Jul 30

Bloomberg: “Oil Producers’ Ugly Duckling Refineries Just Turned Into Swans”

One of the unexpected side effects of lower oil prices and oversupply is a resurgence in the refining and downstream sector.  ARC has certainly noticed this over the past year and Bloomberg has published an article talking about this very issue.  We are also seeing some long-postponed maintenance and modernization projects starting to come back online as a result of this newfound love of the refining business.  Let’s hope it continues and contributes to a recovery in the automation market.


Bloomberg: Oil Producers’ Ugly Duckling Refineries Just Turned Into Swans

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Jul 30

Schneider Electric Posts H1 Results: “headwinds from O&G and China are higher than expected”

It seems like a common pattern here among the automation suppliers — declines in overall revenues but organic growth is improving.  Schneider Electric is no exception, posting its first half and second quarter results yesterday along with several other suppliers.  Schneider reports an overall increase in revenues for the company of 9.8 percent for the half, but for the Industry sector (Invensys) organic growth was down by just over 5 percent for the half.  More information is available from this quote in the press release:

Industry (21% of Q2 revenues) was down -4.2% year-on-year, temporarily impacted by the Invensys
integration. Western Europe was flat as growth in Italy and Spain, driven by OEM exports, was offset
by a soft market in Germany and France. North America was down due to lower industrial investments
related to the decline in oil prices and strong U.S. dollar. Asia Pacific declined, penalized by the
slowdown in China while Japan performed well. Rest of the world was slightly up.

Everybody’s in the same boat right now, Here’s some additional insight into the performance of the Invensys business:

Performance in the first half was penalized by Oil & Gas and one-offs. Revenues were impacted by
the ramping down of the China Nuclear project as well as the change in fiscal year closing in Q1.
Underlying performance was slightly down as field devices declined ~20% due to Oil & Gas
headwinds while the project business was flat to slightly down in H1, but improved in Q2. Software
orders were up in Q2. Margin was penalized by the one-off impact, decline in volume, negative mix
and continued R&D investment for future growth. However, margin is expected to improve in H2.

Press Release: Schneider Electric First Half and Q2 Results

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Jul 30

Rockwell Automation Posts Q3 Results: Organic Sales Up, Reported Sales Down

Rockwell Automation released their third quarter results yesterday and their results reflect the challenges faced by all the automation suppliers in this difficult environment with forex and oil and gas headwinds.  However, there were some surprises, including increased earnings per share and organic sales growth of over 2 percent for the third quarter versus the same period last year.  Rockwell’s presence in life sciences, chemicals, food and beverage, and other industries help to shield it from the current situation in upstream oil and gas, although the company still derives a significant portion of revenue from this industry and will continue to do so in the near future.

From the news release:

Architecture & Software
Architecture & Software quarterly sales were $683.5 million, a decrease of 4.4 percent compared to $715.2 million in the same period last year. Organic sales increased 3.1 percent, and currency translation reduced sales by 7.5 percent. Segment operating earnings were $199.9 million compared to $204.8 million in the same period last year. Segment operating margin increased to 29.2 percent from 28.6 percent a year ago.

Control Products & Solutions
Control Products & Solutions quarterly sales were $891.7 million, a decrease of 4.6 percent compared to $934.3 million in the same period last year. Organic sales increased 1.6 percent, and currency translation reduced sales by 6.3 percent. Segment operating earnings were $143.8 million compared to $121.3 million in the same period last year. Segment operating margin increased to 16.1 percent from 13.0 percent a year ago.

News Release: Rockwell Automation Reports Third Quarter 2015 Results

Presentation: Fiscal Year 2015 Third Quarter Conference Call

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Jul 29

Honeywell Posts Q2 Results: PMT Sales Down 1 Percent on Core Organic Basis

Honeywell released its second quarter results for 2015 on July 17.  Like all suppliers in the world of process automation right now, Honeywell is facing considerable challenges related to persistent lower oil prices (not made any better with the Iran accord), FX issues, and other headwinds affecting the process industries.  This is probably the most challenging environment we have had since the 2008 recession when you take everything into consideration.   Honeywell’s process automation business is still in the PMT business unit, which also includes businesses like UOP.  Despite challenging market conditions, PMT sales were down 1 percent for the quarter on a core organic basis versus the same period last year.  Overall PMT sales were down 9 percent for the quarter versus the same period last year.

Excerpt from PMT related section of the news release:

Sales were down 1% on a core organic basis and down 9% reported driven by the unfavorable impact of foreign currency and raw materials pricing in Resins & Chemicals. The decrease in core organic sales was primarily driven by lower volume in UOP and HPS associated with delays in customer projects and lower UOP catalyst shipments, partially offset by higher volume across Advanced Materials, particularly in Fluorine Products.

Honeywell Reports Second Quarter 2015 Sales Of $9.8 Billion; EPS Of $1.51 Per Share; Raising 2015 EPS Guidance

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Jul 29

ABB Q2 Results Reflect Challenging Market Conditions

ABB recently released its second quarter results for 2015, which you can view at their web site here.  

The results reflect the extremely challenging market for process automation right now, which continues to be adversely affected by reduced oil prices and deep cuts in capital spending by owner operators.  Currency translation effects continue to be a challenge as well, but ABB is well positioned to ride out these adverse market conditions and should retain its leading positions in DCS and upstream oil and gas through 2015.  All automation suppliers are suffering right now as a result of these market conditions.  On a like for like basis, ABB Power Systems revenues actually rose by 1 percent in the second quarter versus the same period last year, while Process Automation revenues declined by only one percent on a like for like basis in the same period.

Some excerpts from the report:


Process Automation:
The decline in orders mainly reflects lower discretionary spending in the oil and gas sector, as well as a decline in oil and gas-related marine orders, such as drilling ships. Mining and metals orders remained at low levels. These trends were reflected in the regional order development, with declines in the Americas linked to mining demand in South America and shale-gas in North America; marine orders in AMEA; and offshore oil and gas in Europe. Revenues were flat while the operational EBITA margin increased, mainly due to the successful completion of a number of higher-margin projects from the backlog during the quarter.

Power Systems:
Orders declined compared with the same quarter of 2014 when the division won a $400-million power transmission order in Canada. Increased orders in Europe and AMEA—led by the Middle East—mostly offset order declines in the Americas. Revenue growth was mainly driven by strong execution of the solid order backlog. Operational EBITA and the related margin increased as the result of ongoing ‘step change’ measures and continued cost savings to return the division to higher and more consistent profitability.

ABB: Steady Execution in Challenging Markets

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Jul 29

Schneider Electric Acquires Majority Stake in Aveva

Schneider Electric has agreed to take a majority stake in software supplier Aveva.  In the July 19th announcement, Schneider said it would combine the software business units of both Schneider Electric and Aveva to create a new entity in which Schneider will own a 53.5 percent stake.  Here’s an excerpt from the article in Bloomberg:

French manufacturer Schneider will own 53.5 percent of the enlarged entity, the two companies said in a statement Monday. Britain’s Aveva will receive 550 million pounds ($858 million) from Schneider and in return issue new shares to the French company. Aveva rose as much as 32 percent in London trading, the most in almost nine years.

According to the article, the new business will have revenues of about 534 million pounds.  Aveva, which specializes in 3-d engineering design software, was feeling the pressure from the reduced price of oil, and the oil and gas industry accounts for about 45 percent of its business.  This also makes Schneider the second company in the world of process automation that will have a significant presence in engineering and design software.  Siemens acquired Innotec and its Comos engineering platform in 2012 and has a three year head start in integrating its engineering and design capabilities with its strengths in process automation.  Now Schneider has that capability as well with Aveva and it will be quite interesting to see how their solution develops over time.

Bloomberg: Schneider Electric Takes Control of Aveva in Software Push

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Jul 29

Emerson to Spin off Network Power, Mulls Sale of Industrial Automation & Acquisitions

Of course, when you go on vacation big things tend to happen at work. After two weeks of vacation and two weeks of constant travel we have a lot to catch up on in the world of process automation.  On June 30 Emerson Electric announced its intention to spin off its Network Power business, which CEO David Farr has built up considerably through acquisition over the past several years.  According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the move is one of many being taken by large corporations to shed underperforming businesses with an eye towards increasing shareholder value.  The article also states that Emerson is mulling the sale of portions of its Industrial Automation business, which includes the Control Techniques drives business.  The massive growth in data centers that was predicted at the time Emerson acquired the businesses did not materialize, and after several attempts to revive the business, the Emerson board has decided to sell.

From the article:

In addition to the spinoff, Emerson said Tuesday it would consider selling a large portion of its industrial-automation group, which includes drives, motors and power-generation lines. Combined, the moves would shrink by more than a third the St. Louis-based conglomerate’s annual sales, which totaled $24.5 billion in fiscal 2014.

Emerson would be left with businesses mostly focused on equipment for controlling industrial processes and components for heating and air-conditioning systems.

This would result in a very different looking Emerson Electric with the Process business as the real centerpiece.  It also drives speculation on the possibility of further acquisition of automation related businesses by Emerson, which is already finding its way into the media.  In a recent issue of Hydrocarbon Processing they wax philosophical about a possible acquisition by Emerson of AspenTech.  Here is an excerpt from the Hydrocarbon Processing article:

CEO Dave Farr has been saying he wants to pursue takeovers, and he reiterated that sentiment on Tuesday. The spinoff will give him more money to do so: Emerson plans to take a cash dividend from the network power unit as part of the transaction.
“We will continue to focus on acquisitions,” Farr said. “I guarantee you not every executive at Emerson will be focused on the spin, or selling these assets. I guarantee that I will not be. So, I’ll be focused very much on how we can add to our portfolio.”

WSJ: Emerson Electric to Spin Off Network Power Business

Hydrocarbon Processing: Emerson CEO mulls new acquisitions in process management software

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Jun 29

Report from Honeywell Users Group 2015

Honeywell User Group Meeting: Installed Base Evolution to Business Performance

ARC recently attended the Honeywell Users Group meeting from June 22-24 at the JW Marriott convention center in San Antonio.  The event was very well attended, and although we did not get final attendance figures it seems that attendees were at the very least in the 1,300 range that Honeywell had at last year’s meeting.  This year’s meeting focused on the ability of Honeywell to support its customers who still have a significant investment in their installed base, while providing them with advanced technologies and approaches to drive them forward.

Last year, Honeywell Process Solutions was moved into the Performance Materials and Technologies group alongside UOP.  The move is creating some interesting new product and application offerings that build on the synergies between technology licensor and engineering firm UOP and automation supplier HPS.  HPS president Vimal Kapur kicked off the meeting with an excellent presentation that shows how Honeywell can reduce capex and opex spending for its customer, building on challenging market conditions that are forcing end users to do more with less.

The impact of the rapidly declining workforce and aging plant infrastructure was also heavily emphasized.  Kapur cited that 50 percent of plants today are over 30 years old.  The average asset age is 36.5 years.  IT related issues also continue to beleaguer the industry, with Windows XP hitting end of support in 2014, and an over 48 percent rise in detected cyber attacked between 2013 and 2014.  The regulatory side of the business also remains challenging, with the EPA reporting that it will cost businesses an estimated $480 billion to comply with new regulations on cleaner emissions.

Kapur Highlights New Capabilities in a Business Context

With all of these challenges, clearly operating safely and in compliance with regulations while leveraging technology to stay relevant and competitive, all while managing a major skills gap, is big challenge.  Another challenge is moving away from the old age of the monolithic, “black box” DCS.  According to Kapur, the DCS has evolved to a single platform for multiple islands of control and automation with a single user interface and single system infrastructure.  Making a business case for modernizing automation is considerably easier today than it was even five years ago because the functionality of modern systems has expanded so significantly.

Kapur also waxed on Honeywell’s cloud computing capabilities.  Cloud project use at Honeywell has now extended to over 2,000 projects, and Honeywell introduced a new cloud service for field devices at the show.  The new field device cloud offers web channel ordering and download, and transmitters can be ordered to exact requirements and arrive preconfigured right out of the box.  Honeywell also announced training through a cloud based infrastructure with a new virtual operator training simulator (OTS).

Automation as risk management is something ARC discusses often, and Kapur echoed this philosophy by discussing Honeywell’s integrated process safety management capabilities, integrated gas detection capabilities, alarm management, access control, and emergency shutdown.  Kapur also showed a new cyber security risk manager dashboard.  The goal of Honeywell is to be at all three layers of protection from detection, control, and prevention.

Modularization Approach Builds on UOP Relationship

The topic of modularization seems to pop up everywhere these days, and it really first started with the end user demand for more standard and configurable types of I/O and flexible approaches to project execution, which Honeywell made a splash with last year with its LEAP or Lean Execution of Automation Projects approach.  This year Kapur built on this message to talk about how Honeywell is taking more modular approaches to automation project execution with modular gas skid offerings and pre-engineered plants that leverage the now closer relationship with UOP.  Honeywell is promising up to six month reductions in project timelines, with standard templates for control system configurations with certain UOP process units for LNG plants, gas plants, and Naphtha complexes to name a few.

Field Device Advancements

Kapur’s discussion did not ignore Honeywell’s field device business, which has a large installed base of almost exclusively intelligent devices.  Honeywell’s goal is to reduce errors at configuration and startup and reduce startup time by up to 50 percent at loop check.  Honeywell sees its new auto-commissioning capabilities for devices as a big opportunity along with built-in, automated alerts and diagnostic capabilities.

ARC also attended a session on new SmartLine field device modularity capabilities, and transmitter messaging and maintenance mode.  The company’s SmartLine transmitter range, which includes pressure, temperature, and level transmitters for process applications, share the same modular design, standardized look, common functionality, and diagnostics.  The modular design offers many benefits and cost savings. Maintenance personnel can repair the transmitter quickly and easily just by replacing the broken hardware module, eliminating the need to stock large quantities of spare transmitters as before.

Transmitter messaging and maintenance mode allows the operator to send a message directly to the transmitter so the maintenance technician can quickly identify the right device for right work.  Honeywell also announced that a new multivariable transmitter would be available in early 2016.

Emphasizing Support for OPC UA as the “Lingua Franca” of Industrial IoT

ARC moderated a panel discussion for media and analysts where key Honeywell personnel talk about their view on the Internet of Things and Honeywell is responding to this new industry challenge and opportunity.  OPC UA was a key part of the discussion.  Honeywell is now one of the biggest supporters of OPC UA with its acquisition of Matrikon a few years ago.  One Honeywell representative stated that they hoped OPC would be considered as the “lingua franca” of the Industrial Internet of Things.

Bringing Data Sources Together Through Dashboards and Workflows

Application information exchange between data sources was a big topic at Mr. Kapur’s presentation, where he discussed Honeywell’s ability to bring information from disparate data sources together through advanced KPI performance dashboards and workflows through the Operational Insight application offering.  Part of the workflow discussion focused on Honeywell’s increasing support of mobile devices and mobility technologies for operators and field personnel.

Honeywell Gets Open about Its Installed Base

HPS vice president of sales in the Americas Andrew D’Amelio was very open about the large installed base the need for HPS to continue to support and evolve their customers’ intellectual property investment.  D’Amelio cited that Honeywell had over 11,000 Hiway boxes from the seventies that are still installed and working today. Over 6,200 controller power units from seventies are still running as well.  Many products from the ‘80s are still up and running as well, including around 7,500 HMI workstations and over 1,300 history modules and over 2,100 controllers.

Of course, Honeywell has been in the lead of suppliers offering an evolutionary path from older systems to the new Experion system, and introduced an Experion Data Hiway Bridge at this year’s HUG that allows users to upgrade their controllers on older systems to new Experion controllers.  The new Control Execution Environment or CEE provides a path forward for users who want to modernize their Experion C200 controllers.  With CEE, users can export control strategies from C200 to C300.  This can be done while the C200 is still running, enabling online upgrades.  The third new area of evolutionary support at HUG was continued support of the older HPM controllers.  Intellectual property and field wiring for HPMs will be supported through 2035.

Addressing Customer Concerns

Edwin van den Maagdenberg, vice president of business operations at Honeywell Process Solutions discussed many of the improvements that HPS is bringing to its business because of listening to their customers.  Mr. van den Maagdenberg was fairly open about improvement efforts being made in many aspects of Honeywell’s business that touch the customer, including revamping its website, improving spare parts and replacement orders, improving customer case resolution, and more.  The company did a voice of the customer survey that received 5,000 responses and it seems clear they are taking customer feedback seriously.  Few companies are willing to share such details regarding their approach to the customer and needed improvements as much as Honeywell has.  In addition, the response from customers seems to be improving, with two out of three customers telling Honeywell that they are improving in terms of scheduled delivery, service offerings, and parts.

New CTO Brings New Approaches

Bruce Calder is new CTO of Honeywell process solutions, and is the first executive ARC has seen from Honeywell to present a la Steve Jobs in a black t-shirt and jeans.  This leadership change clearly indicates a new approach that will incorporate new technologies such as the Internet of Things, cloud computing, and more advanced cyber security.  The first topic mentioned by Calder was the support of Honeywell for OPC UA, and Honeywell clearly has a lot riding on OPC UA as the new protocol for the Industrial Internet of Things.  Calder also strongly emphasized that HPS is back into the field device business in a big way, with smart, connected instruments being the first point of communication in the IIoT.

The transformation of process automation to a purely digital framework means that Honeywell must enable users to get meaningful information out of the building avalanche of data.  Calder cited that many of their customers are already heavily using analytics, with two thirds of their customers stating that they were using analytics to help solve problems.  Calder emphasized that Honeywell solutions allow end users to retain their intellectual assets as they continue to modernize.  Honeywell enables users to install smarter devices, get wider connectivity, collect more data, and find ways to use that data to run a smarter operation.

Honeywell Continues to Focus on Oil & Gas

Oil and gas is now the biggest vertical market for Honeywell Process Solutions, and ARC had good face-to-face conversations with several experts at HUG.  Honeywell is particularly focusing on the gas industry right now, which is still experiencing considerable growth in many segments despite the depressed market in oil and gas due to lower oil prices.  LNG and gas to liquids technology is one example.

Experion R440 features more SCADA rich features, and the LEAP concept is catching on quickly in oil and gas as a way to significantly reduce project costs and time to competition.  Honeywell Universal IO is a key enabler for modular construction and distributed system architecture, and allows for phased extensions in oil and gas projects more easily.  Honeywell has also integrated wireless and intelligent device management into its new 2020 RTU, which is designed and manufactured by Honeywell.  By integrating device management into the RTU, Honeywell can reduce the cost of the RTU by up to two to three times that of a conventional RTU.

Honeywell is also offering more advanced metering technology in its system with MeterSuite.  Historically, metering is done with many thousands of flow computers installed worldwide, but MeterSuite allows users to integrate this functionality into the Experion system, eliminating the need for a flow computer.  Honeywell is also making leaps forward in leak detection and pipeline reliability by bringing Abnormal Situation Management Consortium (ASM) concepts to the world of pipeline control.

Face Time with Vimal Kapur

ARC participated in a 30-minute face-to-face session with HPS president Vimal Kapur, along with other industry analysts and media representatives.  Kapur discussed the rate of technology change and how Honeywell is responding, and how this is affecting Honeywell’s customer service approach.  Kapur stated that Honeywell is engaging in more and more “outcome based contracts” with customers through the Honeywell Assurance 360 program.  These are somewhat different from performance-based contracts that many suppliers tried to establish with customers many years ago, with little success.  Key KPIs with outcome-based contracts include uptime, loss of view, loss of control, and have more to do with the performance of the automation equipment versus production KPIs.  Outcome based contracts also come with provisions for keeping automation equipment current, through modernization and migration approaches.  Honeywell’s new Assurance360 outcome based contracts can look at certain KPIs over the cloud.  Assurance 360 gets users out of the transactional world and focuses on the outcome.  Honeywell currently has nine sites with Assurance360 contracts and expects to more than double that by the end of the year.

Lots of New Activity at Honeywell Advanced Solutions

ARC also had some significant face time with Honeywell Advanced Solutions people, and there are many new advancements in this business.  There is much focus on the KPI dashboards, as well as other system and historian agnostic applications that are not necessarily tied to Honeywell DCSs.  Honeywell has worked with major oil and gas companies over the years to develop a collection of key KPIs, so inexperienced end users can have a good starting point to meet their specific needs.

The new Honeywell Uniformance Asset Sentinel application embeds asset management functionality into the historian, continuously monitoring equipment and process health, assisting industrial facilities to predict and prevent asset failures and poor operational performance.  The new offering expands HPS’ Uniformance software suite and supports the emergence of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in the process industry, enabling companies to collect, organize and analyze data for a specific asset or “thing.” These analytics can transform work processes from reactive to proactive, helping industrial plant operators avoid unplanned downtime and improve plant performance and safety.

Honeywell claims that Asset Sentinel helps companies with industrial assets increase utilization of those assets by up to 10 percent by reducing unplanned downtime. It can also cut maintenance costs by up to 15 percent by better predicting and preventing catastrophic equipment failure and inefficient operations.  The newest version of Honeywell DynAMo alarm management software combines alarm and operations management together, with functions such as operating envelope monitoring, and a better overall window into operations.

Honeywell’s UniSim 3-D simulation software now offers hosting of generic model on the cloud.  Many mid to small tier owner operators don’t have resources to do simulation for abnormal situations or even a way to do competency management effectively.  UniSim now offers a cost effective way for these users to keep track of who is trained and who needs to be trained.

Honeywell also sees the areas of energy efficiency and energy monitoring as still going strong.  Honeywell is beefing up its applications that monitor energy usage with enhanced visibility, energy dashboards, and more.  The company is also developing specific dashboards for performance monitoring of specific process units with UOP.  Eventually Honeywell process solutions should be able to use big data and analytics to compare performance from unit to unit.  Meanwhile UOP has already gone to market with its own performance monitoring solution called UOP OpAware, which provides remote, real-time collaboration with UOP technical specialists to maximize on-stream performance and profitability.  Installed at more than 100 process units worldwide, the OpAware system provides standardized data across units or facilities.

Through its work with the ASM Consortium, Honeywell has long had a strong hand in developing more advanced operator graphics and providing for better situational awareness.  Resolution, console design, placement of screens, and other ASM research projects are helping Honeywell to better understand how to more effectively use those technologies.  Eye tracking techniques, range of standards and guidelines on sight lines, how high a screen can be, are all considerations in the new HMI design, as are usability tests.

All in all a great and very informative user group meeting.  Thanks to Honeywell for their hospitality and hard work.

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Jun 29

Report from Achema 2015

Achema continues to be one of the best trade shows in the world not just for the chemical industry, but for process automation.  All the major and countless smaller automation suppliers had a presence at the show.  Although it seems clear that some suppliers still prefer to have a minimal presence there, all the major suppliers were represented in some way.  Achema and the OTC (Offshore Technology Conference) shows are the largest shows in the world right now that showcase process automation from a wide range of suppliers.  With attendees from around the world, in our opinion it is a mistake that all suppliers do not have a booth at Achema.  Overall attendance this year at Achema was 166,000 people from all over world, not just Europe or Germany.  There were large delegations from India, China, Japan, the US, the Middle East, and just about everywhere else.

ARC had a joint booth outside the foyer of Hall 11 alongside end user organization NAMUR and ZVEI, a German organization that collects statistics and other information related to the automation business and also happens to be a clearing house for information related to Industrie 4.0.  ARC worked with both organizations to do a series of presentations and panel discussions on relevant topics in automation called “Automation in Dialogue”.  Several ARC analysts gave presentations and panel discussions and these were very well attended.

"Automation in Dialogue" at Achema

“Automation in Dialogue” at Achema

Modularization is a Key Theme at Achema

Those who are familiar with NAMUR know that the organization can be very influential when it comes to shaping the requirements for the world of process automation.  The NAMUR NE 107 recommendations document outlined standard graphics and symbols for presenting diagnostic data from intelligent field devices, and Dr. Joachim Zobel from Novartis did a presentation on the use of NAMUR NE 107 diagnostics in conjunction with Endress+Hauser this year.  NAMUR also distributed a white paper on the new NE 148 recommendations for modular automation and construction of process plants, which is becoming an increasingly important trend in the industry.

Products such as the new generation of configurable and characterizable I/O were born in part because of the demand for increasingly modular automation. The NE 148 white paper published by ZVEI describes the need for modular automation in new plants, in addition to some ambitious plans on the part of the chemical and life sciences industries to build many more modular plants in the future.  Automation must change with this increasing approach to modularization, and we will see increasingly configurable, flexible, and “automated” forms of automation that, combined with the Industrial Internet of Things, could spell the end of the old, monolithic DCS.  Companies like Yokogawa continue to emphasize modular procedural automation.  Rockwell Automation had an OEM skid on display that incorporated a variety of different networks and products, all seamlessly connected with Ethernet/IP.  Rockwell Automation has a whole strategy for skids that you can read here.  Research institutes like Fraunhofer showcased modular pharmaceutical plant concepts, and EPCs like Pharmadule were highlighting their modular approach to plant construction.

Siemens Press Conference Shows Value of “Digitalization” in Manufacturing

Plant asset lifecycle management from the design and engineering phase through operations and maintenance was another key theme at Achema, and Siemens embodied this theme heavily.  Without a doubt, Siemens had the biggest booth at the show of any automation supplier and had a quite impressive display with two actual pilot plants running on either side of a large control room console where the full functionality of the SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and other Siemens applications.  The large central display, however, was encircled by booths showing the full scope of Siemens offerings across the plant lifecycle, from the COMOS engineering capabilities to SIMATIC PCS 7 process automation systems to process safety systems, instrumentation, and a wide range of applications and services for operations and maintenance.  Siemens also had a major press conference where new PD (process industries and drives) business unit CEO Peter Herweck explained the Siemens approach to “digitalization” of manufacturing, which is consistent with the language used in the Industrie 4.0 initiative widely publicized by ZVEI.

First Siemens Pilot Plant

First Siemens Pilot Plant

Second Siemens Pilot Plant

Second Siemens Pilot Plant

Herweck explained that digitalization through a Siemens integrated offering from engineering and design to operations and maintenance can provide improved decision making for industrial processes.  Lack of clarity can be overcome with digitalization.  The services provided in the new “Siemens Cloud” and Siemens Cloud Services were also highlighted at the press conference.  The Siemens Cloud can handle tasks such as control loop optimization, asset optimization, and other functions through SharePoint based KPI dashboards, and is available in private and public cloud configurations.

Siemens Cloud Services

Siemens Cloud Services

FieldComm Group Unveils New Organization and FDI is Finalized

FieldComm Group had a large presence at Achema through the Field Communication Lounge, which also had large sections for Profibus, FDT, and a new addition: ISA 100.  FieldComm Group had a press conference where they officially introduced the new organization — a combination of the assets of the former Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation.  The new organization should certainly make things easier for automation suppliers, as a central source for testing and registration of devices and streamlined membership processes.  End users should benefit from faster time to market for products and reduced development costs, as well more consistent access to device diagnostics through FDI (Field Device Integration) technology.  FDI rationalizes elements of Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) and Field Device Tool (FDT) technology to create single device packages the combine both technologies.  A big part of the press conference was the announcement of the final FDI specification and that the FDI Cooperation group would dissolve in the summer of this year.  All FDI related activities will then fall to the communication foundations such as FieldComm Group, Profibus International, and FDT Group.  Suppliers have ordered development kits and are developing devices for FDI but have not yet submitted these devices to the foundations for testing and registration.  This will probably take about a year.

FieldComm Group/FDI Press Conference

FieldComm Group/FDI Press Conference

Key Supplier Displays Target the Value of Automation

For some suppliers, there was more of a local German presence at the booth at getting a good briefing in English can be a challenge, however, we got a good look at just about everything related to process automation at the show.  ABB usually displays their electrical offerings alongside their process automation offerings, but mostly this booth showcased the company’s wide range of process automation offerings.  The ABB Collaboration Table was front and center, which is a unique combination of hardware and ABB software designed to create a collaborative production environment in the control room, taking advantage of touchscreen technology and the latest ergonomically designed control room hardware.  The New version of the Freelance system was on display, which features new I/O and controllers.  However, the new version is not commercially available yet.

Yokogawa had a considerable sized booth and featured some interesting new offerings.  Among these is the Tunable Diode Laser analytical solution that is being targeted specifically at combustion control applications.  Yokogawa also showed intelligent instrumentation with attached QR codes that allow field technicians to access information about the device from handheld mobile devices (an Android tablet was used in the demonstration).  The field worker scans the code and gets information about the device from an app that includes basic FieldMate field device configuration and diagnostics tool.  Also shown was the Automation Design Suite, that provides an engineering environment for configuring and maintaining overall instrumentation including plant instrumentation, safety instrumentation, and maintenance management.

Yokogawa Accesses Device Information via QR Code to an Android Tablet

Yokogawa Accesses Device Information via QR Code to an Android Tablet

ABB's New Freelance System

ABB’s New Freelance System

Wago showed its new DIMA concept, which was unveiled at the NAMUR annual meeting this year.  DIMA was developed in response to NAMUR’s 2013 NE 148 recommendation that automation solutions for modular process systems clearly divide functions between module controls and higher-level control systems. This requirement stems from the need of process system operators to respond faster to changes driven by new customer requirements, markets or production conditions.

Phoenix Contact showed new sensor/actuator terminal blocks with push-in connection technology, including its new firewall for OPC Classic.  Schneider was present in the form of a Foxboro instrumentation booth that showed several new field devices, including

Ethernet at the Physical Layer for Field Devices Makes a Quiet Debut

The Pepperl+Fuchs booth was very interesting for its display of Advanced Physical Layer technology with bus powered 10 MB Ethernet over twisted pair for process field devices.  Several field devices were shown connected to this network, which meets intrinsic safety requirements and has a distance limit of 200 meters.  Device suppliers included Emerson, Vega, Endress+Hauser, and a couple of others.  Ethernet at the physical layer for process field devices could be a real game changer and this was an important demonstration.  Of course, Pepperl+Fuchs provides the infrastructure for this technology and physical layer Ethernet would mean good business for the control network infrastructure suppliers such as Pepper+Fuchs, Stahl, MTL, Phoenix Contact, and Wago.  The collapsing of the physical layer to Ethernet will also create incredible value for end users and will provide a seamless path to incorporating device information into the Industrial Internet of Things and Industrie 4.0.  It should also create increased consideration for security at the device level, although the protocols running on top of the Ethernet physical layer will include industry device level standards such as FOUNDATION fieldbus, HART, and Profibus.

APL (Advanced Physical Layer) display at Pepperl+Fuchs Booth Shows Ethernet at the Physical Layer for Field Devices

APL (Advanced Physical Layer) display at Pepperl+Fuchs Booth Shows Ethernet at the Physical Layer for Field Devices

Ethernet APL Display at Pepperl+Fuchs Shows Devices from Multiple Suppliers

Ethernet APL Display at Pepperl+Fuchs Shows Devices from Multiple Suppliers

We also got a nice demonstration from EPC Linde in Hall 9 and they do remote monitoring and control of over 1,000 plants worldwide, from small prepackaged air separation plants to larger gas processing facilities, helium plants, nitrogen plants, etc.  This is certainly evidence of the increasing trend of remote monitoring and control of process plants.

Linde Displays Remote Monitoring of over 1,000 of its Plants

Linde Displays Remote Monitoring of over 1,000 of its Plants



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Jun 26

Tweets from Honeywell User Group 2015

We just got back from Honeywell User Group meeting 2015 and will post a write-up shortly.  In the meantime here is a collection of tweets from HUG.


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