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BioPhorum Plugfest Tests Plug-and-Play Equipment Interoperability

At the annual BioPhorum Module Type Package (MTP) standard Plugfest, held in May, biopharmaceutical users and vendors collaborated to move toward the goal of achieving plug-and-play equipment interoperability. The user and vendor participants were highly professional and focused on positive outcomes, and their progress was farther along than one might expect. The success of the remote testing methods used, caused by the realities of the pandemic, was also impressive.

BioPhorum participants—over 108 member companies with more than 3,700 leaders and subject-matter experts participating—pursue a variety of collaborative initiatives. This Plugfest, named PP05, focused on the development of guidelines for MTP files to be used with modular equipment commonly found in biopharmaceutical processing. The three-day event was a successful series of tests to help the plug-and-play workstream build toward the commercial launch and use of plug-and-play capability.

Achieving plug-and-play interoperability of biopharmaceutical manufacturing equipment would dramatically reduce engineering labor, lower project execution time, and increase product quality. At the heart of the idea is the VDI/VDE/NAMUR 2658 standard that defines the module type package. The objective of BioPhorum’s plug-and-play concept is to effortlessly integrate intelligent unit operations into the ISA-88 procedural batch engine of the overlying supervisory automation system of a facility compliant with good manufacturing practices.

The MTP focuses on creating standardized nonproprietary descriptions of modules for process automation. This advances the concepts of the ISA-88 and ISA-95 standards into open-vendor, independent, plug-and-produce models that include attributes such as alarm management, safety and security, process control, human-machine interfaces, and maintenance diagnostics. OPC UA is used to communicate MTP data between systems. MTP also addresses common user complaints that disparate pieces of equipment do not directly and intelligently communicate, requiring significant investment in hardware, software, and application engineering to create necessary interfaces.

Plugfest results. The goal of the PP05 tests was to run multiple bioreactor services on process equipment assemblies (PEAs)—such as single-use bioreactors, chromatography, and filtration unit skids from three different bioreactor suppliers—and stress test. Each set of services was controlled from three different process orchestration layers (POLs). A total of six executions of the services were run simultaneously on two PEAs.

The three POL testing participants were Emerson, Rockwell Automation, and Siemens. Each hosted virtual testing on three separate days. The PEA testing participants were Cytiva, Merck KGaA (LifeScience), and Pall.

Outputs from PP05 include completed test specification records, MP4 recordings of the test sessions, and a list of conclusions and next steps. Some issues were identified and documented that will be worked out, and this is exactly the value of having a Plugfest. The next goal is a physical face-to-face meeting as soon as possible, with simultaneous meetings in the U.S. and Europe.

Having been involved in various industry organizations and standards groups over the years, I find the use of dedicated, professional, BioPhorum facilitators to be an innovative approach to achieve goals. As I observed the three days of the Plugfest, I was impressed by the process and by BioPhorum PP05 facilitator Julian Goy’s skills and experience.

Given pandemic-related travel restrictions, I also was impressed by the group’s use of virtual tools and remote connections to communicate and verify operations of equipment in different physical locations. Past Plugfests have been held in a single plant. —By Bill Lydon

Litmus Awarded CESMII Smart Manufacturing Project

Litmus, an intelligent edge computing company, has been awarded a contract from CESMII – The Smart Manufacturing Institute. Litmus was chosen from 28 request-for-proposal responses.

The Litmus project, titled, “Machine and Process Health Monitoring,” will connect Litmus Edge software to CNC machines at Bray International, a manufacturer of flow control and automation products and accessories. The project has three projected outcomes: create a smart manufacturing profile for a valve-manufacturing CNC machine, expose key performance indicators (KPIs) to optimize Bray International maintenance routines, and expose KPIs to optimize Bray International machine uptime and part quality.

Litmus was chosen because its project “directly aligned with our specific areas of interest for applying smart manufacturing principles to real-world manufacturing processes and operations challenges,” said John Dyck, CEO of CESMII. “These projects are vital to a global transformation of the manufacturing industry.”

Litmus will meet the CESMII Innovation Project requirements to rapidly solve a challenging manufacturing use case for processes and equipment (approximately 3–6 months) in a cost-effective, reusable, secure, scalable, and repeatable manner. 


Colonial Pipeline Attack Started in IT Systems, Highlights SCADA System Vulnerability

Colonial Pipeline, which operates a major pipeline system that transports fuel across the East Coast,fell victim to a ransomware attack in May that halted all pipeline operations while it dealt with the incident, company officials said. Colonial Pipeline did not say what was demanded or who made the demand. Ransomware attacks are typically carried out by criminal hackers who seize data and demand a large payment in order to release it.

“Cyberattacks are a real and present danger to critical infrastructure around the world and, by extension, every single consumer. If reports are accurate, the Colonial Pipeline incident has all of the markings of a possible ransomware attack that began in the IT environment and, out of precaution, forced the operator to shut down operations,” said Marty Edwards, vice president of OT security at Tenable and the longest-serving director of the Department of Homeland Security’s ICS-CERT.

“I’m surprised that it took this long for a major incident to happen for a pipeline operator,” said Dewan Chowdhury, chief executive and founder of security provider MalCrawler. “I have spent 20+ years securing and responding to cyberattacks on [the] OT–ICS/SCADA environment [and] have worked with dozens of large pipeline operators globally and dozens of the DNG [downstream natural gas] operators who help distribute natural gas.”

Edwards said, “I have responded to nation-state cyberattacks on pipeline infrastructure in the past, and I can tell you that the attackers had the resources to include human assets on the ground to help facilitate a cyberattack. Therefore, when responding to the pipeline cyberattack, we would know by the level of sophistication [if] these attacks were conducted by groups that have the resources to plan a sophisticated cyberattack.”

“We should not underestimate these groups,” Edwards added. “Many of them now have help desks, technical support, payroll processing, and subcontractors. They are essentially full-fledged criminal corporations operating in the digital world. While it’s unknown how this attack played out, it’s yet another reminder of the increasing threats to critical infrastructure we all rely on.”

John Cusimano, vice president at aeCyberSolutions, the Industrial Cybersecurity division of aeSolutions, said pipeline cybersecurity is far behind that of other energy sectors. “A common gap in the pipeline industry is the lack of segmentation of the pipeline supervisory control and data acquisition [SCADA] networks . . . [Once] someone gains access to the SCADA network, they have access to every device on the network.” This was one of his greatest concerns when he first learned of the SolarWinds attack, he added.

In the SolarWinds attack, hackers inserted malware into a service that provided software updates for the SolarWinds Orion platform, which is a suite of products used to monitor the health of its IT networks.

Colonial Pipeline said its ransomware attack affected some of its IT systems, and the company moved proactively to take certain systems offline, halting pipeline operations, according to a report by The Associated Press. In an earlier statement, it said it was “taking steps to understand and resolve this issue” with an eye toward returning to normal operations. The company also said it hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate the nature and scope of the attack. —By Gregory Hale

Digital Twin Consortium Forms Open-Source Collaboration Community

Digital Twin Consortium (DTC) announced an open-source collaboration community to accelerate the adoption of digital twin–enabling technologies and solutions. Consortium members and nonmembers can collaborate on open-source projects, code, and collateral and become part of the DTC ecosystem.

To participate, candidates complete a project application that is reviewed by the DTC Technical Advisory Committee. Approved contributors upload their projects or related content to the DTC Open-Source Collaboration GitHub site. The site contains project files and revision history, and enables participants to collaborate on digital twin–related content and projects.

“Open-source collaboration will encourage innovation in digital twin solutions,” said DTC steering committee member Said Tabet, PhD, who is also distinguished engineer, chief architect emerging technology and ecosystems, CTO office of Dell Technologies.

Open-source projects are more flexible and respond more rapidly to market demands than closed counterparts,” said Dan Isaacs, CTO, DTC. “Our Open-Source Collaboration Community initiative will substantially expand the DTC ecosystem and facilitate the adoption of digital twin and digital twin–enabling technologies.”

Intel AI Helps Speed Papermaking Process in Europe

Intel and byteLAKE are collaborating on a new artificial intelligence system to automate wet- and dry-line management during the papermaking process. The system helps paper mills avoid costly disruptions during paper production. The wet line detector from byteLAKE is commercially available and has been successfully implemented in paper mills across Europe.

Paper production is a multiphase process during which a natural phenomenon called “wet line” (sometimes “dry line”) is observed. The wet line must be carefully monitored to avoid losses and expensive breaks in production. It is a highly tedious process where an operator must visually inspect the machine and adjust settings to avoid any issues.

“Many companies still perceive the application of AI in their business as an addition, not its foundation,” said Krzysztof Jonak, EMEA territory sales director at Intel. “The application of the Intel Distribution of OpenVINO toolkit in byteLAKE’s tool shows not only that AI works well as an actual tool for optimizing company operations, but also that this combination reduces the barrier of necessary upgrades to IT infrastructure in the company to an additional computer forming the basis for the whole system. This is a breakthrough in looking at AI and its implementation in companies that are able to see the potential in joining the ‘Industry 4.0’ family of businesses.”

The wet line detector for paper mills is a dedicated AI model designed and trained specifically for the role of wet-line detector. It can work in real time and perform ongoing analysis of the frames from closed-circuit television. AI algorithms examine the surface where the weave is formed and detect the wet line. Additionally, the algorithms measure and estimate the location of the wet line and its width. This information is then presented to the paper-machine operator, who can react appropriately and adjust the settings as needed.

AspenTech Expands Application of Industrial AI

Aspen Technology, Inc., has extended industrial artificial intelligence (AI) across its asset optimization solutions to improve profitability and sustainability in customer operations. In addition, the company’s Industrial AI Workbench will enable data scientists to collaborate with domain experts to develop AI apps based on enterprise-wide data.

With first principles–driven hybrid models, AI is directly embedded into Aspen HYSYS and Aspen Plus process simulations, so engineers can easily build operations-ready models calibrated with relevant plant data. Reduced-order hybrid models can be shared across engineering, planning, and dynamic optimization solutions to improve the accuracy and predictability of these applications. Deep learning APC can provide more accurate and sustainable models that cover a broad range of operating conditions.

“Using the hybrid model, we were able to create a model that can reproduce real plant data more accurately than the conventional reformer model. We were able to create a highly accurate model in a short period of time,” commented Takuto Nakai, production department, Nissan Chemical Corporation.

This latest version of aspenONE V12.1 also includes new models that enable customers to optimize biomass processing, hydrogen production, carbon capture, and carbon emissions more accurately and systematically to reduce environmental impact. New analysis and visualization capabilities also can help to reduce measurable waste and energy use throughout the process from lab to production.

TASI Group Acquires Mission Communications

The TASI group of companies, makers of flow control and instrumentation products, has reached an agreement to acquire Mission Communications in Norcross, Ga. Mission will be organized into TASI’s largest business segment, TASI Flow, to complement TASI Flow’s existing asset management and wireless connectivity strategy. Forrest Robinson will continue to lead Mission on its growth track as president of Mission.

TASI CEO John McKenna said, “TASI is committed to providing cost-effective, wireless connectivity to our customers, helping them to monitor and manage their valuable assets.” TASI Flow president John Norris added, “Using TASI Flow’s global footprint we are excited to support Forrest’s vision of expansion beyond North America” and bring a strong presence in the water/wastewater market.

FDT Group Changes DTM Certification with FDT 3.0

FDT Group, which has developed and maintained an open standard for enterprise-wide network and asset integration in the process, hybrid, and factory automation markets, announced changes to its certification of a core component of the FDT standard: device type managers (DTMs).

“The organization’s new, forward-looking FDT 3.0 standard is accelerating its evolutionary journey into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The technology’s FDT IIoT Server platform holds the key to unlocking universal device integration,” according to James Loh Chia Woon, FDT test and certification chairman.

DTMs contain the user interface and the application software that defines all the parameters and capabilities included in field instruments. DTMs encapsulate all device-specific data, functions, and business rules such as the device structure, its communication capabilities, internal dependencies, and its human-machine interface (HMI) structure.

Open access to intelligent devices

As part of FDT Group’s comprehensive DTM testing process, accredited test sites test DTMs against the current FDT specifications. DTMs that are compliant with the specifications allow open access to intelligent devices and the myriad of information available from those devices, networks, and plant and factory processes.

Recent updates to FDT Group’s test tools and certification procedures are aimed at optimizing the efforts of DTM developers and helping them bring new products to market, while at the same time improving the experience of automation end users around the world. The new steps in FDT 3.0 DTM certification are streamlined for a better overall experience.

Key to the development of FDT-compliant DTMs is the use of FDT Group’s Common Components toolkit, says Woon. It provides a fast way for development teams to view DTMs in an FDT hosting (desktop or server) application and understand the communication flow between them. With FDT 3.0, DTMs are now OPC UA–ready and offer data through the natively integrated FDT OPC Unified server. This eliminates a significant amount of effort on the part of developers, who can implement FDT 3.0 using the common components and then rely on the toolkit’s clear guidance to support interfaces within the standard, says Woon.

Mandatory UI style guide

The FDT 3.0 Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) ecosystem development environment, intended to simplify the transition to IIoT and Industry 4.0 solutions, includes an updated FDT 3.0 Style Guide empowering a standardized, responsive-by-design web user interface (UI) for new solutions developed by the supplier community. With the FDT 3.0 standard, DTM testing and certification has been broadened to include compliance with the FDT 3.0 DTM Style Guide. This requirement was not in effect with FDT 2.0, which allowed instrumentation suppliers to make their own decisions regarding style guide compliance. FDT 3.0 DTMs must now pass both conformance and style guide tests to receive certification.

A critical aspect of the FDT 3.0 DTM Style Guide is ensuring a uniform UI with the same look and feel, presenting information in a consistent fashion across different vendors, devices, and applications. This is especially important with new mobile systems being deployed in industrial facilities. As such, compliance with the NAMUR NE-107 recommendation is now required within the FDT 3.0 Style Guide.

While developers did not receive the DTM Style Guide test tool as part of FDT 2.0 certification—this functionality was only available to the test center—the style guide tool has been embedded in the FDT 3.0 dtmINSPECTOR5 tool version.

For more information about developer tools and certification, visit www.fdtgroup.org/development.

Rockwell Adds Cisco Cyberthreat Detection Services

Rockwell Automation is adding Cisco’s Cyber Vision to its existing LifecycleIQ Services portfolio of cybersecurity threat detection offerings. The two companies have been working together for more than a decade to offer jointly developed architectures, services, and products to help build a Connected Enterprise.

Because a deeper integration between IT, cloud, and industrial networks creates security issues that become digitization obstacles, Cyber Vision provides visibility into industrial control systems to build secure infrastructures and enforce security policies. The addition of Cyber Vision to the LifecycleIQ Services threat detection offerings provides a unique switch-based architecture for customers with existing Cisco solutions, greenfield networks, or those updating their Cisco network infrastructure.


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