Digitalization, Machine Learning, Predictive Maintenance: In order to really drive a change, all technical developments require willingness in the first place, especially if the change is disruptive, as it is happening now with this recent wave of technological innovation. ‘’We find ourselves at the dawn of a new era. The decisions that we take now will shape our future and how production will be designed.’’ commented Andreas Hamm, Country Director Germany at Rockwell Automation, during our conversation about how to tackle the problems that many companies are facing during their ‘’digital journey’’. Today, users are demanding more flexibility, an element which new technologies have enabled at higher levels of complexity than before.
Predictive Maintenance is a key advancement for productivity and quality control, and it’s based on AI. But to which extent it can be considered reliable and refined? ‘’Quite advanced and reliable and continuously evolving.’’ said Mr. Hamm. ‘’Creating diagnostic analytics solutions in industrial operations has long required expert data scientists with a deep understanding of the specific application to be analyzed.’’ he continued.
This is not all, since experts also need weeks, months or even years to understand and conceive the system, and this reality led Rockwell Automation to invest in the development a solution to deal with analytics in a continuous and automated fashion. It is the Sherlock Artificial Intelligence Module, that can seamlessly watch operations and look for anomalies.
The data-driven analytics algorithm of the system is delivered inside a module that fits directly into the controller chassis. Once installed, the module leverages novel physics-based modeling to “learn” the application that controller manages. ‘’The solution scours controller tags to identify the application or allows users to choose what they would like modeled by selecting inputs and outputs via an add-on-instruction (AOI). Project Sherlock AI will then quickly learn from the stream of data passing through the controller to build a model. A process that can be accomplished in just a few minutes.’’ explained Mr. Hamm with further details. If the system spots a problem, it can trigger an alarm on an HMI screen or dashboard.
Andreas Hamm also brings our attention to the fact that future iterations will even go beyond diagnostics, and it will be possible to remedy the issue or to automatically adjust system parameters without human intervention.
At the last edition of SPS IPC Drives, Rockwell Automation presented an expanded version of the PowerFlex® 755T drives. These drives were designed to help reduce energy costs, add flexibility while increasing productivity, and include interesting predictive maintenance features. The new version presented at SPS guarantees predictive diagnostics and maintenance for system health analysis. ‘’The drives now offer an expanded power range, helping engineers with applications from 10 to 6,000 horsepower (7.5 to 4,500 kW), improve productivity and reduce their lifecycle costs. The expansion brings harmonic mitigation, regeneration and common bus-system configurations to a wider range of high-demand applications.’’ illustrated Mr. Hamm.
In this latest addition, we find an enhanced version of the TotalFORCE technology – a patented technology which basically deploys a series of exclusive features developed for system optimization. ‘’TotalFORCE technology now includes more powerful adaptive control capabilities, which allow the drives to monitor machine characteristics that can change over time and automatically compensate for the changes that occur. An adaptive tuning feature uses up to four automatic tracking notch filters to block resonance and vibration that can impact quality, waste energy and prematurely wear out a machine.’’ added Mr. Hamm.
In addition to that, predictive maintenance features provide real-time information about the health of the drive. For example, the drives are able to calculate the remaining life of critical components – by monitoring operational characteristics such as temperature, voltage and current – and notify users, who can act in time and prevent unplanned downtime.
Besides that, at SPS IPC Drives 2018 Rockwell Automation also announced its partnership with PTC, a software and service company that provides technologies for the IoT at a global scale. The partnership was sealed for the launch of the new FactoryTalk InnovationSuite and the acceleration of Digital Transformation. ‘’The newly launched FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC is a software suite that enables companies to optimize their industrial operations and enhance productivity by providing decision makers with improved data and insights. It delivers complete visibility of operations and systems status from a single source of information.’’ said Mr. Hamm.
The software suite not only enables digital transformation but also the delivering of tools for end-to-end digitization. ‘’Furthermore, it improves the connectivity to operational technology (OT) devices on the plant floor, natively supporting the rapid, scalable, and secure connection of the most commonly used industrial equipment.’’ added Mr. Hamm.
The combination of data from IT and OT will give decision makers a complete digital overview of their industrial equipment, lines, and facilities anywhere in the world, predisposing the digital transition.