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Automation

How to compete and win with automation

With automation at an inflection point, a variety of technologies and interoperable standards efforts are bringing higher levels of flexibility, integration and optimization.

By Mark T. Hoske March 12, 2020
Table courtesy: Control Engineering with information from Evonik at ARC Forum 2020, by ARC Advisory Group

Automation, controls, and instrumentation, applied in innovative ways, can help implementations compete and win. Why?

Automation is at an interesting point in history, explained John Payne, Yaskawa America Corp. and chair of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) Board of Directors. He noted that we’re at an inflection point for hardware and software capabilities, with robots and motion and imaging merging. Artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities also are expanding.

AI, while useful, is a very unfortunate term because it implies software is creative and can do anything a person can do, said Byron Reese, author, publisher of the Gigaom website and several books on hopeful technology applications to solve human challenges. People are not machines, Reese explained. AI is narrower and can only do a bit of what humans can do. What it can help us do is get smarter about the future by looking at past data. AI also can increase productivity, which is always good. AI makes you smarter if you use it, Reese said.

However, we cannot rely on models of the past and expect the same results. Human creativity cannot be outsourced. If don’t use creative problem solving, only will get you a C, 70% of the way there, explained, Josh Linkner, author, speaker, and change agent who gives frequent talks about innovation. We need to adapt to changes in real time, as a creative artist of engineering, he suggested.

The three were among speakers at the A3 Business Forum in January.

Table: Evonik module type page benefits for process automation. Table courtesy: Control Engineering with information from Evonik at ARC Forum 2020, by ARC Advisory Group

Table: Evonik module type page benefits for process automation. Table courtesy: Control Engineering with information from Evonik at ARC Forum 2020, by ARC Advisory Group

Plugging in to standards

In another significant advance, interoperability standards for open process automation have been tested in a specialty chemical process plant, explained Igor Stolz, director, electrical and process control, Evonik Industries AG, at the ARC Advisory Group’s ARC Forum in February.

It’s challenging for such facilities to be fast, flexible and cost efficient with relatively small throughputs. Time to market is crucial while maintaining quality.

Modular production and development concepts offer high flexibility and functionality, Stolz said, which reduces investment risk. Evonik used a standards approach from NAMUR, the User Association of Automation Technology in Process Industries, with 165 member companies.

A module type package (MTP) was applied to vendor equipment, such as human-machine interface, maintenance, alarm management, safety and security, process control, and other systems. MTP is a standardized non-proprietary interface description for process equipment assemblies.

Using MTP designs, standard process modules were constructed and moved and integrated from plant to plant. Such an interoperable “skid” design offers seven specific benefits applicable for plant owners, module vendors, system integrators, and automation vendors. (See table online.)

Others involved in the prototype demonstration were ABB, OPC Foundation and Wago.

Think again about automation innovations to raise your competitiveness.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com.


Mark T. Hoske
Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.