OPC UA: The Communication Standard for the Internet of Things?

As we prepare ourselves for the expansion of the IoT (Internet of Things), many businesses today are looking for ways to take advantage of the opportunities that are beginning to present themselves. Of course, as with anything new there are many questions and concerns.

Many organizations are struggling with interconnectivity. How do we get existing information systems to communicate with new information systems? If leveraging the IoT requires a wholly rebuilt information infrastructure and a complete reformatting of business processes – well, that’s just not going to work for most people.

There are also organizations who will have questions about how to make use of the unstructured data coming in real time from any number of different sources. How can they create the context to translate this endless stream of raw data into useful information?

And what about the scalability and flexibility needed to deal with growth and change. After all, if the changes implemented today need to be undone in order to keep up with the future needs of your organization, then is it really worth it?

Another common concern is that of security. Are we going to push sensitive information up to the cloud, where it may be exposed to any number of potential threats ranging from cyber-terrorism to corporate espionage? And even if our sensitive data is not being broadcast over the internet, how do we protect these interconnected systems from internal threats? How can we ensure that our employees and contractors have access to all of the information they need to do their jobs and nothing more?

These and many other questions are preventing some organizations from realizing the many benefits of the IoT. Some think it will be too difficult or expensive to implement; others may question the value of it. Fortunately for us all, these questions have been asked for several years, and there are answers.

The communication protocol often cited as the best fit for IoT applications has already been developed, tested and deployed in live environments around the world since it was fully released in 2009.

OPC Unified Architecture (UA) is platform-independent, service-oriented architecture developed and maintained by the OPC Foundation. As the interoperability standard for industrial automation, OPC has become an integral part of most SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems. As data systems expand beyond their traditional roles to include more sensor data and consolidate data from multiple systems, it makes sense that the OPC Foundation has remained at the forefront of the standardization process and have developed a communication standard that has been embraced by proponents of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things – companies like Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, GE, and many others,

OPC UA is universally embraced because it directly addresses the obstacles faced by organizations involved in IoT implementation projects. The problem of interconnectivity, for example, is exactly the problem that the communication standard was developed to address. Today, OPC drivers exist for thousands of different devices, and many devices today are manufactured with embedded OPC servers to allow for exactly this type of interoperability with other devices and systems.

The concerns about the usefulness of multi-system data is addressed by information modeling. The OPC UA information modeling framework turns data into actionable information. With complete object-oriented capabilities, even the most complex multi-level structures can be modeled and extended. Information modeling also makes an OPC UA-based system significantly more customizable and extensible. As virtual representations of actual systems, information models can be modified or expanded to meet the changing needs of a modern company.

Of course, one of the most important considerations when choosing a communication technology is security, which is one of the great benefits of OPC UA. Security is provided in a number of ways, including: Session Encryption, Message Signing, Authentication, User Control, and Auditing of User Activity.

While it is difficult to say that there is anything “standard” about the Internet of Things, OPC UA is the closest thing we have to a communication standard, and every day it is becoming more widely accepted and adopted.

Change Management Systems – Is There a Better Way?

There is no denying that plant floor automation can dramatically improve efficiency and increase productivity, but there is an unintended consequence of automation that can make it problematic. That consequence is the increased dependency on new technologies like PLCs, PC-based control systems, SCADA systems, and HMIs. As long as everything is working as it should, the automated workplace proceeds as a well-oiled machine, meeting every quota and price point. Of course, when something is not working as well as it should things can get complicated.

Imagine if a type of hardware used in your process has proven to be ineffective and you've decided to replace it with another model. Not only does the hardware change, but changes must be made to your overall control logic. This is likely to require changes to your PLCs, your SCADA system, and your HMIs. And what if the new equipment is even less efficient and you decide to roll back to the previous version? All of these control logic changes must be undone.

Change Management Systems

These concerns have become of such major importance that many companies are investing thousands of dollars and countless man-hours in software designed specifically to help manage plant-wide changes. These Change Management Systems are intended to reduce the overall cost of implementing plant-wide changes by automating as much of the process as possible. A good CMS will provide the following features:

– A backup / archive of prior revisions of programs

– Tools for documenting changes

– A historical record of what and when changes were made, and by whom

– User- or role-based permissions determining who is able to make changes

– Disaster recovery procedures to recover from hardware failures

– Notification of changes

These change management functions have been performed manually in most cases, requiring enormous investments of time. Furthermore, the updates made to PLCs and SCADA systems typically require taking the process down while changes are made. This inevitable downtime creates another enormous gap in profitability. Even when a sophisticated CMS is employed, there is no way to avoid the fact that traditional SCADA and HMI systems are inextricably linked to the hardware that they are monitoring. Any significant change will require taking the entire process down and starting it up again after the changes are fully implemented.

Is There an Alternative?

If it seems that change management is just a fancy new way for software developers to make more money on some unnecessary product designed to solve imaginary problems, just think about what would be involved in making plant-wide changes in your enterprise. Would you have to make changes to your SCADA system? How long would that take? Would you have to update your HMI screens? How many of them? And how long would you have to take the process down in order to make these changes? Consider the cost of the labor. Consider the lost production due to downtime. And imagine if the change you made does not produce the intended result, and you want to roll the process back to a previous state. How much more time and money would that cost?

The benefits of change management are various and undeniable, but is it possible to realize these benefits without introducing another management system – another system that will itself need to be managed? What if your HMI / SCADA system allowed you to manage plant-wide changes with ease, and without extravagant investments in labor or lost production? One way this is possible is through the concept of Data Modeling. By creating a logical model of your plant and your processes, your control logic is abstracted away from the actual hardware and becomes much more flexible and scalable. A change made to a piece of equipment in your data model will automatically be in effect for anyone who is using that model. Data modeling also allows you to create templates of your HMI screens that can be used for all assets of the same type, so instead of making changes to dozens of different screens a change can be made to the template and will be automatically applied to all instances of that template. And since graphics are bound to data in the model instead of actual hardware, changes can be made to your HMI screens without taking the process down. As today's enterprises become more automated, and as more data points become measurable, a SCADA system that employs data modeling is becoming more and more of a necessity. The good news is that such a system will surely pay for itself in a short time as efficiency is increased and downtime is reduced, providing a significantly lower total cost of ownership.

The need for a CMS can be eliminated in many cases by using an HMI / SCADA system that employs data modeling. And while data modeling alone will not replace the full range of features provided by a quality CMS, many of the benefits can be duplicated, and additional benefits can be derived from the ability to perform these change management tasks from inside of your SCADA system without having to deploy a separate system.

By combining the power and efficiency of high-quality SCADA software with the sophistication of data modeling, it is possible to incorporate capabilities that bridge the gaps between process control, maintenance management, change management, asset management and resource planning. With the dawning of the new interconnected industrial environment, industry 4.0 or the 'Internet of Things', there has never been a better time to change your expectations about SCADA software and what it can do to bring your enterprise into the 21st century.

How Is the Automotive Industry Handling the New Industrial Revolution?

Bill Gates is alleged to have once quipped that "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $ 25 cars that got 1,000 MPG." Even though the authenticity of this quote is questionable, it has been circulated throughout the internet for years because there is something about the sentiment that rings true to us. It certainly does not seem that the automotive industry has kept up with advancing technology the way that the computer industry has.

This may be due in part to the manufacturing infrastructure that has evolved over the years. Making sweeping upgrades to equipment and / or processes seems a very expensive and risky proposition. & Nbsp; When you couple this with the fact that many automobile manufacturers today struggle to find enough demand for their current supply, it is easy to understand why keeping up with the latest technology isn't always a top priority.

The problem with this reluctance, though, is that automobiles are not inexpensive consumables that people buy casually. Customers expect vehicles to come with the highest standards of safety and efficiency. Customers expect the latest technology possible. How can manufacturers keep up with this demand for innovation without changing their processes?

It seems that some manufacturers are beginning to embrace the ways of the modern industrial world, and are finding ways to align their business models with the current wave of interconnectivity and streamlined automation.

Honda Manufacturing of Alabama

Honda's largest light truck production facility in the world – a 3.7 million square foot plant – was faced with a problem all too common to large manufacturing facilities. Over the years, a number of different automation systems were introduced to help streamline production. With operations including blanking, stamping, welding, painting, injection molding, and many other processes involved in producing up to 360,000 vehicles and engines per year, it is not surprising that they found themselves struggling to integrate PLCs from multiple manufacturers, multiple MES systems, analytic systems, and database software from different vendors.

Of course, on top of these legacy systems, Honda continued to layer an array of smart devices on the plant floor and embed IT devices in plant equipment. The complexity introduced by this array of automation systems turned out to be slowing down the operations they were intended to streamline.

After reorganizing their business structure to merge IT and plant floor operations into a single department, Honda proceeded to deploy a new automation software platform that enabled them to bring together PLC data with the data coming from MES and ERP systems into a common interface that allowed the entire enterprise to be managed through a single system. This also allowed Honda to manage and analyze much larger data sets that revealed new opportunities for further optimization. While this reorganization required a significant investment of resources, they were able to realize benefits immediately, and ultimately positioned themselves to maintain a competitive edge through the next decade or more.

Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Company operates a global network of manufacturing operations, and have had difficulty when trying to promote collaboration and share best practices between their various plants. They found a solution using technology based on the Google Earth infrastructure.

Ford was able to develop a cloud-based application that stores 2D and 3D representations of Ford's global manufacturing facilities, and allows users to navigate through these virtual environments, place pins, and upload video, images and documents to these pins that are shared throughout Ford's global operations. Engineers and operators can share information about current plant conditions and procedures, which can be accessed in real time from anywhere in the world. The accumulated data can be used for training or to update standard procedures. By creating a global collaborative tool, Ford has created a means of ensuring that each and every one of their employees has the latest, most accurate information on how to best perform a particular task or how to avoid a problem that was encountered elsewhere.

We will have to see in coming years whether or not these innovations will lead to improved market performance for either of these manufacturers, but in the meantime it is probably safe to expect other companies to follow suit. With the advances in manufacturing technologies and machine-to-machine communication, it is becoming very difficult to remain competitive without playing by the same rules as everyone else. Industrial technology has advanced to the point that we are experiencing what people refer to as a new industrial era – or Industry 4.0. Reluctance is no longer a viable option.

During Industrial Revolution 4.0 Era, Palm Oil Plantation Have to Implement Digital Technology

At this time the world is in the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) which is characterized by the implementation of artificial intelligence, super computer, big data, cloud computation, and digital innovation that occurs in the exponential velocity that will directly impact to the economy, industry, government, and even global politics.

The Industrial Revolution 4.0 is characterized by a smart industrialization process that refers to improved automation, machine-to-machine and human-to-machine communication, artificial intelligence (AI), and the development of sustainable digital technology.

Industrial Revolution 4.0 is also interpreted as an effort to transform the process of improvement by integrating the production line (production line) with the world of cyber, where all production processes run online through internet connection as the main support.

Road Map to Industrial 4.0 in Palm Oil Industry

In Indonesia the application of industry 4.0 is expected to increase productivity and innovation, reduce operational costs, and efficiency that led to increase the export of domestic products. In order to accelerate the implementation of Industry 4.0, Indonesia has developed a roadmap for industry 4.0 by establishing five manufacturing sectors that will be a top priority in its development, including food and beverage industry, automotive, electronics, textiles and chemicals.

The five industry sectors are favored considering that they have shown their great contribution to the national economic growth. For example, the food and beverage industry, especially the palm oil industry, has a market share with growth reaching 9.23% in 2017. In addition, the industry also became the largest foreign exchange contributor from the non-oil sector which reached up to 34.33% in year 2017.

The magnitude of the contribution of the food and beverage industry sector can also be seen from the value of exports reaching 31.7 billion US dollars in 2017, even having a trade balance surplus when compared with the import value of only US $ 9.6 billion. This figure also places the palm oil industry as the largest foreign exchange contributor to the country.

In order to increase productivity and efficiency optimally, the technology supporting the industrial revolution 4.0 is imperative to implement, including the implementation of Internet of Things (IOT), Advance Robotic (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digitalized Infrastructure (DI).

The structural transformation from the agricultural sector to the industrial sector has also increased per capita income and driven Indonesians from agrarian to economies that rely on an industry-driven value-added process accelerated by the development of digital technology.

In the context of this industrial revolution 4.0, the palm oil industry sector needs to immediately clean up, especially in the aspect of digital technology. This is considering the mastery of digital technology will be the key that determines the competitiveness of Indonesia.

Because if not, then the Indonesian palm oil industry will be increasingly left behind from other countries. If we do not improve our capabilities and competitiveness in priority sectors, we will not only be able to reach the target but will be overridden by other countries that are better prepared in the global and domestic markets.

Digitalization Era in Palm Oil Industry

As a major player in the global palm oil industry, Indonesia needs to clean up soon. Absolute process and operational efficiency is immediately undertaken especially concerning activities involving many manpower such as field work (infield activity) such as crop maintenance, land treatment, fertilizing activity, weeding, harvesting and transporting fruit to weighing and sorting. This is because in this sector there is often time and cost inefficiency.

Digital technology has facilitated a lot of work in the palm oil industry. Now no longer need to make statistical data collected from a number of palm plantations manually. Ease and other advantages of digital technology is able to capture images or photos of fresh fruit bunches, as well as precise location of the garden using a tablet that can access the GPS.

That way, field managers can not only easily track and monitor real-time activity in the garden, but they can also see for themselves the quality of the palm fruit and know exactly which areas are experiencing the problem. And incredibly, it does not need their presence on the field.

In addition to the ease of transferring data from the field to the Excel sheet on the computer and also making reports on the quality of the palm fruit, digitization also facilitates in recording the presence of employees and field workers to then process the data for the purposes of remuneration and incentives.