Main automation suppliers focus on integration and flexibility

Paul Boughton

Integrating control and automation information, increasing network resilience and installation flexibility, and adding new functionality to Scada software are helping vendors to increase plant transparency. Sean Ottewell reports.

In the newest version of ARC Advisory Group's Distributed Control Systems Worldwide Outlook, study, ABB retained its leading worldwide market position in this core automation market.

The study reports that the explosive growth that characterised the distributed control system (DCS) market up until 2008 is gone due to the global economic crisis; ARC forecasts that the compound annual growth rate for this market through 2013 will be curbed to 3 per cent. DCS related services offer the best opportunity for growth in the near future.

The ARC report states that the customer demand for value-added services from automation suppliers has never been higher. These include project services such as the main automation contractor (MAC) concept, where the supplier takes full responsibility for all aspects of an automation project, as well as other after-sales DCS services that help end-users optimise plant performance.

The report also noted that as end-users strive to extract every last ounce of performance out of their plants, they need to reduce energy consumption. Aside from raw materials costs, energy ranks as one of the top cost pressures affecting manufacturers today. ARC stated that integrating the automation and power/energy domains of the manufacturing process can yield significant energy cost savings.

"ABB integrates the process control, process electrification, and power distribution and management portions of a plant with System 800xA, so information is available to all areas. This strategy is particularly interesting and beneficial to industries that are heavy electrical users, such as oil and gas, utilities, pulp and paper, and metals, that view electricity as a raw material," said Larry O'Brien, research director for process industries, ARC.

According to the study, ABB was also the regional market share leader for Europe/Mid East/Africa (EMEA), and the worldwide leader in key global verticals including upstream oil and gas, power generation, mining and metals.

In a separate move, ABB has announced that its flagship 800xA IndustrialIT extended automation system has been sold to more than 5000 customers over the past five years. Designed from the beginning to act as an extended automation integration capability, it has proven to be suitable for major composite plant systems and integrated process and electrical power systems.

By integrating power and process systems on the 800xA platform, customers optimise the design and performance of their electrical and automation systems and see additional benefits in reduced maintenance, engineering and overall lifecycle costs. Typical savings can result in a 20 per cent reduction in capital expenditures and operating expenditures, says the company.

Resilient and flexible

Meanwhile Rockwell Automation has embedded Ethernet device level ring (DLR) into its Integrated Architecture system for high-speed, high-performance applications needing resilient networks, and for machine builders looking for flexible, reliable, low-cost network solutions for their real-time EtherNet/IP applications.

DLR is a network technology for industrial applications that takes advantage of embedded switch functionality in automation end devices, such as I/O modules and programmable automation controllers, to enable Ethernet ring network topologies at the device level.

Unlike a network- or switch-level ring topology that provides resilience to the network infrastructure, DLR technology adds device-level network resilience to optimise machine operation. When a DLR detects a break in the ring, it provides alternate routing of the data to help recover the network at extremely fast rates. Enhanced diagnostics built into DLR-enabled products identify the point of failure, helping to speed maintenance and reduce mean time to repair.

"Functional tests show that the typical recovery time for a 50-node device level ring is less than three milliseconds," said Mike Hannah, manager, networks business, Rockwell Automation. "With this fast recovery, most failures become invisible to devices on the network, and machines often continue operating without interruptions. Keeping production running on the plant floor helps increase machine uptime and productivity."

In addition to superior network recovery performance, DLR technology helps simplify network architecture while still providing the flexibility to connect and co-exist with other network topologies. Multiport EtherNet/IP devices equipped with DLR technology connect directly to neighbouring nodes and form a ring topology at the end devices. DLR technology reduces the number of external components and associated cabling, which eases design and installation for machine builders.

"Ethernet ring topologies are important for machine control because they help keep production up and running," says Harry Forbes, analyst, ARC Advisory Group. "Using ring topology in machine designs enables machine builders to deliver more robust, easier-to-maintain machines that benefit them and their customers."

ODVA, an international association comprised of members from the world's leading automation companies, recently extended the EtherNet/IP specification to include the DLR protocol, creating a network solution for multivendor EtherNet/IP systems. By complying with a single standard ring specification, manufacturers using DLR-enabled products can achieve interoperability and numerous benefits provided by the EtherNet/IP network. DLR technology also supports the IEEE 1588 standard for precise time synchronisation and standardised Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms to help prioritise data transmission.

Throughout this year, Allen-Bradley ControlLogix controllers, I/O systems and Allen-Bradley Kinetix motion solutions with DLR technology are becoming available globally from Rockwell Automation. The company will also release a stand-alone communication module to help manufacturers connect devices not equipped with DLR technology to the ring.

The transparent plant

The Siemens Industry Automation Division has expanded its Simatic WinCC/Downtime Monitor and Simatic WinCC/DataMonitor software options for the Simatic WinCC V7 Scada system.

The DowntimeMonitor can now also be used for equipment with varying production speeds. The shift model has also been enhanced to include up to three shift calendars for comparing the use of machines and plants with different shift models. This feature can prove useful for analysing production fluctuations, for example when two machines deliver varying product qualities or quantities when operating under otherwise identical conditions. The DataMonitor tag selection for the Webcenter has also been improved, according to the company.

The WinCC/DowntimeMonitor and WinCC/DataMonitor software options are used for visualising production processes as well as capturing, analysing and distributing production data. The software calculates production figures, as well as displaying and evaluating them, which results in increased plant transparency and productivity (Fig. 1).

In the latest WinCC/DataMonitor version, the user now utilises the server to distribute the reports previously created offline in Excel.

Thanks to new tools for the installation-free Webcentre, process values are displayed with more transparency than ever before. This version of the WinCC/DowntimeMonitor and WinCC/DataMonitor also provides the user with Gantt diagrams for the machine status which can quickly zoom details of any selected period of time, with a single mouse click immediately leading back to the original time space within the overall display.

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