Control News from Europe December 2007

Andrew Bond reports on process controls

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By Andrew Bond, Industrial Automation Insider

Honeywell Does Austria

Salzburg, for the second time this year and the third in 20 months. This time it was the EMEA Honeywell Users’ Group or HUG Conference. Despite a reported record attendance this seemed a slightly more subdued event than either last year in Seville or 2005 in Prague. But if this year’s event seemed a little short on major announcements, there were plenty of less headline-grabbing developments which, taken together, could be said to add up to some important shifts in emphasis. Arguably the most significant of these is a renewed interest in, one might almost argue a rediscovery of, field devices or, as Honeywell likes to put it, Level 1 in the Purdue model.

As one Honeywell executive put it to INSIDER in a subsequent conversation, HPS has had to make its mind up whether it is going to be in the field device business as a serious player or whether it should simply get out of it altogether. The decision to take it seriously, he suggested, had reenergized a section of the company which had hitherto been, or at least felt it had been, treated as a poor relation.

One of the key factors in this change in emphasis has been the recent acquisition of Enraf, and it was former Enraf vice president of international sales and marketing Tony Tielen who was tasked not just with explaining the Enraf acquisition, but with presenting the new strategy.

However, it is also clear that wireless has proved a catalyst, raising the profile of field devices as vehicles for delivering added value. No surprise, therefore that, in Honeywell speak, we’re no longer talking about field devices, but ‘field solutions.’

“Look for Honeywell to make more acquisitions in this space,” said EMEA vice president and general manager Paul Orzeske in what would have been his opening presentation, had his flight from Chicago arrived on time. What kind of acquisitions? “We’re changing the business model about how we deliver solutions in Level 1. We’re migrating from a pure technology to a solutions provider and we’re looking for acquisitions which bring solutions.”

Custody Transfer

That seems to be exactly what Enraf has delivered; for example, not just specific technology for,
level gauging, but complete solutions for tank inventory management, blending and additive injection, loading systems and custody transfer. According to Tielen, the aim is to enhance the field device portfolio to include not just all the main process measurements but, more importantly, to add differentiating technologies such as on corrosion measurement, wireless and weights and measures. Combining these technologies with domain expertise will enable the company “to excel in the deployment of next generation instrumentation.”

That will in some cases mean acquisitions; in others, collaborations such as that with Krohne to develop the recently announced VersaFlow range of mag flow, Coriolis and ultrasonic flow transmitters. These, Tielen emphasized, aren’t just rebadged devices but joint developments, with Honeywell in particular adding its wireless expertise. The result is a rapidly developing know-how in level and flow, with a particular emphasis on custody transfer.

No one is seriously expecting Honeywell to be challenging the Rosemounts, Yokogawas or even
Endress+Hausers of this world as field device vendors in the near future, but there is nevertheless a clear determination to make an impact at Level 1, something which Orzeske believes is essential for a Main Automation Contractor (MAC).

But Level 1 is certainly not the only area where Honeywell seems to have shifted its stance somewhat. Another is the still highly contentious area of Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS) where Honeywell has spent the last couple of years perched on the fence between the advocates on the one hand of full integration of BPCS and SIS and, on the other, of total separation.

Closer integration

Now, while there’s no lurch in one direction or the other, there are signs of a discrete shuffle toward the integration end of the spectrum. Inevitably Honeywell argues that it’s always been able to provide a degree of integration, and it still stops well short of an ABB or Yokogawa style solution based on a common hardware platform, but the next release of Experion, R310, due in early 2008, will not only include new hardware for Safety Manager, but also a common HMI across BPCS, SIS and Fire & Gas. EMEA director of sales support, Jean-Marie Alliet, stresses that what we’re talking about here is “Operational integration which avoids common cause faults.”

That common HMI is also a major theme in the drive to improve operator effectiveness, based on Honeywell’s involvement in the Abnormal Situation Management (ASM) consortium. While much of that is already familiar, what’s new is data showing, for example, a 38% improvement in the ability of an operator to recognize the development of an abnormal situation before the first alarm and a 35% to 48% improvement in the speed of response. This work is now extending into a key area for improved safety through the introduction of automated procedures for infrequently performed operations, such as start up and shut down. With procedural operations implicated in 30% of all reported incidents, the aim is to use automation drastically to reduce, if not eliminate, human variation and the dependence on operator experience. It’s an approach that echoes the view of exida co-founder Rainer Faller who, in a keynote safety address, suggested that the continuous process world has much to learn from the batch world when it comes to the safe execution of procedural operations.

Watershed

And what of wireless? Jack Bolick, speaking via video, described it as a “watershed event” and Jean-Marie Alliet predicted that it would usher in “a technology step change like the DCS 30 years ago.” Honeywell, claimed Tony Tielen, was the number one provider with the largest installed base and was “endorsing and driving SP100.” Missing from any of these pronouncements, not surprisingly, was any mention of the standard that dared not speak its name, at least in those surroundings. Indeed OneWireless senior product manager Yu-Gene Chen  managed to get through an entire one-hour wireless presentation without using the word WirelessHART once. So where does Honeywell now stand on the issue, and why did they oppose the release of HART 7.0 and with it WirelessHART in September?

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