One of the primary goals of digital technologies for industry over the past two decades has been to provide a single source of the “truth.” The ability for a company to aggregate, verify, and analyze the data from its numerous device and equipment sources is critical not only for production insights and optimization, but also for accurate planning, capacity assessments, and supply chain management.
Historically, this push for one version of the “truth” in industry centered on the data within the confines of a specific facility, but Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things has expanded the reach of this goal to extend from the edge to the cloud. And that’s what driving the recent partnership expansion between Rockwell Automation and Microsoft.
The two companies announced a new five-year partnership expansion to “develop integrated, market-ready solutions that help industrial customers improve digital agility through cloud technology. By combining each company’s expertise in the industrial and IT markets, teams can work together more seamlessly, enabling industrial organizations to save on infrastructure costs, speed time-to-value, and increase productivity.”
More specifically, Microsoft and Rockwell are focusing on edge-to-cloud-based systems to connect information between a manufacturer’s development, operations, and maintenance teams through a “singular, trusted data environment.” In their announcement of this new partnership, the companies state that customers using their applications will be able to “digitally prototype, configure, and collaborate without investing in physical equipment. This unified information environment enables IT and OT (operations technology) teams to securely access and share data models across the organization and with their ecosystem of partners as well.”
As part of this announcement, Rockwell and Microsoft noted that they have co-developed more than 20 use cases using their combined technologies across the food and beverage, household and personal care, and life sciences industries.
Tristan Hunter, general manager of automation and operational technology at Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited, a New Zealand-based dairy products producer, said, “Our team has seen the preview release of this new solution and are excited about the collaboration between Microsoft and Rockwell Automation. Moving data from our on-premise assets securely with context and providing new workflows for us to analyze and drive better outcomes is important to maintaining Fonterra’s high standards across our many plants globally.”
Manufacturers can access Rockwell Automation applications now via the Microsoft Azure Marketplace with more apps currently in development. The companies said that the next phase of co-innovation solutions will be made available to joint customers of Rockwell Automation and Microsoft in Q1 2021, with more details to come at the Automation Fair At Home event.
“This partnership provides Rockwell Automation and Microsoft customers with a holistic, simple solution for IIoT development and operations and removes data silos that hinder industrial digital transformation initiatives,” said Blake Moret, chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation. “By eliminating a core barrier to automation initiatives, industrial organizations can establish a digital thread connecting the entire enterprise, which in turn accelerates innovation, maximizes productivity, and optimizes operations.”