UA Has What It Takes!

I love Atlanta, but, like everyone else, abhor the traffic. One of my favorite spots in Atlanta is Fat Matt’s. You might call it the Waffle House of pork ribs, but it really isn’t as nicely apportioned as the Waffle House. You get plastic containers of pork and beans, potato salad, and pecan pie. If you think there aren’t any choices, you’d be mistaken. You can get ribs, chicken or ribs and chicken on your paper plate to eat at a wooden picnic table with your plastic fork and knife. But the ribs are wonderful!

I happened to be in Atlanta again for the annual Georgia Manufacturing Institute’s Internet of Things conference. It’s a pretty nice affair that attracts a lot of the industrial powerhouses of Georgia manufacturing, including Coca Cola, Shaw Industries, Delta, and the like. There were about a dozen presentations in all – some better than others – including a fascinating one from the head of Rockwell’s manufacturing division who described the massive operation they have to manufacture the thousands and thousands of skids in very small volumes.

The highlight of the conference for me was the presentation by Shaw Industries who manufacturers most of the flooring in the US. It’s likely if you look down that you’re sitting on a Shaw Industry floor right now.

Shaw described their goal of empowering their employees to seamlessly get data they need and use it regardless of boundaries and location of data. They are working to transition their manufacturing operation from one where individual departments own data to one where data ownership is shared and not even a consideration. If you need the data, you can get it subject, of course, to the appropriate security authorizations.

Shaw listed their top challenges to implementing this during the presentation:

  • Developing the simple, easy-to-use tools to access the data they need to do their jobs faster and more efficiently.
  • Providing a catalog of all the data available so that their people can easily find the data they need to make decisions they need to make.
  • Eliminating the idea of “My Data.” Eliminate the idea that data is owned by some internal organization within their company. Data is to be owned by everyone.
  • Establishing appropriate and effective security policies.
  • Transitioning the culture to one that is data centric. Every decision should be made based on the data available, and that data should be easily located and used.

I found this very interesting, and it occurred to me immediately that the requirements listed by Shaw are identical to the tenets of OPC UA:

  • OPC UA democratizes data.
  • OPC UA provides central cataloging of data in a Global Discovery Server (GDS). The GDS knows about every server and every available piece of data in the system.
  • OPC UA provides security.
  • Many of the OPC UA vendors provide tools to access OPC UA data.

I’ve long been a proponent of OPC UA. When I look at real problems customers are having and initiatives companies like Shaw Industries are undertaking, it seems clear to me that OPC UA is the future architecture of the manufacturing floor.


PS: For complete information on OPC UA read my book: OPC UA – Unified Architecture: The Everyman’s Guide to OPC UA.