Changing with the Times: Industrial Automation 2.0 |

Changing with the Times: Industrial Automation 2.0

January 272012
Changing with the Times: Industrial Automation 2.0
January 2012
By Matthew Littlefield, LNS Research
In a recent LNS Research blog post, it was argued that the industrial automation space is in the midst of a technology step change. The premise of the argument was that the industrial automation space is not typically an industry that leads in innovation or the early adoption of new technology. Rather, the industry chooses proved technologies and standards that ensure safe, secure, and consistent operations over time.
However, every industry has moments of innovation, and there is currently a lot of evidence to support the theory that we are in one of these moments right now. There are a whole slew of new technologies and system architectures that are being adopted at a very rapid pace. Companies today face the very real possibility that if they don’t effectively understand, adopt, and leverage these new technologies to their advantage; they will be left in an increasingly uncompetitive position.
Industrial Automation 2.0: The Status Quo is Unsustainable
For industrial companies to successfully evolve and capitalize on the opportunities that are in front of them, it is often a simple and insightful model to characterize and talk about the new operating paradigm that is the most effective tool.
LNS Research is referring to this new paradigm as Industrial Automation 2.0, which can be categorized by the below list of common characteristics:
  • Adoption of Industrial Ethernet: Proprietary field bus systems and even fieldbus protocols built on open standards are quickly being over taken by Industrial Ethernet technology. Industrial Ethernet offers the promise of the scalability, interoperability, and openness of traditional IT systems built on standard Ethernet but with the reliability and speed demanded in mission critical industrial processes. It is also a foundational enabler of many of the other characteristics found within this list.
  • Adoption of Standard IT Security Best Practices Configured for Industrial Environments: For many years the security mantra in the industrial space has been, “security by obscurity”. In today’s globalized environment, where the speed of business along with the emergence of new threats demands a new approach, companies need to adopt a coherent strategy for industrial security. This strategy must incorporate the right mix of processes and people capabilities while building upon the adoption of Industrial Ethernet to use standardized security tools configured for the industrial environment. Best practices in the implementation of these tools are proving to encompass a tiered architecture that incorporates multiple layers of increasing security as systems move further from the corporate firewall and closer to actual production processes.
  • Adoption of Standard IT Networking Management Tools Configured for Industrial Environments: Traditional industrial automation technology did lend itself to the effective use of network management tools. As companies have moved to Industrial Ethernet it has enabled the subsequent adoption of standardized network management tools. These tools allow for real time visibility into network performance and allow for dynamic management of the network to optimize performance and manage disruptions.
  • Adoption of an Integrated Architecture for different Disciplines of Control: Traditional approaches to system architecture for industrial automation called for the proliferation of multiple networks for multiple disciplines of control. When Industrial Ethernet is brought into the picture it is possible to implement multiple types of control on the same network, including: discrete, process, drives, motion, and safety. This approach can both simplify and dramatically reduce the cost of engineering.
  • Adoption of Mobility on the Plant Floor: New standards in wireless technology, specifically 802.11n have enabled great strides in the reliability and applicability of wireless technology within industrial environments. Specifically, these new standards enable use of wireless in a very cost effective way that can greatly increase the ability of a company to deploy wireless sensing technology and collect much needed data. Examples of this data includes: corrosion, vibration, temperature, flow, emissions and more; all of which are critical for a company to move from a reactive to predictive management system and improve productivity, safety, and sustainability.
  • Collaboration between Corporate IT and Corporate Engineering Groups: There has always been a natural tension between control system engineering groups and corporate IT, which is unfortunate because there has also always been so much potential for collaboration. Luckily, as Industrial Ethernet continues to move through the plant floor there will be a continued convergence between plant and corporate networks. The expertise that corporate IT can offer will also greatly improve a company’s ability to quickly and effectively deploy the technology capabilities discussed here as part of Industrial Automation 2.0. In fact, the ability of a company to build a model for collaboration between these groups could likely be one of the most important factor in the success of a company’s entire Industrial Automation 2.0 strategy.
  • Adoption of Standards-Based Interoperability across the ISA-88 and ISA-95 Technology Stack: As networks converge between the broader organization and the plant floor, the possibility of a truly digital enterprise becomes a reality. By using Industrial Ethernet as the backbone of plant networks and connecting control systems with other enterprise software applications through established standards like ISA-88 and IAS-95; it will become much easier for companies to aggregate, analyze, and respond to real time events that occur anywhere in the business.
We are excited about the discussions and insights this new paradigm will hopefully spark. This is obviously not a finished product but rather a first take on trying to describe a quickly changing market.
Hopefully, as these systems keep evolving and improving, so will our understanding and characterizations of them.
If you are interested in learning more or continuing the discussion, please visit us at
About the Author
Matthew Littlefield is President and Principal Analyst of LNS Research where he covers topics including: Enterprise Quality Management Software, Manufacturing Operations Management, Asset Performance Management, Sustainability, and Industrial Automation 2.0. His blog and research can be found at
Prior to becoming President and Principal Analyst at LNS Research, Matthew spent the past 10 years working in and around the manufacturing industry. Most recently Matthew spent the 5 years prior as Senior Analyst at Aberdeen and was responsible for Aberdeen’s Global Manufacturing Research practice. Prior to working at Aberdeen, Matthew spent 5 years working for global manufacturing companies, including Unilever and HP Hood, in a range of shop floor and continuous improvement team roles.
Matthew holds a BA in Economics and MS in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
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