How OPC UA empowers Industry 4.0 in manufacturing operations

Nov. 30, 2023
Insights from Siemens' Prashant Adkoli on interoperability, security and innovations on OPC UA integration

Prashant Adkoli is product manager of MindConnect at Siemens Digital Industries Software.

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How has OPC UA benefitted from the proliferation of components from multiple suppliers in machinery?

Prashant Adkoli, product manager, MindConnect, Siemens Digital Industries Software: Not one supplier can supply an entire set of components needed in an industry. A successful installation requires parts to be sourced from different makers. This is not a problem when it comes to OPC UA since the specification governs connectivity as well as data format. This is possible with its growing recognition as an interoperability standard in machinery.

Can you explain how Industry 4.0 initiatives or the Industrial Internet of Things has impacted the use of OPC UA in manufacturing?

Prashant Adkoli, product manager, MindConnect, Siemens Digital Industries Software: A manufacturing system consists of different sources and sinks. It involves supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), machine data on one side and a manufacturing execution system (MES) and/or enterprise resource planning (ERP) on the other end. Each of the systems can further contain disparate data sources and thus own data formats. In such a large and critical system, OPC UA plays a very important role with its inbuilt nature such as reliability and interoperability with uncompromised security. MES with standardized OPC UA has already proven its value in the manufacturing industry by establishing a very reliable connection between the extreme ends of the large system.

Do you find OPC UA more useful in small embedded systems or larger cloud-based applications?

Prashant Adkoli, product manager, MindConnect, Siemens Digital Industries Software: It is seen that the OPC UA server can be scaled down to 15 kB RAM and 10 kB ROM. This allows small embedded systems to house the OPC UA severs in them. Also, small embedded systems need to be efficient when exchanging data with an external system. OPC UA addresses such use cases nicely in its specification. For example, Part 14 of the OPC UA is entirely dedicated to efficient pub/sub service. By adhering to OPC UA pub/sub, they can efficiently exchange data with larger cloud systems.

How have the security and scalability of OPC UA made it more user-friendly?

Prashant Adkoli, product manager, MindConnect, Siemens Digital Industries Software: The layered security model of OPC UA and its scalability makes it a favorite for industrial automation. X.509-based authentication secures the data through encryption and message signing. The standardized authentication reduces the learning curve during the onboarding process of the OPC UA data servers. This authentication is central in popular systems where the OPC UA servers can securely exchange the data with a wide range of support for applications OPC UA addresses scalability. Also, the small footprint of OPC UA servers has enabled its scalability.

What future innovations will impact the use of OPC UA in manufacturing operations?

Prashant Adkoli, product manager, MindConnect, Siemens Digital Industries Software: Manufacturing operations will be influenced by increased automation demands by both machines and humans. Manufacturing systems are increasingly moving toward smart solutions. This requires heterogenous sources to be connected for exchanging the data—horizontally, as well as vertically. This requires a higher degree of interoperability at scale. Ease of connecting and exchanging data at very high speeds requires the systems to be both robust and agile.

Tell us about one of your organization’s state-of-the-art OPC-certified products.

Prashant Adkoli, product manager, MindConnect, Siemens Digital Industries Software: Simatic RF100-RFID System and Simatic RF360R-RFID System are two certified products. Simatic RF100-RFID System boosts productivity and maximizes efficiency by controlling and managing access to machinery and equipment. It prevents unauthorized access and eliminates potential operating errors and production downtime.

Within the past five years, we have made hardware and software solutions employing OPC UA support. MindConnect Nano, MindConnect IoT 2040 and MindConnect IoT 2050 are cloud-configurable hardware that can easily connect to OPC UA servers. Software-based solutions can incorporate MindConnect Software Agent for not only OPC UA data sources, but for many other protocols, as well. It can also be deployed on containerized environments easily.

In addition, we support OPC UA pub/sub services in the cloud for connecting disparate sources vertically. Using its services, the devices can create a zero-touch data model by simply sending the data.

Industrial Edge OPC UA application is the most innovative application. It allows the users to centrally configure and extract data from an industrial environment that can be used by different applications and services. Easy-to-use central configurator and open standard access to industrial data without compromising security makes it as innovative and efficient as any application that I’ve ever seen.

About the Author

Mike Bacidore | Editor in Chief

Mike Bacidore is chief editor of Control Design and has been an integral part of the Endeavor Business Media editorial team since 2007. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning multiple regional and national awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at [email protected]