Rockwell Automation defining journey to I4.0

By Paul Studebaker

Nov 15, 2018

Like a pile of Legos without the picture on the box, it’s not easy to get excited about pieces if you don’t have a vision of what can be built with them. For a decade, Rockwell Automation has been building smarts into devices, giving them the ability to connect, and providing software and systems that support the concept of The Connected Enterprise. But the focus has been on faster, easier, more efficient ways to build, configure and maintain automation systems, with a view for IT.

Now, we’re starting to see ways to harness those abilities in systems that extend far beyond automation, to bring control capabilities to production, maintenance and business systems to help operators, technicians, managers and executives be more efficient and contribute more effectively to the common goals of an industrial enterprise.

“We’re helping clients define their Industry 4.0 journey,” said Dave Stonehouse, director, global consulting services, Rockwell Automation, on a tour of The Connected Enterprise exhibits at Automation Fair this week in Philadelphia. “We’re finding the clients’ problems, finding value and using tools to improve OEE, quality and reliability. We see their needs, help them find solutions, and build them a complete package with multiple use cases.”

Things work together

The newest and perhaps the most exciting tool in Rockwell Automation’s digital transformation arsenal is FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, which combines FactoryTalk Analytics with PTC ThingWorx integration and Vuforia augmented reality (AR) capabilities.

“ThingWorx allows rapid app development for target use cases,” said Ken Speicher, IoT senior technical sales engineer, IoT Solutions Group, PTC. “It lets users reach data sources faster and easier, add context and connect to enterprise information systems.”

By bringing together and presenting information from multiple, diverse systems, it gives people from the plant floor to the executive suite “a single source of the truth,” Speicher said, a common understanding that leads to cooperation and a focus on common goals.

Explaining how Innovation Suite works, Speicher said, “Analytics are integrated, not done offline and separately.” For example, to predict and communicate an incipient failure in a conveyor line, data flows from the assets to ThingWorx using Kepware communications technology, is processed by FactoryTalk Analytics, and is presented in FactoryTalk Analytics DataView.

“This ThingWorx mash-up, which is embodied in FactoryTalk Innovation Suite, offers a rich ability to do ad hoc data analyses and allows information to flow on to the enterprise systems,” Speicher said. “For example, smart assets and FactoryTalk Analytics may generate a predicted failure. An operator can see the predicted failure, press a button and issue a work order through the enterprise CMMS. Or the work order can be automatically generated, based on the equipment condition.” Enterprise information can also flow back to the floor through ThingWorx.

Augmented reality adds value

Augmented reality via PTC Vuforia, also part of FactoryTalk Innovation Suite, adds the ability to optimize personnel interactions with machines, for example, to ease operator rounds and maintenance. Trevor Vandermeer, lead process controls engineer, life sciences, Rockwell Automation, used an iPad to view the ThingMark on a bioreactor and bring up an augmented reality display showing critical parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen, mixer rpm, etc. in real time.

Shifting the view to the control panel let us see what’s inside view without opening the door, allowing us (and maintenance personnel) to see the control component layout, software, version number, IP address, etc. as well as any self-diagnostics, without concern about exposing the technician to voltage or arc flash, or exposing the controls to the ambient environment. Smart power devices could be set up the same way.

“The tools to create the AR are dynamic and relatively easy to use, to set up and continuously refine the application,” Stonehouse said. “At the outset, Rockwell Automation and system integrators will be doing these applications, but we expect end users to roll them out, too. We expect control engineers to be pretty adept at it.

“It’s relatively easy to grab data packs and set up an installation, but it’s important to start with the business case to define the value, then use the technology to get it.”

“Simplified connectivity of IT and OT tools and data lets you solve many, many problems and use cases, including some we haven’t thought of yet,” said James Winter, director, global process business, Rockwell Automation. The tools make it easier by matching up data sets, recognizing patterns, finding keys and merging databases together. Users can also bring data in from “outside the four walls,” such as weather, supply chain, other sites, etc. Winter added, “It’s scalable from the devices to the cloud, and with the DCS.”

Speaking of DCS

The Connected Enterprise exhibit also highlighted the latest version of the PlantPAx distributed control system. “PlantPAx 4.5 adds more than 50 features to the PlantPAx DCS designed to make the system smarter, reduce work, make operations simpler, and engineers more productive because the remaining work can be done more efficiently. It’s also more protective, with improved robustness and security,” Winter said.

Now I/O is available in preconfigured modular cabinets, and the servers are consolidated so instead of separate historian, alarm and view servers, up to about 2,000 I/O they can all be in one machine.

“Operator interfaces are easier to create with ISA 101-compatible grayscale graphics.” Winter said. “System configuration is simplified, and it’s protected with enhanced PRP [parallel redundancy protocol] redundancy of the I/O and controllers.”

Area-based security combines operator persona and log-in with virtual fencing, so authority can vary depending on the area of the plant—it depends on both the operator role, and the area they’re in.

The exhibit also demonstrated the ability to integrate with electrical protection using Endress+Hauser HART and EtherNet/IP devices. “Protected power can be connected to PlantPAx to operate both the process and electrical systems, whether it’s ours, or as shown in the exhibit today, or from third parties,” Winter said. “And we’re working on adding others.”

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