Largest-ever gathering of industrial automation professionals shines light on new technologies and solutions designed to help connect and improve industrial processes.
By Amanda Joshi, Managing Editor
The spirit of collaboration and innovation. New, exciting partnerships. Technology designed to disrupt, improve and connect industrial automation in new ways. Bright-eyed innovators. All were present at the Automation Fair® event held Nov. 20-21 in Chicago, where expanding human possibilities — a message Rockwell Automation has embraced as its driving force in this next industrial evolution — took center stage.
In what Rockwell Automation CEO Blake Moret called its “biggest and best Automation Fair,” a record-setting 19,000 industrial automation professionals from across the globe converged at McCormick Place West to attend industry forums and networking events and to learn about the newest innovations in automation.
Attendees had the chance to share information about the latest control system network infrastructure using IP-based networks such as EtherNet/IP™, safety, power and information technologies that support The Connected Enterprise.
Event goers visited more than 150 exhibits displaying the latest automation products and solutions from Rockwell Automation and its PartnerNetwork™ program members, including Encompass™ Product Partners, Solution Partners (system integrators), OEM Partners and Strategic Alliance Partners. Many booths showcased companies’ digital technologies and IT/OT capabilities that help deliver improved connectivity, safety, security, and equipment and process performance.
In addition to the hands-on exhibits, Rockwell Automation provided free educational offerings with more than 95 technical sessions, including hands-on labs, covering the latest control, power and information technologies to help enhance customers’ innovation, productivity and collaboration.
In nine industry forums, Rockwell Automation specialists, partners, customers and other industry professionals shared what they’ve learned about industrial solutions that help address common challenges.
Further education took place just prior to the Automation Fair® event during the popular Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) held Nov. 18-19 at McCormick Place West.
Rockwell Automation kicked off the 2019 Automation Fair® event with its Perspectives global media forum on Tuesday, Nov. 17, where Moret announced the company’s new partnership with Accenture. Rockwell Automation and Accenture’s Industry X.0 will team up to develop a digital offering designed to help industrial clients move beyond existing manufacturing solutions to transform their entire connected enterprises. This will help capitalize on the expertise of both companies to deliver new capabilities for greater industrial supply-chain optimization.
“We love the open innovation approach,” explained Mike Sutcliff, group chief executive, Accenture Digital, who joined Moret on stage. “The collaboration will allow companies to look across supply chains in addition to in the plant. It enables optimization across the factory, the supply chain and the enterprise.”
The partnership will allow clients to leverage the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and has already yielded, among other early-stage successes, a prototype for supply-chain management designed to deliver supplier cost optimization and an improved ability to track the exact movements of products.
“By teaming up, we reduce complexity, reduce risk and achieve better results with comprehensive, enterprise-wide expertise,” explained Moret. “Our approach is to bring the Connected Enterprise to life by understanding our customers. We’re combining technology and domain expertise to deliver the best possible outcomes. We’re applying technology to save time and money in industrial company processes. Simplification drives productivity.
In addition to the venture with Accenture, Rockwell Automation also capped off the first month of its joint venture with Schlumberger, called Sensia, combining process control and petro-technical expertise with digital transformation to drive more efficiency from operations.
The company also announced announcing a new strategic partnership with ANSYS to help customers design simulation-based digital twins of products, processes or manufacturing. Historically, manufacturers would dedicate an unimaginable amount of time and money to develop and test physical product prototypes. Now users can design and test through simulation to accelerate development and analysis, improving product quality and reducing testing time across their organization.
Rockwell Automation also celebrated the first anniversary of its partnership with PTC. This collaboration’s inaugural year has yielded advances in OT/IT integration, and received broad industry recognition for the joint FactoryTalk InnovationSuite™ platform.
Rockwell Automation lives on innovation, unlocking the creative spirit in existing employees, new people and its partners, explained Moret. “At the heart of Automation Fair is the special, unmatched relationship we have with our partners,” he said.
You Make It Challenge Met With Vigor
While partnerships and technology designed to boost operations certainly took the spotlight, young innovators and the finalists of the You Make It Challenge sponsored by Rockwell Automation provided some stiff competition and attracted the attention of Automation Fair attendees.
Back in early June, the You Make It Challenge contest invited young inventors to submit their big ideas to solve big problems. Three finalists were selected and paired with Rockwell Automation mentors who helped the kids fine-tune their ideas. The finalists then presented their projects at the Perspectives global media forum. Judges were Tessa Myers, Rockwell Automation president, North America; Pam Murphy, COO of Imperva and a Rockwell Automation board member; and Rockwell Automation chairman and CEO Blake Moret.
The three finalists were Louisa Wood, Bayside, Wisconsin, mentored by Tracy Swartzendruber, manager of the Rockwell Automation global website portfolio; Makai Samuels-Paige, Atlanta, mentored by Dave Vasko, Rockwell Automation director of advanced technology and strategic development; and Michael Wilborne, Roanoke, Virginia, mentored by Mike Pantaleano, director of business development architecture and software for Rockwell Automation.
16-year old Wood designed a smart pump usage monitor and predictor that empowers home and business owners to protect themselves from potential flooding and other forces of nature. Her system employs machine-learning algorithms partnered with local weather data to enable the program to adapt to each installation and predict when a pump will overflow or when parts are likely to fail.
“My goal is to end bullying,” said 11-year-old Samuels-Paige as he described his invention, an anti-bullying backpack. He upgraded a standard school backpack with a pair of WiFi cameras to provide livestream monitoring of bullying behavior, a mobile hotspot to enable constant communication with administrators and parents, and a battery pack to ensure that cell phones are always charged. The science fair project has been turning heads and recently was approved for a patent.
Wilborne, inspired by his parents’ missionary work in third-world countries, developed an upgraded microflush toilet that can provide the benefits of modern sanitation with less reliance on the raw materials traditionally used to construct them. In short, Wilborne’s toilet minimizes the need for concrete and simplifies the waste-processing steps. The mature 12-year old said of his project, “I feel really encouraged to do more in the world.”
The judges, along with attendees at the media event, voted Wood’s smart sump-pump system as the grand prize winner, earning her a package of prizes that includes a grant to a FIRST robotics program, a 3D printer, a computer and a STEM workstation.
Learn more about the finalists and their presentations.
PSUG Addresses Industry Challenges
At the PSUG meeting held Nov. 18 in Chicago, Rockwell Automation presented attendees with a “sneak peek” of the new PlantPAx® v.5 distributed control system (DCS), expected to launch this summer. The latest release drives a modern approach to solving industry challenges throughout each phase of the plant life cycle.
Timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of PlantPAx’s introduction, version 5 is designed to simplify operations, optimize production and support life-cycle needs, according to Jim Winter, director of the Rockwell Automation global process business.
“Industry 4.0 is upon us, and things are really happening,” Winter said, addressing the more than 1,000 PSUG attendees from 16 countries. “But challenges remain, many arising from how process control has been done in the past.”
Much process data remains segregated in silos, making it difficult, expensive and sometimes impossible to pull together, he added.
To address these issues, David Rapini, PlantPAx business manager, showcased several key features of the new version, including native objects, reduced footprint, automatic diagnostics and integrated HART communications. The system also comes analytics-enabled and is increasingly cybersecure.
In addition, PlantPAx v.5 will be introduced concurrently with two new purpose-built process controllers: the CompactLogix™ 5380 for skid applications and the ControlLogix® 5585 for DCS applications.
These two new “superset” process controllers are specifically designed for process applications, but “they’re part of the family, they preserve your investment in our tools and training,” Rapini said.
PSUG attendees also learned of other process improvement capabilities in technical and customer application sessions. Designed to help users improve their processes and create new revenue streams, the sessions showcased real results using the process solutions available from Rockwell Automation.
For instance, Kevin Seaver, general manager, Bioprocess Automation and Bioprocess Digital, GE Healthcare, shared how his company collaborated with Rockwell Automation to streamline the process controls and automation of its bioreactors, FlexFactory production lines, and shipping container-based, clean-room units it operates worldwide.
Chevron divulged its challenges in commissioning facilities in the Permian Basin to separate and store oil and water, about one per year, each with three separators and six tanks. It’s also doing property swaps with other companies in the basin to take advantage of common infrastructure. As a result, it’s integrating about one system per week, each with similar equipment but often, different control systems.
“There are at least five things to integrate—PLC, local touchscreen, control room graphics, PI historian, and decision support center graphics—that must be done in series,” said Todd Anslinger, Industrial IoT Center of Excellence lead, Chevron. “Then, we have to verify every step to rule out human error. At the same time, human resources (HR) says we must double the number of facilities with just a 30% increase in head count.”
Learn how Anslinger used a unique publish/subscribe protocol to save time and bandwidth.
Partners Bridge Connections
Members of the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork program helped visitors learn more about many connectivity and industrial automation solutions. Here are few technologies that created buzz at the show.
The Amadeus modular machine vision platform by Encompass™ Product Partner Hermary, utilizes a unique modular architecture, incorporating industry standards to enable easier integration with both Hermary and other automation components.
Configuration and control of all machine vision components, including cameras, lasers and illuminators, are easily performed from a centralized computer. A high level of synchronization within the platform enables machine vision devices to work together in a collaborative manner.
Encompass™ Product Partner Zebra Technologies showcased its single-finger RS5100 Bluetooth ring scanner that helps improve worker productivity by freeing up workers’ hands for inventory management, picking, packing and sorting applications in industrial environments. Zebra’s smallest and lightest ring scanner offers a long battery life and features a single-sided- or double-trigger to enable workers to use gloves or bare hands for all-day comfort.
Emulate 3D software from Rockwell Automation allows users to develop a dynamic digital twin that helps reduce risks and costs by allowing them to design, prototype, and test the application before physically commissioning the control system. Operator training can also happen concurrently in a safe environment without disruption to existing production.
Forums Offer Industry Insight
In addition to checking out technologies on the show floor, visitors gathered at the industry forums to hear case studies and panel presentations offering real-world examples of how companies have increased their productivity and improved efficiency. Representatives from various companies not only shared their automation technology experiences and applications, but also provided insight and trends shaping their respective industries. Here are a few of their stories.
Water and Wastewater Industry Forum
When the City of Fort Myers, Florida, determined it needed to upgrade controls and electrical equipment at two of its wastewater treatment plants, it discovered novel approaches to project management and system architecture that resulted in cost and time savings, and significantly increased capabilities compared to other modern, but more conventional, approaches.
The Fort Myers Central wastewater plant is rated for 11 million gallons per day (MGD) with 2 MGD non-potable reclaim water and irrigation facilities. The South plant is wastewater-only, rated 12 MGD without reclaim. Together, they serve the City of Fort Myers and much of Lee County, and are staffed 24/7 with a total of 20-25 certified, trained operators, and an annual budget of $4.5-5 million.
The project goal was to upgrade or replace obsolete and aging electrical infrastructure as well as the PLCs, which were variations of SLC 500s and PLC-5s. “There was no documentation—schematics were drawn on the inner walls of the cabinets,” said Jeff Krawczyk, water infrastructure group sales manager, Commerce Controls, Novi, Michigan, which served as system integrator for the upgrades. Commerce Controls also is a Rockwell Automation Solution Partner in the PartnerNetwork™ program.
The project contract involved an alternate delivery method called construction manager at risk (CMAR), and included a re-electrification project to upgrade or replace motor control centers (MCCs) and variable-frequency drives (VFDs). “Using a construction manager eased owner management and minimized cost,” Krawczyk said. “By showing the client the advantages, we were able to pull the MCCs and VFDs into the system integrator work.”
The team decided on an all Rockwell Automation system due to ease of programming and deployment. Commerce Controls procured the software, PLCs, MCCs and VFDs, and worked with the owners on the graphical presentations. Throughout the course of the graphical workshops, they used PlantPAx graphics that were modified with color as needed to meet the users’ preferences.
Commerce Controls performed the FAT in Novi, Michigan, where the panels were assembled, the drives were connected and a fiber optic ring was installed. “It involved 140 vertical sections for the two facilities,” Krawczyk said. “Between the two facilities, we built 15 control panels, with one in each facility used for redundancy. There are 21 client SCADA workstations, and a total of about 225 analog points, and 500 digital points.” On the SCADA HMI, users can click on a server to bring up system health, I/O memory in use, primary server status, and which controllers are connected. Dual redundant fiber optic Ethernet rings run through the plants, as “network segmentation and communication response time are very important,” he added.
Read more about the lessons Commerce Controls learned from the project.
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