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Consequently, it just no longer made business sense to continue to develop and maintain our own process automation system. We needed to focus on our core manufacturing business. While we wanted to preserve our process automation expertise, we knew we didn’t want to be providers of hardware and software, so we began looking at other options. Some of the commercially available solutions looked like they had the potential to develop into something that could work for us, but going this route first required a lot of investigation, homework, and soul-searching. It isn’t easy to give up a job that you’ve been doing very well for more than 30 years, and just hand it over to someone you don’t know. Yet we knew, for pragmatic reasons, it had to be done.
The culture, the knowledge, and the passion for process safety were already ours. That wasn’t going to change in this transition. What was going to change was the platform. It just so happened that our first platform was the system we invented. So, the goal was to slide that platform out, slide in another platform, and allow the culture to continue forward undisturbed. We needed to find a solution platform to meet our needs, as well as a process automation partner that would share our vision, goals, and philosophy.
Critical Requirements: “The Crown Jewels”
To be considered as a possible solution, a commercial system had to align with our process automation wants as well as our needs. Once we decided to pursue a commercial option, we defined more than 400 requirements for this system that addressed our need for sustainability going forward. Long-term commercial availability, cutting-edge technology, and forward-looking solutions were all essential criteria. We absolutely needed a process control system that would take us successfully into the future, be deployable on a global scale, leverage commercial standards as they became available, and be on a platform that Dow could use as a standard at any plant anywhere.
|FIGURE 2: THE CROWN JEWELS|
Based on its list of 400 requirements, Dow defined 32 high-level criteria, affectionately known as "The Crown Jewels."
After agreeing to go commercial, we explored various ways to collaborate with external suppliers. Following our initial attempts, we hired an objective, third-party consultant to work with us in the evaluation and selection process, and help us define our requirements. Of course, after all our team had achieved with the MOD series, our expectations were much higher and our wish list far more detailed than a typical automation customer. We knew exactly what we wanted. Were what you might call an extremely knowledgeable consumer.
Based on its list of 400 requirements, Dow defined 32 high level criteria, affectionately known as “The Crown Jewels.” The consultant provided a short list of recommended candidates for Dow to approach. We did an extensive onsite evaluation based on our requirements for each recommended company, and met with their executive management, technology officers, and development teams.
“It was unique to meet a customer with such a detailed list of functions outside the normal market standard requirements. This led to a number of internal discussions, including how to fulfilling these functions and the technical needs for all of them,” recalls Frank Duggan, currently senior vice president for ABB’s Group Account Management. “On the other hand, we were dealing with a partner with a deep understanding of systems. If we could fulfill the rest of Dow’s requirements, we felt this could become our competitive differentiator for the industry.”
ABB: A Shared Vision
ABB was one of the companies on our short list. We spent five days with them during the onsite evaluation. One thing we told them upfront was that we didn’t want to see any “smokescreens” or ethereal vision presentations. While vision is extremely important to us, we also had an immediate need for a sustainable solution. We couldn’t afford to wait for something that might materialize someday.
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