By Rich Merritt, Senior Technical EditorPERIODICALLY
, we cover the Second Tier of process control system vendors. As you will see in the accompanying "The Industry's Top 50 Suppliers
" article, the hierarchy of control system vendors consists of a clumping of eight “Big Boys” at the top (Emerson, Honeywell, Invensys, ABB, Siemens, Rockwell, Schneider and Danaher) followed by a huge gap to the Second Tier companies gathered below. Last year, the gap was $400 million in annual sales.
The Second Tier companies are not separated from the Big Boys just by sales figures: Their philosophies are different, their approach to marketing is vastly different (because of their often amateurish attempt at marketing, you probably never heard of some of the lower 42 in the Top 50), and their product offerings tend to be narrower and more niche-oriented.
The Big Boys tend to spread out across the product continuum, offering everything from field instruments to process controls to asset management software, while the Second Tiers appear to concentrate on doing a few things very well. This can consist of serving specific industries such as power or paper, providing specific kinds of HMI/SCADA software, “adding on” capabilities to other systems, or providing general-purpose, lower-cost solutions.
It also may consist of exploiting chinks in the armor of the Big Boys. For example, when it comes to supporting legacy systems, the Big Boys are vulnerable. Some big companies are notorious for dropping support of certain products, charging a fortune for parts and service of legacy systems, and otherwise making it very difficult for end user companies to continue using the same brand for control. In contrast, the Second Tiers offer interesting, useful and often less expensive approaches to legacy system replacement.
This article describes case histories where products and services from Second Tier vendors replaced legacy control systems. Our purpose here is to demonstrate that elegant, useful and cost-effective systems are available for process control from second-tier vendors. Be sure to consider the Second Tiers when shopping for a control system.A Waterfall of Savings
When it costs less to replace a legacy system than it does to maintain it, that legacy system is history. So it was in Upstate New York.
The Water Resource Department in the town of Tonawanda, N.Y., just north of Buffalo, operates and maintains hundreds of miles of water and sewer lines. Each year millions of gallons of water drawn from the Niagara River are treated, distributed, collected and cleaned to serve the town’s 80,000 residents.
||FIGURE 1: WATER CONTROLS|
Software from Iconics replaced software from Intellution when the cost of supporting the legacy system got too high.
The wastewater treatment facilities were controlled by PLCs and an Intellution FIX32 HMI/SCADA system, but the software was getting too expensive to keep. According to Ed Rick, system engineer for the town, the price for support of the FIX system and other third-party applications, such as reporting solutions, became too high. The department began looking for a replacement system that could work with the existing PLC hardware.
The town installed Genesis32 Enterprise edition and Web HMI software from Iconics
at both the Water Department and the wastewater treatment facilities. The two locations have a total of five Genesis32 servers and five Web HMI servers. Iconics software is also deployed at 13 remote pumping stations connected over leased lines back to the control room.
Workers in all locations can view displays on standard Internet browsers. Other Iconics software being used includes GraphWorX32 for operator screens, TrendWorx32 for real-time trending, and AlarmWorX32 for distributing alarms and events to the appropriate people.
The system was installed by town employees, with sales and technical support from BCS, a systems integrator in Buffalo, N.Y.
OPC technology and redundancy both play a significant role in the application. Kepware OPC drivers connect Genesis32 to Modicon PLCs and various industrial control devices. The system has approximately 4,000 I/O points, and redundancy is built in at several levels. There are redundant servers in each location and each location works as a backup for the other. A wireless Ethernet between the locations runs over a Cisco backbone, while DataWorX32 software keeps the plants in sync. Redundant OPC drivers and redundant Ethernet are used, with a recovery time after a failure of less than 300 msec.
Switching to Iconics paid for itself in the first year, says Rick. “For the price of one year of support on the old system, we installed Genesis32 and WebHMI on 32 bit platforms, and gained more technology, such as the ability to have true thin client viewing via standard Internet Explorers.” Why didn’t the town simply upgrade to the latest version of FIX? Rick says the Intellution solution would have cost 25% more than the Iconics system.
“Iconics was able to reduce our operational cost while providing us with technology we can grow with,” says Rick. “In addition to lowering the support cost for maintenance contracts, supporting the system internally is now minimal. With WebHMI, all the administration and licensing is done on the server.”