Optimization

Automation Fair, PSUG chart process progress

Dec 26, 2018

The convergence of IT and OT was never more evident than on Nov. 12-15 in Philadelphia, where Rockwell Automation and its chairman and CEO Blake Moret defined and affirmed the $7 billion industrial automation giant’s leadership role in the sector, and then tagged in Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO of industrial software maker PTC, to explain its role in a strategic partnership that included a $1 billion equity investment from Rockwell Automation earlier this year.

The 27th annual fair reportedly topped 10,000 registered visitors, a record for its East Coast venue, while its annual Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) event held just before drew 875 attendees from 32 countries and 16 process industries to 32 technical sessions and 32 customer application sessions.

“We’ve been around for 115 years,” said Moret. “We automate manual repetitive processes. We help industrial companies and their people to be more productive. If you make pharmaceuticals, for example, you want to make sure you’re compliant with regulations. We also help to ensure the world has abundant energy, make sure the people involved in production processes are safe, and can operate equipment remotely.”

Moret also noted the lower cost of computing and connectivity, the strong industrial economy and aging equipment as significant opportunities for industrial companies. “The growth of the middle class is driving the demand to be able to produce competitively,” he added. “At the same time, and as a headwind, much of the workforce is moving into the retirement phase of their lives. We're in a traditionally conservative industry. When people figure out how to meet production goals, they generally don’t touch it. But being able to act more rapidly and the influence of IT technology are causing our industry to pick up the pace.”

Data-driven insights

The Connected Enterprise is at the center of the investment Rockwell Automation made in PTC. The partnership is allowing Rockwell Automation to create a family of brands that begins with Allen-Bradley hardware, but now expands much further into the IT space. Its FactoryTalk brand has been expanded, and now includes DesignSuite, OperationSuite, MaintenanceSuite and InnovationSuite, the last of which is “powered by PTC” software.

“We’re looking forward to 2019, and are looking at double-digit growth and continued inorganic investments in partnerships,” Moret said. “We don’t do it all, but we’re able to harness the expertise and market access of our partners.”

The strategic partnership between Rockwell Automation and PTC makes perfect sense, explained Heppelmann. “Rockwell represents 35,000 companies, and PTC, 30,000,” he said. “The customers are excited because together we can unlock so much value. It’s a moment of a lot of energy and excitement. And in an industry full of meaningless partnerships, this one means a lot.”

PTC brings the IT domain and tech expertise for applications such as CAD, PLM, augmented reality, connectivity and IoT. “We’re an IT company being sucked into the world of OT,” explained Heppelmann. “Rockwell is a company with long history of automation, but it was being pulled into the world of IT and software. Together, we can now produce FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, and there’s nothing like it in the industry.”

IT-OT synergies

Heppelman reported that, according to an IDC published report, $1 trillion will be spent on digital transformation, of which 30% will be spent in discrete and process manufacturing. “If you’re going to spend $300 billion, you must be shooting for something big,” he explained. “Digital transformation means using digital technologies to transform an industrial company into a better industrial company. An industrial enterprise becomes a connected enterprise.”

These impacts are felt by people, processes and products. “You can produce very different products,” explained Heppelmann. Generative design driven by artificial intelligence can lead to designs that humans wouldn’t have thought of. And then processes change as the software content of products increases.

Heppelmann referenced John Deere, PTC’s first customer more than three decades ago, which saw software creep more and more into its products. “Wouldn’t it be great if all the products on a farm could talk to each other?” he asked. “How could we implement a system of systems? There are smart farms, smart cities, smart factories and smart plants. We can gather data from subsystems and make them work more efficiently through monitoring, control, optimization and autonomy.”

The benefits of digitalization are easy enough to see in products and processes, but what about people? “People are heavily underserved by digital technology,” said Heppelmann.

PSUG focuses on FactoryTalk

In his keynote address at PSUG, John Genovesi, incoming senior vice president, enterprise accounts and software, Rockwell Automation, echoed many of the themes strassed by Moret and Heppelmann.

"Over the past 15 years of PSUG, and my last eight years of attendance, we’ve seen innovations starting with the PlantPAx open, flexible automation system, then the impact of software development and the influx of massive data,” said Genovesi. “Our software strategy brought FactoryTalk Analytics, and Rockwell Automation is going through digital revolution along with our customers, seeing in our own plants, the great rewards in quality and on-time delivery.

Rockwell Automation, its partners and customers have millions of smart assets on an integrated, IIoT infrastructure. Its partners include Cisco, OSI, Endress+Hauser and Microsoft, a premier partner that helps us deploy in information systems, but Genovesi reported the most important may be PTC.

“We’ve been building apps—small, easy-to-deploy analytical tools,” Genovesi said. “Now, we’re adding a world-class IoT platform to expand that, to collect all of the data pointing to an asset and define a digital twin of a machine, a line or a whole plant. It also gives us the opportunity to do machine learning,” said Genovesi. “We have dashboards and historians, now we can use machine learning to help predict anomalies and define the actions we can take to improve the process.”

For more coverage of PSUG and Automation Fair 2018.

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