IT/OT convergence moves automation markets forward

Cloud-native data historian expedites data migration, insights

By Kevin Parker June 16, 2022
Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology

Hannover Messe 2022, held May 30th through June 2nd, was all about the latest news concerning IT/OT convergence for suppliers and users of automaton, motion and drives; energy markets; engineered parts and solutions; and digital ecosystems.

IT/OT convergence melds information technologies (IT) with the operations technologies (OT) that control and manage industrial processes, machines and equipment.

One pair of announcements at Hannover Messe brought together global services provider Amazon Web Services (AWS), process automation supplier GE Digital and advanced analytics for process manufacturing software supplier, Seeq.

Available since April, GE Digital’s Proficy Historian for Cloud is said to be the world’s first cloud-native data historian available on the AWS Marketplace.

“It’s clear that data infrastructures are moving to the Cloud. Companies are making decisions about what they need. We focus on bringing together various OT data, normalizing it and providing analytic workloads,” said Steve Friedrich, chief commercial officer, Americas manufacturing, GE Digital. “This data has been trapped on prem and hard to get into a data lake.”

By moving core historian technology to the Cloud, “We enable OT data into the lake in an hour and see results in another hour. The significance of today’s announcement is that Proficy becomes an enterprise operations historian.”

At Hannover Messe, Seeq announced its customers can expand use of Seeq by connecting to GE Digital’s Proficy Historian for Cloud.

Seeq said it can connect to Proficy Historian for Cloud to access time-series process data without moving or copying it. Seeq has strength in process and flow industries, including clients in the oil & gas, pharmaceutical, chemical, food & beverage, pulp & paper and other industries.

Market background

Enterprise systems, execution systems and analytics toolsets deploy in the cloud today. What’s been missing were easy ways to move OT data to the cloud at scale and affordably. Without consolidating transactional data with OT/process data the insights possible are limited.

A cloud-native data historian makes it easier to send high-volume operational data to a data lake built on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to run big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) at scale.

A data historian collects time-series data, alarms and events at high speed. With sensors transmitting signals every few milli-seconds the sheer weight of data is prodigious, with encrypted OT data streaming to the cloud at up to 150,000 values per second per interface. Store-and-forward capabilities protect against data loss. Compression combines with file-based storage for cost effectivity. Native interfaces to data lakes and other analytics platforms deployed in a virtual private cloud (VPC) simplify data integration.

Friedrich said asset models also are important for putting data into contexts ripe for analysis. “Normalizing operations data may involve built-in engineering unit conversion, while contextualization makes transparent the nomenclatures used in labelling tags,” he said.

Seeq’s strategic partnership with AWS, “enables industrial organizations to easily access advanced analytics capabilities to improve production and business success,” said Megan Buntain, VP, cloud transformation, Seeq. “We’re thrilled to sponsor and participate in the AWS exhibit at Hannover Messe and demonstrate the benefits of this partnership to the greater cloud community.”

Another company found in the AWS booth at Hannover Messe was Radix Engineering and Software, an IT/OT consulting company.

“AWS offers infinite storage capabilities and that allows our customers to move data as they require,” said Elliot Bell, a program director at Radix. “We build standard solutions to their custom problems.”

Radix engagements may involve moving data into AWS S3 or routing data to Pi System, now part of Aveva, to build a reliability dashboard, Bell said. “We use AWS technology as a migration partner for building data lakes.”

“We typically have three levels of solutions for users, said Bell, “including real-time, short-term problem solving; midterm weekly or monthly data for quality or accounting purposes; and addressing longer-term enterprise challenges.”

Welding function quantified

How the industrial internet of things is impacting use of pneumatics, hydraulics and other types of manufacturing activities, including welding, is becoming increasingly apparent.

Festo is a multinational industrial control and automation company with revenues of more than 3.1 billion euros in 2018.  The company produces pneumatic and electrical control and drive technology for factory or process automation.

Besides automation, the company has industry sector expertise. And with the acquisition of software company Resolto, it has access to competencies in advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.

“The Festo Automation Experience, or Festo AX for short,” said Dr. Oliver Niese, VP, digital business, Festo, “boosts the performance of machines and systems.” Dr. Niese is also managing director of Resolto Informatik GmbH.

Festo AX addresses demand for digital solutions in machine building, Dr. Niese said. Mechatronic systems, such as for resistance spot welding, process large amounts of data and compress it for use as maintenance diagnostics. Predictive maintenance based on artificial intelligence offers possibilities not found with traditional condition-monitoring approaches. Equipment data will merge with process data for use in analysis models and cloud-based solutions.

Festo AX allows users to extract maximum value from data produced by its equipment. “With modules for predictive maintenance, predictive energy and predictive quality, we implement our customers’ individual solutions together with them,” Niese said.

One leading car manufacturer has relied on Festo servo-pneumatic welding for years and today has more than 2,500 welding gun robots in its body shops. Using Festo predictive maintenance, the company reduced downtime 25%. The car maker now schedules welding gun repairs in non-productive times, increasing equipment availability. Automated repair orders and even “life cycles” for welding guns can be created. Filter functions enable comparisons. Early leak detection saves energy.

Festo presented the PhotoBionicCell at the Hannover Fair – a bioreactor that enables the efficient and large-scale photosynthesis of algae. Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology

Festo presented the PhotoBionicCell at the Hannover Fair – a bioreactor that enables the efficient and large-scale photosynthesis of algae. Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology

Telecoms & industrial devices

“Private wireless is likely to dominate OT critical connectivity needs over time, but Wi-Fi is likely to remain part of the connectivity mix used in industrial plants for a long time to come. The recent evolution to Wi-Fi 6 and 6E helps make Wi-Fi more deterministic,” Michele Mackenzie, principal analyst, Analysys Mason, recently said.

Given this environment, ahead of Hannover Messe, telecommunications provider Nokia announced expansion of its industrial-grade private wireless solution with Wi-Fi to provide more connectivity options for manufacturers and other industries ahead of the event.

“The applications being developed in the operations space require increased connectivity and flexibility. There is real demand for wireless technology because running cable is a pain and an expense,” said so and so from Nokia.

The Digital Automation Cloud Wi-Fi Solution unites Wi-Fi 6, 6E for connecting non-business critical use cases and private 4.9G/LTE and 5G to support critical Industry 4.0 applications. A single cloud management interface manages all wireless connectivity layers.

The launch of Nokia DAC Wi-Fi offer flexibility for industries connecting assets as part of their digital transformation. The Wi-Fi connectivity solution will be available in the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) end-to-end industrial-grade digitalization platform.

With the introduction of the Nokia DAC Wi-Fi solution, organizations tap into license-free spectrum to augment their networks and support OT workflows, such as connections to access machine maintenance data.

Wireless connectivity for some will start with Wi-Fi 6/6E to cover their IT and non-business critical OT operations, with a seamless evolution option to private wireless at any point as the need evolves.

Nokia MX Boost for private wireless running over Nokia MXIE can further improve connectivity depending on the use case requirements. Nokia MX Boost allows companies to aggregate different radio technologies, such as private wireless and Wi-Fi, to get maximum performance benefits from all radio layers.

Other Nokia announcements involved IoT Gateways, wearable devices and integrated cameras, digital twinning, and an update to the Nokia MX Industrial Edge platform, giving manufacturers and producers more ways to securely connect people and machines.

Nokia announced an expanding portfolio of Nokia Industrial user equipment. The wearable devices give manufacturers more ways to securely connect people and machines. Courtesy: Nokia

Nokia announced an expanding portfolio of Nokia Industrial user equipment. The wearable devices give manufacturers more ways to securely connect people and machines. Courtesy: Nokia

Hardware and software platform

The Yaskawa Electric Corp is a Japanese manufacturer of servos, motion controllers, AC motor drives, switches and industrial robots. i³ CONTROL is Yaskawa’s new automation platform, which it characterizes as an ecosystem turned IT concept.

The Yaskawa controller is a technically coordinated overall solution for industry-specific controllers — including everything from engineering software and controller hardware to integrated chip technology.

Of the i³ CONTROL portfolio, the software environment, i³ Engineer, and the first machine controller of this new platform – the iC9210-PN – are planned for market launch by the end of the year 2022.

i³ Engineer software provides access to the entire platform, offering openness, flexibility and scalability based around a Linux operating system. Programming languages pursuant to IEC61131-3 and PLCopen function blocks are supported as well as the script languages C#, C++, Python or MATLAB Simulink. This introduces new opportunities for application development, including global teams.

The software is tailored to the performance range of the Yaskawa components. This guides the user to the optimal solution for maximum performance without requiring detailed product knowledge.

The iC9210-PN PLC is the first hardware product under the umbrella of the new platform. It has a Profinet interface and an RS485 interface for the smart and cost-effective connection of Yaskawa servo and frequency inverters. HMIs can be connected via an OPC UA server.

Yaskawa’s Motoman robots are heavy duty industrial robots used in welding, packaging, assembly, coating, cutting, material handling and general automation. Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology

Yaskawa’s Motoman robots are heavy duty industrial robots used in welding, packaging, assembly, coating, cutting, material handling and general automation. Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology

Sensor for compressed air

Market chatter tends to center around things like artificial intelligence and advanced software applications, and less about the central role sensor technology plays in enabling IIoT-based analytics. Emerson says consumer products leader Colgate-Palmolive is pursuing a net zero carbon target with Emerson’s smart sensor technology for compressed air monitoring.

Emerson’s sensors and analytics help Colgate-Palmolive save energy and optimize production processes in manufacturing and product packaging facilities. Armed with data from Emerson’s advanced sensor technologies and analytics, Colgate has already seen a 15% reduction in energy usage on several toothpaste and toothbrush packaging lines and expects even greater energy savings as the technology is rolled out more widely.

The project is part of Colgate’s digital transformation program and uses AVENTICS pneumatic sensors and IIoT-enabled software architecture to monitor compressed air flow to identify leaks, optimize pneumatics and improve air flow. Given the heavy reliance on pneumatics in large-scale consumer goods production, reducing the amount of energy associated with compressed air contributes not only to sustainability efforts, but also to overall equipment health and reliability.

In Colgate’s implementation, Emerson’s AVENTICS AF2 Smart Flow Sensor calculates air usage data with integrated software that displays trends and anomalies on analytics dashboards, allowing operators to easily regulate supply pressures and detect leaks.

Author Bio: Senior contributing editor, CFE Media