Opinion: Integrating process design, control systems, wireless, and instrumentation


One result of open systems in industrial automation has been the passing of the notion that an engineer has to stick with one supplier. When a control system and its instrumentation can be assembled using parts from any number of companies communicating with common standards, that's a good thing, right? In general, yes. Any equipment vendor who tries to enforce one platform by designing items incompatible with others will have a hard time competing. But one company creating a system so well integrated that users would have no desire to go anywhere else could also be beneficial. While that ideal may still be a dream, it's possible that Honeywell has moved closer to it.

Few companies make the range of products necessary to support such a thing, and fewer still have the services to guide a project from concept to operation, but Honeywell is rapidly establishing itself as a truly integrated supplier for customers in heavy process industries. The acquisition of UOP as part of Honeywell's Specialty Materials Group gives it capabilities of the big A&E firms to design processes and provide key services for customers in oil, gas, and petrochemical segments. Its experience in basic chemical manufacturing and plant design gives it capabilities that few if any other suppliers of instrumentation and control systems can match.

Honeywell Process Solutions' numerous product launches over the last couple years have brought out major advances in process control (Experion PKS R-300 for one) and especially wireless instrumentation. But these are not products that exist in isolation. Honeywell's wireless system is arguably the most ambitious currently in the industry, but the truly interesting part is how it integrates so thoroughly with the larger control system. Besides all the standard process instrumentation, capabilities like real-time location services, (RTLS using GPS with the wireless network) video, and mobile operator interfaces (using IEEE 802.11 WLAN) have earned them the distinction of offering a truly comprehensive package for a wide variety of industries. Their claim of having 35 million wireless devices installed may include everything Honeywell has ever made, but it still shows the depth of its experience, and gives the company credibility as it seeks to drive new wireless standards, including wireless HART, in its direction by offering its technology on an open standard basis.

Moreover, Honeywell is not advocating an approach that requires rip-and-replace implementation. Migration to these new technologies can be incremental, as it is demonstrating in its Specialty Materials plant in Geismar, LA. This legacy environment has become a "technology showcase" that Honeywell is willing to show to prospective customers to illustrate a thoughtful migration process. Everything is not shiny and new. In fact, some segments of the plant are still operating on Delta V systems installed by former owners, Allied Signal. The migration approach has been to fix only the things that need fixing and make improvements where economically justifiable, while keeping the plant operating profitably. It's using the same kind of approach that any number of companies might also be pursuing.

Will customers embrace this soup-to-nuts approach? It's difficult to say, but it looks like Honeywell is also prepared to take projects from companies one bit at a time just as they and other control system/instrumentation makers have for decades. It's not an all-or-nothing proposition, but its customers will likely have the most to gain by going for larger pieces of the puzzle, if they can.

Control Engineering Daily Daily News Desk
Peter Welander
, process industries editor

No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn more about methods used to ensure that the integration between the safety system and the process control...
Adding industrial toughness and reliability to Ethernet eGuide
Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving
Virtualization advice: 4 ways splitting servers can help manufacturing; Efficient motion controls; Fill the brain drain; Learn from the HART Plant of the Year
Two sides to process safety: Combining human and technical factors in your program; Preparing HMI graphics for migrations; Mechatronics and safety; Engineers' Choice Awards
Detecting security breaches: Forensic invenstigations depend on knowing your networks inside and out; Wireless workers; Opening robotic control; Product exclusive: Robust encoders
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
News and comments from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
Anthony Baker is a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration.
Integrator Guide

Integrator Guide

Search the online Automation Integrator Guide

Create New Listing

Visit the System Integrators page to view past winners of Control Engineering's System Integrator of the Year Award and learn how to enter the competition. You will also find more information on system integrators and Control System Integrators Association.

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.