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Gaining insight through connected technology: PWE looks at how software simplifies life-cycle management, and automates asset discovery.


Manufacturers and industrial producers are gaining insight into their operations through connected technology. Now, there is a single tool for managing automation assets. Chirayu Shah, product marketing manager, Rockwell Automation, told PWE that its FactoryTalk AssetCentre v7.0 software automates discovery and tracks the status of devices, network switches and software on workstation computers across an entire facility or production operation. The software streamlines life-cycle management and helps decrease unplanned downtime.

A modern production environment contains hundreds to thousands of assets. In the evolving world of industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), assets are becoming more intelligent, but it remains a challenge to identify and inventory every asset in a system. The FactoryTalk AssetCentre assetinventory agent scans a network to discover hardware, firmware and software information for assets active in the facility. The devices are then tracked in an active asset inventory.

The asset-inventory agent can be scheduled to scan at regular intervals or run on demand. New discoveries are compiled for user confirmation before they are added to the active inventory. Ongoing tracking of updates provides a history of how a system has changed and potential hazards, such as workstation computers running unauthorised software. Manual entry is still available for devices that are not identifiable during the scan or to fill in missing information or attributes for discovered devices.

Shah, commented: "Investments in automation infrastructure helped industrial companies better control their processes and assets, but managing that investment is too often only focused on critical assets or reacting after part of a system goes down.

"A comprehensive, asset-management program is designed to improve decisionmaking that spans the life cycle of devices."

The asset-inventory agent increases efficiency for a number of operational tasks. Streamlined life-cycle management improves how a project scope is developed. For instance, an engineer needs to know how many devices are running in production during a firmware update, especially those devices near end of life. The asset-inventory agent will automatically discover all of the current firmware, IP address and additional data that will help define the project.

The automated discovery will also help when patching security vulnerabilities. For instance, when a vendor issues a notice and fix to vulnerability in a device's firmware, engineering would manually inventory each device to determine the risk and threat exposure. With the asset-inventory agent, engineers quickly discover the affected devices and put a plan in place to mitigate the risk.

The latest version of FactoryTalk AssetCentre software also includes a mobilefriendly dashboard, providing anytime, anywhere access to information about the status of last search results with drill-down capabilities to view failures and successes. The dashboard displays an audit log of changes and asset performance, helping users remotely access the system and address potential issues from device of their choice.

In addition, Shah says that FactoryTalk AssetCentre software enables unattended installation. Remote software installation is available for difficult-to-reach locations, reducing labour and transportation costs.

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Title Annotation:Process, Controls & Plant: Focus on: Industrial Services/ HVAC
Publication:Plant & Works Engineering
Date:Sep 1, 2016
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