Suppliers Embrace OPC UA |

Suppliers Embrace OPC UA

February 172012
Suppliers Embrace OPC UA
February 2012
By Bill Lydon, Editor
OPC UA is emerging as a fundamental technology for implementing Digital Factory concepts to increase production efficiency.  There can be a lot of discussion about standards but until vendors start embracing them and supply products it is just noise in the wind. During a half day session at the Sixteenth Annual ARC World Industry Forum Conference on February 9, 2012, organized by ARC and Tom Burke, President of the OPC Foundation, some automation vendors made it clear they are adopting OPC UA. This adoption is intended to close the gap between advances in the general computing industry and industrial automation systems that have been lagging in adopting modern networking technologies such as WEB services.
Siemens OPC UA Commitment from Controller to Enterprise
Mitch Vaughn of Siemens Industry described their views about connecting automation to the enterprise with OPC UA. Vaughn noted that Siemens had one OPC UA-certified product today and will add more than 10 new OPC UA products in 2012. Vaughn described Siemens commitment to OPC UA at all automation levels including controllers and instruments.    He expressed the benefits of OPC UA as providing a standard interface across all automation levels, operating system independency, and platform-independent deployment based on an IEC standard. Mitch Vaughn is a knowledgeable industry veteran who was involved with the beginning of the original OPC Classic specifications. 
Beckhoff has announced OPC UA integrated into a new PLC, the Beckhoff CX8091 controller.
Optimization of Machine Integration
Katherine Voss, Executive Director of ODVA, described the organization’s vision for Optimization of Machine Integration (OMI) and the recent partnership with the OPC Foundation and SERCOS International. Voss described the challenges to achieving OMI, including the proliferation of automation networks that are not interoperable at any level of the OSI 7-layer Model.   ODVA, SERCOS International and the OPC Foundation have published a joint whitepaper on the topic, Optimization of Machine Integration (OMI), which outlines a strategic vision for an open and interoperable communication framework. 
Embedded OPC UA
Liam Power, Technical Director of Embedded Labs, discussed the increase of embedded OPC UA products and predicts that by 2020 less than 1 in 1,000 OPC-UA Servers will be sold as installable software for PCs, i.e. most servers will be embedded.  Power also predicts the installed base of embedded OPC-UA devices will exceed 50 Million units.   Embedded Labs is selling an OPC-UA Embedded Device Server Software Stack that allows rapid integration of a compliant OPC-UA Server into a product with minimum RAM, FLASH and CPU resources.   
In 2009, SAP stated their goal to improve connectivity to the SAP Manufacturing Execution (SAP ME) software in an effort to manage and control manufacturing and shop floor operations.  This goal includes having OPC UA agents at part of their Plant Connectivity (PCo) software. Reiner Bildmayer of SAP Research at SAP AG clearly stated that OPC UA standardizes and simplifies plant floor interfaces and is necessary for modern manufacturing plants.
Thoughts & Observations
In the meeting, Tom Burke commented that vendors realize users will buy from suppliers that allow things to work together in an open architecture.   Tom’s comment states a fact that has always been logical but it has taken automation suppliers time to understand that embracing open standards to best serve customers is in their best long-term interest.
In the question and answer session Liam Power of Embedded Labs noted that implementing OPC UA has been much easier since OPC UA is, “tightly specified.” I think this also reflects that it is built on the knowledge, experience and knowhow of OPC Classic and established web services.
OPC UA progress is exciting!
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