You can't be intelligent without useful information, but the trick is securing the knowledge that will make you and your applications effective and wise. This is why everyone's talking about how users can employ asset management software, network connections, cloud computing and other digital tools to improve utilization for equipment at users' facilities.
With all this recent focus on users, however, many machine builders are left wondering how they can make their devices smarter and contribute to their clients' value propositions.
"The relationship between OEMs and end users is evolving into a partnership for production," said Todd Smith, product manager for FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines, who presented "Performance and analytics cloud for machine builders" this week at the Rockwell Automation TechED 2017 conference in Orlando, Fla. "Creating differentiation is getting more difficult, and limited resources are constraining the capabilities of OEMs to deliver incremental value."
Smith reported that other obstacles for machine builders include:
- Lack of access to their machines after deployment
- Scarce performance data to compare with client's original expectations
- No easy way to help users prevent problems
- Only called in after problems become panicked fire drills
- Lack of expert personnel to send to client sites to fix problems
"Fortunately, new enabling technologies like FactoryTalk Cloud are perfect for matching up and connecting users and builders," added Smith. "We've already had FactoryTalk software and metrics within the four walls of plants for many years, but customers have become more dispersed and builders are limited in how much presence they can have at each client. Now, FactoryTalk Cloud, running on Microsoft Azure, can bring together the client, server, gateway and controller levels to let users do remote machine monitoring and analysis of multiple machines from anywhere, learn about machine performance and utilization, and improve machine efficiency and throughput."
This is accomplished by RAPID Equipment Interface add-on instructions (AOI) for auto-discovery and data gathering. These instructions are combined with an application's existing ControlLogix control system programming. Using PackML state definition models, AOI populates FactoryTalk Cloud with the data specified and expected by each user. This information can include counter results, indicators and whatever other values are required to calculate overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) or other parameters for that particular equipment or application.
At the server level, FactoryTalk Cloud contextualizes the acquired data to help provide insights before relaying it to associated cloud-based FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines software. This information is then distributed via mobile devices, tablet PCs and other computers, which can be located anywhere thanks to web-based access. FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines performs data modeling, data storage and aggregation, computation, elasticity, gateway configuration, user management and access to the Rockwell Automation knowledge base.
In an on-screen demonstration, Smith showed how FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines can geo-locate a user's machines to measure and display:
- OEE, availability, performance and quality
- Top five event types
- Variables like material consumed, power used and products produced
- Process variable trends, such as speed and temperature, compared to state changes
- KPIs like average production rates, cycle times and cycle-time variance
- Counts for good and scrap parts
- Mean time in state (MTIS) and mean time out of state (MTOS)
"FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines is all about remote monitoring and analysis of machine performance," said Smith. "This means monitoring multiple machines from anywhere; learning about machine performance and utilization; and improving machine efficiency and throughput. For the cost of a low, annual subscription, users don't have to worry about maintenance, get support included, don't have to buy any software, and have a fully scalable solution."