We’re Moving

February 26, 2009

This blog is moving. I set it up on WordPress until our Web site was updated and we had a blogging tool. You can find us now here. The RSS feed is here. Thanks, and catch us on the new site. –Gary Mintchell


Another MES Product Entry

February 14, 2009

There is yet another manufacturing execution system (MES) entrant announced this month. Real-time Production Organizer (RPO) from Yokogawa Electric Corp.  RPO is a suite of manufacturing execution system (MES) platform packages that integrate the vertical production execution workflow across departments and empower decision makers to organize their work quickly and efficiently.

The product is based on the ISA-95 Level 3 manufacturing execution model and performs the definition, dispatch, execution, analysis, and tracking functions. RPO consists of five platform packages. Each package supports a Web service, making RPO. Users can introduce these packages in stages.

The packages are:

  • 1) Workflow Composer VP–Standardizes business work processes and organizes their execution, supporting Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN).
  • 2) Production Coordinator VP–Coordinates information for accurate scheduling, providing an end user computing (EUC) environment.
  • 3) Production Instructor VP–Issues specific work orders for correct and prompt operation, supporting execution monitoring and analysis for identifying best practices.
  • 4) Production Supervisor VP–Supervises real-time performance for quick action by key performance indicator (KPI) monitoring. Web components on a role-based dashboard support drill down analysis.
  • 5) Production Tracker VP–Tracks high-resolution production information for accurate planning and generates production accounting reports.

Delivery of Production Instructor VP and Production Supervisor VP will commence in the
first quarter of fiscal year 2009.

Batch oriented DCS

February 14, 2009

A smaller, batch-oriented distributed control system (DCS) designed to compete strongly with process automation controllers (PACs). Honeywell introduced the Experion LS control system, a new product within the Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS) line. It manages all continuous process control applications and optimizes batch and sequence-oriented applications typically found at specialty chemicals, pharmaceutical, food and beverage and consumer goods producers. The product is scalable from a single personal computer and controller to multiple stations. The Experion LS is designed with a subset of commands and includes a configuration tool that the company maintains can help plants save up to $20,000 per year in support per system. The easier configuration also enables faster and more-reliable changeovers, allowing operators to more easily modify batch recipes and increase production.

“Many applications in the Food and Beverage, Specialty Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Life Science industries would benefit from the functionality of a DCS, but the installed base has been limited due to the perceptions of lack of scalability, great complexity and high costs,” said ARC Advisory Group analyst Craig Resnick. “Experion LS appears to address these issues by being designed to be a DCS for the masses, one that can be specified, purchased, installed, and maintained in a scalable fashion by organizations that have not utilized DCS systems in the past. It is especially critical today that manufacturers, processors, and OEMs leverage these technologies in face of their unprecedented pressures to cut costs while simultaneously meeting increased regulations and sustainability objectives.”

“Smaller manufacturing operations tell us they need DCS functionality, such as the system reliability and greater flexibility that PLCs can’t offer, but many leading DCS systems are just too big for their operations,” said Harsh Chitale, vice president of strategy and global marketing, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Experion LS offers the best of both worlds. It provides agility to respond to product mix changes and offers advanced optimization and batch technology usually found in larger DCS systems.”

Experion LS features Honeywell’s ISA88 compliant and scalable solution for batch automation that can be fully redundant. The system minimizes engineering costs with drag-and-drop configuration, pre-built algorithms, a global database, pre-configured displays and out-of-the-box batch functionality. Operational advantages are gained by being able to make automation configuration changes without stopping production and offering operators a run-time view of control strategy and sequence status, truly redundant unit execution and integrated operator instructions.

“For many years, smaller manufacturers faced a dilemma: They needed to quickly adapt their processes to market changes, but doing so could reduce system reliability and increases lifecycle costs,” said Chitale. “As the creator of the first DCS system, Honeywell has taken its extensive DCS knowledge and designed Experion LS to deliver the agility these manufacturers need to survive in today’s business environment without sacrificing system stability.”

Process Instrumentation Collaboration

February 14, 2009

As Rockwell Automation Inc. continues to bolster its process automation capabilities, it increasingly works with Endress+Hauser for the instrumentation portion of the portfolio. The companies have collaborated to develop tools providing diagnostics and step-by-step guidance on connectivity, configuration and commissioning of Endress+Hauser instrumentation with Rockwell’s PlantPAx process automation system. The tools include pre-engineered controller code, pre-configured operator faceplates and integration documentation. All of the tools are available for the most commonly used Endress+Hauser process instrumentation.

“We recognize the challenges faced within the industry when integrating advanced instrumentation into a plant-wide process control system. These new tools for device integration will help significantly ease implementation,” said Steve Pulsifer, director of Process Market Development, Rockwell Automation.

Todd Lucey, General Manager, Endress+Hauser added, “They also will enable the PlantPAx system to gather and visualize previously isolated process instrumentation diagnostics.”

Multimedia HMI

February 14, 2009

Human-machine interface products are keeping up with the state of general computing and Web technologies. Mitsubishi Electric Automation Inc. has released the GT16 series multimedia HMI. It combines video and sound capabilities with embedded communications interfaces. Video capture and store capability, monitor display/RGB input and a sound output interface are featured. With the real-time video record and playback function, plant personnel can play GT16 recordings or MPEG 4 video files. It can record machine / process events up to 120 seconds before and after a condition being monitored.

Other features include display sizes from 8.4 to 15 inches; integrated RS232/422/485 serial and Ethernet communication ports; front-mounted USB port; compact flash slots; and built-in 15 MB of flash memory.

Emerson Enters MES

February 14, 2009

Operations management software is a new product category for Emerson Process Management as it makes a strong entry into the ISA95 Level 3 space, also known as MES. Its Syncade smart operations management suite is constructed in modules. The intent is to extend the value of the company’s PlantWeb digital plant architecture by integrating real-time plant floor data with procedural, off-line and transactional plant business processes, decisions and asset management. Built on Microsoft.Net, Syncade goes beyond traditional client-server architectures.

“Unveiling of the Syncade Suite is another exciting step in realizing the fully intelligent digital plant,” commented Tom Snead, president of the systems and solutions division of Emerson Process Management. “The new operations management suite integrates the industry’s broadest, most reliable process intelligence from PlantWeb architecture into easy and efficient use for optimum operational decisions.”

The four modules that comprise the product include resource management, operations optimization, integrated information, and quality and compliance.

Resource Management:  This module  includes tools to optimize material conversion and eliminate the use of unsuitable material. Other tools include scheduling, verifying and tracking equipment, guiding manual processes and enabling access to support documents, ensuring personnel have the proper skills, training and qualifications needed to effectively perform their jobs.

Operations Optimization: Improves plant workflow processes that include order management, material weighing/addition/traceability status, equipment state/cleaning/calibration tracking, product sampling and adjustment, electronic procedural control and data collection.

Quality and Compliance: Provides effective data and document management throughout the lifecycle of a document, including online storage, change control, automatic routing, version management, and archived records management. “Turns your documents into management assets; rather than organizational burdens.”

Integrated Information: Provides access to the right data at the right time by integrating real-time plant-floor data with business practices. Streamlines plant operations by coordinating “handshaking” functions between existing plant systems and electronically guiding manual processes.

Hygienic gearmotor

January 28, 2009

With automotive manufacturing slowing over the past few years, other manufacturing has become an important market for technology suppliers. One especially is food & beverage manufacturing–after all, we all still eat every day.

This IP69K-rated motor with a smooth-bodied design is the heart of the new Aseptic Plus gearmotor from SEW-Eurodrive. It is designed for high pressure, high temperature washdown conditions with aggressive cleansing agents. The motor is TENV (totally enclosed non-ventilated) to prevent contaminants from being spread by airflow. Stainless steel components, special coatings and sealants and double sealing combine to provide the washdown protection.

Embedded Automation Computer

January 22, 2009

A few years ago, specmanship regarding personal computer technology was all the news. Faster chips, more memory and so on. Well, computing technology continues to advance–just more quietly. Here is a new embedded computer designed with machine builders in mind. The Industrial Automation Group of Advantech introduced the UNO-1170, an embedded automation computer which features an Intel Celeron M or Pentium M central processing unit (CPU) and 512MB/1GB DDR SDRAM. The UNO-1170 comes in a compact aluminum chassis with fanless and diskless design. It can operate in temperatures up to 60°C and has a 512KB SRAM battery back-up system in the event of sudden shut down.

It contains two Ethernet ports, three serial (RS-232/422/485) ports, three external USB 2.0 ports and one internal secure USB port. The UNO-1170’s front-accessibility makes it convenient for wiring and its DIN-rail design allows easy installation. Operating system and driver support includes Microsoft Windows XP Embedded, Microsoft WinCE 6.0 and embedded Linux. IT is available with a pre-configured Windows CE and XP Embedded image with optimized onboard device drivers.

–Gary Mintchell

Fieldbus System Obtains Safety Approval

January 20, 2009

MooreHawke, a division of Moore Industries-International Inc., announces that the Route-Master Fieldbus System has ATEX approval (FM pending) as a redundant intrinsically-safe fieldbus system permitting the connection of any mix of Fieldbus Intrinsically Safe COncept (FISCO) and Entity devices. According to the company, this is the first fieldbus system approval to offer FISCO compatibility and power redundancy.

A Route-Master system consists of up to eight Trunk Isolator Modules in a 19-inch rack, each connected to one or more RM100 Fieldbus Device Couplers. This combination is now approved suitable for any mix of FISCO and Entity field devices. The RM100 Rack incorporates hot-swappable and load-sharing redundant DC power cards and full galvanic isolation. Intrinsically-safe approvals extend to IEC Gas Group IIC (NEC Groups A and B), with an industry-best 350m per segment.

The duplex FISCO Route-Master gives a calculated MTBF of 468 years, at least 5 times better than a conventional simplex FISCO system. Uniquely, it also allows the full Foundation Fieldbus network length of 1900m, and 120m spurs, double the normal FISCO restrictions.
RM100 Device Couplers have auto-resetting short-circuit protection, automatic segment termination to eliminate common installation errors and commissioning delays, and LED status indicators. MooreHawke’s short circuit protection method prevents segment failure caused by multiple device faults. A unique “fold-back” technique automatically removes fault loads from the segment, and does not permit any current flow to those devices until faults are corrected. Manual termination is also offered at the user’s request.

–Gary Mintchell

Open Source ERP

January 17, 2009

Open source, where users contribute back to the community in exchange for obtaining free software, has come to manufacturing. xTuple has released xTuple ERP 3.1 open source ERP system. Among the key new features is a Kitting function to allow distributors to more efficiently sell collections of items, as well as a Multi-Company Financial Consolidation feature which allows companies or groups of companies to report on a single consolidated financial statement.

“While the roots of xTuple ERP are in manufacturing, we’ve seen enormous interest from distribution and retail businesses,” said Ned Lilly, president and chief executive officer of xTuple. “Working with our growing community of users, we continue to broaden the functional scope of the world’s most advanced open source ERP system – while maintaining the simplicity and ease-of-use for which we’re known worldwide.”

The new Sales Order Kitting function enables users to sell kit items on a sales order that automatically explodes to include shippable line item components. The kit components are printed on the sales order pick list, issued to stock and shipped, all accomplished without an intermediary work order. The Sales Order Kitting functionality is available in all editions of xTuple ERP, including the totally free PostBooks Edition.

Other enhancements featured in xTuple ERP 3.1 include:

  • Multi-Company Financial Consolidation, which allows users with a multi-company chart of accounts implemented on separate databases to report on a single, consolidated financial statement. The xTuple Financial Reporting Engine synchronizes trial balances across these databases, while child databases maintain company-specific trial balance data and the parent database receives copies of the data from each child.
  • Average Costing, perfect for distributors and light manufacturers requiring a streamlined, low-maintenance solution which does not require periodic cost recalculations as does the standard costing system.
  • Sales Order Reservations by Location, which expands the existing Sales Reservations functionality available in xTuple ERP to be able to reserve quantities at the location level and print these location allocations on a pick list, reducing the possibility of conflict where items are stored in multiple locations in a warehouse but there is more demand than supply in any one location at a given time.

xTuple ERP PostBooks Edition is the company’s entry-level offering, available completely free and open source, and suitable for small businesses of all kinds. It includes full financials; customer relationship management (CRM); sales and purchasing; financial and ad-hoc reporting; and lightweight inventory, manufacturing and distribution. xTuple ERP Standard Edition is a midrange commercially-licensed offering, which adds advanced inventory control, warehousing, and other features to the core package. It is a good option for distributors, retailers, light manufacturers, and anyone else who would prefer commercially licensed software. The OpenMFG Edition is the premium commercial offering, and is recommended for manufacturing companies in both discrete and batch process production; make to order, make to stock, or mixed-mode; even job shops and engineer-to-order.

The PostBooks Edition is available free of charge under the open source Common Public Attribution License (CPAL), and is consistently ranked among the top ten projects on the SourceForge open source download portal. The Standard and OpenMFG Editions are available under xTuple’s innovative hybrid license, whereby customers and partners have full access to the application source code, and any enhancements made to the product flow back to xTuple for review, quality testing, and possible incorporation into the baseline product.

All xTuple ERP products run equally well on Mac, Windows, and Linux computers, and are fully internationalized with multi-currency, support for multiple tax structures, and multilingual translation packs maintained by the global open-source community. The company also sponsors public discussion forums, a documentation wiki, blogs, and the community issue/bug tracker.