Andrew Bond Covers Process Automation in Europe

Here are excerpts from the October 2007 issue of Andrew Bond’s Industrial Automation Insider, a monthly newsletter covering the important industrial automation news and issues as seen from the U.K.

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Rockwell Automation expects ICS Triplex's modular safety system to ‘AAdvance’ to Go and collect £110m

It’s just two months since Rockwell Automation completed its £110m acquisition, first announced in May of this year, of Maldon, U.K.-based safety system specialist ICS Triplex However, the company, or at least the product offering, already looks very different from the one that was acquired.

At that time ICS Triplex had all the appearance of a “one trick pony,” that trick being Trusted, its widely accepted and well-respected monolithic TMR (Triple Modular Redundant) Safety Instrumented System (SIS). That and its independence from any one of the mainstream DCS vendors placed it firmly in the “separatist” camp alongside vendors such as Invensys’ Triconex and HIMA in the recent debate between advocates of functionally separate, physically integrated SISs on the one hand and total physical separation of SIS and BPCS (Basic Process Control System) on the other. Now however, with the introduction of its new AAdvance system—pronounced as if it only had one ‘A’, the other standing for Automation—at last week’s Offshore Europe show in Aberdeen, not only has ICS Triplex revealed that Rockwell got a whole lot more than one trick for its £110m, but it has also opened up a completely new front in the integrated versus independent battle.

Ever since Emerson Process Management announced DeltaV SIS in February 2004, separatists have been attacking the new generation of integrated safety systems for undermining the basic tenets of the safety system creed through their physical integration with the BPCS, their use of a common hardware platform and their reliance on dual or quad architectures with diagnostics. However, it’s arguable that what really put the wind up them was the scalability of the new offerings in general and of DeltaV SIS in particular.

Traditional TMR solutions such as Trusted may offer the highest levels of availability and freedom from spurious trips, but they require the user to invest in a fully featured system capable of supporting potentially hundreds of critical I/O, even when the application itself involves only a handful of SIL3 or SIL2 loops. Hardly surprising then that when Emerson came along with a solution which purported to offer SIS support on a per loop basis, many users were prepared to overcome their initial reservations. Nor is Emerson the only vendor to have made converts to the integrated approach. Indeed, only the other week Yokogawa was telling INSIDER that its ProSafe RS integrated SIS is now their users’ preferred solution on major projects involving both a DCS and an SIS.

Scalability

ICS Triplex’s AAdvance is designed to counter that trend by offering scalability in terms not just of loops, but also of SIL level and availability and fault tolerance. Moreover, in contrast to what ICS Triplex chief technology officer Allan Rentcombe believes is a limitation of the Emerson solution to relatively small numbers of loops, it is said to scale all the way from the smallest to the very largest applications. It also allows the hardware to be distributed and located close to the plant or process unit being protected, while the new software environment maintains centralized control over the entire safety management system.

AAdvance is not designed to replace Trusted, says sales and marketing director Martin Snow, but to complement and integrate with it. Indeed Trusted will, in effect, become part of AAdvance, providing the necessary capability where high concentrations of high integrity SIL3 loops are required in AAdvance installations. Rather than impacting Trusted sales, both Snow and Rentcombe believe that the main effect of the new system will be to give the company access to markets from which it has previously been excluded. “Safety is an expanding market embracing TMC (Turbo Machinery Control), critical control and high availability as well as SIL levels,” explains Snow.

Compromise

AAdvance represents arguably the first real attempt by the independent SIS camp to respond to the DCS vendors’ safety challenge other than by seeking to undermine confidence in their technology. As Martin Snow says, “There’s always a compromise between what the customer wants and what he will accept.” ICS Triplex expects to start taking orders for AAdvance in early 2008 and to start shipping the following May. Only then will it be possible to see how successful they have been in shifting the balance of that compromise back in favour of independence—and whether Rockwell is going to get a worthwhile return on its £110m investment.


Wallraf and Fox reprise their InFusion show

Some 18 months ago, ahead of Invensys Process Systems (IPS)’s launch of its InFusion “Enterprise Control System” (ECS) in Boston in April 2006, Hartmut Wallraf, vice president and chief technology officer for EMEA and Ken Fox, vice president of international marketing, toured Europe and the Middle East in a softening-up exercise designed to ensure that, when the system was launched, editors had at least some inkling of what it was all about.

In effect InFusion is the process automation implementation of ArchestrA and hence to the continuous process industries what Wonderware’s System Platform is to the discrete industries. As such, it provides integration both horizontally between applications and real-time data sources such as DCSs and PLCs and vertically with the enterprise which, as Wallraf explained, means, for 90% of IPS clients, with SAP. “The market response has been slow, but the recognition is growing,” he said. Part of the reason for such a gradual build up has been the time required to get from initial enquiry to implementation—typically 18 months—which is why the majority of early applications are only now coming to fulfillment. Not only do they require detailed analysis of what the user is actually trying to achieve, but they can also raise delicate political issues between plant managers and their counterparts at the corporate level.

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