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Advanced Industrial Connectivity with AWS and Amorph’s SMARTUNIFIER

By Frank Frauenhoffer, Managing Director – Amorph Systems By Stefan Schneider, Principal Partner Solution Architect – AWS


Industrial data exists in different components and systems, in various formats, and with separate access protocols.


To harness this data and benefit from the synergies of system-wide interoperability, businesses must effectively digitize shop floor data. To make data readily available across an enterprise also requires organizations to deliver the content quickly, reliably, and securely in the cloud.


Amazon Web Services (AWS) collaborates with partners like Amorph Systems to provide cloud solutions for our joint manufacturing customers. This post describes how Amorph’s SMARTUNIFIER software complements AWS services to deliver leading-edge connectivity for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).


The robust, scalable, and secure AWS Cloud allows customers to implement entire manufacturing architectures, as illustrated in the AWS Manufacturing Reference architecture.


AWS components like AWS IoT Greengrass for data ingestion, AWS IoT Core for message processing, and analytical and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions allow customers to build affordable and scalable solutions.


Amorph Systems is a leading developer of software technologies and products for industrial connectivity, providing its powerful and easy-to-use SMARTUNIFIER IIoT integration tool for industrial IT applications.


Amorph Systems has worked with industrial customers to successfully integrate shop floor data and realize digital transformation use cases to support the journey to Industry 4.0.


Challenges


One challenge for industrial systems integration projects is to integrate state-of-the-art or legacy Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), Manufacturing Operation Systems (MOM), Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools like SAP or Infor (Figure 1).


Another challenge is to create uniform information models from heterogeneous data providers. These models are used to integrate data from multiple data providers and make the data accessible by any target IT system for further processing (for example, for visualization, storage, analytics, machine learning, and AI). The capability to access and process this consolidated data provides industrial organizations with insights to optimize their business processes.


A third challenge is a temporal aspect—historic information drives future improvements. Artificial intelligence and analytics tools allow customers to perform defect recognition and preemptive maintenance, detect suspect patterns in production, and lower costs when they appear.


For these purposes, AWS has tools like AWS IoT SiteWise for continuous monitoring, an entire AI suite named Amazon SageMaker, and specialized preemptive maintenance tools like Amazon Lookout for Equipment or Amazon Lookout for Vision, which allow customers to use the cloud to drive value from historical data.


The first two challenges are domains where AWS collaborates with industry-leading partners like Amorph Systems. The challenge of mastering the ingestion of heterogeneous manufacturing data engages partners like Amorph Systems to unify data with homogeneous information models.


Manufacturing Reference Architecture


The following diagram illustrates the positioning of SMARTUNIFIER (SU) within the AWS manufacturing reference architecture.



Figure 1 – SMARTUNIFIER and AWS manufacturing reference architecture.


SMARTUNIFIER operates within AWS as a universal industrial connectivity provider for any IT system, equipment, or device. It enables the deployment of small agent apps called “Communication Instances” at any location where connectivity is required—within the enterprise or in the cloud. This can be locally on premises, at the edge, or embedded within equipment and devices, as shown on the left side of Figure 1.


The deployment and operation of these Communication Instances can also be performed within the cloud, as illustrated in the right part of the diagram. Here, SMARTUNIFIER Communication Instances can be operated in the enterprise cloud or alternatively within any private cloud (for example, AWS Outposts).


While being operated in a completely decentralized mode, all SMARTUNIFIER Communication Instances are deployed and managed from a SMARTUNIFIER Manager Application operated within AWS and accessible enterprise-wide (see the right side of Figure 1 within the “AWS Cloud Managed Connectivity” box).


With this architecture, reusable interfaces can be established for any kind of shop floor equipment, device, or IT system being operated on-premises or in the cloud.


A unique feature of SMARTUNIFIER is the combination of connectivity, protocol conversion, information modeling, and mapping enabling syntactic and semantic interoperability between all available Operational Technology (OT) and IT components.


Thus, this functionality can be used to establish vertical and horizontal integration and extend syntactic and semantic interoperability throughout the collection of heterogeneous systems and components within an enterprise.


With SMARTUNIFIER, it’s possible to interconnect systems and components to establish an enterprise nervous system (ENS) where inferences and responses are based on a system-wide perspective.


The following diagram illustrates the establishment of an ENS with SMARTUNIFIER and AWS.



Figure 2 – Enterprise-wide OT and IT assets integrated in an ENS.


SMARTUNIFIER can reduce interface development times and efforts by up to 80%. By combining SMARTUNIFIER connectivity software with AWS services, an enterprise can have industrial data available in the cloud, on premises, or inside any devices for advanced, enterprise-wide use cases in a reduced time and at a lower cost.


Differentiating Features


Specific advantages of this architecture are:

  • SMARTUNIFIER can be deployed in the cloud, on premises, and within edge devices, thereby providing industrial connectivity wherever required.

  • Configuration and deployment of the decentralized SMARTUNIFIER Communication Instances can be completely managed from the AWS Cloud.

  • Low-level data is abstracted, providing an enterprise with a vendor-independent view of heterogeneous systems and data.

  • Multiple upper-level systems receive data according to unified information models with multiple parallel communication channels and views, such as:

  • Control view (equipment monitoring and control, tracking and tracing, recipe management).

  • Maintenance view (condition monitoring).

  • Analytics view (performance management).

  • Quality view (preventive and predictive quality).

  • Energy view (energy consumption).

  • Data storage and archiving view (data lakes).

  • Further use case dependent views.

  • Scalable network-oriented architecture that can evolve in a structured way to an ENS.

The following diagram illustrates how a single SMARTUNIFIER Communication Instance can connect multiple shop floor systems to upper-level systems. All protocol conversions are handled, a common semantic model is established, and communication between the shop floor and the cloud is provided in both directions.



Figure 3 – Bidirectional communication between shop floor and cloud applications.


Use Case: Road Test Predictor


As a practical example, with this kind of architecture Amorph Systems supports Volkswagen and AWS within the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud in a Predictive Analytics use case. There, SMARTUNIFIER forms the interface (OT/IT gateway) between local IT environments at the shop floor level and the AWS-based cloud environment, enabling a variety of communication protocols to be combined.


This is described in the following extract from the publication by Volkswagen on its Road Test Predictor application:

“An interdisciplinary team from Volkswagen Autoeuropa, AWS, and the Industrial Cloud community partner Amorph Systems has taken advantage of the ideal conditions for collecting, using, and evaluating data from the road test in the assembly line in Palmela. The result is a tool that analyzes the generated production data and provides the probable outcome of the dynamic test—the Road Test Predictor application. “With the expertise and integration platform SMARTUNIFIER of Amorph Systems, the production equipment of the plant is connected to the cloud. The system of the Road Test Predictor application is based on a lean AWS architecture that enables the data flow of each vehicle from the shop floor to the prediction algorithm. “The algorithm behind the application uses data from three different databases and thus includes more than 10,000 attributes per vehicle, for example the time spent inside the paint shop or a single torque of a fastener in the front axle, into its calculations. The prediction then comes from the cloud back to the shop floor in 2-3 seconds per operation. When the respective car arrives at the dynamic testing station, the prediction is available and visible in the application for the quality experts.”


SMARTUNIFIER provides seamless interconnectivity between any kind of shop floor device, production IT system, and the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud. It’s a powerful enabler for sustainable migration to Industry 4.0 and beyond.


Conclusion


SMARTUNIFIER and AWS provide a combination of technologies within a well-defined reference architecture enabling cloud-managed, any-to-any connectivity, vertically and horizontally, between OT and IT. This highly scalable architecture provides a solid platform to address the significant challenges of current-day industrial systems integration projects.

A primary benefit to OEMs and systems integrators is reduced effort and lower cost to implement and operate industrial connectivity.

The Amorph Systems SMARTUNIFIER software can help customers achieve the following:

  • Full integration and native operation on AWS.

  • Major savings from reduced time and cost of interface implementations.

  • Low operation cost due to the small infrastructure required on distributed nodes; only pay for what you need.

  • Secure and highly available platform.

  • Integrated monitoring and management.

  • Attractive starter package.

If you’re looking for a robust, feature-rich, and cost-effective solution for integrating industrial data, contact Amorph Systems and sign up for a proof of concept with your specific use case.


Source : Advanced Industrial Connectivity with AWS and Amorph’s SMARTUNIFIER | AWS Partner Network (APN) Blog (amazon.com)

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