The past three decades have seen numerous changes take place in the automation technology industry. Notable among them has been the fast rise of new companies with new technologies and the subsequent acquisition of many of these companies by the largest players in the industry.
This scenario is, of course, not confined to the automation industry. It plays out across every business sector, but has unfolded at an especially brisk pace in the technology sector.
As Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things initiatives push the manufacturing industries to connect as many of their plant floor devices to their enterprise systems for higher-level analytics and decision-making, a similar process is taking place within automation technology suppliers. There is now a clear effort underway to more closely integrate their own organically developed technologies with those they have acquired over the years.
Though these companies have, in most cases, already integrated their acquired technologies to work well with their own products, the difference today is that automation technology companies are aiming to deliver complete end-to-end systems—not just compatibility. This is happening largely at the direction of end users who are looking to ease the process of the digital transformation they know they need to undertake.
While the various large automation technology suppliers each have their unique approach to offering these end-to-end systems, Aveva is claiming to be the first to achieve a complete edge-to-enterprise system.
During a presentation at the Aveva World Conference 2019, Harpreet Gulati, senior vice president of planning and operations, said Aveva is the only software company delivering end-to-end value chain integration and collaboration capabilities as part of its edge-to-enterprise Value Chain Optimization offering.
“We differ from other technology suppliers in the market in that we connect multiple tools—from production planning and monitoring and control to corporate and investment planning—to link operations analytics, targets, and plans to actual operations data, fiscal targets, and strategic decisions,” Gulati said. “We condense these functions into a unified value chain for one version of truth contained in one database with hooks between business and operations modules as well as external systems. We’re doing the same thing SAP did for the financial industry by connecting and integrating operations that were historically separate.”
The principal differentiator in Aveva’s approach to the connections Gulati refers to is its open attitude toward plant floor and enterprise level data. At the company’s conference, it was repeatedly stressed that Aveva is hardware and software agnostic, meaning that its products are designed to work with a company’s existing devices and data platforms.
Connection of value chain activities for collaboration is critical because today, everyone in the plant is trying to maximize what they do with their own tools, while management wants to look across it all, said Gulati. “As a result, the business workflow view doesn’t match reality because legacy point solutions require manual data transfer as well as custom codes and support," he added. "Value Chain Optimization is designed to reduce these silos. By connecting the entire value chain, we can enable collaboration across functions both upstream and downstream.”
While Aveva’s products target production processes and related data capture and analytics, edge computing supplier Stratus Technologies is one of Aveva’s partners at the edge.
Stephen Greene, vice president of global marketing at Stratus, said the relationship between the two companies started 10 years ago. “Within the edge-to-enterprise strategy, our role is bringing edge technology into play in a tangible way for customers,” he said. “We make edge computing easy by inherently protecting mission critical business applications with no downtime risk to the user through our products’ autonomous self-management capabilities. This protection creates assurance from an infrastructure point of view. Pairing our zTC Edge computing platform with Aveva’s software connects the software from the enterprise level down to that last physical mile—the point of data collection on a device at the edge of the network.”
Greene noted that Stratus has been working closely with Aveva during the past year to ensure complete compatibility with Aveva’s System Platform, InTouch HMI, and InTouch Edge software. "We provide the software to manage and monitor the edge device and up to four virtual machines into which you can bring Aveva’s software applications, such as MES, Unified Operations Center, and Asset Performance Management," he said. "Our edge devices protect those software investments with built-in cybersecurity right out of the box,” he said.