Making the most of IoT

20 November 2014

At a recent automation conference in Ireland – organised by Hanley Automation – Rockwell Automation and Cisco jointly presented their manufacturing vision for the ‘connected enterprise’ and explained how they believe it will overcome many of today’s manufacturing challenges. Suzanne Gill reports.

Paul Taylor, responsible for the strategic alliance between Rockwell and Cisco on a global basis, set the scene by discussing the current global landscape and the issues it presents for the manufacturing sector. “There are three main issues shaping today’s global landscape,” he said. “The basic economics of the world are changing as emerging economies start to spend money and demand more consumer goods. These emerging economies are also demanding more energy. Finally, in the developed economies the industrial workforce is ageing and in some cases shrinking. 

“Cisco’s challenge is where and how to create new value in this changing landscape. We are seeing the Internet of things starting to become a reality and believe that this is key to solving many of the above challenges.

“There are already far more devices connected to the Internet than in the recent past.  By 2020 there are expected to be around 50 billon connected devices and a large percentage of these will be in the industrial sector.”

Taylor went on to explain that the amount of data is doubling every two years and that 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years, which has resulted in analytics becoming an increasing important tool to turn this data into useful information. According to Taylor the next step for Cisco is to “digitise the world!” He believes that the true value of this connectivity in the industrial sector will be seen when everything is connected to everything else.

Cisco consultants have analysed the potential value of the Internet of Everything and conclude that it will be worth around $19 trillion. “This will come from innovation, increased productivity, improved efficiency and improved customer experience,” claims Taylor. “We believe that the vast majority of this value will be made in manufacturing sector, which is why Cisco is working very closely with Rockwell Automation in this sector.”

Taylor explained that a degree of convergence between the currently opposed IT and OT arenas will become necessary, which will require a mindset change from both sides. “Our first joint step with Rockwell was to define what a connected enterprise actually looks like – and what happens when we connect the factory to the enterprise. This led to the joint development of CPwE (converged Plant Wide Ethernet) to connect the IT and OT worlds.” This architecture has been designed to address the cultural and technical challenges of Ethernet network convergence between IT and engineering. It comprises Rockwell Automation’s Integrated Architecture and Cisco's Ethernet-to-the-Factory, to provide users with a foundation from which to deploy the latest technology by addressing topics relevant to both IT and OT professionals. 

Connected enterprise benefits
Dominic Molloy, marketing director EMEA & managing director UK and Ireland at Rockwell Automation, then took to the stage to discuss the benefits of a connected enterprise.

“The Internet of things – having the ability to connect devices together – has opened up a new era for the manufacturing environment and is changing the way that factories are being developed,” he said. “Rockwell Automation’s vision for this is brought to life through the Connected Enterprise.” This model crystalises the company’s ideas about optimising the manufacturing supply chain for rapid value creation and driving productivity through the manufacturing environment in a sustainable and secure way.

Manufacturers need to be more agile to keep pace with customers fast changing demands. Rockwell believes that the Internet of Things will allow for the better use of resources and will help develop an infrastructure to enable this agility. “For example, it could lead to a safer, more accessible food supply,” said Molloy. “The ability to track food products from field to fork is critical.  It will also enable more affordable oil and gas production, allowing for the cost-effective utilisation of resources and will allow for more precise energy management.”

Molloy believes that the manufacturing world is now at an inflection point. “Many companies have already invested in ERP and have achieved all the productivity gains they can from this. The information needed to drive productivity further and to help reduce costs and gain a safer, more secure and sustainable work environment must now come from investment in manufacturing and automation systems.”

Rockwell has identified that 52% of manufacturers expect to migrate to hybrid cloud within two years – resulting in a six-fold increase in cloud traffic. There are huge benefits to be derived from this additional data, but security issues do need to be overcome first. For example, 63% of businesses currently allow employees to bring their own devices to work yet only 46% of those businesses govern these devices. “In the manufacturing sector a lax approach to network security can pose problems currently there are five terabytes of manufacturing data viewed on mobile devices every year,” said Molloy. 

“Another critical element of the connected enterprise is contexuralising the data and serving it up to the right people, at the right time in the right format, allowing them to make decisions in real-time to help drive productivity and profitability,” he said.

Data can now be presented via mobile devices in real-time, which allows decisions to also be made in real-time and impacting the manufacturing process much more quickly than has been possible in the past.

The increasing use of mobile devices could also impact the displays used in the manufacturing environment. “Today many displays are still physically connected to the plant. As we take advantage of the Internet of Things for mobility and connectivity the number of fixed HMIs in the plant may well be reduced because an operator will instead carry a mobile interface, personalised for their use, with a secure ID, with the data being contexturalised to allow them to view information relevant to them about the state of a piece of plant,” suggests Molloy.

To make all the benefits offered by the Internet of Things possible will rely on unlocking data and driving sustainable manufacturing through the integration of control and information over a single, safe and secure network. This is why Rockwell Automation, in partnership with Cisco, is looking at the creation of a common, secure Ethernet IP environment that allows plant manufacturing data to run over a single network – one that is able to pass information seamlessly from a sensor up to the ERP system so that information can be securely transferred to engineers with different levels of access and different needs for information. They will be able to access just the data they need, served to them in a meaningful way, which will allow them to perform their job more effectively.

Of course, this goal would be a lot easier to achieve on a greenfield site. But many existing sites contain a great deal of legacy systems which makes it necessary to think very carefully about the existing operating model and a strategic assessment of how the plant is connected and what you would like it to be. This requires many questions to be answered… such as: How do you use data in the plant? Where is it stored? How do you collect it and serve it to users? What are the key metrics that need to be monitored to drive business more effectively? What benefits will you get by implementing a connected enterprise? What is your current relationship with your supply chain and customers and how can you adapt to their changing needs?

“There are some big challenges ahead,” concludes Molloy. “However, the benefits are clear. If you have a connected enterprise you will get product to market faster, it will lower your total cost of ownership, it will drive asset utilisation to its optimum and it will reduce enterprise risk. Having a safe, secure and sustainable manufacturing environment will be good for business going forward.”

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