Sustainable manufacturing and visualization themes predominate RSTechED
Improving production efficiencies based on multiple factors, including fluctuating materials and energy costs, and delivering business data to plant floor operators figure heavily in direction of Rockwell Software products.
At Rockwell Software’s annual RSTechED event in Orlando, FL, many new faces were evident, but the company’s direction remained largely on the course set forth at last year's conference.
Leading his first RSTechED since taking over as Rockwell Software president,
Ralph Carter, Rockwell Software president
Ralph Carter (who came to Rockwell via the Pavilion acquisition last year) made it clear that bringing the various software acquisitions made by the company over the past few years into the Rockwell Software platform was of primary importance.
“All of our software is built using service-oriented architectures (SOA), so that eases integration issues,” said Donald Hart, vice president of RA Pavilion marketing. “And we’re continuing down the path of keeping our software platform agnostic, because our customers typically have hardware from multiple providers. Moving forward, we will have less focus on acquisitions and more focus on applications for industries.”
Considering the focus of presentations at this year’s RSTechED, those applications will largely be focused on two things:
Improving efficiencies based on multiple factors, including fluctuating materials and energy costs, to derive optimal production operations (this functionality is delivered primarily through Pavilion 8 predictive modeling capabilities); and
Delivering business data to plant floor operators (via FactoryTalk VantagePoint).
For years, the focus of most software applications has been to pull plant floo
Classes at RSTechED continue to be a major draw for attendees. Source: Rockwell Automation.
r data up into the enterprise realm to give business leaders a better view of their business reality. Now that this has largely been achieved, the focus in shifting to driving that higher level business data back down to the plant floor where real-time decisions that affect a company’s financial performance can be made by plant managers and production operators.
“Operations people are usually focused on keeping production running at maximum capacity, but in some cases, when all factors are considered, it can be cheaper to run at, say, 80% or 85% capacity rather than 95%,” said Philip Kaufman, business manager, power and energy management for Rockwell Automation. “But most operations people have never been exposed to that data.”
“When operators know, for example, the energy cost per pound of product produced, we sometimes see a competition arising between shifts to see which one can be more efficient and save more money,” added Hart.
Hart also noted that western countries are not the only ones focused on energy management. “New plants in the Middle East, where energy is typically very cheap, are requesting software to better manage energy use. They know that when energy prices go back up, it will eat into their margins too heavily if they don’t become as energy efficient as possible,” he said.
Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk AssetCentre Machine Edition helps maximize asset investment and minimize downtime. The Scheduler is used to run periodic tasks or reports. These are assigned to FactoryTalk AssetCentre-designated computers, or agents, to leverage unused or under-utilized computing power.
By measuring energy use at each step of the manufacturing process, it impacts the plant floor engineer in the area where they’re most consistently needed—driving production efficiencies, said Kaufman. “Once engineers see how much energy they’re using on specific machines at specific times and understand how much that is costing the company, it causes a paradigm shift away from how many widgets did we make per hour, to how much energy did we use and how much emissions did we create per unit produced.”
Read other Control Engineering articles about Rockwell Software's Pavilion 8 and VantagePoint software.
Ethanol producer adopts model predictive control to boost production (Pavilion 8 application)
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Annual Salary Survey
Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.
There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.
But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.
Read more: 2015 Salary Survey