Five ways IT can accelerate digital transformation, OPAF

Part 4 in the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) series covers how Rockwell Automation hardware and software support open process automation and how expanded IT capabilities can influence business outcomes and digital transformation, as explained by Rockwell Automation and ExxonMobil at the 2024 ARC Industry Forum and in related news releases.

By Mark T. Hoske February 27, 2024
Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

 

Learning Objectives

  • Support open process automation, IT-OT convergence, digitalization in five ways as explained at 2024 ARC Industry Forum.
  • Understand how to bring IT technology to the OT space, according to ExxonMobil; cutover to operations is expected for an ExxonMobil OPA-based system is expected in the third quarter.
  • Learn what Rockwell Automation hardware and software support open process automation initiatives and how.

Open process automation and supporting products insights

  • Open process automation, IT-OT convergence and digital transformation can be supported in five ways as explained at 2024 ARC Industry Forum by Rockwell Automation and ExxonMobil.
  • IT tools and technologies can be useful in the OT space, according to ExxonMobil; cutover to operations is expected for an ExxonMobil OPA-based system is expected in the third quarter.
  • Rockwell Automation hardware and software can support open process automation initiatives. See list.

Operational technologies (OT) can benefit with use of open automation, digital transformation and greater use of technologies enabled by information technology, as explained in a Rockwell Automation Workshop, “Rockwell Automation and ExxonMobil: How Open Technologies influence business outcomes in 2024,” part of the 2024 ARC Industry Forum. The session looked at “solutions that industrial sectors are deploying to connect open process automation (OPA) and Industry 4.0 technologies, focusing on positive business outcomes and industrial AI use cases planned for 2024.”

Support open process automation, IT-OT convergence, digitalization in five ways

Two experts outlined five ways IT can help accelerate digital transformation and use of Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) technologies. These are 1) Use of scalable, open and secure technologies in line with open process automation, 2) Emerging process technologies, 3) Operating remote and dispersed assets, 4) Lowering carbon footprint and 5) Increasing profits and adapting to workforce evolution and supply chain challenges.

Figure 1: Rockwell Automation technologies integrated with the PlantPAx distributed control system can operate in a scalable, open, secure and lifecycle-managed way, explains Janet Foos, P.E., Rockwell Automation, director, product management process control and process lead, PlantPaX distributed control systems, at the 2024 ARC Industry Forum.

Figure 1: Rockwell Automation technologies integrated with the PlantPAx distributed control system can operate in a scalable, open, secure and lifecycle-managed way, explains Janet Foos, P.E., Rockwell Automation, director, product management process control and process lead, PlantPaX distributed control systems, at the 2024 ARC Industry Forum. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Open, scalable secure automation architectures with IT capabilities

Janet Foos, P.E., Rockwell Automation director, product management process control and process lead, PlantPAx distributed control systems (Figure 1), explained Rockwell Automation technologies integrated with the PlantPAx distributed control system can operate in a scalable, open, secure and lifecycle-managed way.

Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk (FT) Optix offers edge connectivity and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, FT DataMosaix is a data platform, and FactoryTalk Hub includes FT Design Hub, FT Operations Hub and FT Maintenance Hub. For designing, there’s FT Design Studio; for operating, there’s Plex, Batch Management Analytics and FT Energy Manager; and for maintaining, there’s Fiix and PlantPAx Provisioning and Management, infusing information technologies (IT) into operational technology (OT) applications, Foos said.

Foos said provisioning and management technologies can accelerate initial deployment by one to two weeks and reduce system administration time by more than 10 days per year (Figure 2). Startups, software updates and cybersecurity event recovery all are quicker, she said.

(See more below on what Rockwell Automation software and hardware supports open process automation and how.)

Figure 2: Provisioning and management technologies can accelerate initial deployment by one to two weeks and reduce system administration time by more than 10 days per year. Startups, software updates and cybersecurity event recovery all are quicker, said Janet Foos, P.E., Rockwell Automation, director, product management process control and process lead, PlantPaX distributed control systems, at the 2024 ARC Industry Forum.

Figure 2: Provisioning and management technologies can accelerate initial deployment by one to two weeks and reduce system administration time by more than 10 days per year. Startups, software updates and cybersecurity event recovery all are quicker, said Janet Foos, P.E., Rockwell Automation, director, product management process control and process lead, PlantPaX distributed control systems, at the 2024 ARC Industry Forum. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

ExxonMobil explains how to bring IT technology to the OT space

Dave Hedge technology architect, IT Fellow, ExxonMobil Technology and Engineering (Figure 3), discussed how to bring IT technology to the OT space. Transitions requires changes in four main areas:

  1. Emerging process technologies.

  2. Operating remote locations and dispersed assets.

  3. Lowering carbon footprint while increasing profits.

  4. Adapting to workforce evolution and supply chain disruptions.

By focusing on standard-based solutions, open system and flexible architectures, the idea is to more quickly take advantage of advancements in applications and cognitive functions that are cybersecure by design, Hedge suggested. Transforming process automation aims to move industry from closed and proprietary systems to open, secure, standards-based system that accelerate innovation and value creation.

Figure 3: Dave Hedge technology architect, IT Fellow, ExxonMobil Technology and Engineering, discussed how to bring IT technology to the OT space. Transitions requires changes at the 2024 ARC Industry Forum.

Figure 3: Dave Hedge technology architect, IT Fellow, ExxonMobil Technology and Engineering, discussed how to bring IT technology to the OT space. Transitions requires changes at the 2024 ARC Industry Forum. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

With industrial control system investments process automation can create competition and reduce barriers to entry. Adaptable design can more quickly take advantage of innovations, Hedge said. Open process automation designs are secure, robust, reliable and resilient, supportable and automated, industrial scale, interoperable and application ready (Figure 4).

ExxonMobil system using OPA-based standards: Third quarter cutover

An ExxonMobil OPA system is in staging in a Yokogawa facility getting ready for site system cutover in third-quarter 2024.

Attributes of an OPA-base standards implementation include ability to easily use best-in-class technologies, virtualization and software-defined controllers and use modular, scalable and intuitive development to deliver lower lifecycle costs.

When AI and ML merge, it will increasingly open innovation and help engineers and scientists to produce software-based innovations using distributed control nodes (DCNs) and a container-based, virtual controller environment (Figure 5). A containers application enables an app store concept for applications, running control, communications and alarm engines, with potential to add apps to increase system capabilities. An application can be developed once and shared, driving security and easier configuration, in a system that feels familiar. These automation capabilities can deploy quickly: 18 minutes out of the box to operating a controller, said Hedge.

Figure 4: With industrial control system investments process automation can create competition and reduce barriers to entry. Adaptable design can more quickly take advantage of innovations. Open process automation designs are secure, robust, reliable and resilient, supportable and automated, industrial scale, interoperable and application ready said Dave Hedge technology architect, IT Fellow, ExxonMobil Technology and Engineering, at the 2024 ARC Industry Forum.

Figure 4: With industrial control system investments process automation can create competition and reduce barriers to entry. Adaptable design can more quickly take advantage of innovations. Open process automation designs are secure, robust, reliable and resilient, supportable and automated, industrial scale, interoperable and application ready said Dave Hedge technology architect, IT Fellow, ExxonMobil Technology and Engineering, at the 2024 ARC Industry Forum. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

A lower-cost lifecycle means that a controller will be deployed with a click of a button. Engineers can develop an application once, then click a button 40 times to deploy it in 40 locations, Hedge said.

“The savings in automation infrastructure is mind-blowing to lot of people,” Hedge said. “We can pick up software components and use them on smaller systems. Software reuse across systems helps.”

For savings quantification details, see part 1 in this series, “New cost analysis: Open process automation saves 52% versus DCS.”

Rockwell Automation hardware and software to support open process automation

Rockwell Automation, in news releases Feb. 1 and Feb. 20, explained new hardware and software and communications capabilities useful for open process automation (OPA). In the Feb. 1 release, Rockwell Automation said, “The alignment with open industry standards like the O-PAS standard, OPC-UA and the Namur Module Type Package (MTP) standard allows Rockwell to address the growing market demand for scalability, modularity, and interoperability. The company’s focus on open standards positions it to fulfill industry requirements, with ongoing support for use cases and demonstration projects across various industries.” More about the OPA-enabling products follow.

  • PlantPAx’s control platform is based on Rockwell Automation Logix Controllers, now natively supports OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA), facilitating direct data sharing with edge and cloud applications. Additional connectivity options are available with MQTT and REST.

  • Embedded Edge Compute Module, part of the new FactoryTalk Optix portfolio, provides a compute surface within the Logix environment, enhances plant-wide connectivity through OPC-UA, MQTT and REST API communication. The FactoryTalk Optix portfolio allows users to choose their own technology mix, where for the first time, Rockwell Automation customers can use visualization software to design HMI applications that can work natively with both Rockwell Automation and third-party controllers and display a choice of hardware from either Rockwell Automation or a third-party. Users can connect to a variety of third-party software, devices or systems using software designed for interoperability and full OPC UA support. Users also only pay for the features they need with runtime licensing that is based on the capabilities in their application.

  • FactoryTalk Optix, a scalable platform that can be used in PlantPAx to provide native support for OPC-UA to allow operations, maintenance, and plant personnel to visualize various information originating across the enterprise.

  • PlantPAx combined with FactoryTalk DataMosaix provides an industrial data ops platform that supports OPC-UA, provides contextualization of data from multiple sources. The data models can be used to support pre-built energy, batch and asset optimization solutions from Rockwell Automation or to accelerate development of custom solutions.

Figure 5: Diagram shows how a containers application enables an app store concept for applications, running control, communications and alarm engines, with potential to add apps to increase system capabilities. From the dotted line down, it’s a computer and can deploy quickly: 18 minutes out of the box to operating a controller, said Dave Hedge technology architect, IT Fellow, ExxonMobil Technology and Engineering, at the 2024 ARC Industry Forum.

Figure 5: Diagram shows how a containers application enables an app store concept for applications, running control, communications and alarm engines, with potential to add apps to increase system capabilities. From the dotted line down, it’s a computer and can deploy quickly: 18 minutes out of the box to operating a controller, said Dave Hedge technology architect, IT Fellow, ExxonMobil Technology and Engineering, at the 2024 ARC Industry Forum. Courtesy: Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, mhoske@cfemedia.com; this includes materials from Rockwell Automation.

KEYWORDS: Open, interoperable automation architecture

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Open process automation: 4 article series from Control Engineering at 2024 ARC Industry Forum

New cost analysis: Open process automation saves 52% versus DCS

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Get components, software, help for open process automation now

Five ways IT can accelerate digital transformation, OPAF


Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.