Learn how Automation Productivity takes a holistic approach to control system design, operations and maintenance to accelerate efficiency, collaboration and innovation.
Productivity is at the heart of industry’s most compelling challenges. Since the first automobile rolled off the assembly line, automation technologies have focused on ways to improve manufacturers’ ability to drive more efficiency across their operations. Over the past few decades, optimisation of automation control and information systems has centered on ever-better integration, such as the Rockwell Automation Integrated ArchitectureTM system and vision of the Connected Enterprise.
Automation Productivity — a holistic approach to integrated control system design, operations and maintenance — extends the capabilities of this information-enabled environment.
“An Automation Productivity strategy allows users to be more efficient throughout their process — and more responsive to marketplace realities,” explains Andy Stump, design software marketing manager at Rockwell Automation.
Today’s producers require scalable, cost-effective ways to address increasingly complex product designs and related processes.
At the same time, new technologies, including virtual design, modeling and simulation, are being incorporated into the process to make the most of capital budgets and to reduce project risk.
“Within this complex environment, more people must work together and exchange data,” Stump says.
In addition, the workplace is rapidly changing. Baby boomers — and the extensive expertise they embody — are leaving the workforce. At the same time, a savvy new wave of talent is entering the field.
“Manufacturers must find ways to capture the resident knowledge they are losing,” Stump explains. “They must also meet new engineers’ expectations for contemporary software systems that leverage the best of consumer technology trends.”
Overall, manufacturers need to be more efficient in control-system design. They also require systems that are faster to implement, less error-prone and easier to maintain.
Enter Automation Productivity
Automation Productivity is a strategy based on efficient project design that enables end users, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and system integrators to reduce costs, time to market and risk throughout their control system life cycle.
It’s grounded in a fundamental concept: How a system is designed ultimately affects its operation and maintenance. Automation Productivity leverages secure EtherNet/IP™ connectivity and next-generation, role-based software to create efficient, collaborative, and ultimately innovative control-system environments.
“Bottom line, Automation Productivity is about efficiency,” Stump says. “Using this strategy, control-system users throughout the automation spectrum can better align their systems with how they actually design, operate and maintain their manufacturing applications.”
Modular Flexibility and Role-Based Efficiency
Akin to writing a detailed research paper without an outline, control design without clear organization can cause significant difficulties later — especially for complex applications.
“A system that’s not modularly designed takes longer to integrate, troubleshoot and maintain,” says Mike Brimmer, Studio 5000® product manager, Rockwell Automation. “Investment in good, systematic design pays dividends for the long haul — and that’s the case whether you’re an end user, OEM or system integrator.”
Automation Productivity requires a control system environment that supports systematic design and minimizes complexity.
“Today’s managed computer languages use object-oriented programming to simplify complex applications,” Brimmer explains. “That same breakdown into modular objects and defined interfaces is now occurring in contemporary automation platforms.”
With a modular approach, both the functional expert writing the detailed code and the application expert using the code library to design a project can interface with the control environment in a logical, productive way.
“Functional experts today do a great job writing code and building systems — but when it comes to organizational structure, current automation environments often fall short,” Stump says. “Modularity provides the basis for efficient design — and optimal ways to write, test and organize code.”
On the other hand, application experts just want to view the design environment in a way that makes sense from the perspective of the application. To meet this need, modular capabilities are leveraged to provide an interface that is visually aligned with the process, production line and/or machine.
“This role-based interface allows application experts to design their system in line with how the machine or line is actually laid out,” Stump explains.
Modularity supports better control system organization and delivers benefits during operations and maintenance cycles. Providing contextualized information when users need it is inherently more efficient. It allows end users to logically find what they need, troubleshoot code and recover more quickly from downtime. It improves production throughput and lowers total cost of ownership.
“For OEMs and system integrators, Automation Productivity means not only faster design and development cycles — but also machines and systems that deliver better, more predictable performance and are easier to use and maintain,” Stump explains. “When a machine or system is based on modular design, it is inherently more productive and cost-effective throughout its operating life.”
Extending the Value of Intellectual Property
Good modular design breaks down code to its most simplistic form to modular objects that can also be stored and reused easily.
“Reusable objects are valuable intellectual property,” says Stump. “Extending the use of these objects is becoming increasingly important to automation system users industry-wide.”
Modular object capabilities make the initial design process more efficient. Combined with effective content management and workflows, these capabilities enable the duplication of those objects.
“Being able to repurpose modular objects means users can duplicate a system, line or machine — or add to it — more quickly,” says Brimmer. “Reusing objects also drives standardization and can reduce project risk.”
Collaborative Engineering Environment
As the complexity of products and control systems has increased, so have the teams that design and use them. Project teams often consist of discipline-specific subgroups scattered across multiple geographic locations.
“A more collaborative engineering environment is fundamental to any Automation Productivity strategy,” says Stump.
Integrated control system environments that enable multiple individuals to work independently, and then compare and merge their work, support this strategy.
Likewise, an open environment that enables comprehensive data exchange between the automation system and computer-aided design (CAD), product lifecycle management (PLM), and other toolsets can increase productivity and plus reduce errors and risk during the design process.
“Open design environments and better collaboration generally translate into better, more cost-effective design,” says Brimmer.
When collaborative engineering supports good modular design and system organization, applications that are more intuitive to operate and maintain are the result.
From Productivity to Innovation
Automation Productivity recognizes that production life cycles can extend a decade or more. Control system environments that improve efficiency throughout every phase of that life cycle will pay dividends for years to come.
“Bottom line, a more productive control environment saves time and reduces costs,” says Stump. “It frees engineering resources to focus on core competencies that drive innovative products, machines and systems.”
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