Most of us use cloud services in our daily lives. Our email, music, financial software, and shopping are regularly becoming a browser experience or a data connected mobile app. This paradigm is now moving into for our automation platforms but what shape will it take as it pertains to Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
The Internet of Things is revolutionizing all areas of our lives. In manufacturing, Industry 4.0 is a revolution as transformative as the first industrial revolution that began 300 years ago. Advancements in manufacturing analytics are coming fast and furious. Not all manufacturing analytics are totally new however.
A quarter century ago, at the height of the silver halide dominance in imaging, systems engineers at Kodak had developed a process monitoring analytics system that was decades ahead of its time. This powerful toolset was one of the methods that enabled Kodak to manufacture high quality and consistently uniform chemicals, dyes, and emulsions in plants operating in five different continents. Using the analytical capability of their proprietary product, Kodak was able to find process malfunctions before they occurred, predict product response performance, summarize massive and complex data to an actionable data subset and as a result they could reduce the manufacture of off-specification product.
One of the relationships that has been foundational in Optimation’s growth and success over the years is the one we have with National Instruments. NI is the test, measurement, and control systems innovator based in Austin, Texas. For over a dozen years, Optimation has been a partner with NI. We have together been engineering, deploying, supporting, and training in innovative solutions based in the NI ecosystem. Applications range from medical device testing to very high-pressure test system design and fabrications, to custom programming and software design. Our clients have benefited from the combination of Optimation’s creative engineers and developers with NI’s state-of-the-art suite of open software, innovative solutions, and globally-sourced electronics and systems.
I'm fortunate to again be attending NIWeek, the annual business and technology conference run by National Instruments (NI) in Austin, Texas. It's a scene of thousands of engineers, scientists, and businesspeople converging to look at the latest and greatest technologies, applications, and success stories while also having the opportunity to learn new techniques and advance our prowess.
Previously, I’ve written about our history with code standardization and Rockwell’s support of standardization with Add-On Instructions and Plant PAx. But how do you go about developing and following a standard in the first place?
One of the most useful features of Rockwell’s RSLogix 5000 is the capability to create and leverage Add-On Instructions. A programmer can define one instruction that contains a specific set of instructions, thereby encapsulating a specific function or algorithm. Add-On instructions can be used to create new instructions for sets of commonly-used logic, providing a common interface and documentation. They are not the same as a high-level programming language. Note that Add-On-Instructions can be used across multiple projects and shared by other team members with each other. You add the instruction in to your program, connect up necessary references, and it runs!
When Optimation started standardizing code in 1998 for PLC Programming for the Allen Bradley PLC5, not too many others were practicing code standardization in the controls world. Now it’s considered a best practice, but is it always followed? What happens when you work with a systems integrator who doesn’t use standardized code?