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GE Digital Expands Remote Management Features For Manufacturing

‘We had remote management capabilities certainly before the pandemic hit, but it hit pretty fast, it hit pretty hard, and our customers, not just within facilities, but now even outside of facilities, they want to make sure they have visibility and control to their systems,’ GE Digital’s Richard Kenedi says. The industrial IoT software vendor is also expanding application development and data management capabilities across its suite of Digital Plant Solutions.

GE Digital is bringing new remote management, rapid application development and data management capabilities to its suite of Digital Plant Solutions to help manufacturing customers and partners accelerate digital transformation initiatives.

The San Ramon, Calif.-based industrial IoT software division of General Electric announced the “significant” updates Wednesday for Proficy Operations Hub, Proficy HMI/SCADA iFix, Proficy Historian and Proficy Plant Applications during its three-day virtual User Conference. Additional updates for other products, including Cimplicity, Proficy CSense and Manufacturing Data Cloud, are coming at the end of the year and the beginning of next year.

[Related: GE Digital CEO Pat Byrne: Partners ‘Essential’ For Manufacturing]

“We really are going up and down the portfolio in terms of new capability, new functionality, responding to a lot of things that our customers that have been asking us for,” Richard Kenedi, general manager of GE Digital’s Digital Plant business, said in an interview with CRN.

In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the need for remote management of plant operations has increased dramatically, and it was in conversations with customers that led GE Digital to introduce new features across its entire suite of software, according to Kenedi.

“We had remote management capabilities certainly before the pandemic hit, but it hit pretty fast, it hit pretty hard, and our customers, not just within facilities, but now even outside of facilities, they want to make sure they have visibility and control to their systems,” he said. “And that‘s really across all the different verticals that we serve with our solutions.”

With the new product updates, GE Digital is also enabling rapid application development, which means that customers and partners will be able to quickly change configurations and code.

“More so than ever now, we have a lot of different customers and certain verticals that are finding they have to change their environment and their processes very quickly,” Kenedi said. “They turn to the tool sets we provide in order to do that effectively and efficiently, so we‘re making sure that the capability set is intuitive, it’s quick to configure, and it’s fast to change and introduce new application capability.”

Another major focus in the product portfolio update is improved data management capabilities.

“There‘s a tremendous amount of data that is collected in the system, and we’re expanding that to make sure that that data is not just collected, but it becomes more and more operational, both in a plant or a line environment but [also] all the way out to a full enterprise environment,” Kenedi said. “These things result in more efficient utilization. It results in better production, throughput availability and uptime.”

These are the updates coming for the company’s Digital Plant Solutions:

Proficy Operations Hub 2.0: The software, which provides common visualization and configuration across GE Digital’s Proficy software portfolio, is now 60 percent faster to configure and easier to use. It also enhances data analysis capabilities by 40 percent while also improving performance by 100 percent and increasing the scale on a single server by 333 percent to allow 1,000 concurrent users.

“I think scale is important because one of the things that we want to really be cognizant of is, despite the fact that you may have these remote users accessing the systems, there needs to be infrastructure to support it,” Kenedi said. “And we really are looking to elevate the lack of amount of infrastructure that‘s required for these users to take advantage of these systems.”

iFix 6.5: The latest version of GE Digital’s HMI/SCADA solution includes a web-based build-and-configuration interface that increases the usability and enables users to more quickly identify relevant screens for alarms, thanks to a tags and alarms data structure. It also has model support through templates and object types as well as a web-based database manager.

Proficy Historian 9.0: The company’s historian software now includes a Remote Collector Management tool, which centralizes configuration capabilities for multiple historian systems.

“It‘s all around these this aspect of rapid application development and simplicity and ease for end users to take advantage of the historian capability,” Kenedi said.

The updated Proficy Historian also comes with an enterprise management tool, a collector install simplification and configuration tool and support for OPC Unified Architecture servers. In addition, it supports IoT endpoints for Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services, Kenedi said.

Proficy Plant Applications 8.2: GE Digital’s operations management software for process, discrete and mixed manufacturing environments comes with additional “mobile first” user interfaces for waste and process orders as well as discrete and hybrid assembly. It also increases the number of active users to 300, which Kenedi said will increase even more in future updates.

“We‘ve got customers now that have literally 100-plus plants online, and they have many, many users utilizing the system in parallel, and that’s growing,” he said, “so we’ve been working very carefully with them to make sure that we kind of stay ahead of the curve.”

The latest version of Plant Applications also comes with modernized clients for Web Activities Embedded SPC, Web Variable e-Signature, Web Process Order v2 and unbound process orders, among other things. In addition, it comes with a new way to upgrade systems with zero downtime.

“From a remote management perspective, we want to make sure customers have kind of a native ‘mobile anywhere, anytime’ type of capability, more so from a tablet-like view and then build out more of a desktop view,” Kenedi said.

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