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July 17, 2007

Headlines from Today's Activities
- Making the Move from Condition Monitoring to Management
- Closing the Loop on Real-time Enterprise Control
- The Hidden Costs of Successful Safety
- Gas Plant Goes Wireless Three Ways
- Solving the Security vs. Access Dilemma

Making the Move from Condition Monitoring to Management
"Condition monitoring is about data," began Invensys' Neil Cooper in his address to the 2007 Foxboro User Group gathering today in Boston. "But condition management is about creating the context, the collaboration and the workflow to deal with the conditions that arise."

Condition management is a core component of the company's larger asset performance management vision for helping companies to maximize return on their manufacturing assets, Cooper explained. To deliver business benefits, he said, we have to move maintenance from being reactive and preventive to being fully predictive. "Until we do, we can't affect the businessówe're just chasing our tails."

The key incentives for implementing condition management include reducing unscheduled downtime, protecting equipment, improving safety and reducing unnecessary preventive maintenance. "Thirty to 50% of preventive maintenance is unnecessary and can represent 10-20% of total maintenance costs," Cooper said. "This is a hard return-on-investment for moving from preventive to condition-based strategies."

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"It's typically not a question of data, but of what you do with it." Invensys' Neil Cooper offered suggestions for justifying the implementation of condition management strategies.

How will your Profession change?
Complete our survey to predict how engineers' jobs will change in the next 10 to 20 years. See the results in the September issue of Control magazine.

Closing the Loop on Real-time Enterprise Control
In a Monday afternoon breakout section, Peter Martin and Kevin Fitzgerald, Invensys' SAP programming expert, described Invensys' adventures in SAPland.

"InFusion was certified for NetWeaver on the day we introduced it," Martin said. What he and Fitzgerald have been doing creating PCAs for SAP. A PCA is a "packaged composite application," and is designed to move data in and out of SAP's main modules.

Martin went through his discussion of the gaps between plant resource management, production management, and enterprise management on the operations side, and the huge gap between the plant floor and the financial reporting side of the business.

"I'm the CFO," Martin quoted an attendee at one of his focus groups as saying, "and I don't measure the business, I do financial reporting."

His boss retorted, "I'm the CEO, and I say you measure the business, so you better get at it."

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"With these two loops, you can now apply control theory to the entire business enterprise." Invensys' Peter Martin on the company's co-innovation with SAP of Real Time Finance and Real Time Production Execution applications.

Peter Martin SAP Podcast
Peter Martin talked with Walt Boyes about the reasons SAP and Invensys developed the two new PCAs he discussed in his breakout session Monday afternoon.
» Download Now (mp3, approximately 17 minutes length)

The Hidden Costs of Successful Safety
It's not easy to keep process applications safe, but it can be even harder to find help to do it right. In this environment, safety depends on asking the right questions.

In his "SIL 201" presentation on July 17 at the 2007 North American Foxboro User Group conference in Boston, Luis Duran, described many of the hidden costs and side effects associated with safety instrumented systems (SISs), especially those embedded with distributed control systems (DCSs). Duran is product marketing manager for Triconex.

Duran covered some of the safety-related questions that he says users need to ask their DCS vendors, even though many suppliers don't want to answer them. "When vendors hear these questions, many of them start to dance around a lot," he said.

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"Beware skipping over the fine print and use restrictions, or you could be in for some nasty and costly surprises come implementation, start-up and commissioning time." Invensys' Luis Duran warned users to carefully evaluate a safety instrumented system's TUV report before signing on the dotted line.

 

Gas Plant Goes Wireless Three Ways
While many folks put one toe in the water, some jump in with both feet.

So, while some process control users may slowly test wireless for limited monitoring in non-critical corners of their plants, a few brave engineers are blanketing their facilities with multiple wireless protocols, and finding more than more places and applications to use wireless and gain its advantages.

"We joke that we've basically turned our site into a giant WiFi hotspot," said Dave Runkel, production manager at Lost Pines Power Park, which includes a 42-year-old natural gas plant, and is part of the Lower Colorado River Authority. The park began operating as one of the first co-generation power plants in 2001, and is now a 545-megawatt facility that's reportedly 30-40% more efficient than traditional gas-fired plants. "Each day, we're finding new ways to incorporate wireless into our infrastructure."

Lost Pines began its journey to wireless when it recently merged with the three-unit, 620-megawatt Sim Gideon power plant next door, downsized many redundant staffing functions, and began seeking a way to resolve Sim Gideon's public address system with Lost Pines' radio-based communications. Runkel says it was at their annual strategic alliance meeting that Invensys representatives proposed implementing a wireless umbrella at the plant.

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"We joke that we've basically turned our site into a giant WiFi hotspot." Dave Runkel, production manager at Lost Pines Power Park, on the power producer's deployment of a "future-proofed" multi-protocol wireless environment.

 

Solving the Security vs. Access Dilemma
Moo! Snort! Ouch! It's called the "horns of a dilemma" for a reason.

And, while they're not sprinting in Spain's running of the bulls this summer, process control managers and their IT-based counterparts have the equally difficult task of securing their networks from intrusions and malicious software, but still making them as open as possible to enterprise level, remote data gathering, and other purposes. Ouch indeed.

James Basset, of CapGemini Energy, says this two-headed problem is caused by the fact that today's control systems are externally connected to business networks via second Ethernet or other administrative networks. In addition, most of these connections grow out of user convenience, and so most of them aren't historically monitored or audited.

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CapGemini Energy's James Bassett explained lessons learned during TXU's ongoing push to standardize and secure the control systems across 22 of its power generation plants.

 

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