workforce productivity and greatly optimize operations.

The five partners include two recently acquired subsidiaries, professional services firm Kalypso and simulation/emulation software provider Emulate3D, as well as software developers PTC, ANSYS Inc. and Microsoft. The group proved the proverb "many hands make light work" by jointly presenting "Digital Co-Innovation Brings the Connected Enterprise to Life" on the opening day of Automation Fair at Home, a primarily virtual event hosted by Rockwell Automation. The panel was moderated by Sujeet Chand, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Rockwell Automation.

In a real-life example of how digital co-innovation can bring The Connected Enterprise to life, the panel discussion was prefaced by a video about the new advanced contactor production line from Rockwell Automation. This application employs innovative controls, an open architecture and co-innovation with partners to accelerate time-to-value, ensure manufacturability, and establish a strong digital foundation for the contactor product's lifecycle from design through operations and maintenance.

The contactor line's design digital thread includes product design, product lifecycle management (PLM), plant design, emulation, simulation and virtual commissioning, which gives users a single source of truth for all their design and production data. The line's manufacturing process is optimized by using digital twin models of physical assets to evaluate and adjust designs and production functions, which can reduce commissioning by up to 50%, protect the user's hardware investment, and achieve overall equipment effectiveness goals more quickly.

Rockwell Automation reports these gains are enabled by its Studio 5000 software and Emulate3D software, which can integrate over an open architecture with PTC's Onshape data-sharing software and Twin Builder by ANSYS software. The contactor line also converges information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) data sources with Rockwell Automation's FactoryTalk (FT) Innovation Suite software powered by PTC, which securely delivers control system data to the enterprise level and Microsoft Azure's cloud-computing platform. These software packages and the contactor line's carts, robots and other hardware allow it to produce 1.4 million units per year with the ability to make more than 600 unique variations with zero added setup time.

"The key takeaway is that no one company can do digital transformation alone," said Chand. "When we bring The Connected Enterprise to life, real business value is realized by integrating data horizontally, vertically and across the enterprise. Rockwell Automation is closest to the sources of enormously valuable data that come from industrial applications. The digital thread that brings value in the industrial domain starts and ends with industrial automation, so our role is to orchestrate and accelerate the realization of business value from this data. We do this with innovative software and domain expertise, and by collaborating with world-class software innovators such as our panelists."

Real-time modeling for optimization

Building on the example of the contactor line, the panelists drilled down and explained how they're developing design digital threads, digital twins, models, simulation, emulation and related solutions that can help other users optimize their operations beyond what's been possible until now.

"What manufacturers want today is traceability and remote operations. Digital twins and digital threads enable these capabilities, going from products that are as-designed to as-manufactured, as-sold and as-maintained in the lifecycle," said David Petrucci, business strategy leader for manufacturing industry at Microsoft. "This empowers remote operations, provides business resilience, and allows responses to real-time changes. This is the foundation of The Connected Enterprise, but it requires true convergence between IT and OT, but no one company can do it on its own. That's why Microsoft is committed to partnering with Rockwell Automation, PTC and ANSYS to drive accelerated impact and time-to-value.

"With Rockwell and PTC, we bring rapid connectivity and insight on the factory floor, and we work with ANSYS on engineering and design simulation, simulating sensor telemetry on Azure, and leveraging hyper-scale computing. Together our four companies can deliver what no other company can—use-case-specific solutions and predefined manufacturing best practices (MBP) that can drive tremendous business value."

Petrucci reported that Microsoft recently worked with ANSYS' Twin Builder software to develop a digital twin of an electric car battery at Volkswagen, which increased quality of design, and accelerated time-to-delivery. "The result was a vehicle that in 2018 beat the world record for an electric car climbing Pike's Peak by almost 2 seconds," he added.

Cloud boosts computing

While many types of CAD, PLM and other software packages have been available for years, the panelists agreed that cloud-computing is enabling manufacturers to make better use of their capabilities.

"While ERP and CRM have already moved to the cloud, engineering was slower to adopt due to concerns about intellectual property (IP) and speed because CAD files can range in size from 2 to 10 gigabytes," said Kathleen Mitford, EVP and chief strategy officer at PTC. "Onshape cloud-based CAD and product development software that makes it easy to share data with a distributed team and your supply chain."

Next, this and related cloud-based collaboration tools let ANSYS perform its improved calculations and report the results of its analysis to users. "Our software takes the physics involved in individual production operations, and solves these situations using finite-element analysis," explained Prith Banerjee, CTO at ANSYS. "Previously, users would enter data into CAD tools, but they often were restricted to only solving for single-physics situations. Today, users need to solve for multi-physics situation and material science requirements. This is why we needed to move to faster cloud-computing, and why we're partnering with Microsoft for our ANSYS Cloud solution.”

Banerjee reported that using Microsoft Azure lets ANSYS and its 3D simulation software perform simulations quickly. "This solution is fast enough that we can simulate products and production during actual operations," he added. "This is what's moving simulation from traditional analysis to a pervasive model that can enable all stages of the product lifecycle."

Ian McGregor, global business development manager, Emulate3D, explained that cloud computing can not only helps users experiment and test more sophisticated simulations, but it can also run emulation programs that can verify that assigned production parameters are being carried out. "In the cloud, users can connect to their models, and quickly spin out the results they need," he said.

Banerjee concluded, "We're excited to be working with Rockwell Automation, PTC and Microsoft because it's allowing us to take physical assets and create two-way communications between the physical and virtual world. This lets us take physics and simulations that used to be mostly only on the design side, and instead use them to add real-time value in the real world. This is the role that simulation can have in digital transformation."

About the author: Jim Montague
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About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control.