More answers about how next-generation automation will help in 2023

Experts provide more answers about how next generation automation will help in 2023. As part of the 2023 “How to automate series” of webcasts, three firms selected as 2023 System Integrator of the Year explain how and what next-generation automation including artificial intelligence, integrating new technologies and cybersecurity. Presenters provide answers to audience questions not answered during the Jan. 18 webcast, archived for 1 year.

By Mark T. Hoske February 8, 2023
Courtesy: Eosys, George T. Hall, NorthWind Technical Services, Control Engineering

 

Learning Objectives

  • Jan. 18 Control Engineering webcast, archived for a year, identifies leading technologies important for automation, controls and instrumentation implementations in 2023, “Automation Series: How next-generation automation will help in 2023.”
  • Additional questions not answered during the webcast ware answered here by the presenters about important automation technologies in 2023.

Control system integrators provide more answers about how they anticipate next-generation technologies will help in 2023, after the Control Engineering Jan. 18 webcast that will be archived for a year. Audience listening live had the opportunity to submit questions to presenters.

Some answers on topics included artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), integration of new technologies and cybersecurity and more that were not answered during the live webcast. This the first in a series of “How to automate” webcasts in 2023.

Using research about technologies, interviews and other materials from automation industry leaders, this moderated discussion included will present Control Engineering research about what technologies are expected to help most.

A poll question will seek audience input about what technologies they find most useful. There is no cost to attend the archived 1-hour webcast, and 1 RCEP professional development hour is available with successful completion of a quiz after the webcast. Learn more and get the registration link here: “Automation Series: How next-generation automation will help in 2023.”

Experts from the three firms named 2023 System Integrator of the Year

Presenters during the webcast, from the firms named 2023 System Integrator of the Year, are:

  • Tyler Graham, director business development-digital transformation, and Randy Rausch, director of technology-digital transformation, Eosys
  • Mike Howard, vice president of system integration at George T. Hall
  • Matt Lueger, executive vice president, NorthWind Technical Services.
In a Control Engineering webcast, Jan. 18, 2022, archived for a year, “Automation Series: How next-generation automation will help in 2023,” award winning control system integrators Eosys, George T. Hall, and NorthWind Technical Services explain what technologies are helping their clients automate more effectively in 2023. These are the three System Integrator of the Year firms for 2023. Courtesy: Eosys, George T. Hall, NorthWind Technical Services, Control Engineering

In a Control Engineering webcast, Jan. 18, 2022, archived for a year, “Automation Series: How next-generation automation will help in 2023,” award winning control system integrators Eosys, George T. Hall, and NorthWind Technical Services explain what technologies are helping their clients automate more effectively in 2023. These are the three System Integrator of the Year firms for 2023. Courtesy: Eosys, George T. Hall, NorthWind Technical Services, Control Engineering

Learning objectives for the webcast are to:

  • Review Control Engineering research about what automation and control technology topics are most useful.
  • Understand system integrators’ views and advice about applying and advancing by implementing or upgrading applications using those automation and control technologies.
  • Prioritize what to do first based on your pain points and business needs.
  • Hear examples and best practices related to those technologies.

Answers from additional audience questions about automation follow.

Question: How can I leverage these new technologies in my factory full of legacy equipment?

Rausch: Some items, like the asset administration shell, can be implemented on top of legacy equipment. Other technologies may need a middleware layer to translate into the new ecosystems.

Howard: We’ve had great results in a phased approach with programmable logic controller (PLC) systems using modernization tools to start with replacing the central processing unit (CPU) and associated software applications to prove the system. From there, the legacy systems, network and input and output (I/O) modules can be phased out over time.

Question: How important will cybersecurity be with technology continually evolving especially with smart devices being implemented in modernization projects?

Rausch: Cybersecurity will be critical in all aspects of work and life going forward. Security doesn’t have to be the reciprocal of convenience. Moving away from traditional OT network architectures and implementing Industry 4.0-friendly architectures can increase your security and make data access easier for authorized individuals. For example, many smart devices speak publish/subscribe protocols.  In these cases, you don’t need holes in your firewall to communicate as the lower level devices are the only ones required (and allowed) to initiate communication. By implementing cybersecurity best practices of regular patching, zero trust, least privilege, and defense-in-depth, one can be robust to evolving technologies.

Question: What are in-use applications of deep learning/AI?

Rausch: Machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning (DP) applications are used just about everywhere these days. Manufacturing has been slower to adopt the technologies, but there are in-use applications such as:

  • Predictive maintenance to forecast remaining useful life of equipment.
  • Quality checks
    • Visual inspections
  • Supply chain management
    • Demand forecast accuracy
    • Raw material price predictions
    • Inventory management
    • Logistics applications
  • Shop floor performance monitoring.

Question: What types of applications are AI/ML most successful with?

Rausch: AI/ML is most successful when lots of data is available with context and is in an analyzable form. AI/ML will outperform humans as the dimensionality (number of inputs) to the problem increases.

Question: Where does manufacturing execution systems and manufacturing operations systems (MES/MOM) fit into this vision?           

Graham: MES/MOM are alive and well, but some are better positioned than others to fit easily into an Industry 4.0 architecture. In some cases, MES/MOM could be overkill and another solution may be sufficient. Complete a workshop up front, and implement an MES/MOM in a phased approach, being mindful of overall architecture and company objectives around Industry 4.0, cybersecurity, etc.

Question: Can you give an example of an ontology?

Rausch: Ontologies classify and explain data relationships in a formal way. A simple ontology for describing animals might include classes for mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles, with subclasses for different species within each class. One can implement an ontology on top of the ISA-95 structure (and more) along with their relationships to wrangle all of your data into an analyzable format.

Question: Are Universal Automation (IEC 61499) concepts being applied? What are positive/negative impacts?

Howard: We’ve dabbled a little in UA. One particular application was proposed using variable frequency drives (VFDs) with embedded UA controls greatly reducing the PLC requirements for the project.

Question: Any comments on flow monitoring options among ultrasonic, magnetic or mechanical?

Howard: With much of work being focused around water treatment processes we find magnetic flowmeters the most popular and prolific. They are work horse instruments that offer very good performance in less-than-ideal conditions. We always lead with magnetic flow technology.

Question: What is GEMBA and a GEMBA walk?

Graham: Gemba is a Japanese lean term that means “the actual place.” In the case of a digital transformation workshop, it is important to go to the actual location to see the process and plant floor information systems in person.

Question: Where can I learn more about these new technologies?

Rausch: Armed with these new search terms, you can learn a lot by asking your favorite search engine or ChatGPT. Most integrators also are available to share their knowledge or host a workshop to explore how these technologies could benefit your specific use cases.

[Editor’s note: Control Engineering covers many of these topics; find examples at Home. Some links are provided in this article.]

Edited by Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, and moderator for this webcast, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: Control Engineering webcasts, more answers about how to automate, important automation technologies for 2023

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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.