Defining a New Era: Industrial Automation 2.0

Posted by Matthew Littlefield on Tue, Jan 24, 2012

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The Industrial Automation space is not typically viewed as an industry that leads in innovation or the early adoption of new technology. More often than not, the industry chooses proven technology and standards to ensure safe, secure, and consistent operations over time. However, even in the industrial space, we have step changes in technology, the rapid adoption of new systems and architecture every decade or two.

Industrial-Automation-2.0LNS Research believes we are in the midst of one of these step changes and is referring to this new paradigm as Industrial Automation 2.0.

Industrial Automation 2.0: A New Take on an Old Problem

Variability has always been the enemy of productivity. To help minimize variability, manufacturing companies have always had the desire to implement more standardized and repeatable processes in plant operations. For many years, this has meant that these companies have implemented purpose-built control systems based on closed architectures that minimize risk and variability in the process.

For the first few years of a control system's life, this approach is generally optimal. The problem comes as companies and industries evolve over time. The life of control systems is almost always longer than end users originally plan for, often 20 years or more, and these closed purpose-built systems unfortunately do not have the ability to evolve at the pace required of them. This problem has existed for a long time but the industry is just now gaining the tools to effectively deal with it.

The name of the game today in the Industrial Automation space is flexibility, openness, interoperability, and collaboration. To accomplish this, end-users are adopting a whole host of new system architectures, technology enablers, and business capabilities. As a whole, this new paradigm is what LNS Research is referring to as Industrial Automation 2.0 and can be categorized by the below list of common characteristics:

  • Adoption of Industrial Ethernet
  • Adoption of Standard IT Security Best Practices Configured for Industrial Environments
  • Adoption of Standard IT Networking Management Tools Configured for Industrial Environments
  • Adoption of an Integrated Architecture for different Disciplines of Control
  • Adoption of Industrial Wireless and Mobility technologies
  • Collaboration between Corporate IT and Corporate Engineering Groups
  • Adoption of Standards-Based Interoperability Across ISA-88 and ISA-95 Technology Stack

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. In future posts and research, we will do deep dives on each of the characteristics highlighted above.

Hopefully, as these systems keep evolving and improving, so will our understanding and characterizations of them.

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