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Newsletter Issue # 38

Real Time Automation's - Best Darn Newsletter 

Nothing Will Ever Move This Slowly Again...
Leveraging OPC UA to get Secure, Highly Integrated Systems, FAST
Fun Facts and Trivia

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August 29, 2017
ASCII History
August 23, 2017
Other Devices
August 18, 2017
Leveraging OPC UA for Secure, Highly Integrated Machines
August 15, 2017
EtherNet/IP API
August 10, 2017
Multiple Masters
August 1, 2017
1761-NET-AIC Replacement



Practical tips and information for young engineers. This issue, featuring:

- Is There Anything Scarier Than Change?




Hands-on OPC UA Development Training for IIoT


Nothing Will Ever Move This Slowly Again...

A Column of personal opinion by John Rinaldi, Founder and Owner of Real Time Automation.

Have you ever sat back and pondered how much our lives have changed in the last 20 years? I remember those days – I had a dinky little television with a massive Cathode Ray tube that weighed as much as a baby elephant. No Netflix, no YouTube, no HBO and no DVD player. I had a large rack of VHS tapes, many homemade movies of Christmases and birthdays now slowly disintegrating as the magnetic bits drift off into the ether. My car didn’t shut off at stoplights, warn me about low tire pressure, caution me about staying in my lane or preach to me about my miles per gallon. I had a car radio, not satellite radio, and a Motorola flip phone that could only be used to make phone calls. And I had maps and a tire pressure gauge in the glove compartment. (Millennials, please google “car maps.”)

Factory automation systems were just as archaic. There not only wasn’t any Ethernet, there were VPs of manufacturing pledging that they would never allow Ethernet on the factory floor. Modbus, DeviceNet, Profibus DP were the networks du jour. No cloud, no wireless, no Internet connectivity and no browser-based configuration. You had to remember who had the laptop with the configuration tools and if it had the latest versions. OPC Classic was hot. Linux wasn’t. Microsoft Windows NT and 95 were the Microsoft platforms of the day. Backups were done with floppy disks or cassette tapes using proprietary software systems that no longer exist.

I was thinking about all this as I prepared a presentation on the future of Industrial Automation for the recent Kendall Electric Automation Technology Summit in Grand Rapids (excellent event). I put this statement on the screen, “You Will Never See the Automation Industry Move This Slowly Again.”

Think about that. All the new technologies, all the innovations, all the new processes we’ve seen and I’m postulating that we’re just seeing the top of the iceberg. I described for the Kendall attendees the cultural changes from the millennials in the workforce. The new requirements (voice, audio, sensor and cloud integration.) The way IT and OT organizations are partnering/merging/changing. The new technologies like deterministic Ethernet, OPC UA, PackML and low complexity Ethernet. And how we’re trying to run like hell to cope with it all.

IT/OT Meld Coming
There is a complete melding of the IT and OT networks coming. The future is a single Ethernet network with incredible speed, massive bandwidth and deterministic behavior. Controllers will talk to drives at the same time as machine operators are using audio and video to diagnose machine problems, and accounting is running month end reports – all concurrently, all over the same network.

Sensors will be on Ethernet. Yes, SENSORS WILL BE ON ETHERNET! You’ll have hundreds, if not thousands of sensors, all over the factory and they’ll all be plugged into that same network using new low complexity Ethernet technology being developed right now.

It’s exciting. No business model is sacred. No supplier is assured of any position in the smart factory of the future; even if you’re a Rockwell, Siemens or Schneider. Just ask DEC, Sun Microsystems, Wang or Kodak how fast the rug can be pulled from under you.

New technologies, new innovations, new processes, new types of organizations, new people... It’s the Wild West and there is no sheriff.

Frankly, I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun.



- John


PS – If you’d like a DVD on my presentation on the future of Industrial Automation, go to





· True or False: People born in the fall have the highest chance of living to be 100 years old.

·  The term "equinox" is defined as:

· What word was commonly used before the 16th century to refer to the autumn season?

· Which of these birds do NOT migrate in autumn: ravens, storks, hummingbirds, or swallows?


Answers located on bottom of page.


Leveraging OPC UA to get Secure, Highly Integrated Systems, FAST

Machinery Applications in Any Industry
OPC UA has many significant advantages over the technologies currently used on the factory floor. It’s a secure, flexible, open architecture with vastly superior data modeling. I believe it is the foundational technology for the coming transformation of factory floor networking. There is so much to learn and understand about this complex technology that the big picture isn’t always apparent. It gets lost in the details. When your studying UA, you can learn about Discovery, Security, Data Modeling, Transports, Encoding, Data Typing – the list is nearly endless. When you’re immersed in these details it’s near impossible to look at and understand the big picture; how OPC UA is going to transform the factory floor environment to achieve true ease and speed of integration.

This month I am going to focus on leveraging OPC UA to implement Packaging Machine Language (PackML), the standard for modeling industrial machine systems, but the architecture described can be used to control and monitor any sort of machine. The issues addressed by the PackML standard are identical to those voiced by end users in in many other industries.

PackML arose from the dissatisfaction of users and systems integrators frustrated by time, expense and laborious details of integrating control machinery into a coherent system. Integrating a capping machine from one vendor with a labeling machine from another vendor with a sterilizing machine from another is more often than not a nightmare. Different philosophies, control logic, communication protocols, controller platforms and operational states means that each machine requires different operational processes, training, standards and diagnostics methods than the next machine. Users don’t just have a linear increase in complexity with each new packaging component, the complexity increase can be geometric.

PackML is designed to create a consistent look and feel for machinery components integrated into a system. It provides a foundation for vertical and horizontal integration of these machine components irrespective of the vendor, the control system hardware or the specific application. It provides a layer of consistency between vastly different kinds of machines.

By creating a standard set of machine states and common set of control tags, PackML simplifies the control system development, reduces training and operating costs, and vastly decreases system integration labor and overall expenses.

PackML does not define the specifics of what machine operations occur in any of the machine states it defines. For example, it specifies the transitions that move a machine into Starting State or the Idle State, but it does not specify the functionality of that state. However, having a set of common states and control tags, status tags and administration tags, monitoring of any particular machine component is identical to monitoring other machines, lowering maintenance, support and training costs.

PackML models machine data through its state machine and the use of standard PackML Tags but does not specify how those tags get from one machine to another or from a machine to an HMI. It does not specify any transports, security, encodings, interfaces or physical media. That’s where OPC UA, TCP/IP and Ethernet come in.

OPC UA provides the secure communications so that communications to other machines and devices are authenticated (proof that the other device is true or genuine) and that users of the Pack Tags are authorized (valid permission to access those Tags). OPC UA provides the common encoding so that the PackML tags can be properly encoded and decoded. OPC UA also provides alternative transport layers like HTTPS, Web Services and other transports to make a very flexible system. OPC UA provides the foundation for vastly simplifying the integration of a PackML machine with other machines, controllers, HMIs, enterprise systems and cloud services.

Vastly Simplified Integration
Because all machines use standard PackML tags over OPC UA, it is much less complex to configure other downstream machines to properly handle faults, alarms, starts, stops and other process status. And HMIs can be much more easily constructed from the standard state machines and tags used by all machines.

Contrast that with a situation where every machine in this system is built with a proprietary state machine, with a set of proprietary tags encoded in some binary format with its unique security mechanism. Imagine if each machine uses different tag names for state information, different tags for diagnostics, and different tag names for data values. Imagine if some of the machines use XML while others use their own binary data encoding. Imagine if some only use HTTPS for security while others use a certificate-based security scheme. Imagine being responsible for constructing the HMI for that system. Building a system from those components would be a time and expense nightmare.

Unfortunately, in the automation world, we’ve grown too accepting of the idea that machine integration between vendors of different machines must be complex, laborious and difficult, requiring expensive engineers, and that it has to incur significant expense. With adherence to the kinds of standards described in this paper, system integration for highly connected solutions will not continue to be complex and expensive. Instead it will just work.

Don’t get the impression that this applies only to the packaging industry. These concepts are just as relevant to machinery operations in diaper and tissue converting, food and beverage, automobile production and many other industries. The PackML concepts, tags and state machines can be used in any of these industries and more.

What to Do Next
If you’re new to PackML and want more information, you can find it on the OMAC (Organization for Machine Automation and Control) website. The PackML specification and implementation guide is available at

If you’re new to OPC UA, it’s time to get familiar with this technology. It is going to be a foundational component of manufacturing systems in the future. A good place to begin is the book, OPC UA – Unified Architecture: The Everyman’s Guide to the Most Important Information Technology in Industrial Automation.

If you’re one of those automation engineers who’ve been ignoring OPC UA and the whole IoT and Cloud business, it’s time to get serious about it. Yes, it hasn’t been our bread and butter in the past but the times, they are a-changing. Seeing pieces drop out of a mold, packages flying down a conveyor line or bottles and cans being precisely filled is now only part of our job. Getting the data we need to operate more productively and efficiently is the new job – and leveraging OPC UA and application layer architectures like PackML are going to be some of the tools you’ll need in the future!









Fun Facts

·Yellow and orange coloring always exists in leaves but they are overpowered by the abundance of green from chlorophyll. In Fall, the amount of chlorophyll starts to decrease as the sun weakens and the days grow shorter.

·Red and purple leaves are only that color because of the presence of sugars and sap that are trapped within the leaves.

·Research suggests that low levels of vitamin D can lead to weight gain during autumn and winter. Lack of vitamin D reduces fat breakdown and triggers fat storage.

·According to NASA, autumn is “aurora season” because geomagnetic storms are about twice as frequent as the annual average during the fall.




  Trivia Answers: True; The time or date at which the sun crosses the celestial equator, when day and night are of equal length; Harvest; Ravens

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