Rockwell Automation reworks production systems globally

Using its own products in 20 production facilities globally, Rockwell Automation is implementing SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) and Rockwell Automation software, replacing disparate customized, homegrown manufacturing execution systems that previously reported to as many as 5 ERP systems, at one location. Improvements are seen across the supply chain with 4%-5% gains in productivity per year expected, the company representatives said at the RSTechED USA conference.

By Mark T. Hoske June 17, 2014

In 20 production facilities globally, Rockwell Automation is implementing SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) and Rockwell Automation software, replacing disparate customized, homegrown manufacturing execution systems that previously reported to as many as five ERP systems, at one location.

Frank Kulaszewicz, senior vice president of architecture and software, and Robert Murphy, vice president of operations, gave the first-day executive address at RSTechED 2014 USA, discussing the journey to a connected enterprise, the enabling tools, and how they were used. They spoke at RSTechED, the 17th Rockwell Automation software-focused technology conference, this year with a record 1,900 expected registrants. The show goes on the road with stops globally, after this week.

Digital enterprise

In the quest for the interconnected enterprise, many customers are farther along than they might think, Kulaszewicz said. Once music moved from LPs, 8 tracks, and cassettes, to CD, it wasn’t so difficult to move digital files to the cloud for access wherever and whenever needed. Now devices can access music digitally anywhere.

In any plant, it is not just about the data-integrated control and information matter in a plant. Assets and devices are becoming smarter and more interconnected via the Internet, adding value.

Cisco said Internet of things (IoT) creates $14 trillion of value. About 27% is in the industrial space, a $4 trillion incentive to increase productivity.

Kulaszewicz said that Rockwell Automation’s Integrated Architecture platform enhancements include more than 50 new product introductions that deliver a smarter information infrastructure. The Logix platform is the center of that and has been out for nearly a decade, he said. It is getting a lot smarter, more scalable, more powerful, more accessible, and better connected. Connecting assets increases complexity, and people just want things to work. Logix was built for communications (it was originally introduced as a communications server), he said, and the latest communication embeds standard unmodified Ethernet for maximum connectivity.

Studio 5000 software provides system organization, library management, modular automation, actionable info, system security, and other functions, he said.

Lack of connectivity

Less than 14% of manufacturers in the U.S. have machines tied to enterprise networks, Kulaszewicz noted, perhaps as a result of hanging on to automation for too long. The PLC5 line is more than 30 years old. Operational productivity is a huge advantage. Today’s tools can connect present and past automation systems to enterprise systems. Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk ProductionCentre, MES Industry Suites, CPGSuite, PharmaSuite, and AutoSuite manufacturing execution system (MES) software packages are installed in hundreds of plants, and have thousands of users, Kulaszewicz said, while standard unmodified Ethernet allows easy connections of platforms to the enterprise. Capital expenditures that shift to operational expenditures provide new business models.

Industrial automation security, device, network, computer, application, and physical layers are all connected. Information security is the price of entry, today.

"We won’t leave anyone behind, so you can secure your connected enterprise. Connecting the enterprise has been the message from Rockwell Automation for a long time," Kulaszewicz said, showing images of older and newer company technologies.

Partner network

The Connected Partner Network of Rockwell Automation includes Cisco, Microsoft, Panduit, and VMWare, as well as partner programs for other automation vendors and for system integrators.

This broad network, Kulaszewicz said, creates customer value, faster time to market, lower total costs of ownership, improved asset utilization, and enterprise risk management.

The MES applications are running in more than 20 Rockwell Automation plants, now updated with SAP providing an operational excellence system.

Rockwell Automation examples

Bob Murphy, Rockwell Automation vice president of operations, said the company has 387,000 SKUs and 20 plants, which process average orders with 200 part numbers. In addition, average product life has been 20 years.

Murphy has helped with a total restructuring of the company’s supply chain, globally, which he likened to trying to change a tire on a car that’s going 60 mph. The five-year plan for the restructuring included dedicated resources of about 45 project engineers and development of a detailed playbook with one and only one way to do things. Steps included improving upon existing process and service levels.

Murphy started with what many automation customers encounter, disparate and multiple systems in each plant, including one with five enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Such fracturing provides zero global supply chain visibility, Murphy admitted, as custom applications interact with or run on the shop floor. The cost to replicate custom systems globally would have been prohibitive, he said.

Plants have many assets—people, processes, and technologies—and Murphy used high-caliber local engineers and experts from all areas to create global collaboration with manufacturing IT and corporate IT. "In addition, an MES layer dedicated team of four individuals has grown to (still) four individuals. It doesn’t take an army to do this well," Murphy said.

Local help, centrally managed

Lots of local optimization of custom software shifted to a centralized strategy, with a configuration tied to metrics, using a centrally managed toolkit for supply chain optimization.

"It was challenging," Murphy said, "because there was a lot of local pride in custom applications. When you’re the one with the custom application, it’s OK if it’s going well, but when goes wrong, it’s a lonely day, week, or month." FactoryTalk ProductionCentre was critical to enabling the new workflows with localized execution at each plant, in layers from SAP, a Rockwell Software ERP Integration Gateway, FactoryTalk ProductionCentre for the MES layer, and FactoryTalk Live Data. FactoryTalk VantagePoint tied it together from top to bottom, evident on the graphic that Murphy showed.

At the Monterrey, Calif., electronic board assembly plant, about 1.5-2 million parts, 65 raw materials, and 10,000-15,000 boards per day are produced with 55,000 transactions per day.

At the PowerFlex flow assembly line in Mequon, Wis., an Atlas Copco torque system (see photo) includes full traceability and error proofing, with an alarm and line lockout that prevents product from moving to assembly or shipping if it isn’t correct, Murphy said.

Workflow achievements

Benefits related to the improvement include inventory reduction from 120 days to 82 days, 30% less per year in capital expenditures, supply chain delivery improvement from mid-80 percentages to 96%, and reduced lead times by 50%. Quality improved with a 50% reduction in parts per million (PPM) defects, and productivity increased 4%-5% per year, Murphy said.

Next is a push for continuous improvement to optimize, implement, and design, with future technology and greater customer dynamics. Murphy said he wants to know where a drive is in the workflow and how long it will be until shipping. The new tools provide new ways to leverage people, processes, and technologies.

– Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control

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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.