Automation leaders give reasons to buy now

Orlando, Fla. - Leaders from several major automation firms, glad 2001 is over, expressed interest in partnering with customers to help manufacturers improve plant-floor processes and solve business problems. Justification for needed upgrades in automation, controls, and instrumentation points to connection and optimization, not only plant-floor processes, but the enterprise and supply chain, as well.

02/12/2002


 

Orlando, Fla. - Leaders from several major automation firms, glad 2001 is over, expressed interest in partnering with customers to help manufacturers improve plant-floor processes and solve business problems. Justification for needed upgrades in automation, controls, and instrumentation points to connection and optimization, not only plant-floor processes, but the enterprise and supply chain, as well.

 

These were among messages at the "Manufacturing Strategies for the Plant Floor" forum here, Feb. 11 and 12, by ARC Advisory Group (Dedham, Mass. www.arcweb.com )

 

"Equipment on the plant floor is finally being seen as a business asset," says Don Davis, Rockwell Automation (Milwaukee, Wis.) chairman and ceo. Access to real-time data improves customer satisfaction. Technology convergence makes much of that possible with open software and networks, Mr. Davis says.

 

Don Aiken, president of ABB Inc. (Rochester, N.Y.), urged customers to quickly partner with one key supplier. In doing so, he recommends that end-users need to make a roadmap for the next five years. "Ask your supplier how to get there, what's available now, how much can they supply, can relationships with other vendors fill any gaps, can implementation happen in steps, and is there the required domain expertise?"

 

Peter Martin, vp and chief marketing officer, Invensys (London), says, "We have to stop integrating technology and start solving business problems." Return on investment is key to performance-based automation, to ensure getting recognition of "the value you've generated for your company. If the chief financial officer doesn't believe controls created $4 million in value, you didn't achieve it."

 

Terry Sutter, Honeywell International, president of Industry Solutions (Phoenix, Ariz.), was previously a customer, an engineer running Honeywell's chemical businesses. "Data indicate that almost any plant has 10-15% lost productivity from not understanding the state of the plant." There are too many databases, not synchronized, nor consistent, containing lots of data without meaning. A recent customer visit, he says, showed how less than 10% of data drives action.

 

John Berra, president, Emerson Process Management (Houston, Tex.), cited statistics for chemical, pulp and paper customers, where 20-40% of control loops are in manual control, 80% show excess process variability, 63% of maintenance calls result in no action taken, and unplanned downtime is the single largest source of lost revenue in plants. Field intelligence provides predictive information; software with standards tells what loops need to change.

 

Reinhold Achatz, Siemens vp, and vp of OPC Foundation, says, "Everyone has a legacy system. Any new solution has to integrate with the existing system." One way to promote network integration is through the upcoming OPC Data Exchange (DX) standard, he points out, with specifications expected by May. OPC DX is designed to be a server to server data layer enabling data exchange among different plant networks.

 

Other discussions at the Forum centered on the state of industrial networking. While the process industry seems to have centered on FOUNDATION Fieldbus HSE for Ethernet networking, there are several competing Ethernet protocols targeted to discrete industries including ProfiNet, EtherNet/IP, and IDA. The good news is that all the protocols can run on the same wire at the same time. The bad news is that applications may not be able to speak to each other. At the same time, wireless network protocols are proliferating, but examples of industrial application of wireless networking were shown.

 

For more suppliers' and end-users' views on these and other topics, please look for a supplement planned for May 2002 Control Engineering .

 

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief
mhoske@cahners.com

Gary A. Mintchell, senior editor
gmintchell@cahners.com

 



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