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May 2, 2008

Headlines from Yesterday's Activities
- ABB Extends Automation Platform, Collaboration Tools
- The Potential for Electrical and Controls Integration
- Close Cooperation Characterizes Today’s Supply Chains
- In Pursuit of Improved Operator Performance
- More than Just a Process Automation System
- An Integrated Approach to Process Control and Safety

ABB Extends Automation Platform, Collaboration Tools
The theme of the 2008 ABB Automation World conference and exhibition is “The Power of Collaboration,” and the term applies not only to what the individuals and organizations gathered this week in Houston can accomplish together, but also to the performance gains possible through the integration of the various systems used in today’s complex manufacturing processes.

For ABB, the integration platform that makes this all possible is its IndustrialIT suite of software and system services, which was re-energized and repositioned several years ago with the System 800xA extended automation system at its core.

In fact, at this week’s ABB Automation World, the company demonstrated many of the primary competencies of IndustrialIT System 800xA, as well as several innovations. In the event’s IndustrialIT exhibit, ABB demonstrated that System 800xA is more than a distributed control system (DCS) and can perform more varied and sophisticated production planning, asset optimization, information and device management, operations and engineering tasks than ever before.

» Read more

“A new global order is in the making.” In the closing keynote address at ABB Automation World this week in Houston, Ravi Uppal, ABB president of global markets and chairman of ABB India, stressed the increased importance of collaboration in a world where emerging economies are having “a profound impact on global business cycles.”


The Potential for Electrical and Controls Integration
The typical manufacturing plant has two control systems: One, the basic process control system (and safety instrumented system piggybacking on it) and the other, the electric power control system. They are separate. They are usually operated by entirely different teams not cross-trained with each other. And they operate on different digital communications protocols. The process side of the plant uses HART, Foundation Fieldbus and Profibus, while the electrical controls communicate via Profibus and IEC 61850. So not only are they separate; they can’t talk to each other.

According to Mats Pettersson, ABB’s product manager for electrical integration, this is a situation that needs changing.

“Electrical integration,” he said in his presentation at ABB Automation World this week in Houston, “is simply connecting the electrical devices to a control system. Integration doesn’t replace power distribution SCADA systems, but complements them on the plant site. It provides a common platform for unified operations and allows extended asset management and additional applications like power management to be included in the plant control system.”

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“We see tighter integration as having the potential to increase both efficiency and productivity.” Peter Terwiesch, ABB chief technology officer, is bullish on the promise of a unified approach to process control and electrical systems.


Close Cooperation Characterizes Today’s Supply Chains
Price isn’t an end. It’s a beginning. Although commercial transactions ultimately are denominated in dollars or euros or yuan, users and suppliers report that today's deepening supply-chain relationships go far beyond three bids and buy.

Several of these innovative customers joined with ABB’s own experts to form a panel, “Driving Customer Satisfaction Through Supply Chain Improvement,” held at ABB Automation World this week in Houston. Panel participants included: Todd Imhoff, Alcoa’s global commodity management and services vice president; Gary Steel, ABB’s human resources director; Mark Brandt, supply chain operations manager for Ameren Services, a combined utility company; John Walker, head of ABB’s supply chain division; and Joanne Adams, procurement director for Weyerhaeuser.

Imhoff led off by reporting that the overall supply chain environment is getting ever tighter worldwide. “Whether we’re dealing with strategic materials, indirect support materials or support for capital projects, we’re dealing with markets that are unprecedented.

» Read more

“We used to just go with the low bid, but we’ve changed our focus to total cost of ownership, service diversity and e-commerce capabilities.” Ameren’s Mark Brandt on the changing landscape of supply-chain priorities.


In Pursuit of Improved Operator Performance
The study of human factors engineering began in the World War II era, said David Stobhar of Beville Engineering, at the beginning of his presentation on enhancing operator performance this week at ABB Automation World in Houston.

“Military pilots were crashing fighter planes at an alarming rate in non-combat situations,” Strobhar explained. “Research revealed that well-trained pilots flying reliable planes were often confused by poorly designed control panels, especially in emergency situations.”

Further studies showed that pilots were overwhelmed with the amount of data presented, a situation similar to the alarm floods experienced today by many process plant operators. “Studies showed that pilots should focus on six particular parameters in trouble situations. Cockpits were redesigned and pilots were retrained based on these findings, and accidents decreased markedly,” he added.

» Read more

“Current areas of study by the Center for Operator Performance include color usage in graphics and the effectiveness of simulators.” Beville Engineering’s David Strobhar related the process industry’s ongoing efforts to improve the effectiveness of operators.


More than Just a Process Automation System
“Our customers were being asked to increase production with the same number of employees, making each person responsible for more automation and more data,” said Roy Tanner, System 800xA marketing manager at ABB, in his systems capability orientation session this week at ABB Automation World. “Global competition was also forcing our customers to re-evaluate their business models to accommodate continuous improvement,” he added.

ABB customers’ needed a system that could interface with many different control platforms and applications in an integrated fashion. ABB’s answer was the System 800xA. The customer response has been overwhelmingly positive, with 3,700 systems purchased and deployed since its introduction in January 2004.

System 800xA provides a common platform that can interface easily to virtually any hardware or software automation product, Tanner explained. System 800xA provides seamless links to ABB controllers from other ABB control systems, including the MOD300, Harmony, DCI and Melody. OPC data sources also are accommodated, as are controllers from other vendors.

» Read more

“Global competition was forcing our customers to re-evaluate their business models to accommodate continuous improvement.” ABB’s Roy Tanner on the driving forces behind the development of the System 800xA extended architecture.


An Integrated Approach to Process Control and Safety
ABB’s customers want to combine process control and safety in one system to reduce total cost of ownership, improve operational excellence and increase engineering efficiency, according to Santiago Cano, ABB project engineer and TÜV functional safety engineer for industrial systems in the process automation division. Recent advances in hardware reliability and software-based diagnostics allow ABB to create various options to satisfy these customer demands, Cano said. These and other advances also allow ABB to provide modular and scalable systems with forward and backward compatibility.

“Safety systems need independent layers of protection to eliminate common-cause errors,” Cano explained.

“ISA and IEC standards allow ABB to satisfy safety requirements for independence using methods that don’t require physical separation of process control and safety,” adds Cano.

The first method for performing process control and safety is the traditional route of providing two separate and unconnected systems. These systems may be purchased from the same or from two different vendors. This is the highest-cost option, both in terms of up-front expenditures and on-going outlays for operations and maintenance.

» Read more

“We can satisfy safety requirements for independence using methods that don’t require physical separation.” ABB’s Santiago Cano on the company’s integrated approach to basic process control and safety instrumented systems.

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