Product Focus: Process Automation SystemsFeature Rich, Under-Utilized

Be it new or old process automation systems (PAS), available features and capabilities are well suited for the applications, say 72% of survey respondents. Unfortunately, 48% of respondents are only using 50% to 75% of available features and capabilities, and another 23% use less than 50% of installed PAS features and capabilities.

By Dave Harrold February 1, 2004



Advanced function blocks

Configuration audit trail

Embedded loop tuning aids

Automatic configuration of data historian

Sidebars: Upgrade the existing PAS Migrate to the same manufacturer’s new system Migrate to a different manufacturer’s system PAS supplier selection sources end-users use

Be it new or old process automation systems (PAS), available features and capabilities are well suited for the applications, say 72% of survey respondents. Unfortunately, 48% of respondents are only using 50% to 75% of available features and capabilities, and another 23% use less than 50% of installed PAS features and capabilities. When asked what’s preventing them from using more of the features and capabilities, 33% cite insufficient on-site staff.

Those are among insights respondents shared in a recent PAS survey conducted by Control Engineering and Reed Research.

The survey defined PAS to be the control systems most frequently applied in process applications and traditionally referred to as distributed control systems (DCS), hybrid control systems, and/or open control systems. Further definition stated that to qualify as a PAS, the system should include an integrated engineering platform, operator interface, controller, network communication, and I/O sub-system, and that by themselves, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) weren’t considered a system.

About the survey

The Control Engineering process automation system survey consisted of 81 questions separated into five parts:


Existing/installed PAS information;

Upgrade, migration, and replacement plans and needs;

New PAS considerations and desirable features; and

Desirable integration features.

A select group of Control Engineering subscribers, who had previously indicated they specify, recommend, and/or buy PAS, were invited to complete the online survey and enter a drawing for a Sony digital camera.

While 25 manufacturing and non-manufacturing categories were represented, 55% listed pharmaceutical; industrial, commercial, agricultural, and other machinery; chemical; instrumentation, measurement, control systems, and related devices; food and beverage; utilities; and system engineering, integration, and architectural services as the primary end-product or service performed by their company.

Sixty-three percent de-clared site control engineer; site control, instrumentation, and/or electrical maintenance; corporate control engineer; or site process engineer best described their job function.

Responses were received from 34 states, Central America, Western Europe, and the Middle East. California, Illinois, and Texas provided the most participation at 7.6% each.

Existing PAS

Looking at newest and oldest systems on site, 86% replied the newest systems were less than six years old. However, 56% indicated the oldest systems on site were 13 or more years old, with a whopping 20% of those being more than 20 years old. The average installed PAS is 6 to 12 years old. With so many older systems in place, users will be forming upgrade, migration, and replacement plans.

Upgrade or migrate

Despite what many PAS suppliers advertise about the ease of upgrading and migrating legacy systems, most (43%) end-users remain pragmatic—replacing systems in small chunks spread over 24 or more months.

End-users must evaluate and determine which of three possible scenarios is best for their particular situation:

Upgrade the existing system;

Migrate the existing system to the same manufacturer’s newest system; or

Replace the existing system with a different manufacturer’s system.

It’s acknowledged that every evaluation to upgrade an existing system versus migrating to the same or a different supplier’s system has unique nuances and special requirements. However, some things are almost always in the evaluation mix.

To find more about how survey respondents evaluate more common choices, see tables: “Upgrade existing system,” “Migrate to the same manufacturer’s new system,” and “Migrate to a different manufacturer’s system.”

Supplier selection

Consumer reports, Internet research, advertisements, articles, salespersons, and friends all represent ways and means we use when trying to make major buying decisions in our personal lives.

Survey results indicate it’s not that much different for end-users trying to decide PAS purchases. (See “Supplier selection sources end-users use” table.)

What’s next

A recent ARC Advisory Group ( report predicts the total process automation market space—instrumentation, valves, drives, and control and safety systems—will exceed $58 billion in 2007. To achieve that sort of growth requires a 4.7% compounded annual growth rate over the next five years.

If ARC’s prediction proves correct, it will certainly bode well for the industry. However, the fuel for such growth needs to come from better, more aggressive use of the features and capabilities available within currently installed process automation systems.

If asked, “How would you rate your plant’s utilization of the installed PAS features and capabilities?” you reply, “Only 50 to 75 percent of PAS features and capabilities are being used,” then you need to start finding ways to improve PAS utilization. Imagine the positive economic impact that would take place if each and every existing PAS were used to reduce production variability by just 1% during the next six months.

If you think you and your team can’t help improve your company’s profitability and thus the world economy, think again.

PAS products

For more PAS manufacturers, visit . To find integrators with expertise in related areas, visit . If you contact the companies below, let them know you saw them in Control Engineering .

Comments? E-mail

Aspect objects

ABB’s Industrial IT solutions are constructed using Aspect Objects. Each Aspect Object contains the characteristics, behavior, drawings, location, etc., of physical entities, such as pumps and valves. Aspect Objects can also be created for finished products, raw materials, etc. Aspect Systems, such as Control IT, Engineer IT, and Operate IT, utilize Aspect Object content to form process control solutions.


Fieldbus smart

Emerson Process Management’s DeltaV digital automation system is designed to maximize the features and capabilities of digital fieldbus technologies, including AS-i bus, DeviceNet, FOUNDATION fieldbus, HART, and Profibus DP. Also available is DeltaV’s classic I/O system for interfacing to traditional analog and discrete I/O types.

Emerson Process Management

Unified development

GE Fanuc’s Cimplicity OpenProcess provides a unified engineering development environment for programming a complete process automation solution. Using SAMA-style intelligent function blocks, users can graphically develop complex regulatory control strategies, including automatic creation of operator faceplates.

GE Fanuc

Web-based architecture

Honeywell’s Experion PKS (Process Knowledge System) uses patented HMIWeb technology in a Web-based architecture to support integration of HMI, application, and business data. The HMIWeb solution uses standard Internet technologies, such as HTML and XML, to deliver consistent, secure, and efficient Web graphics. Honeywell’s ongoing support of international organizations focused on improving alarm management is demonstrated in Experion PKS’s advanced alarm monitoring solution.


Migration solutions

Invensys/Foxboro’s CP270 Series controllers provide new and existing I/A Series users with new features including fault-tolerant, redundancy. ZCP270 controller is designed to fit in existing I/A Series rack room mounting structures, and support up to 120 remote-mounted fieldbus I/O modules. FCP270 controller is designed to be field-mounted adjacent to fieldbus I/O modules.


Integrated architecture

Rockwell Automation’s integrated Logix architecture permits placement of controllers designed for specific functionality in the same chassis. Rockwell’s Logix system uses the same chassis, communication, and I/O modules to serve ProcessLogix for regulatory control requirements and ControlLogix for discrete control requirements. The Logix architecture supports ControlNet, Ethernet/IP, FOUNDATION fieldbus, Data Highway Plus, and DeviceNet protocols.


Profibus connectivity

Siemens Simatic PCS 7 process control system is based on Profibus fieldbus technology. Intelligent field devices can be directly connected to Profibus or through a HART interface module. Classical and HART field devices can also be connected to Profibus using Siemens ET 200 family of I/O products. The ET 200iS permits deployment of products in classified, hazardous environments.


Upgrade the existing PAS

(ranked considerations)

Impact to plant operations

Getting needed bug fixes

Cost of re-validation (testing)

Keeping current with system manufacturer to obtain ongoing support

Getting new features and capabilities

Source: Control Engineering

Migrate to the same manufacturer’s new system

(ranked considerations)

Obsolete, no longer supported

Automation infrastructure

Commercial, off-the-shelf hardware and software

Outdated system architecture

Preservation of application specific software

Obtain features and capabilities only available by upgrading

Preservation of I/O wiring

Standards-based means of integrating with business systems (such as OPC)

Support for 4-20 mA with HART digital protocol

Multiple fieldbus choices

Use of standards-based tools for fieldbus integration

Third-party references

Source: Control Engineering

Migrate to a different manufacturer’s system

(ranked considerations)

System architecture

Commercial, off-the-shelf hardware and software

Automation infrastructure

Preservation of I/O wiring

Standards-based means of integrating with business systems (such as OPC)

Old to new PAS physical interface connectivity

Preservation of application-specific software

Support for 4-20 mA with HART digital protocol

Multiple fieldbus choices

Use of standards-based tools for field bus integration

Source: Control Engineering

PAS supplier selection sources end-users use

(ranked considerations)

Manufacturer’s reputation and demonstrated expertise

Experienced people within end-user’s company

Manufacturer’s Website

Visit to manufacturer’s demonstration center

Third-party references

Manufacturer’s sales staff

Print advertising

Articles written by magazine editors

Articles written by manufacturer

Attendance at manufacturer sponsored exposition and/or user conference

Attendance at industry-focused trade show

Source: Control Engineering

Related Resources