Alliance with PTC brings FactoryTalk Innovation Suite

By Paul Studebaker

Nov 12, 2018

Analysts say connected devices will total 31 billion by 2020, and 75 billion by 2025. One-third to one-half are in industrial environments, and those devices will be measuring massive amounts of new data in addition to the large amounts you already collect. Companies that don’t manage to take advantage of all that data will lose out to those that do, but deriving value will depend on innovation in ways you don’t yet know, by people you probably don’t have.

No worries, Rockwell Automation has a plan. “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 John Genovesi, incoming senior vice president, enterprise accounts and software, Rockwell Automation, in his session at the Rockwell Automation Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) conference this week in Philadelphia.

“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,” Genovesi said.

Big job takes talent

In an Accenture study of CEOs, more than 75% said it’s important for them to harness new data for innovations, or they’ll lose market share. But more than half—50%--say they don’t have the right talent to do it.

The Rockwell Automation response to the drive to digitalization, variously called Industrie 4.0, smart manufacturing, IIoT and Made in China 2025—the drive to build a smart, connected plant; manage assets and drive productivity—is built on its Integrated Architecture. It’s scalable from the plant floor to the cloud, multidiscipline (discrete, safety, motion, process) and uses standard Ethernet for networks.

“Rockwell Automation, its partners and customers now have millions of smart assets on an integrated, IIoT infrastructure,” Genovesi said. “Our many partners include Cisco, OSI, Endress+Hauser and Microsoft, a premier partner that helps us deploy in information systems. But the most important may be PTC, an innovative Boston-based software company that combines IT and IoT platforms for smart, connected operations that work with the Connected Enterprise to drive new solutions for customers.”

Enter FactoryTalk Innovation Suite

“The combination of PTC and Rockwell Automation is a perfect fit, like that ad where the peanut butter and chocolate run into each other and create the Reeses peanut butter cup,” said Howard Heppelmann, divisional vice president and general manager, connected solutions, PTC. “You got my IT in my OT! You got OT in my IT!”

PTC is 25 years old and has more than $1 billion in annual revenue, with 6,000 people around the world who engineer, service and operate “things,” mostly in discrete manufacturing.

“We see Rockwell Automation making and connecting things,” Heppelmann said. Meanwhile, “PTC made investments in IoT—we bought ThingWorx, Kepware and an industry-leading augmented reality company, and spent $800 million buying startups—and integrated it all to build the ThingWorx industrial IoT platform.”

In June, Rockwell Automation invested $1 billion in PTC. Now, Rockwell Automation and PTC are introducing FactoryTalk Innovation Suite, powered by PTC. Both companies will market the new software under a common brand. Adding ThingWorx and other PTC capabilities to the FactoryTalk portfolio promises to solve significant present and future integration issues.

“Plants have some new assets, but most are old, and connectivity is really important. We can bring tags and metadata at high speed onto in-plant or cloud servers,” Genovesi said. ThingWorx Connectivity Platform is built on Kepware to connect to almost any public or private platform, as well as IT systems.

“It’s true that process plants have been solving this problem for a long time, so you might ask, what’s different?” Heppelmann said. “We’re not throwing anything out. We’re taking advantage of existing systems by wrapping and extending them with a digital layer.”

Bring on the apps and AR

For some time, “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.”

“We can put all of the data together, contextualize it, add analytics, then orchestrate responses to be used by humans, business systems and other things,” said Heppelmann. This information can be presented by a two-dimensional Web app, or as augmented reality.

“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.”

“We’ve created the ability to automate the machine learning process,” said Heppelmann. “These technologies are the key to the future, but today, people aren’t available who can do it. So, we are providing automation, via the latest and greatest algorithms, applied to your massive data.”

Being able to present plant information in augmented reality will revolutionize the way people do their jobs. “Today, we have a shortfall of 10 million workers for skilled jobs,” said Heppelmann. “Analytics unlocks the data people can’t see, and augmented reality gives them superhuman abilities to do work and be trained.”

To see how augmented reality will change plant control and maintenance, watch this 46-second video.

“Apps like these can really drive value in an outcome-based economy. What can you do with that? How can you use it?” said Genovesi.

“It’s an exciting time when we can lean in, or lean back,” added Heppelmann. “We encourage everyone to lean in.”

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