Closing historic gap in machine and factory automation.

01/05/2017

B&R, the largest independent provider focused on product- and software-based, open-architecture solutions for machine and factory automation worldwide has been acquired by ABB.

B&R, founded in 1979 by Erwin Bernecker and Josef Rainer is headquartered in Eggelsberg, Austria, employs more than 3,000 people, including about 1,000 R&D and application engineers. It operates across 70 countries, generating sales of more than $600 million (2015/16) in the $20 billion machine and factory automation market segment. The combination will result in an unmatched, comprehensive offering for customers of industrial automation, by pairing B&R’s innovative products, software and solutions for modern machine and factory automation with ABB’s world-leading offering in robotics, process automation, digitalization and electrification.



A video of This announcement and other details here on the ABB Website (4 April 2017)

Benefits for Austria
With this acquisition, ABB becomes the largest industrial automation player in Austria. ABB has operated in Austria for more than 100 years. With the strong future role, B&R and its headquarters in Austria will play as part of ABB, Austria, particularly Upper Austria, will benefit. The planned expansion of the R&D and production activities in Eggelsberg and Gilgenberg will strengthen Austria’s high-tech industrial landscape.
Transaction financials
The transaction multiple is in line with peer valuations. The parties agreed not to disclose the purchase price. ABB will finance the acquisition in cash. The transaction is expected to be operationally EPS accretive in the first year, and is expected to add significant synergies of about 8% of B&R’s stand-alone revenue in year four. The transaction is expected to close in summer 2017, subject to customary regulatory clearances.

Through the acquisition, ABB expands its position in industrial automation and be uniquely positioned to seize growth opportunities resulting from the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industrie 4.0). In addition, ABB takes a major step in expanding its digital offering by combining its industry-leading portfolio of digital solutions, ABB Ability, with B&R’s strong application and software platforms, its large installed base, customer access and tailored automation solutions.

“B&R is a gem in the world of machine and factory automation and this combination is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This transaction marks a true milestone for ABB, as B&R will close the historic gap within ABB’s automation offering. This is a perfect fit and will make us the only industrial automation provider offering customers the entire spectrum of technology and software solutions around measurement, control, actuation, robotics, digitalization and electrification,” said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer. “This acquisition perfectly delivers on our Next Level strategy. With our unique digital offering and our installed base of more than 70 million connected devices, 70,000 control systems and now more than 3 million automated machines and 27,000 factory installations around the world, we enable our combined global customer base to seize the huge opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

“This combination offers fantastic opportunities for B&R, its customers and employees. We are convinced that ABB offers the best platform for the next chapter of our growth story. ABB’s global presence, digital offering and complementary portfolio will be key for us to further accelerate our pace of innovation and growth,” said Josef Rainer, co-founder of B&R.

“This is a strong signal for our employees as our operations in Eggelsberg will become ABB’s global center for machine and factory automation,” said Erwin Bernecker, the other co-founder of B&R. “The most important thing to me is that the companies and their people fit so well together and that our founding location will play such a key role.”

Complementary strengths
With the acquisition, ABB will expand its industrial automation offering by integrating B&R’s innovative products in PLC, Industrial PCs and servo motion as well as its software and solution suite. ABB will offer its customers a uniquely comprehensive, open-architecture automation portfolio.

B&R has grown successfully with a revenue CAGR of 11 % over the last two decades. Revenues more than quintupled since 2000 to more than $600 million (2015/16). The company has a rapidly growing global customer base of more than 4,000 machine manufacturers, a proven track record in automation software and solutions and unrivaled application expertise for customers in the machine and factory automation market segment.

Both companies have complementary portfolios: ABB as a leading provider of solutions serving customers in utilities, industry and transport & infrastructure; B&R as a leading solution provider in the automation of machines and factories for industries such as plastics, packaging, food and beverage. The joint commitment to open architecture increases customer choice and flexibility facilitating connectivity in increasingly digitalized industries.

Substantial investments in innovation
Innovation is at the heart of both companies. B&R invests more than 10 percent of its sales in R&D and employs more than 1,000 people in R&D and application engineering. ABB spends $1.5 billion annually on R&D and employs some 30,000 technologists and engineering specialists. Going forward, ABB and B&R will continue to invest considerably in R&D.

Automation of machines and factories is a key driver of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the IoT. ABB will continue B&R’s strong solution-based business model and build on its deep domain expertise to develop new software-based services and solutions for end-to-end digitalization. ABB’s industry-leading digital offering, ABB Ability, will now capitalize on the large installed base, application and solution know-how, simulation software expertise and advanced engineering tools of B&R.

Proven integration approach
On closing of the transaction, B&R will become part of ABB’s Industrial Automation division as a new global business unit – Machine & Factory Automation – headed by the current Managing Director, Hans Wimmer. Both companies consider B&R’s management and employees as a key driver of future growth and the business integration together with their counterparts from ABB. The co-founders of B&R, Erwin Bernecker and Josef Rainer, will act as advisors during the integration phase to ensure continuity.

The integration will be growth-focused and live by the “best-of-both-worlds” principle, with ABB adding its own PLC and servo drive activities to the offering of the new business unit in a phased approach. ABB underlines its clear commitment to continuing the B&R growth story by articulating a mid-term sales ambition to exceed $1 billion.

ABB is committed to further investing in the expansion of B&R’s operations and to building on the company’s successful business model and brand. B&R’s headquarters in Eggelsberg will become ABB’s global center for machine and factory automation.

@ABBgroupnews #PAuto #Industry4

PICTIÚIRÍ: Industry 4.0 concept reviewed in Limerick.

13/04/2017
EPLAN joined forces with ABB, DesignPro, Douglas Automation, Igus, Industrial Society of Automation (Ireland Section ISA), Omron, Panasonic, Prion PLM, Portalis, Rittal Ireland, Rockwell Automation, Siemens, SL Controls and Weidmuller to bring Industry 4.0 to the Limerick Institute of Technology.
More Pictures on Twitter.
The LimerickIT feed (4 pics).
Abb Feed (1 pic)
Other pics retweeted on Eplan UK Feed.

In the wake of the next industrial revolution, EPLAN hosted the event at The Limerick Institute of Technology with the aim of discussing the German concept, Industry 4.0. The event will allowed companies to understand what 4.0 means and how existing and near future technologies can help them move towards becoming a smart factory which ultimately produce machines and products that effectively talk to one another.

Industry 4.0 (Industrie 4.0) is a high-tech strategy adopted by the German government which promotes the computerisation of traditional industries such as manufacturing. The goal is to create intelligent factories (smart factory) that focus on cyber physical systems primarily consisting of communication technologies, software, senses and processes – all of which have the potential through cloud technology to communicate and interact with each other in an intelligent way.

The well attended event had over 150 registered to attend and many more came without registering.

These are some pictures to give a flavour of the event.

Busy associated exhibition area.

Professor Vincent Cunnane, President of LIT welcomes delegates!

Delegates await the next speaker.

 

Dr Frances Hardiman, Head of Department Electrical and Electronic Engineering discusses the place of LIT in the engineering community.

EPLAN’s Ken Christie welcomes delegates and addresses his company’s place in Industrie 4.0.

Justin Leonard of Igus.

Micahel Gartz of Panasonic

Declan McDevitt of Siemens

Another view of the exhibition area.

@EPLAN_UK @LimerickIT #PAuto #Industry4

Is AI all it is cracked up to be?

28/03/2017
In this article, Stephen Parker, CEO of Parker Software, examines whether artificial intelligence is all it’s cracked up to be.

If planet Earth had been created one year ago, the human species would be just ten minutes old. Putting this into context, the industrial era would have kick-started a mere two seconds ago. Thanks to human influence, the pace of technological advancement on Earth is astonishing. However, we are already on the verge of the next change. The potential of artificial intelligence has been discussed by scientists since the 1950s and modern technological advances are finally bringing this technology to the masses. 

Research suggests that artificial intelligence could be as ‘smart’ as human beings within the next century. Originally, human programmers were required to handcraft knowledge items painstakingly. Today, however, one-off algorithms can teach machines to take on and develop knowledge automatically, in the same way a human infant would. Artificial intelligence has reached a critical tipping point and its power is set to impact every business, in every industry sector.

Already, 38 per cent of enterprises are using artificial intelligence in their business operations and this figure is set to grow to 62 per cent by 2018. In fact, according to predictions by Forrester, investments in artificial intelligence technology will increase three-fold in 2017. These figures mean that the market could be worth an estimated $47 billion by 2020. 

Intelligent assistance
One of the most notable applications of AI from the past few years is the creation of intelligent assistants. Intelligent assistants are interactive systems that can communicate with humans to help them access information or complete tasks. This is usually accomplished with speech recognition technology; think Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana or Amazon’s Alexa. Most of the intelligent assistants that we are familiar with today are consumer facing and are somewhat general in the tasks they can complete. However, these applications are now making their way into more advanced customer service settings.

While there is certainly a space for these automated assistants in the enterprise realm, there is a debate as to whether this technology could fully replace a contact centre agent.

Automation is widely recognised as a valuable tool for organisations to route the customer to the correct agent. However, completely handing over the reins of customer management to a machine could to be a step too far for most businesses. Even the most advanced AI platforms only hold an IQ score equivalent to that of a four-year-old, and naturally, businesses are unlikely to entrust their customer service offering to a child.

The human touch
Automated processes are invaluable for speeding up laborious processes and completing monotonous customer service tasks. But as any customer service expert will tell you, the human touch is what elevates good service to an excellent experience for the customer. Simple tasks will no doubt be increasingly managed and completed using automation and AI-enabled agent support systems, whereas complex issues will still require the careful intervention of a human agent.

During a TED Talk on artificial intelligence, philosopher and technologist Nick Bostrom claimed that “machine intelligence is the last invention that humanity will ever need to make.” However, contact centre agents needn’t hang up their headsets just yet.  Artificial intelligence won’t be replacing the call centre agent any time soon. The only guarantee is that the role of a call centre agent will continue to evolve after all, the industrial revolution was only two seconds ago.

@ParkerSoftware #PAuto

It IS rocket science!

13/03/2017

Graham Mackrell, managing director Harmonic Drive, explains why its strain wave gears have been the top choice in space for over forty years.

Anything that goes into space is seen as the pinnacle of human creation. Astronauts are highly trained and are at the peak of physical fitness, space shuttles are crafted by large teams of expert engineers and all the technology used is so high-tech it’s as if it belongs to science fiction.

Driving on Mars!

Many decades ago, the first Harmonic Drive gears were sent into space during the Apollo 15 mission. Even from the beginnings of the space race, the expectations for the technology used were high. The equipment used in space had to be reliable, compact and lightweight and given the increasing demands on equipment in today’s space missions, it must also now be highly accurate with zero backlash and have high torque capacity.

When aerospace engineers were recently designing a new space rover, they looked to Harmonic Drive gears for reliability. Due to the obvious difficulties of performing repairs in space, a high mean time between equipment failures is a high priority. Harmonic Drive products achieve this by prioritising quality throughout the entire design and manufacturing process.

It is vital that aerospace gears are thoroughly tested before they are sent to customers, ensuring that they always receive a quality product. At Harmonic Drive, we test products using finite element method (FEM) testing. This process simulates real world physics to ensure that the product is capable of surviving in space. For example, structural testing is carried out to ensure the product is robust and the space rover travelling over rough terrain will not damage the actuators used in the wheels. Thermodynamic properties are also important as aerospace gears are often exposed to both extremes of the temperature range, which are tested in the initial design process.

Also considered in the design process is the part count of the aerospace gears. Harmonic uses a low part count which means that they are maintenance free. In addition, there is a lower chance of components failing giving the gears a high Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF). This also contributes to the compactness and light weight of the gears, a feature essential in space.

Another key feature for aerospace gears is high torque capacity and zero backlash. This is essential for systems which communicate the location of the rover to the control room. If traditional, high backlash gears were to be used, the system would misreport the rover’s location. This would cause problems when the rover is used to survey uncharted areas of planets and could lead to inaccurate mapping. Due to the emphasis on high precision with Harmonic Drive gears, this problem can be avoided.

The numerous quality processes that Harmonic Drive undertakes have led to recognition from a number of accrediting bodies. Harmonic Drive products are AS9100 certified, a specific aerospace standard for the design, manufacture and sale of precision gear reducers, servo-actuators and electro-mechanical positioning systems.

To be the pinnacle of global technology, there are no shortcuts. Components used in aerospace technology must be subject to vigorous testing in order to be reliable, safe and have a long product life.

• The MARS adventure: The NASA site.
@HarmonicDriveUK #PAuto #Robotics @StoneJunctionPR

Cybersecurity pitfalls!

09/03/2017

Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of obsolete industrial parts supplier, EU Automation discusses three cyber security pitfalls that industry should prepare for – the weaponisation of everyday devices, older attacks, such as Heartbleed and Shellshock and vulnerabilities in industrial control systems.

IBM X-Force® Research
2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index

In 2016, IBM reported that manufacturing was the second most cyber-attacked industry. With new strains of ransomware and other vulnerabilities created every week, what should manufacturers look out for in new year?

‘Weaponisation’ of everyday devices
The advantages of accessing data from smart devices include condition monitoring, predictive analytics and predictive maintenance, all of which can save manufacturers money.

However, recent attacks proved that these connected devices can quickly become weapons, programmed to attack the heart of any business and shut down facilities. In a recent distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack, everyday devices were used to bring down some of the most visited websites in the world, including Twitter, Reddit and AirBNB.

Such incidents raise a clear alarm signal that manufacturers should run their production line on a separate, highly secure network. For manufacturers that use connected devices, cyber security is even more important, so they should conduct regular cyber security audits and ensure security protocols are in place and up-to-date.

Don’t forget the oldies
According to the 2016 Manufacturing Report, manufacturers are more susceptible to older attacks, such as Heartbleed and Shellshock. These are serious vulnerabilities found in the OpenSSL cryptographic that allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications and steal data directly from users.

Industrial computer systems generally aren’t updated or replaced as often as consumer technology, which means that some still have the original OpenSSL software installed. A fixed version of the programme has since been released, meaning that manufacturers can avoid this type of attack by simply updating their system.

Keeping industrial control
Manufacturers understand the need to protect their networks and corporate systems from attacks, but their industrial control systems also pose a risk. If an attacker deploys ransomware to lock down manufacturing computers, it could cause long periods of downtime, loss of production and scrap of products that are being made when the attack happens.

This is particularly true in the era of Industry 4.0, where devices are connected and processes are automated. One of the most effective means of safeguarding automated production systems is cell protection. This form of defence is especially effective against man-in-the-middle attacks, whereby the attacker has the ability to monitor, alter and inject messages in a communications system.

In its report, IBM also stated that cyber security awareness in the manufacturing industry is lower than other sectors. The truth is that any company can be the target of a cyber attack. The only way to avoid a cyber security breach is by planning ahead and preparing for the unexpected.

#PAuto @StoneJunctionPR @IBMSecurity

Communication analysis: Industrial Ethernet & Wireless v Fieldbus.

06/03/2017

Industrial Ethernet and Wireless growth is accelerated by the increasing need for industrial devices to get connected and the Industrial Internet of Things. This is the main finding of HMS Industrial Networks’ annual study of the industrial network market. Industrial Ethernet now accounts for 46% of the market (38 last year). Wireless technologies are also coming on strong, now at 6% (4) market share. Combined, industrial Ethernet and Wireless now account for 52% of the market, while fieldbuses are at 48%.

Fieldbus vs. industrial Ethernet and wireless
HMS’s estimation for 2017 based on number of new installed nodes in 2016 within Factory Automation. The estimation is based on several market studies and HMS’s own sales statistics

HMS Industrial Networks now presents their annual analysis of the industrial network market, which focuses on new installed nodes within factory automation globally. As an independent supplier of products and services for industrial communication and the Internet of Things, HMS has a substantial insight into the industrial network market. Here are some of the trends they see within industrial communication in 2017.

network-shares-according-to-hms-2017-jpg_ico500
Industrial Internet of Things is boosting Industrial Ethernet growth
According to HMS, industrial Ethernet is growing faster than previous years, with a growth rate of 22%. Industrial Ethernet now makes up for 46% of the global market compared to 38% last year. EtherNet/IP and PROFINET are tied at first place, with PROFINET dominating in Central Europe, and EtherNet/IP leading in North America. Runners-up globally are EtherCAT, Modbus-TCP and Ethernet POWERLINK.

Anders Hanson

Anders Hanson

“We definitely see an accelerated transition towards various industrial Ethernet networks when it comes to new installed nodes,” says Anders Hansson, Marketing Director at HMS. “The transition to industrial Ethernet is driven by the need for high performance, integration between factory installations and IT-systems, as well as the Industrial Internet of Things in general.”

Wireless is redefining the networking picture
Wireless technologies are growing quickly by 32% and now accounts for 6% of the total market. Within Wireless, WLAN is the most popular technology, followed by Bluetooth. “Wireless is increasingly being used by machine builders to realize innovative automation architectures and new solutions for connectivity and control, including Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) solutions via tablets or smartphones,” says Anders Hansson.

Fieldbus is still growing, but the growth is slowing down
Fieldbuses are still the most widely used type of networks with 48% of the market. Fieldbuses are still growing as many users ask for the traditional simplicity and reliability offered by fieldbuses, but the growth rate is slowing down, currently at around 4% compared to 7% last year. The dominant fieldbus is PROFIBUS with 14% of the total world market, followed by Modbus-RTU and CC-Link, both at 6%.

Regional facts
In Europe and the Middle East, PROFIBUS is still the leading network while PROFINET has the fastest growth rate. Runners up are EtherCAT, Modbus-TCP and Ethernet POWERLINK.
The US market is dominated by the CIP networks where EtherNet/IP has overtaken DeviceNet in terms of market shares.
In Asia, a fragmented network market is very visible. No network stands out as truly market-leading, but PROFIBUS, PROFINET, EtherNet/IP, Modbus and CC-Link are widely used. EtherCAT continues to establish itself as a significant network, and CC-Link IE Field is also gaining traction.

More and more devices are getting connected
“The presented figures represent our consolidated view, taking into account insights from colleagues in the industry, our own sales statistics and overall perception of the market,” says Anders Hansson. “It is interesting to see that industrial Ethernet and Wireless combined now account for more than half of the market at 52%, compared to fieldbuses at 48%. The success of a series of industrial Ethernet networks and the addition of growing Wireless technologies confirms that the network market remains fragmented, as users continue to ask for connectivity to a variety of fieldbus, industrial Ethernet and wireless networks. All in all, industrial devices are getting increasingly connected, boosted by trends such as Industrial Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. From our point of view, we are well-suited to grow with these trends, since HMS is all about ‘Connecting Devices.’”

 @HMSAnybus #PAuto #IoT

Changing bad gear oil habits.

28/02/2017
Here, Mark Burnett, VP of the Lubricants and Fuel Additives Innovation Platform at the water, energy and maintenance solutions provider NCH Europe, explores how businesses can improve the effectiveness of their gear oil.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “it is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.” This rings true for the industrial sector, where it is easier to form a habit of good predictive maintenance than to recover from machinery breakage or downtime.

nch_tan_lubricationHowever, this is easier said than done. Predictive maintenance requires constant vigilance in order to be effective, ensuring that maintenance engineers know when it is the right time to lubricate bearings, apply a rust-preventative coating or treat their water supply. These tasks will vary in frequency, so there can be a steep learning curve to getting it right.

Unfortunately, we all know that problems do not wait until you’re ready and, especially with gear oil changes, failure to get it right often leads to problems. Changing oil too soon, for example, leads to higher costs as more changes will be needed than necessary. Conversely, forgetting to change the oil at the right time increases the likelihood of machine damage and breakage, which itself leads to elevated operational costs.

Despite both extremes leading to increased business costs, only 20 per cent of oil changes happen at the right time. This is not surprising when considering the fact that many variables can determine how regularly oil needs changing. While many engineers may fill up a machine and expect it to require a change after a certain amount of time, it is actually the quality of the oil itself that must be measured.

This is understandably difficult without a comprehensive approach to industrial gear oil analysis. In order to reliably measure the quality of the oil and when a change is due, engineers must identify the quantities of external contamination and metal wear, as well as the general condition of the oil.

For example, oxidation is a naturally occurring process that affects oil over time. In the presence of oxygen, the oil begins to break down and this reduces the service life of the oil itself. In addition to this, it also produces sludge that makes equipment work harder and drives up operation costs.

If left long enough, the acidity of oxidised oil will steadily increase and result in corrosion and pitting. While this is problematic if left for extended periods of time, this acidity allows more accurate assessment of oil condition. By measuring increases in the system’s total acid number (TAN), maintenance engineers and plant managers can identify when the oil acidity is reaching the maximum acceptable level and act accordingly.

However, TAN only accounts for one part of overall gearbox system condition and there are many other considerations such as the operational health of the machinery itself. It is crucial that engineers consider all aspects to ensure optimum performance.

To this end, NCH Europe has developed the NCH Oil Service Program (NOSP) to help businesses keep their machinery in working order and their oil changes timely. Samples of gear oil are analysed and user-friendly reports are generated so that plant managers can see accurate results at a glance, giving a clear overview of equipment condition and the TAN of the oil.

Accurate analysis helps to prevent engineers falling into the bad habit of incorrect oil management. By combining this insight with an effective cleaning solution and a suitable gear oil, further bad oil-change habits and breakages can be kept at bay.

@NCH_Europe #PAuto