Open process automation leads to innovation

Innovation helps distinguish between a leader and follower and can take companies and users into directions they never anticipated, according to Kenny Warren of ExxonMobil during his keynote speech at the ARC Industry Forum.

By Chris Vavra February 14, 2018

Innovation helps distinguish between a leader and follower, said Kenny Warren, vice president of engineering, ExxonMobil Research & Engineering, citing Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder. Warren, using the Apple iPhone as an example, released more than 10 years ago. Since then, smartphone innovation has developed new technologies and apps that have created new possibilities for consumers, and disrupted the music and transportation industries. Other unforeseen apps include location services, which, combined with mobile transactions, is helping to prevent banking fraud.

"You never know where innovation will take you," Warren said in his keynote address "Open Process Automation: Industry Standards and ExxonMobil’s Plan," at the ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, Fla.

Warren discussed ExxonMobil’s contract with Lockheed Martin two years ago as part of an effort to develop an open, interoperable, and secure process automation architecture commercially available for all for on-process use by 2021.

The proof-of-concept, which started in December 2016, issued a request for proposal (RPF) to 82 suppliers and system integrators. Two months later, 46 responses were received two months later and 10 proposals were included in the RPF. The proof-of-concept went operational in September 2017, and the proof-of-concept project will be completed in March. Warren said they’re hoping for collaborative development through the field trials with other operating companies.

Warren highlighted some of the benefits of open process automation. For end users, the benefits include: 

  • Support reuse of control system applications
  • Increase value creation
  • Enable continuous innovation
  • Solve system integration issues
  • Be safe and intrinsically secure
  • Empower workforce and reduce total cost of ownership (TCO).

For suppliers, open process automation benefits include ability to:

  • Reach new markets and customers while remaining relevant to existing customers
  • Create new goods and services
  • Grow the bottom line by increasing margins and reducing costs.

Warren said this is important to ExxonMobil and other companies supporting The Open Group because these tests and trials will improve data acquisition and analytics. They can monetize fleet operations and provide a globally consistent above-site approach, constancy, and transparency over time.

The path to increased productivity, Warren said, is to replace a closed layer with open one. The industry today is less like the hardware-defined architecture of 1980s. The internet, cloud, robotics, machine learning, and AI, need a standards-based, open interoperable digital architecture. The industry is changing at faster speeds and innovation is vital, Warren said, who closed by asking, "Where will you be in 10 years?"

Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media,, with notes from Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

Author Bio: Chris Vavra is web content manager for CFE Media and Technology.