Building a Smart Foundation for Manufacturing Productivity

June 11, 2012
Rockwell Automation aims to build smarter manufacturing systems that help companies focus on what they produce, not how they piece together technology.

"Innovation isn't about the how," Frank Kulaszewicz told more than 1,500 attendees at the opening session of RSTechED 2012, Rockwell Automation's education and technology event being held June 10-15 in Orlando, Fla. "Innovation is about the what."

In a world of complex manufacturing systems generating millions of bits of data accessed by a growing array of devices, Kulaszewicz's point offered insight into what Rockwell Automation is trying to do - build sophisticated automation systems that are smart enough to be easier to implement, freeing manufacturers to focus on producing products in a safe, reliable manner.

To do that, Kulaszewicz, senior vice president, Architecture & Software said, Rockwell is introducing a variety of products with features such as mobile capabilities, so that operators and business managers "can have instant access to data no matter where they are." The company will also take advantage of virtualization, offering VMware software bundles that help manufacturers apply applications in the field with less time spent on configuration. He said the company will also be introducing cloud-based services that provide the "security, reliability and performance in real-time environments" needed in industrial applications.

For example, Rockwell Automation recently completed a pilot application with M.G. Bryan Equipment, a supplier of power and pump equipment for the oil and gas industry. This equipment operates all over the world, often in remote, extreme environments. "Missing regular maintenance on this equipment is detrimental not only to the equipment itself, but to production and to the value of the business," noted Kulaszewicz. Rockwell Automation, working with Microsoft WindowsAzure, provided the company a solution that allows it to provide proactive maintenance support and remotely monitor equipment.

In another case, Rockwell worked with Cynar Plc, the manufacturer of a system that converts end-of-life plastic waste to liquid synthetic fuels. "By using our PlantPAx process automation system, they were able to put this together in a very modular, repeatable skid solution. As environmental regulations change around the world for them and their customers, they can deploy this system and take advantage of that solution," said Kulaszewicz.

Frank Kulaszewicz

Manufacturers are under increasing pressure to achieve productivity gains. That is not only the result of global competition but also massive demographic changes. Kulaszewicz noted that in the next 10 years, 70 million people will be lifted out of poverty and these new consumers will help drive $8 trillion in spending. For manufacturers to keep up with this demand, said Kulaszewicz, "leaps in productivity are going to be required."

Integrated Architecture Provides Automation Foundation

For Rockwell, a key to meeting this demand is the evolution of its Integrated Architecture (IA) system, introduced a decade ago to bring together automation applications and equipment and enhance data communication.

"Integrated Architecture is the foundation of our control and information solutions," said Kevin Zaba, vice president and general manager for Rockwell Automation's Control and Visualization Business.

"This is really enabled through the Logix platform, which is the center of the Integrated Architecture," Zaba told RSTechED attendees. "This has evolved from just a PLC to be a multi-discipline automation controller and now is evolving further to be a multi-functional automation environment. The key to this is that we are embedding a more comprehensive set of functions like communications, like visualization of information into the controller to enable a smart system and ultimately provide you with more unique advantages as you apply it in your companies."

He said that Integrated Architecture was being used to promote innovation in companies, for example from a systems engineer who uses it to bring a machine online 30% faster to a production engineer who takes a single control platform and applies it across multiple processes in a plant to reduce switchover time by 25% to meet critical production goals.

At RSTechED, Rockwell Automation is previewing Studio 5000, which provides a modular framework for engineering collaboration. By offering plug-ins for specific engineering tasks, it includes features such as a logic designer for control code development, and the ability to add features such as library information.

Zaba said this new design environment, along with new controllers, switches and motion control products being introduced, will provide increased functionality embedded into the products, making them easier to introduce into the manufacturing environment, able to work with a wide array of third-party devices and providing improved data and business intelligence capabilities.

This improved flow of data at the plant level, said John Genovesi, should be used not just to provide operators with the status of machines or production lines, but to help companies make better and faster decisions.

Genovesi, vice president and general manager for Rockwell Automation's Information Software and Process Business, said by offering a single architecture for control, information and networking, will provide value to customers by allowing them to speed up design and implementation on the front end of projects and reduce maintenance costs on the backend by reducing training and spare parts inventory.

Rockwell Automation also believes it can provide customers with less expensive information software solutions by substituting its commercial software for custom-coded applications that he said are extremely expensive to support.

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