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One of MTLís most ambitious initiatives as it has sought to diversify away from a total reliance on its intrinsic safety expertise has been the formation of MOST (MTL Open Systems Technologies) and the development of the Matrix process control platform based on its widely adopted MTL 8000 Process I/O.
Ultimately the hope has been that mainstream DCS vendors will take a further and final step down the COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) road and abandon their own proprietary controllers in favor of a third party solution from MOST, but in the meantime Matrix has been targeted primarily at systems integrators, OEMs and second-tier system vendors. Indeed MOST has gone out if its way to stress that it isnít competing with the top-tier vendors, although that wasnít sufficient to prevent a certain amount of acrimony among key customers, not least Emerson, when the initiative was first announced. However, DCS vendors now seem to accept Matrix and its more recently introduced SafetyNet SIL2 safety derivative as complementing rather than competing with their own offerings.
By a happy coincidence, MOST chose the day before the announcement of Cooper Industriesí approach to MTL to release the latest version of Matrix and with it, integration with Wonderware System Platform 3.0. MTLís relationship with Wonderware goes back to at least 2000, when it acquired Houston-based Standard Automation & Control (STAC) and with it both the technological basis for Matrix and a major Wonderware distributorship, since renamed Wonderware West.
ďOur control solutions have always made extensive use of Wonderware software solutions such as InTouch, Wonderware Historian and InBatch,Ē said MOST marketing vice president Dave Reynolds. ďThe integration of the System Platform 3.0 offers our customers major benefitsósignificant reduction in project engineering and deployment costs, easy expansion of existing systems, enhanced production and performance management reporting and integration with enterprise-wide business systems.Ē
Matrix v. 8.2 uses System Platform 3.0 automatically to manage and coordinate the development, modification and deployment of control application components or templates containing the information necessary for alarming, trending, historization and security of process control tasks, such as PID control, motor control, I/O interfacing and diagnostics, all of which can be graphically represented through a set of Wonderware SmartSymbols. It also includes enhanced security features, including a trusted-host table that ensures that only specified MAC addresses can write data to the controller; password protection of the controller to prevent unauthorized changes; a protected controller mode which prevents configuration changes and provision of a keyswitch to lock the controller and prevent further changes; and CRC checking of data to ensure that it has only been modified by the Matrix Workbench and not by an outside tool. These security enhancements are in addition to the extensive new security features that come with System Platform 3.0.
With its latest release Matrix moves a step nearer providing not just an alternative to PLCs in batch and hybrid applications, but a realistic contender for the lower end of the mainstream DCS business. One of the issues confronting MTLís new parent, assuming sufficient of the remaining shareholders accept the current bid, will be to consider whether it is prepared to risk antagonizing major customers among the mainstream DCS vendors by further encroaching on to what they regard as their turf.
Back last summer, the received wisdom among current and former Siemens insiders was that the departure of president and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld and supervisory board chairman Heinrich von Pierer under something of a cloud and the subsequent arrival from Merck as CEO of Peter LŲscher would have little or no impact on the day-to-day affairs of the organization. Judge for yourself how right they were from the fact that this month sees the implementation of the biggest single upheaval for decades with the consolidation of the companyís existing divisions into three sectors.
The Industry Sector, headed by Heinrich Hiesinger, will be divided into Industry Automation, Motion Control, Building Technologies, Industry Solutions, Mobility and Osram, while the Energy Sector under Wolfgang Dehen will be made up of Fossil Power Generation, Renewable Energy, Oil & Gas, Service Rotating Equipment, Power Transmission and Power Distribution. The third sector, Healthcare, under Erich R. Reinhardt, will comprise Imaging & IT, Workflow & Solutions and Diagnostics.
The Industry Sector effectively covers the activities of the former Automation and Drives (A&D), Industrial Solutions and Services (I&S), Transportation Systems (TS), Siemens Building Technologies (SBT) and Osram businesses with Anton Huber heading up the new Industry Automation unit; Klaus Helmrich, previously head of the Standard Drives Division, the newly separated Motion Control division; and former Industrial Solutions and Services group president Joergen Ole Haslestad, the Industry Solutions unit. The most prominent casualty appears to be former Automation & Drives boss Helmut Gierse, who is understood to be departing.
One effect of separating Motion Control from Industrial Automation is expected to be to enable the latter to address higher level solutions business, while ARCís David Humphrey suggests that with Huber and Helmrich, two of the architects of Totally Integrated Automation (TIA), heading up A&Dís successor divisions, that concept will survive intact. One perhaps related effect of the change has been that the Siemens A&D UK web site at siemens-industry.co.uk has been inaccessible and without a redirect for the best part of a month.
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