Emerson adds more wireless, makes deal with Cisco
Last month saw Emerson hosting a major European press event on wireless for the second time in 2007, a measure of its determination to exploit to the full what it perceives as the advantage over arch rival Honeywell created by last September’s release of the WirelessHART protocol in the face of last minute objections from Honeywell president, Jack Bolick.
Back in January the venue was Bologna, Italian birthplace of wireless pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. This time Emerson’s European PR supreme, Charles Lewis, chose Vienna, with the entertainment including a ride on the Ferris wheel featured in Carol Reed’s film, “The Third Man.” Could Lewis be seeing Emerson’s newly appointed president for Europe, David Dunbar, replacing Orson Welles as Harry Lime, perhaps with himself standing in for Trevor Howard as the archetypal English intelligence officer, Major Calloway? Or were we to find parallels somewhat earlier, with wireless redrawing the process automation map of Europe as profoundly as the Congress of Vienna redrew the political map back in 1815?
Despite these real or imaginary subtleties, however, once we’d all thawed out after drinking Glühwein in not just one but two separate and sub-zero al fresco locations, the principal message wasn’t very subtle at all. Emerson now claims to dominate the global process automation market, and its wireless strategy is designed to reinforce and extend that domination as the industry goes through what it anticipates will be the major discontinuity brought on by the rapid adoption of wireless technology.
Market leader - which market?
In 2007, said Dunbar, Emerson Process Management had sales of $5.7 billion and contributed earnings of $1.1 billion to corporate coffers, generating an industry-leading margin of 18.7%. That, based on a conflation of data from ARC, Western Research, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers and Emerson’s own “internal estimates,” gave it a claimed 17.2% share (compared with 10.7% in 1999) of a market that it believes was worth $32.9 billion in 2007. For the record, Emerson estimates its competitors’ shares as, in descending order, ABB 10.8%, Yokogawa 6.7%, Honeywell 6.3%, Siemens 4.7%, Invensys 4.5%, Endress + Hauser 3.7% and Rockwell 1.4%. And before hands are thrown up in horror or jaws dropped in disbelief, Dunbar concedes that Emerson defines the market as being made up of those sectors, and only those sectors, in which it participates.
Significantly 76% of those sales were of field devices, compared with just 24% in systems, solutions and services, which explains, if explanation were necessary, why Emerson focussed its initial wireless efforts on field-device networking rather than taking the more all embracing approach embodied in Honeywell’s OneWireless concept. Now however, so the argument goes, field-device wireless networking has moved out of the development phase so that, as Dunbar put it, “We’re now ready to look at higher applications.” That may be, but it didn’t stop him focussing his own presentation almost exclusively on the successes that have been achieved at the device level since Emerson first introduced products to North America in October, 2006 and to Europe last January.
The achievements are impressive. Emerson is now able to point to real installations, solving real problems for real customers, including PPG Lake Charles, Wheeling Pittsburg Steel, Croda and Milford Power. In Europe, there have already been a total of nine applications since product was released in June of this year, including on Statoil’s Grane platform in the North Sea and at BP’s Wytch Farm, the largest on-shore oil field in the U.K. And Emerson can quote and name users, reporting that “Five minutes after installing it, the wireless network came to life;” “Overall we have . . . improved throughput by 5%;” and wireless devices “typically take around two hours to install compared with up to two days for a conventional wired unit.”
Wheeled out as the tame real-life user was Anders Røyrøy, project manager for R&D projects with StatoilHydro, which has installed a total of 22 wireless transmitters on its Grane platform in the North Sea as part of its long term Mesa Verde project to develop an entirely unmanned process platform by 2015. Perhaps not quite as tame as had been intended, Røyrøy conceded that there had been minor problems with the installation, not least because Emerson had been unable to supply a qualified remote antenna for the gateway for installation in the offshore environment. Nevertheless installation had been faster than expected, with all transmitters live in a matter of minutes. Interestingly, and another feather in the Emerson cap, the wireless networks integrate not with an Emerson, but with an ABB DCS.
Control and safety
Røyrøy’s view is that the real value of wireless devices derives not necessarily from their ability to provide more information, but correct information in difficult locations. He said he sees no inherent reason why they should not be used in the future for both control and safety-critical applications. Critically, however, he added that “We don’t want to be tied into one vendor. Rather we want to see collaboration between vendors.”
With the advantage it feels it now has, not just over Honeywell, which thus far has chosen not to go down the WirelessHART route, but over other vendors who have been slower to market with WirelessHART offerings, Emerson is now piling on the pressure by introducing a whole raft of additional WirelessHART-enabled field devices. In addition to the original pressure, flow, level and temperature devices, gateways and interfaces introduced at the time of the original Smart Wireless launches, fully WirelessHART-compliant versions of which will be available from spring, 2008, it is now adding a vibration monitoring transmitter for low-cost, continuous monitoring of vibration levels on pumps and other rotating equipment, and a discrete switch for applications, such as level monitoring and spill prevention. Also on the stocks for introduction during 2008 are the corrosion monitor developed in conjunction with Rohrback Cosasco Systems, a valve position monitor, a multi-input temperature device, a wireless device router, the long awaited THUM (HART Upgrade Module) which can be added to existing HART devices to provide access to their “stranded” diagnostics and, with the release of DeltaV v10.3, DeltaV-native wireless I/O, which will make a wireless device network appear to an operator as indistinguishable from conventional I/O.
TSMP—Does it or doesn’t it?
How does Emerson react to suggestions, such as those made at last month’s Honeywell European User Group meeting down the road in Salzburg, that the time-synchronized mesh protocol (TSMP) technology, on which WirelessHART is based “doesn’t just work,” but that installations do, in fact, require extensive site surveys. “Most of the installation planning for self-organizing mesh technology can actually be undertaken . . . within an office environment,” said European marketing manager for Smart Wireless Solutions, Mike Ferris. “You don’t need to go out in the plant and do point-to-point or line-of-sight or extensive climbing over pipe work to ensure you’ve got the visibility between the gateway and the measurement device.”
As to the suggestion made at the same meeting to incorporate additional nodes to ensure that a path can be found around particularly intractable obstacles, Ferris says, “Yes, it will increase the latency of the device network … but really, when you are looking at update rates of 15 seconds, it really is negligible and it is not an issue.”
Meanwhile how confident is the Emerson team that it has indeed backed the right horse at the device level, and that WirelessHART will not be stranded outside the eventual ISA 100 standard? Chief strategic officer Peter Zornio says that “We are pretty confident and comfortable that WirelessHART is a protected path within SP 100.”
All of which, rather strangely, was meant to be the preliminary to the main event, the announcement of the extension to Europe of the agreement, first announced in the U.S. in September, between Emerson and Cisco to deliver wireless plant networks and applications based on Cisco’s Unified Wireless Architecture.
Just who gets the best out of this deal is by no means clear. Emerson certainly gets the opportunity to thumb its collective nose at Honeywell by presenting an architecture so similar to the latter’s OneWireless above the device level as to be barely indistinguishable. Moreover what purists might argue it lacks in logical consistency and elegance, it looks like more than making up for in having the backing of one of the best-known brands in enterprise communications.
One of the key issues facing plants hoping to install such technology will be in allaying concerns at the enterprise level over security. “Cisco is trusted by IT people,” said Dunbar. “That’s a huge advantage,” a view reinforced by Zornio when he said that “IT needs to be sure that process applications comply with IT standards.”
But the advantage for Emerson seems to go further than that. Not only does the Cisco architecture support the full gamut of video, voice, mobility and tracking applications, but Emerson also will be able to leverage Cisco’s extensive partner network and, hence, allow its customers to choose their preferred partner for specific applications. Moreover, while Emerson continues to insist that users will not, in general, need help in deploying field device networks, they will, it concedes need support if they’re ambitions go further up into the plant hierarchy. Emerson is building up a global network of service and technical support resources and will design, specify, install and support both field networks and wireless plant networks, but it will also be able, as Zornio puts it, to “lean on Cisco’s expertise.”
Here comes Cisco
So what does Cisco get out of it? Well it clearly sees an opportunity to extend its reach deeper into the process industries, just as its partnership with Rockwell will allow it to penetrate the discrete market. But Mike Ferris’s diagram of what might constitute a combined Cisco/Emerson solution had rather less coloured Cisco than did that presented by Cisco’s Stuart Robinson. He heads up manufacturing and energy verticals for Cisco in Europe, and he drew the boundary of Cisco’s area of interest a good deal further down the page. In answer to a question from INSIDER, he said that “There is absolutely no intention of us moving elsewhere outside of the plant control network right now,” but there did seem to be an emphasis on the “now,” and he admitted in a subsequent conversation that Cisco’s ultimate aim is to see Ethernet and IP extending right down to the device level and replacing “proprietary protocols,” such as Profibus and Foundation fieldbus. Indeed in a splendidly indiscrete aside, he added that “Siemens would love to be free of Profibus.”
It’s also clear that Cisco’s ambitions don’t end with Emerson–or indeed Rockwell. “Cisco doesn’t do any exclusive deals,” said Robinson, although he added that “ … in terms of building a global market strategy, this is the only one that we are working on right now, and it doesn’t make any sense to introduce any new ones until we have established that we can actually do something together.”
So despite is non-exclusivity, the deal with Cisco allows Emerson to counter suggestions that its solution addresses only one part of the total plant wireless application space. At the same time, it enables it to differentiate that overall offering by allowing the user initially to address only that part which offers the best immediate ROI, be that at the device or the plant level. As Zornio put it, “You can do what you want, and you don’t have to do the whole thing.”
All of which sounds entirely plausible. So why did one gain the impression that there was more to this than met the eye? More than a decade ago, Emerson was in the forefront of the revolution which saw DCS vendors abandoning proprietary technology and embracing COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) technology in the form of Microsoft and Dell. Robinson’s second slide carried the caption “The Network as a Platform.” Could it be that a decade from now the process automation industry will be looking back at the Cisco-Emerson deal as the point when the network emerged as THE platform?
Smart Wireless aperitif
As an aperitif to the main event, Emerson’s Smart Wireless Architecture launch was preceded on the previous evening by the announcement of its entry into the market for the protection of very large turbo machinery in the power generation, oil and gas, and process industries. Traditionally, monitoring systems capable of detecting the onset of the potentially catastrophic failure of these critical assets is supplied as original equipment by the machinery vendor. Emerson is, therefore, initially targeting the retrofit market among end users who, claims machinery health management marketing director, Don Marshall, are looking for tighter integration with the plant control system and want to deal with a single vendor for all their automation and instrumentation requirements. “Customers are tired of dealing with multiple vendors,” he insisted.
Emerson has been in the condition monitoring business ever since it acquired Knoxville, Tenn.-based Computational Systems, Inc (CSI). Now with the launch of the CSI 6000, it is extending its capability and its PlantWeb architecture to include industry-best-practice API 670 protection of turbo machinery which, says David Dunbar, “is a really big deal for us.” Moreover, because it integrates directly with Emerson’s DeltaV and Ovation DCSs and with its AMS Suite asset management system, Marshall is able to claim that Emerson is “the only company that offers integration direct to process control.”
As well as monitoring both relative and absolute vibration, the system can measure case expansion, differential expansion and thrust position and, integrating with the control system, allows operation of the asset to be optimized to meet the users overall performance objectives. With between 40% and 50% of all equipment breakdowns believed to be related to poor operating practice, Emerson argues that “Vibration integrated with process control becomes information.”
Rather surprisingly, however, the subsequent demonstration showed the new system integrating with DeltaV, but made no mention of the role of a safety system, such as Emerson’s own DeltaV SIS, despite the fact that vendors, such as Triconex and ICS Triplex list turbo machinery protection as one of their major areas of application.
When we put the question informally to Emerson executives after the presentation, we didn’t seem to get much more than some rather blank looks.
Honeywell ’s own rotating equipment solution
Honeywell may be in a minority of one when it comes to wireless device level networking, but it and Emerson are pretty much singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to assessing the overall importance of wireless technology and, in particular, its role in the management of plant assets. Was it, therefore, mere coincidence that, just the day before Emerson unveiled its latest offerings in Vienna, Honeywell was announcing the latest addition to the OneWireless portfolio, OneWireless Equipment Health Monitoring or EHM?
This is a compact, eight-channel, 4 x vibration, 4 x 4-20mA device designed to transmit complete spectral and operating parameter information from the field to the plant control room over the OneWireless industrial mesh network. Data on acceleration, velocity, temperature and bearing condition is delivered to process operators and maintenance personnel to alert them to any equipment problems, providing a cost-effective and efficient alternative to manual inspection of rotating equipment such as pumps, compressors and motors. “Wired equipment instrumentation solutions provide effective condition monitoring, but the equipment and installation costs may be impractical, and the few wireless alternatives are very limited in functionality and the information they provide,” said Honeywell Process Solutions global wireless business director Jeff Becker. “OneWireless EHM provides all the information needed to pinpoint problems before equipment failure. It acts as another set of eyes in the field and helps technicians better anticipate maintenance and avoid downtime.”
The Honeywell solution is claimed to include everything necessary to capture and analyze equipment health information, including data acquisition equipment, database management software and installation services. The software can deduce probable bearing defects, misalignment, pump cavitation and impeller wear, and translate the data into alarms that can be configured to appear in the plant’s DCS and in Honeywell’s own asset management platform. Installation on a pre-installed OneWireless network is said to take less than four hours.
Honeywell is also offering OneWireless EHM starter kits, containing everything necessary wirelessly to monitor between four and eight plant assets, depending on individual facility needs.
Effective manufacturing IT gives users 2:1 advantage
MES or, as he would prefer it, MOM (Manufacturing Operations Management) guru, Dennis Brandl, was in London last month to deliver the keynote at what is becoming the IET’s annual event devoted to plant-floor-to-enterprise integration. Despite being the editor of the ISA 95 enterprise/control system integration standard and the chairman of both its IEC/ISO JWG 5 cousin and of the ISA 88 batch control system standard, Brandl’s message is that, while the current cycle of the continuous improvement in manufacturing productivity, which he traces back the stone age, is being driven by IT, the secret is that “It’s not the ‘T,’ it’s the ‘I’.” While Moore’s law – computing power per unit cost doubles every two years – has been and continues to be the enabler, Metcalfe’s law – the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of users – is the key.
Broadly, says Brandl, the more you share information, the more valuable it is, but it must be the right information, shared at the right time, with the right people. To be valuable, information, or what Brandl defines as the combination of data and context, must be reviewed, analyzed and verified. More important still, it has to be found – 80% of knowledge workers’ time, it is estimated, is spent looking for information which is known to exist somewhere. So much of the work of the various standards bodies and committees feeding what will eventually be IEC 62264 and which finds its practical expression in what Brandl describes as the de facto standard, WBF’s B2MML (Business to Manufacturing Mark-up Language), has been devoted to defining what the right information is and how it is to be to exchanged consistently across the entire spectrum of manufacturing.
Different users, different needs
These definitions have to be sufficiently formal and robust to meet the needs of the different users and representations encountered at the various levels of the manufacturing hierarchy – Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and control system. And the information may reside in or be required by any or all of a host of different individual systems. Personnel information – who is authorized to perform a particular action, who is qualified, who is available and who is at the right location, all of which may have both security and legal implications – may be held in or derived from HR, security, accounting, control, RFI tracking, GPS/Cell phone tracking or just plain paper.
The fact that less than 50 out of the IET’s 150,000 members deemed the subject important enough to give up a day probably tells us as much about U.K. manufacturing as we need to know. It also tends to confirm Brandl’s own estimate that only between 10% and 20% of manufacturing companies use IT effectively in their manufacturing operations. Given that he also reckons that those who do are seeing productivity advantages of between 30% and 40% and, perhaps even more significantly, are seeing their productivity improve at twice the rate of their competitors, it’s not difficult to predict what is going to happen to those who don’t.
Confirmation that such figures are indeed realizable came from presentations from Martin Beckford of Unilever and Marian Brennan from Wyeth Medica Ireland. Beckford has led a major refurbishment project at Unilever’s Marmite plant at Burton on Trent, U.K., where a €26-million investment program has included an investigation of the potential benefits of an MES implementation at the site. “That investment has made us more aware of where the gaps are,” said Beckford. Those gaps include the degree to which the plant runs sub-optimally due to lack of a material processing schedule; the variability in operating procedures which are based on experience of a process which, even after 100 years, is not fully understood; the proportion of operator and supervisor time that is taken up in manual data collection and monitoring; the limited value of the resultant product ion performance information which is compiled retrospectively and, hence, too late to be used for performance improvement purposes; and the constraints placed upon TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) programs by difficulties in collecting and analyzing loss information. These issues are now being addressed through an MES program developed in conjunction with Siemens and Deloitte and based on a simple approach in which the scope and goals of the project have been clearly defined in order to develop a business case in which functionality is linked directly to clearly quantified benefits.
Cost of compliance
Arguably the most significant benefits realizable in the pharmaceutical industry derive from reducing the cost of compliance with the regulatory environment. Based on experience at its other plants, the predicted results of the MES project at Wyeth Medica Ireland include a 99% reduction in batch record-related deviations and resultant investigations; a 50% to 75% reduction in batch review resources through the adoption of a “Review by Exception” methodology; a 15% reduction in processing cycle time for the total MES solution; and a 50% reduction in batch record review time. Wyeth’s MES strategy is based on a globally developed, integrated suite of applications built around a core solution which is common to all of the company’s sites.
That solution is based on a set of common standard business requirements, business processes and data structures and has been developed by a cross-functional team with input from all of the company’s operating units. Within this framework the approach is to target those areas yielding the fastest and highest ROI as part of a phased deployment involving integration both upwards with ERP and LIMs and downwards with the plant floor. Key components of the approach are the weigh/dispense, electronic batch record and data historian systems, which will allow the virtual elimination of conventional manual record keeping and hence of its inherent associated human errors.
Under the new regime, a total of 86% of the 2.5m batch record entries made each year will now be automated or captured within the eMBR environment, resulting in a 91% reduction in the number of batch record pages generated each year. At the same time, the review by exception approach to batch review, whereby all exceptions to the standard validated process are presented to the reviewer in a single consolidated list for batch release, with all other relevant data logged to the historian for audit purposes, makes realistic Wyerth’s objective of a one minute release time.
“MES is not yet at the point where ERP was 10 years ago”, said Deloitte’s Lawrence Hutter in the final presentation of the day, but it soon will be, given the opportunities created by rapidly rising commodity and energy prices and environmental pressures. “The environment thing is huge,” he assured anyone who might be in any doubt. With 38% of respondents to a recent survey reporting that they had problems obtaining a view into their manufacturing operations, he believes that many companies are already aware that they need to eliminate the disconnect between the enterprise and the plant floor and provide the CIO with visibility down into the manufacturing layer. On the other hand, he acknowledged, establishing and presenting a business case for MES may, in many cases, have to start with convincing the CEOs of some of our largest enterprises that they are indeed involved in manufacturing.
More on events organized by the IET’s Control & Automation network from http://www2.theiet.org/oncomms/pn/controlauto/
Rockwell sees it as a convergent world
Convergence between IT and manufacturing and between process and discrete applications seems to have been the underlying theme of last month’s Rockwell Automation Fair. Newly released at the event were the results of a study showing that, across a broad cross-section of manufacturing, companies which are progressing towards converging their IT and controls engineering organizations are enjoying major benefits in terms of higher efficiency, increased reliability, shorter project timelines and better business continuity. Analysis of the responses of more than 300 control engineers and IT/IS professionals revealed that more integration between IT and control resulted in less conflict and more optimism about the future of convergence. “These findings confirm many of the performance advantages that we had long suspected come from stronger collaboration between IT and controls departments, and we’ve uncovered a few new ones as well,” said Rockwell vice president of software Kevin Roach.
Echoing the views of speakers and delegates at the recent IET MES seminar in the U.K., the study identified management involvement as the key driver of convergence. 90 % of respondents in more integrated companies described their senior management as promoting change” or being “somewhat involved,” while 40% of respondents in companies where IT and control engineering were less integrated described senior management as “uninvolved in driving change.”
Perhaps surprisingly, those with IT/IS responsibilities tended to see more advantage in convergence and to be more aggressive in pursuing it. 67% of IT respondents, but only 39% of controls engineers, believed that convergence offered more advantages than disadvantages.
Initiatives where convergence is showing the most impact include information and Internet protocol availability and security; lean manufacturing or lean enterprise; real-time manufacturing; and total quality programs such as Six Sigma. More surprising benefits revealed include improved security; improved visibility across multiple plants; improved disaster recovery; and reduced system complexity due to improved designs. “Just as manufacturers realize the strategic importance of integrated information, many are now beginning to realize the need to create an integrated environment where plant-floor and IT functions are managed in a collaborative, synchronized manner,” said Roach. “This converged framework allows teams to better collaborate to assess current manufacturing and IT systems, and begin to set standards for integration, data management and future technology investments.”
Convergence, this time between process and discrete, was also suggested as the rationale underlying Rockwell’s Pavilion Technologies and ICS Triplex acquisitions and its ongoing partnership with Endress + Hauser. “Rockwell Automation is focused on closing the gap between discrete and process control applications to provide truly integrated plant-wide control,” explained process automation director Kevin Zaba. “Through new products, key partnerships and acquisitions, we are helping manufacturers leverage the efficiencies, cost-savings and reliability of a single unified control platform – from process control to high-speed packaging to coordinated drive systems.”
Recent introductions highlighted included FactoryTalk Historian SE, based on technology licensed from OSIsoft, and the latest extension to the ControlLogix family, the L64 Programmable Automation Controller (PAC). With twice the memory of any previous ControlLogix controller, the PAC supports the centralization of applications such as alarming which were traditionally shared with external devices like HMIs and the handling of large process control applications with thousands of I/O.
Cyber security pioneer recruits SCADA expertise
Cyber security pioneer Industrial Defender (still Verano to most of us) reckons it’s pulled off something of a coup in recruiting Donald Simoneau to fill the newly created post of senior vice president of worldwide operations, reporting to CEO Brian Ahern. Simoneau’s appointment is said to be part of a global expansion plan to address growing worldwide demand for cyber security technology and services in response to the perceived threat to critical infrastructure in the electricity, oil and gas, transportation, water and chemical industries. He will be based at Industrial Defender’s Mansfield, Mass., headquarters and will oversee a newly created North American and International field operations organization. At the same time Jonathan Pollet has been appointed vice president of North American field operations, and Dan Davis vice president of international field operations, while a new Singapore sales office has been established with Peter Lee as business development manager for the Asia-Pacific region.
Simoneau began his career in the technical workstation business with Apollo Computer and HP before becoming CFO of SCADA vendor Intellution. More recently he was CEO of Longwatch, a start-up involving a number of the original Intellution team, which has developed technology to enable security video surveillance of remote sites, particularly in the water industry, to be incorporated into conventional SCADA. At Longwatch, Simoneau’s responsibilities included raising venture capital, establishing company operations, building the brand and instituting a North American distribution channel. His successor as president and CEO is Intellution founder and former president Steve Rubin. “In recent years, the frequency and sophistication of cyber security attacks on global critical infrastructure has greatly increased,” commented Industrial Defender president and CEO Brian Ahern. “Don’s extensive knowledge of industrial and global markets and Peter’s unique perspective on Asian business adds critical expertise in our ability to address mounting cyber security threats across the globe.”
Industrial Defender now claims to have completed more than 70 process control/SCADA cyber security assessments and more than 1,300 cyber security technology deployments and to provide managed security services for 150 process control plants in 21 countries.
New NIST security guidelines
NIST, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, has released an initial draft of new security guidelines for government information technology systems used for industrial control processes. The revised appendix to NIST Special Publication (SP) 800- 53, “Recommended Security Controls for Federal Information Systems” is a response to what is described as “the urgent need to provide guidance on appropriate safeguards and countermeasures for federal industrial control systems,” particularly because of the likelihood that such systems may be directly or indirectly connected to the Internet. The revision specifically addresses systems which, because they are used for specific processes, have architectures, hardware and software platforms and configurations which fall outside the parameters covered by the main document.
Agreement will merge leading SIL tools
Safety consultancy and certification specialist, exida.com, has purchased a license which will allow it to merge the SILSuite product line developed by Aberdeen, Scotland-based Asset Integrity Management (AIM) into its exSILentia suite of tools for the safety life cycle. SILSuite is a modular set of software tools that has been widely adopted in Europe and is used by leading refining and chemical companies worldwide. exida believes that its strengths complement those of exSILentia and will allow it to broaden its safety lifecycle software solution.
SILSuite modules, which address many of the phases of the safety life cycle, include SILAlarm, SILHazop, SILClass and SILCalc. exida plans to support both product platforms and integrate their features into a combined product that will be marketed under the exSILentia brand. It believes that the combination of SILSuite’s integrated safety life cycle concepts with exSILentia’s extensive equipment database and SIL verification engine will result in a market leading solution for functional safety customers.
U.K. hacks caught in SCADA-induced time warp
U.K. trade journalists could be forgiven for feeling that they had been caught in a time warp last week, and one induced not, or at least not entirely, by an excess of pre-Christmas conviviality. Back in November, 2006, and following its earlier acquisition by U.S.-based ‘Wireless Enterprise Automation’ specialist Elutions, marketing director Emmanuel Vitrac was in London to launch the newly revitalised Wizcon with a new release of its long-established SCADA package, a new U.K. distributor in Duncan Fletcher’s MatriVUE and a new regional account manager, Intellution alumnus Phil Bourne.
Fast forward to December, 2007, and Vitrac is back touring the southeast of the U.K, and even presenting at the same “First Friday” press event, with news of a ‘new state-of-the-art SCADA software platform,’ a new U.K. distributor – Irlam, Manchester-based Distec – and a new regional account manager, Intellution alumnus Jim Baillie. And all that before PR consultant and First Friday convenor John Fisher had even announced that the bar was open.
These latest developments are of course entirely in keeping with the history of Wizcon over the past decade as both product and company have gone through a succession of names, owners and strategies. Indeed last summer’s news that Fletcher had transferred his allegiance to Austrian SCADA vendor Copa-Data just months after taking on the Wizcon distributorship can have come as a surprise to nobody other than the long suffering and seemingly eternally optimistic Vitrac.
As to what happened to Phil Bourne, we hadn’t the heart to ask.
Perhaps the one real positive that comes out of this long running saga, however, is that, given its checkered history, the fact that users continue to rely on and to invest in the Wizcon product, currently known as Wizcon Supervisor and now in its ninth generation, must be some kind of tribute to its underlying quality. Indeed Vitrac is able to refer to some impressive references including CERN, Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris, and the Geneva municipal water supply. Soon to be revealed, he claims, is a major contract with one of Europe’s leading food retailers, building on its success with the 1300-store Food Lion chain in the eastern U.S. It’s that underlying reputation that Elutions now hopes to build on in both North America and Europe with the forthcoming release in early January 2008 of ControlMaestro 2008, its “Site-level Automation Software Platform.”
ControlMaestro is Elutions’ first attempt to bring together Wizcon’s SCADA and web expertise with its own enterprise asset management experience and wireless technologies, while at the same time providing a migration path for users of the 60,000 odd Wizcon Supervisor applications to a next generation solution.
To that end it presses all the right buttons: object-orientation to allow a high level of reuse in application development; web enabled supervision and control from any location; support for PDAs, smartphones and panel PCs; biometric or smartcard-based positive user identification combined with Active Directory-based centralized user management; FDA 21CFR 11-compliant traceability; integrated video; and, pace Copa-Data and Fletcher, full Windows Vista support. In other hands that would sound like a credible rival to the likes of Wonderware, Citect and Iconics. The challenge for Vitrac, Baillie and Distec is to convince potential users they’re not still trapped in that time warp.
With the share price obstinately refusing to respond to the good news of the sale of APV and, at around 240p, down nearly 50% on last summer’s peak, rumors continue to swirl around Invensys. Following the decision to move the Invensys Process Systems (IPS) headquarters to Dallas, the current suggestion given credence on Jim Pinto's Invensys weblog (http://www.jimpinto.com/weblog/invensyslog.html) is that IPS boss Paulett Eberhart’s former company EDS is to acquire IPS, dispose of the hardware portions – Foxboro, Triconex and IPS Measurement & Instrumentation – and concentrate on developing the software and consulting business around Wonderware and Infusion. Even competitors are suggesting that this should be taken with a pinch of salt, although they do point to the increasing dominance of Wonderware with Pankaj Mody, who led the development of ArchestrA, heading up software development for IPS and Wonderware, and newly appointed Wonderware president Sudipta Bhattacharya reporting not to Eberhart, as his predecessor Mike Bradley did, but direct to Invensys CEO Ulf Henriksson.