Industry Led Collaboration in The Pursuit of Disruptive Technologies

Published 13/12/2019

Whether you or your company refers to it as IT/OT convergence, process automation interoperability and portability, Industry 4.0 or IIoT, there are major challenges (both technical and those related to scaling and momentum) requiring cross industry alignment and collaboration.

There is little argument on whether there is a need for technology manufacturers and end users to collaborate in order to herald in the next industrial revolution with respect to process automation technology advancements in the pursuit of lower costs, increased efficiencies and greater control over data in order to achieve this.

In a recent video interview, Dave Emerson, VP US Technology Center for Yokogawa, a leading global provider of Industrial Automation and Test and Measurement solutions, says they have witnessed a decades long trend in the changing of the automation industry and the need to embrace the idea that it’s time for something different. As information technology has advanced, so too has the need for operational technology to absorb it at a greater speed.

More so than just an incremental change to technologies in the automation industry, Emerson states that the next revolution will be disruptive in nature and will add value to technology suppliers, their customers and to the industry in general by opening up new avenues for innovation.

Yokogawa is but one example of a globally significant technology manufacturer and supplier whom has senior and key technology innovation members of their team contributing actively to the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) in the pursuit of disruptive technologies in the process automation industry.

Underpinning all the above is the additional need for the establishment of basic standards that can facilitate the creation of a new generation automation system.

A preliminary specification has been released by the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) called the Open Process Automation Standard, or ‘OPAS’ for short. It is currently in the process of being finalised and will be issued in the next few months as a final specification.

It will still allow and foster competitiveness at a supplier and system integrator level; however, it is also going to add value to end users by improving their operations by reducing their automation life cycle costs and improving flexibility in their operating planes for years to come.

“This is one of three major releases that we are doing” says Emerson. “Version one is targeted towards Interoperability, the second one is being targeted to application portability. Our customers (control engineers), they can design control strategies which can then be moved between their systems. If there’s a major system upgrade, they can be moved up the next level and they can then progress and maintain that.”

Emerson says that his company, and others like his “…will be able to offer software that can do high value optimisations, scheduling, operations functions. It can do advanced control algorithms, it will be a platform probably where AI can come into it in the future, machine learning can come in and be much more flexibly deployed as needed. So, we see a lot of benefits for our company to grow into new areas and also for our customers to extract value from that software.”

The next generation of players in the process automation space are using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to optimise operations. Interoperability Standards are for example enabling Silicon Valley based Kelvin Inc. to be able to implement their Intelligent Control solutions directly into the process automation architecture at the right level without bespoke, complicated and compensating integration required.

The University of Western Australia’s Energy and Resources Digital Interoperability (ERDi) Test Lab is set to lead the way in further enabling collaboration and satisfying industry demand by facilitating process automation technology advancements for mining, energy and resources and manufacturing in line with the OPAF vision.

An active participant and contributor to OPAF, Lab Managers Enterprise Transformation Partners and UWA have established the ERDi Test Lab to assist automation technology suppliers, customers and end users alike, by offering a robust platform and range of services structured for the advancement of automation technologies.

The concept of the Lab is underpinned by enabling the Energy and Resources sector in Australia to take advantage of i4.0 advancements, by providing the following services:

  • Knowledge transfer from i4.0 subject matter experts to customer and technology vendors.
  • Collaborative research, experimentation, testing and trials acting as a catalyst for change in real operations.
  • Independent technology testing and certification against OPAF standards.
  • Establishment of formal i4.0 education and credentials for today’s and future workforce.

If you are interested in finding out how your company can get involved, please contact us at the following or register via the website.

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