Engineers around the world are looking at how to benefit from various IIOT offerings: the survey below covering the approaches being adopted by some of the major DCS vendors was first published in South Africa, in the Technews South African Instrumentation & Control Journal, February 2017. Next month a similar article will cover the approach of some of the specialist suppliers to the process industries.
The last year saw all the major DCS and process control systems suppliers re-assess their business positioning, in the face of the turndown in capital spending as a result of the continuing recession and fall in commodity prices, led by oil. Their problem is that their main business cycles between feast and famine, as it is dependent on investment project business. Harry Forbes of ARC Advisory Group notes that automation companies will do nearly anything to protect their installed user base, because that’s where they believe future revenues will come, and come more easily than winning projects. So the way to survive the famine is to provide on-going services to these asset owners, to maintain the business relationship, and be better positioned when capital investment returns. Plus they stop competitive suppliers gaining a foothold via similar service contracts.
The current area of interest for most manufacturing plants is IIOT, and so the automation vendors have been focusing on this, plus Big Data and analytics, offered by remote ‘cloud-based’ services. The different suppliers come from different market positions, and so their approaches, while offering the same, are tailored in different ways.
Emerson Automation Solutions
Peter Zornio of Emerson expressed his very clear view of this market back in April at their Global User’s Exchange in Brussels. Emerson is involved in the IIOT: this does not include the ‘Smart Cities’ that Siemens and ABB talk about, nor Industrie 4.0, which extends from production back up into design concepts – IIOT is just ‘Manufacturing’. I believe Emerson also recognise that their process control systems cannot be a part of IIOT, they must be fenced off, with firewalls etc, to prevent cyber-security worries, and blocked from external inputs. But this does not stop them transmitting information outwards, and the whole Emerson approach of ‘Pervasive Sensors’ – their major new topic for 2015 – is now an important feed, into IIOT analytics.
The resulting offering is a cloud-based service developed in co-operation with MicroSoft, using their Azure IoT Suite of cloud services. Having worked with MicroSoft for over 20 years, their Windows 10 IoT technology will be incorporated into both the DeltaV and Ovation control systems and in data gateways to serve plant data to the Azure IoT Suite. Emerson will then provide the data analysis services that feed back information and recommendations to the relevant plant personnel, for example about plant performance or equipment maintenance. Zornio described this as a remote service similar to the ‘Monitoring Centre’ typical of the electricity generation industry, or the ‘iOps centre’ typically described in the oil and gas industry – which shows the areas of focus for the Emerson control system business.
Since then, Emerson restructured their widely separated divisions, Process Management and Industrial Automation, into one business, Emerson Automation Solutions, under newly appointed president Michael Train. This brings in some of the factory automation aspects covered by the old Industrial Automation Division, and extends the potential for the same IIOT monitoring into other areas of the manufacturing plant, such as power supplies, packaging and even discrete manufacturing. However, as part of their restructuring, Emerson has sold off significant parts of what was their Industrial Automation business, bringing in significant amounts of cash. In December the Network Power business, serving mainly data centre and telecommunications customers, was sold to Platinum Equity for $4Bn: the business will be rebranded ‘Vertiv’. Then, just this month, the deal to sell the alternators, drives and motors businesses known as Leroy-Somer (France) and Control Techniques (UK) to the Nidec Corporation was finalised: their combined annual sales were $1.7Bn, but of more relevance now to Emerson, the resulting cash payment received from Nidec is $1.2Bn. So Emerson Automation Solutions has probably earmarked part at least of that $5.2Bn of cash for some interesting, relevant acquisitions, maybe in this IIOT services area.
Rockwell Automation has a totally different customer profile, perhaps the reverse of that described for Emerson, having great strength in factory automation, food processing and discrete process control in general. Their product portfolio is strong on motor control, actuators, energy management etc, using Ethernet based systems and controllers, which give simple interfaces to remote data systems. Steven Meyer of SAIC reported that the Rockwell South African MD Barry Elliot commented at the Electra Mining Show that the challenge is ‘to do more with the assets the organisation already owns’. He added that “In most cases the data already exists: our challenge is to implement systems that enable us to turn this into actionable information to streamline productivity and efficiency”. Just what the customer audience wanted to hear.
In November Rockwell launched their ‘FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines’ cloud application, based on – the MicroSoft Azure cloud enabled capability – yes, them again! OEMs using Rockwell/Allen Bradley controllers on their machinery can embed a FactoryTalk Cloud gateway device, to interface to this Rockwell remote analytical service. Back at corporate level, the new Rockwell CEO is Blake Moret, and his attention is also on developing the oil and gas process systems business that was actually doing well in Rockwell, but is smaller than that of rivals like Emerson: so he has acquired Maverick Technologies, one of their system integrator customers. First this give Rockwell access to the Maverick five years of experience in supplying remote operations support as a service. Second, Walt Boyes of the Industrial Automation Insider has pointed out that Maverick has craftily recruited many otherwise retiring process experts from such companies as Dow, DuPont, ExxonMobil and other first tier companies, amassing a couple of hundred very valuable grey heads with continuous process management expertise. These are very useful for remote service support and advice, supplied even from their retirement homes!
ABB and IoTSP
Maybe ABB will have an alternative approach? ABB has a concept described as the Internet of Things, Services and People (IoTSP). They last year joined the Steering Committee of the Industrial Internet Consortium, an organisation founded by AT&T, Cisco, General Electric, IBM, and Intel in 2014. Then in September they recruited Guido Jouret as their ‘Chief Digital Officer’ – he was at one time the General Manager of the Cisco ‘Internet of Things’ division. October, however, brought them back into line with Rockwell and Emerson, when their new ABB Ability offering was announced as standardised on MicroSoft Azure, “expanding the ABB leadership in energy and the fourth industrial revolution”: ABB will take “full advantage of Azure services such as Azure IoT Suite and Cortana Intelligence Suite to capitalise on insights gathered at every level from device, to system, to enterprise, to cloud”. Although ABB say they have had many years of successful collaboration with MicroSoft, from the website it appears Ability is a new venture – looking for applications in transport infra-structure, digital power substations, fleet management services, Smart buildings etc.
Yokogawa started 2016 with two acquisitions, first ‘Data-as-a-Service’ provider Industrial Evolution Inc, who provide cloud-based plant data sharing services, followed by KBC Technologies, who specialise in offering oil and petrochemical production plants the advanced software needed for process optimisation and simulation. These two were combined to create their new Industrial Knowledge Division. Executive vp Satoru Kurosu commented that “Key strategic objectives of Yokogawa’s Transformation 2017 plan are to expand the solution service business, focus on customers, and co-create new value with customers through innovative technologies and services”.
They then followed up with a strategic investment in FogHorn Systems Inc, a Silicon Valley specialist in fog computing – said to be the solution to faster processing of IIOT data present in the cloud. At the year-end, Yokogawa made a further significant investment into IIOT technology, first with a $900k investment into Bayshore Networks, who specialise in cybersecurity, and have developed the Bayshore IT/OT Gateway for use in the cloud, separating IT Departments from OT (Operational Technology) infrastructure networks. More than that, Yokogawa announced the establishment of a new Architecture Development Division in California, to pursue the development of the core technologies needed to establish the robust and flexible architecture required to improve operational efficiency and productivity when using the IIoT. Their aim is to expand this US engineering centre to over 50 staff in the next five years.
In February 2017 Yokogawa published their own release describing how these businesses will work together, and introducing another co-operation with Telit IoT Platfoms LLC, who are said to offer “offers unmatched expertise, resources, and support to make IoT on-boarding easy – reducing risk, time to market, complexity, and costs for asset tracking, remote monitoring and control, telematics, industrial automation, and predictive maintenance across many industries and vertical markets worldwide”. The most interesting aspect of their approach is that they seem to be moving towards “Plug-and-play” technology expanding to enable sensors to automatically join and adapt to plant networks, plus cloud reporting and condition monitoring, making the plant engineer’s job a lot simpler!
Obviously Yokogawa have major ambitions to develop and offer IIOT cloud data services with the best in technology and cybersecurity, all with a reduced customer detailed input.
Developments in South Africa
With so many major suppliers stepping up to offer cloud based IIOT data analysis and reporting services, what do the plant managers do? Steven Meyer’s report on the recent conference on the topic organised by the African branch of the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association highlighted the recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report showing that South African companies plan to spend around R6Bn per year, until 2020, to implement the ideas of the fourth industrial revolution. In a keynote speech, local PwC director Pieter Theron made the telling comment that companies will need to find the right collaboration partners in order to improve their business efficiency through the technologies of the fourth industrial era – very few have the capability to go it alone.
These comments ring true for many large businesses all around the World: and it is clear that there are several interesting potential partners for these potential IIOT users to evaluate!
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