Vendors Compete for Attention at ARC Forum

The Orlando event featured a long string of new product announcements and revelations from automation industry suppliers.

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The annual manufacturing bash in Orlando thrown by ARC Advisory Group Inc., the Dedham, Mass.-based analyst firm, is rapidly becoming the industry place for important news conferences and corporate unveilings. This year’s edition was Feb. 5-7. Unlike past years, ARC added a day for special sessions for attendees and for press conferences by sponsoring companies on Monday, Feb. 4. This event is also the one place during the year where executives from most of the industry suppliers can meet one-on-one with trade press editors. 

Noting that Yokogawa has successfully used the Forum to make a public splash, fellow Japanese company Mitsubishi turned from wallflower in past years to this year’s star of the dance. The company had a press conference to announce its new e-F@ctory suite—the company’s “vision for manufacturing” that unifies control hardware, networks and enterprise information systems through partnerships with ILS Technology, Boca Raton, Fla., and IBM, Armonk, N.Y. It also sponsored a large reception featuring a martini bar for attendees on Wednesday evening that included the introduction of Mitsubishi Electric Automation executives to the largely U.S. audience. 

The four components of the system are iQ Automation, iQ Works, CC-Link networks and enhanced Manufacturing Execution System Interface (eMESIF). iQ Automation is Mitsubishi's version of the programmable automation controller (PAC) leveraging the company's key advantage of speed, and adds Computer Numerical Control (CNC) and robot control capability. iQ Works is the integrated development environment. CC-Link is the newly open fieldbus network that recently unveiled its gigabit Ethernet capability. eMESIF includes the database connectivity engine and a human-machine interface (HMI) version. 

Making data useful 

At another press conference, Kepware Technologies Inc., Portland, Maine, stepped from the shadows into the spotlight announcing a relationship with Oracle Corp., Redwood Shores, Calif., whereby manufacturing data can be connected to Oracle databases through Kepware technology. An important addition to Kepware technology is the addition of analytics to its module. This means that only filtered, useful data is passed to a corporate database—not just an unadulterated flood of data that the corporate system is not intended to handle. 

In a significant industry personnel move, Mike Bradley, recently retired as chief executive officer of Wonderware, the Lake Forest, Calif.-based automation software vendor, has joined Apprion, Moffett Field, Calif., in a similar position. Apprion founder Steve Lambright is moving to the role of vice president, marketing. Apprion is a wireless network supplier that works with many of the industry players. It is expected that Bradley, through his experience and connections, will move the company to the next level. 

Yokogawa was still a presence at the event, using a press conference and breakfast meeting to announce CentumVP. In a move unusual for Japanese companies, chief operating officer Shuzo Kaihori laid out the roadmap for this new distributed control system, while announcing only the first part as an actual product. This is the visualization part that will integrate various control platforms into one tool. 

Rockwell Automation Inc., Milwaukee, held a breakfast meeting open to end-user attendees and the press to showcase its relationship with Dassault Systemes. It announced that a part of the coordination between Rockwell’s Logix programming platform and Dassault’s Delmia simulation software is available to users. The enhanced, built-in functions are still coming. At its booth in the show area, Rockwell also had a demonstration of IEC 61499 networked function blocks, based on the International Electrotechnical Commission standard. This is still early-stage technology, but it proves the principle. 

Green and wireless 

Emerson Process Management, Austin, Texas, used its press conference to highlight green applications of its products. It’s luncheon meeting, open to end-user attendees and the press, featured demonstrations of its wireless capabilities. Significantly, Emerson is showing more applications now, with sensor networks as but one, albeit important, solution. 

Finally, ILS Technology spirited editors up to its suite one-by-one to demonstrate its coming technology enhancements. Its initial products were connectivity modules that offered real-time integration of plant floor data to enterprise database servers in native languages. The company is adding memory and algorithm functionality to its offering, increasing its usefulness. ILS executives talked about being able to “replace some lower-end areas of manufacturing execution software.” 

On the sales and marketing front, Chris Lyden, vice president of strategy for Invensys Process Systems, Foxboro, Mass., said that the success the company has had thus far selling its InFusion enterprise control system application can be credited it to intense sales training of its sales force—teaching them how to sell software at a level higher in customer organizations than they had reached in the past. Meanwhile, Kevin Roach, vice president and business lead of software for Rockwell Automation, told Automation World that he has developed a new sales and marketing organization within his division to sell software to that higher level of customer contact. Yokogawa, on the other hand, is diversifying and globalizing its marketing by adding Maurice Wilkins, previously with ARC Advisory Group, as vice president of strategic marketing, and established an Industrial Automation Global Marketing Center located in Dallas. 

Andy Chatha, president of ARC, announced in his remarks to the Forum that automation and software were coming together so much that they were essentially combined in the February Forum. Therefore, the June Forum focusing on software would be disbanded. In its place will be an October Forum focusing on asset management targeted to the oil and gas industry. At press time, location and dates for that event were still being determined.

Apprion
www.apprion.com

ARC Advisory Group Inc.
www.arcweb.com

Dassault Systemes
www.3ds.com

Emerson Process Management
www.emersonprocess.com

IBM Corp.
www.ibm.com

ILS Technology
www.ilstechnology.com

Invensys Process Systems
www.ips.invensys.com

Kepware Technologies Inc.
www.kepware.com

Mitsubishi Electric Automation Inc.
www.meau.com

Oracle Corp.
www.oracle.com

Rockwell Automation Inc.
www.rockwellautomation.com

Wonderware
www.wonderware.com

Yokogawa
www.yokogawa.com

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