Process Automation Systems Product Research (February 2008)

Research was undertaken to gain a better understanding of Control Engineering subscribers’ applications and needs regarding process automation systems.
By Control Engineering Staff February 12, 2008

Research was undertaken to gain a better understanding of Control Engineering subscribers’ applications and needs regarding process automation systems.

Executive Summary

o Among those who specify, recommend, or buy process automation systems, 91% do so for in-plant requirements, while 26% do this for OEM needs. Over half of respondents indicate the type of processing at their plant is batch and continuous processing.

o 31% of respondents are from locations with 30 or more process automation systems. 23% of respondents indicate that there are currently fewer than five process automation systems at their location. 81% of the newest systems on site are less than six years old. When looking at the oldest system on site, 36% are more than 20 years old.

o 55% of respondents are extensively using human machine interface (HMI) features when implementing PAS. Another 53% are extensively using commercial off-the-shelf hardware and software with their process automation systems.

o For the newest system on site, the majority of respondents (89%) feel the process automation system features and capabilities are useful. Regardless of the age of the process automation system, it appears the majority of plants do not utilize most features and capabilities available to them. Even for the newest systems, roughly three-quarters of respondents indicate that 75% or less of the system features and capabilities are currently being utilized.

o Half of respondents mentioned that the features & capabilities exceed the needs of the process. Another 39% mentioned that the features & capabilities are inappropriate for the process.

o For the newest system on site, 93% of respondents felt the reliability of their process automation system was either excellent or good. For the oldest system, only 66% felt the reliability was excellent or good.

o Respondents were asked how they would handle the upgrading, migrating or replacement of their current PAS on site. 64% indicated it would be done in small portions spread out over 24+ months. 13% would handle it in large portions and be fully completed in 12 to 24 months. Only 4% said they would do it all at one time.

o When making the decision to upgrade an existing PAS, the criteria most often rated “very important” (78% of respondents) was the system’s impact to plant operations. Manufacturing cost pressures was next most important with 59% mentioning it as “very important.”

o 61% of respondents look to manufacturer’s expertise and to experienced people within their company as information sources when needing information to make decisions about their process automation systems.

o When purchasing a new process automation system, 68% of respondents mentioned an Ethernet protocol (industrial) as the most important integration feature to consider. About half mentioned device-level network support as “very important.”

Process Automation Systems 2008