Enterprise systems: Reinvent the industry, not accounting

Boston, MA—The process of integrating control techniques with accounting measures to drive business was reiterated at the Foxboro Users Group Conference in Boston,

By Control Engineering Staff July 24, 2007

Boston, MA —The process of integrating control techniques with accounting measures to drive business was reiterated at the Foxboro Users Group Conference in Boston, July 16-18, 2007. Dr. Peter G. Martin, vice president and manager of performance management at Invensys Process Systems, presented a speech entitled, “Enable your Potential — Move from Process Control to Enterprise Control” at the opening general session. In it, Martin warned engineers, used to reinventing, to not reinvent accounting. “Do accounting as the accountants do it,” he said. He and his team at Invensys want business people to begin looking to control engineers to solve business problems, not just control problems. “When we get to that level, we will have reinvented this industry,” he added.

Invensys has transitioned back to its roots as a measurement company in order to invent real time accounting, said Martin. “We developed a technique using your base instrumentation measures to do accounting in real time on a process unit by process unit basis,” he said. “Once you get those measures in, you can control it.” Business control, he added, is using control techniques to run a business.

Martin and his team had spoken to 1,500 executives during an iterative interview process to find the disconnect between the perspectives of engineers on the plant floor and manufacturing executives. Expecting questions from executives about technologies and control techniques, they were surprised that the problem was executives have no visibility to the plant floor into where they are making or losing money.

Manufacturing costs are lumped together with no way of knowing material and labor costs or if engineers have added value to the business. Martin said it is dependent on engineers to show executives results through proof of a concept. “The problem with that is, very few engineers are comfortable with going up to the executive suite and showing them how they can drive economic value,” he said.

Key performance indicators are widely used among engineers, but can lose credibility in front of accountants. He suggested all engineers learn basic accounting skills and work with accountants to install the proper measurements, make real-time calculations, and make the proper adjustments. After testing a small section of the plant, working on results, and proving the concepts, an engineer should be confident meeting with an executive to discuss the results. Martin said that by showing executives that those on the plant floor are making money, engineers can create allies to help grow the engineering organization and stop downsizing.

Separately, Foxboro announced two new product upgrades at the conference. Its family of “plug-in” DCS migration modules is extended with a new generation of Honeywell migration products, and its I/A Series automation system controller family was given incremental enhancements.

The migration modules allow Honeywell users to upgrade aging TDC 2000 systems to the latest I/A Series automation technology and modem HART field communications without having to replace existing field wire, termination assemblies, system enclosures, or power supplies. With careful upfront planning, the company says associated process downtime can be reduced from weeks or months to a day or less by replacing existing TDC 2000 input/output modules with exact physical replacement migration modules.

The I/A Series Version 8.3 hardware and software enhancements provide a straightforward way of upgrading systems to the latest I/A Series technology without replacing or rewiring existing I/O modules; enable users to take advantage of control capabilities of the high-capacity, rack-room-mounted I/A Series ZCP270 controller; or remove previous limitations on the number of I/O modules that can be supported by the field-mounted controller.

Invensys has been consistent in its message that engineers should provide relevant financial metrics to corporate executives who may be more familiar with accounting than engineering. A Control Engineering daily news item from 2001, for instance, suggests, “Accounting needs will renew industrial technology investments.”

— Lisa Sutor , Peter Welander , Control Engineering daily news desk