It’s All About the Information, See?

Nov. 20, 2008
Moving Convergence Off the Plant Floor

The Logix platform made convergence between all the disciplines on the plant floor possible,” Rockwell Software’s director, commercial marketing, Matt Bauer said. “With our acquisition of Pavilion Technologies and Incuity, and their ongoing integration into the FactoryTalk Integrated Architecture platform, we are now able to move convergence off the plant floor.”

Bauer demonstrated the latest additions to the FactoryTalk suite of manufacturing software applications during a tour of the exhibit floor booth at this week’s Automation Fair 2008.

“We’ve made Pavilion8 FactoryTalk services enabled, just like we said we would,” Bauer said. “This is only the first step. Next is full integration with FactoryTalk.” FactoryTalk Services is a service-oriented architecture (SOA) that provides a common set of software services running across the entire manufacturing application. Typical FactoryTalk services include the FactoryTalk Directory, a one-and-done service for defining plant-floor resources; FactoryTalk Security; FactoryTalk Live Data, which extends OPC-DA to provide fault tolerance, redundancy and eliminates DCOM timeouts; FactoryTalk Diagnostics; and FactoryTalk Audit, providing centralized logging and auditing of errors, warnings and changes to the system. Other FactoryTalk services include FactoryTalk Activation, which provides a common license management function, and FactoryTalk Alarms and Events, which allows multiple products to participate in a common, consistent view of alarms and events occurring throughout an entire FactoryTalk system.

Rockwell Automation’s new FactoryTalk VantagePoint allows end users to self-configure rich Web-based dashboards, trends and reports without expensive, time-consuming support resources. The software leverages FactoryTalk’s service-oriented architecture, together with technology acquired through the company’s purchase of Incuity, to deliver automatic access to production information from both Rockwell Automation and third-party systems in an easier-to-use, cost-effective manner. 
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But the key to information usability is visualization. One must have a clear window into the processes to be able to make use of the information coming through FactoryTalk from an automation system, explained Jack Perkins, regional director for Incuity, a Rockwell Automation company. “If you look at all the Rockwell Automation information offerings,” Perkins said, “Incuity visualization and analysis tools are being integrated everywhere you look.”

The integration of Incuity and Pavilion tools into FactoryTalk will permit Rockwell Automation’s customers to move beyond the information haystack and not only display data, but display data in context. “Context is critical,” Bauer said. “Context gives you information in the way you need to see it, and in the way you can use it to your best advantage.”  Perkins added, “And after context comes analytics and decision support.”

FactoryTalk’s SOA allows users to bring together information from traditionally separate software applications and present brand-new, integrated views of manufacturing information. These mashups, as they’re called in the Internet world, can bring unprecedented levels of visibility and transparency to the manufacturing enterprise.  “A typical mashup-style application,” Bauer continued, “might use Microsoft’s analytics with PerformancePoint, collaboration with SharePoint, together with FactoryTalk Metrics, VantagePoint and ViewPoint to provide visualization and decision support around OEE (overall equipment effectiveness).”

FactoryTalk VantagePoint allows users to self-configure rich Web-based dashboards, trends and reports without expensive and time-consuming support resources. This immediate access to actionable insight allows employees at every level of a production facility to better monitor and manage productivity, and exercise more control over high-profile operations such as OEE, energy efficiency or supply-chain execution. FactoryTalk ViewPoint software allows manufacturers to remotely monitor their plant floor operations status. It is one of the first thin-client applications for manufacturing built using Microsoft Silverlight technology.

“To meet the requirements of today’s mobile and remote users, we were eager to work with Rockwell Automation in developing FactoryTalk ViewPoint software based on Silverlight,” said Chris Colyer, global director of manufacturing operations strategies at Microsoft.

Next up for Rockwell Software is to complete the integration of Pavilion and Incuity into FactoryTalk, and then start working on the automation of contextual information presentation, as well as decision-support tools that build on the FactoryTalk base. “Remember,” Bauer said, “Pavilion’s model predictive control algorithms aren’t only useful on the plant floor. They can be used to model phases, units and even entire plant operations, and we will be able to deliver powerful decision support through the combination of FactoryTalk and the Integrated Architecture.”