Brought to you by ControlGlobal.com and Putman Media December 5, 2006

Headlines from Today's Activities
- Foxboro Execs Outline "Continuously Current" I/A Migration Paths
- Safety Systems Roundtable Raises as Many Questions as Answers
- Toward an Information-Centric View of Process Instrumentation
- Strategy, Vision Needed to Drive Maintenance Excellence

Foxboro Execs Outline "Continuously Current" I/A
Migration Paths

When it comes to marketing presentations on control system migration, it's often apparent when the smoke and mirrors come out. But it clearly isn't the case this week at the 2006 Invensys Process Systems Customer Conference—where not only are the upgrade paths clear, but they are swept, tidy, and have flower-planted borders.

Indeed, the wide-ranging series of migration discussions and presentations to the Foxboro I/A Series faithful—led by Foxboro leaders including Betty Naylor-McDevitt, Grant Le Sueur, Thad Frost, Matt DeAthos, Rick McGuire and Ed Piltzecker—were chock-full of detail to satisfy even the most dedicated power user.

Beginning in 2004 with the introduction of The Mesh Network (not to be confused with the mesh networking architecture of TCP/IP and IEEE 802.15.4 wireless standards) Foxboro began an inexorable march toward the future for the I/A Series. In 2005, they introduced the ATS (address translation station) which allows the Mesh system to coexist and interoperate with the older Nodebus architecture.

Earlier this year, Foxboro introduced I/A Version 8.1.1 and the FCP270 field controller module, and a detailed migration path for Bailey, Fisher, Honeywell, and other competitive DCS systems. Now they've introduced a product called FDSI (field device systems integrator) which permits the easy integration of plant device data from a variety of communications buses into the I/A database. FDSI works with Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus, HART, FoxCom, and has drivers for OPC, Modbus, ControlLogix OPC, DNP3 (the power industry SCADA bus) and, coming soon, drivers for Triconex's native TSAA bus, and Allen/Bradley Ethernet/IP and Ethernet TCP/IP and CIP.

The new controllers are self-hosting, backward compatible with dual baud rates, and have improved usability of function block configuration. There are expanded versions of the FBM (field bus module) coming, with new FEMs (fieldbus expansion modules) that will reduce the cost per point dramatically for I/A Series I/O.

The Foxboro name for all of this is "Continuously Current" and this was demonstrated quite dramatically by a video that was shown in the morning Foxboro General Session. Shot at PPG Lake Charles, La., with the help of Rob Brooks and his instrumentation and automation crew, the video showed Brooks' team moving 13 control rooms filled with I/A Series from Nodebus to Mesh fiber in something less than 2 hours elapsed time.

Foxboro's Thad Frost outlined the company's extensive and detailed roadmap for the company's I/A Series control system architecture.

 

Safety Systems Roundtable Raises as Many Questions as Answers
Almost forty people, the vast majority end users in the chemical and refining industries, from companies like Shell, Chevron, ChevronPhillips, Lyondell and others gathered for a roundtable discussion on safety instrumented systems (SIS) today at the Triconex track of the Invensys Process Systems Customer Conference this week.

As each previously contributed question was displayed on the screen, the end users took turns trying to answer them. One of the questions that kept coming back in several iterations was about competency. How do you define competency, how do you define who is a "competent person" and a "senior competent person" as called for in IEC standard 61511 and ANSI/ISA84.00.01-2004?

"We're sending our people through the Tricon course, does that qualify?" was the query from one participant. "Then we validate them through test procedures we have in place, because we have two people dedicated to SIS," she concluded.

"Our hourly people have to pass safety systems training," another participant began, "but one person will do a job differently than another. With a step-by-step instruction set you don't have variation. Competence is important, and so is consistency," he said.

Another participant noted that TUV certifies competence. "Yes," argued another, "but if they're certified but they can't size an orifice, then what?" Yet another participant pointed out that more and more countries are going for certification, while another commented, "the competency programs out there aren't looking at the instrument engineer part of the equation."

"I'm not sure training is the only way," began another participant. "We've had 'trained' people with five years' experience force a global point instead of a local point and shut the whole unit down. Then there's that 'pucker factor' if you've been trained but nothing's gone wrong for years, and then alarms start to sound. What do you do?"

Most of the participants appeared to be considerably more conservative in their outlook than many SIS vendors would like. "I understand the failure modes of a solenoid valve," said one participant from a major refinery, "and I don't understand the failure modes of smart positioners. I'm not satisfied that smart positioners don't have issues that need working out."

"We're planning to," was the response to the question of who is using analog outputs with smart positioners. "Are you people really comfortable with the failure modes on smart positioners?" argued another participant. "I keep trying," he went on, "to get vendors to give me data, but they give me lots of numbers and no failure data."

"Safety fieldbus won't get us any advantage I can see," added one engineer. "Diagnostics are available from HART and we've all got that, so why do it?"

But on the other hand, many of the participants shared their reluctance to use digital communications buses like HART, Modbus, TCP, and OPC communications to perform SIS functions—from bypasses to even closed loop control. "You can use HART to initiate partial stroke testing," one engineer bravely began, but he was nearly shouted down by people who said that HART was too slow, and not safe enough.

The discussion was passionate, lively, informed, and showed the level of detailed thought, planning and engineering necessary to implement the SIS standards. This is not "plug and play."

End-users from across the process industries engage in a lively debate over the interpretation and implementation of safety instrumented system (SIS) standards.

 

Toward an Information-Centric View of Process Instrumentation
"Transparency of process information is the key to success in today's flat world," began Wil Chin, research director for ARC Advisory Group, in a keynote presentation this morning to Foxboro's Measurement & Instrumentation track at the Invensys Process Systems customer conference. Chin went on to predict that the overall market for intelligent instrumentation will grow at a relatively robust 5% rate over the next several years, buoyed by the increasing information demands of today's plant asset management strategies as well as the demographic pressures of an aging—and increasingly thinly stretched—workforce.

"Measurement information is the base of the business optimization strategies being discussed at this conference," he said. "The plant asset management market is growing at a 10% rate, and there is a need for better measurement solutions to manage today's complex processes—and analog instrumentation is no longer sufficient." The new role of instrumentation today is to communicate not just a single process variable, but often multiple associated variables, instrument status and diagnostics, as well as process status, Chin said. "This information is needed to support better decision-making by operations and maintenance."

Further, he predicted, many of the estimated installed base of some 55 million field instruments—most of which communicate only their process variables—will need to be upgraded to communicate digitally in the coming years. Indeed, some 50% of today's field instruments are plain old analog or pneumatic, and, despite the millions of HART-capable devices deployed worldwide, their digital communication capabilities often are used only during commissioning and calibration, not during routine operation. But with plants scattered and workers stretched, a digital and increasingly wireless field communication infrastructure will be necessary.

"The workforce culture also must change," Chin added. Tomorrow's increasingly mobile workers will move from clipboards to electronic support systems consisting of hand-held computers, RFID-enabled equipment tags and GPS-assisted navigation. Software applications integrated through multiple wireless LANs will provide on-the-spot decision support and analysis, rounding out the mobile worker's toolset.

"Wireless communication will be the most significant driver of the process instrumentation business," he added, predicting that despite standards-making bodies' best efforts, multiple wireless standards would emerge to compete in the industrial space.

"If you don't have people locally, you have to have transparency." ARC Advisory Group's Wil Chin on the need for suppliers to take the lead in developing digital instrumentation infrastructure and mobile workforce tools.

 

Strategy, Vision Needed to Drive Maintenance Excellence
When it comes to maintenance, it pays to put first things first. Such was the central message from Teri Wink, of Midwestern power generator Wisconsin Public Service, on her company's continuing odyssey toward maintenance excellence in her presentation today to the Avantis user track at the 2006 Invensys Process Systems Customer Conference.

As a matter of perspective, she described her company's evolution from manual and standalone CMMSs in the 1980s, to a client-server implementation in the late 1990s, and ultimately to re-evaluate their approach when told in 2003 that their current system would no longer be supported. At the same time, a CMMS utilization audit, performed at management's request, found that despite significant investment, their CMMS was little more than a "very expensive record-keeping system. No planning, no root-cause analysis was being done unless something went wrong."

"We took a step back and found that we didn't have a maintenance strategy," she said. Thus began a comprehensive effort to define the company's strategy before selecting a tool. "You can't select a computerized maintenance management without a maintenance strategy—remember, CMMS is nothing but a tool to move the strategy forward."

The company was in the planning stages of a new power plant investment, and critical decisions needed to be made regarding how maintenance would be done, and the extent to which maintenance processes would be standardized across facilities ranging in age from brand new to decades-old, and in complexity from nuclear power generation to tool-repair shops.

They began by forming a maintenance process team that consisted of plant managers, operations and maintenance supervisors and other key constituencies. That group was charged with defining the maintenance strategy and vision, determining best practices, developing the key performance indicators that would be monitored, and, ultimately, decided to standardize practices across all facilities.

Market forces in the changing power business indicated that they needed to move from reactive to proactive and ultimately to a diagnostic, analytical approach to maintenance, Wink explained. "For us, the decision ultimately came down to real-time condition-based maintenance."

Enter Invensys Process Systems' Avantis.PRO. For the new plant, the decision to use Foxboro I/A Series distributed controls, SimSci-Esscor simulator, and Wonderware software already had been made—and it was the synergy between Avantis and these systems, which would ultimately enable real-time condition-based maintenance, that carried the day.

"You have to know why you're bringing in new functionality and how it supports your maintenance strategy," she added. "If we didn't have that strategy in place, we would have gone in a different direction."

"You have to know why you're bringing in new functionality and how it supports your maintenance strategy," Teri Wink of Wisconsin Public Service on the need to determine a maintenance strategy before investing in maintenance tools.

 

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