Many brownfield plants lack the connectivity that would be needed to collect their operating data automatically. That's why B&R developed the Orange Box. By equipping it with a cloud interface, B&R now enables users to compare the collected data across multiple lines, locations and continents.
Industrial machinery can have a service life of 20 to 30 years or more. Over time, it is typically adapted and upgraded to keep pace with the state of the art. When it comes to early detection of problems or identifying measures boost productivity and availability, however, many brownfield operators still reach first for pen and paper.
"Until now it hasn't been possible to automate the collection of operating data from digitally isolated machines," says René Blaschke, B&R's product manager for Industrial IoT. Those who wish to evaluate data from multi-vendor lines face an even more complex challenge. "The trick in this case is reducing the quite imaginative naming conventions of the various automation manufacturers down to a common denominator," says Blaschke, explaining explains the challenge he and his team set themselves.
The solution B&R developed is called Orange Box. It allows operators to read, systematize and analyze data from all types of machine controllers. "We launched the Orange Box two years ago, and the feedback from the market has been excellent," Blaschke is pleased to report. The information gathered has helped many operators of existing plants significantly increase the productivity of their machines and thus their profits.
"So far, this has only been possible for individual machines or lines," says Blaschke, adding: "But now we have taken it a step further." In the future, the data acquisition and analysis tool will be able to transfer data from existing brownfield machines to the cloud. This will allow operators to monitor, compare and optimize their machines and plants across multiple lines, locations and even continents.
"When you're sending data to a cloud provider over the Internet, the issues of data protection and cybersecurity become very important," Blaschke emphasizes. It is therefore advisable to use a cloud service that has been specially optimized for industrial requirements, such as ABB Ability. As the operator of this cloud platform, ABB uses state-of-the-art security standards and transmission protocols to ensure the security and integrity of stored data. Through the use of the standard MQTT protocol, the Orange Box can also transfer data to any other cloud platform.
Deploying the Orange Box is very simple: "Just unpack it, connect the industrial PC with the software to the machine controller and IT network via network cable and the Orange Box is up and running," says Blaschke. Production does not have to be interrupted during installation, and there are no changes to be made in the system software. If it is not possible to connect via a fieldbus interface, data can alternatively be aggregated via existing I/O interfaces or through parallel wiring and additional sensors.
The user simply links the desired data points in a visual editor and can then calculate the overall equipment effectiveness and other key figures. The Orange Box can send the results to the cloud or forward them via OPC UA to an output device with a browser. An OPC UA server allows any manufacturing execution system (MES) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to access the data.
Integrated in the Orange Box is an easy-to-use, state-of-the-art dashboard created with B&R's HTML5-based HMI solution, mapp View. This allows results to be displayed on any web-enabled device – from machine controllers and office PCs to smartphones and virtual cloud applications. This gives plant managers a quick overview of key performance indicators that enables them to react quickly to any changes, such as a drop in equipment availability.
B&R offers a wide variety of software components providing additional functionality, such as sending automated email or text message notifications for certain alarms or automatically recording data in an SQL database. The software components are fully networked and exchange data automatically. All the user needs to do is enable the desired functions.
The core element of the Orange Box solution is a small industrial PC with pre-installed software. An operator panel and/or SiteManager unit can be added if needed. Paired with a SiteManager, the Orange Box is able to communicate with external systems such as cloud platforms or email and SMS servers.
"SiteManager plays a key role in allowing the Orange Box to provide secure connections to cloud platforms," says Blaschke. The small device allows for important functions such as automatic certificate handling and security updates. "This also ensures adherence to the cloud providers' security guidelines.
By connecting the Orange Box to cloud platforms, B&R has significantly expanded data acquisition tool's range of applications. With cloud-based analytics, users can easily identify and resolve problems and inefficiencies affecting their machines and lines in the field – resulting in less downtime, a longer service life and higher output. "They can do all these things thanks to the data Orange Box is able to collect from machines that were previously not connected to any network," says Blaschke.
Author: Carmen Klingler-Deiseroth, freelance journalist
"With the ability to send the data it collects to the cloud, Orange Box can help reduce downtime, extend service life and boost output." René Blaschke, Product Manager - Industrial IoT, B&R