While manufacturers embrace the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) by outfitting systems with sensors and connecting factory machines to the cloud to perform remote diagnostics, machine builders are challenged with how to leverage the IIoT value proposition. Specifically, OEMs need to meet end users’ equipment performance requirements, yet, they have no information about their machines once deployed at the customer site.
The lack of visibility into their own equipment is an enormous obstacle as machine builders strive to differentiate their offerings to customers—who are becoming more like partners, noted Todd Smith, Rockwell Automation’s product manager for FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines, a new offering which will be available to OEMs at the end of this year.
Smith’s presentation at Rockwell Automation TechED last week in Orlando, Fla., addressed the company’s upcoming analytics release and how the cloud and IIoT are a perfect match for OEMs looking to wrap new service offerings around equipment that may be deployed all over the world.
To date, the inability to be predictive or proactive has meant that they can’t prevent machine problems. The only option OEMs have had is to react. “Problems become fire drills,” Smith said. But that scenario is shifting. “The cloud is the perfect enabling technology for the dispersed installation of machines and the experts servicing them.”
The technology suite for OEMs will start with data structured in the controller via the RAPID line integration add-on instructions (AOI) with auto-discovery, using PackML definitions, to make sure the system is populated with the correct data needed for machine analytics. A FactoryTalk cloud gateway—the 9300-ENA, an existing product for doing remote access into a factory—finds the AOI in the controller, discovers tags and uploads them to the cloud. “So the process of doing configuration and deployment is almost trivial,” Smith said. “There’s nothing you have to do but enter a hardware key in an activation script.”
Once in the FactoryTalk cloud, data is contextualized to feed into the cloud-based FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines, which takes care of data models, storage and aggregation, computation, elasticity, gateway configuration, user management and access to the Rockwell Automation knowledge base.
The subscription service will cost about $750 per year, per machine with any number of users able to access each machine. The cost “equals one plane ride,” said Smith, referring to the fact that the only alternative is to fly an expert out to the customer site to fix the problem.
The first release will evolve quickly, Smith said, noting they are still accepting feedback from OEMs on what their customers would want to have in the product. But the two application scenarios right now include the ability to log into the machine to see historical information on the equipment in order to diagnose and debug remotely. Or, an OEM could offer a service in which they constantly monitor the machine remotely on behalf of the customer to share information that will make the machine run better, or to point out potential problems.
In the initial roll out, anyone associated with the OEM can see all of the machines at any customer site, but eventually Rockwell will layer on capabilities that allow individual users to only see certain machines. Within the dashboards, users can see the machine state history and drill down to see underlying causes of change or apply some logic. The dashboards are fixed at this point, Smith said, but will grow over time.
Another new Rockwell Offering for OEMS: