Control News from Europe April 2008

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Kindle’s departure over “irreconcilable differences” refuels speculation over ABB’s acquisition strategy

The share price may have recovered after the immediate 8% fall it suffered following the announcement of Fred Kindle’s departure from ABB on February 13, but staff, customers, analysts and competitors are still trying to assess the implications. Nor has their task been made any easier by the lamentable performance of chairman Hubertus von Grünberg as he insisted that while, as the company press release put it, Kindle’s departure was “due to irreconcilable differences about how to lead the company,” it was “unrelated to performance or compliance issues” and that the company’s “focus and goals have not changed.”
That didn’t prevent one Swiss journalist from telling him that he came across “as a pretty arrogant, egotistical person,” to which von Grünberg responded, “I will have to work on my style . . . I am very embarrassed about your remark.”

Most successful CEO

Former Sulzer CEO Kindle joined ABB in September 2004 and took over from Jürgen Dormann as president and CEO in January 2005. However, Dormann remained as chairman until May 2007, when he was replaced by von Grünberg, who had previously been successively president and CEO and then chairman of German tire and automotive parts group Continental.

Dormann had steered ABB back from the brink of bankruptcy after, when already chairman, he took over as president and CEO in 2002. However, Kindle is widely credited with driving ABB to its present position of strength and was described by Citibank analysts as “probably the most successful CEO in ABB’s history,” while his resignation came “during ABB’s most successful trading period.”

ABB has something of an accident prone history when it comes to CEOs, having got through six since 2000, with the last five lasting on average just a year. Kindle’s departure will be particularly unsettling for the process automation part of the business, which ARC ranks as the world number 1 in its sector, while the Control Top 50 has the company second only to Siemens in the overall world automation business. However, the automation business is still adjusting to the surprise departure last June of Dinesh Paliwal, widely tipped as a future group CEO. Paliwal would probably now be top of any headhunter’s list of candidates to fill the newly created vacancy.

Following Dormann’s departure in 2007, there had been speculation that ABB might revert to the sort of acquisition policy that got it into trouble at the end of the last century, particularly as Kindle himself had acknowledged early in 2007 that acquisitions greater than €1bn were back on the cards and that “At some stage, we have to do something useful with our money.” Since he had also said that any future acquisitions would most likely be in the automation sector, and since ABB’s cash pile has continued to mount in the interim, there has been intense speculation that it was preparing a bid for either Schneider or Rockwell Automation, with many observers, including Jim Pinto, tipping the latter as the most likely target.

Acquisition strategy

In the absence of any other explanation, most observers have concluded that the most likely cause of Kindle’s departure is that the “irreconcilable differences” were not so much between Kindle and the board as between Kindle and von Grünberg, and that they related to acquisition strategy, with von Grünberg pushing for an early and headline grabbing deal and Kindle preferring to proceed on a more cautious and incremental basis. If that is the case, Kindle is likely to have had the sympathies of senior executives in the process automation business who are still bruised by and still grappling with the consequences of the acquisition spree of the late ’90s, which left it supporting a dozen different legacy DCSs. Only last March, Mark Taft, group vice president of the Process Automation Global Control Systems Business, was telling INSIDER that the last thing they needed was to acquire yet another process automation system vendor.

Strategic opportunities

With the departure of Kindle, he might have to cope with just that. CFO Michel Demaré, who has stepped up to acting CEO while a successor to Kindle is sought, said that the company “will continue to examine strategic acquisition opportunities” and that the return of cash to shareholders through a share buyback which had been announced at the same time as the full year-results “will have no effect on those plans . . . We have the means for it.” Moreover, when questioned about acquisition strategy at the following day’s results press conference, he again said that “We are ready. This issue is about timing.”

So is a Kindle-less ABB more or less likely to make a major automation acquisition? Certainly the consensus among ABB watchers seems to be that von Grünberg will lean on Demaré or his permanent successor to make a move, with the prospect of an economic slowdown making that more rather than less likely. As Demaré himself said, “Last year we would have overpaid by 25% . . . a challenge today can quickly become an opportunity tomorrow.”

To soften the impact of Fred Kindle’s departure, the announcement of ABB’s results was brought forward by a day, although the main results presentation still took place the following day. However, that move only served to emphasize quite what they were losing and just how difficult he was going to be to replace. In the full year, net income more than doubled from $1.4 bn to $3.8 bn, while EBIT grew 57% to $4.0 bn and revenues by 25% to $29.2 bn. Process Automation saw EBIT grow 26% from $541 m to $683 m on revenues up 18% to $6.4 bn as its margin increased from 9.9% to 10.6%. Orders were up 21% at $7.9 bn.

The Dow announcement

Last month’s musings from INSIDER and others on the possible implications of Dow Chemicals’ decision to standardize on Siemens PCS7 for laboratory process control applications worldwide seems to have touched something of a raw nerve. ABB business intelligence manager Jo Emerson offered the following clarification: “Dow has had a number of questions regarding this and other articles regarding the Siemens announcement, and is working with ABB to ‘get the public story right.’

“Dow R&D selected a Siemens platform as the standard for lab automation system applications, and as the replacement for their aging ‘home-grown’ systems. This application is specific to very small-scale, laboratory solutions, and does not impact the intended use of ABB’s 800xA-based plant process automation solutions. In 2001, when Dow stated its “intent to sole source” ABB’s 800xA, this did not include R&D lab systems. Dow R&D lab systems are not considered part of their process control domain. It is important to understand that there is a difference between plant process automation and R&D lab automation.

“An agreement was reached two years ago between Dow Chemical and Siemens regarding control system usage in research labs only. There is no explanation as to why Siemens issued the press release now.”

One explanation might be that it takes that long to get a release through the Dow approvals system. Meanwhile what seems to be absent from the ‘clarification’ is an actual denial from Dow that it is “reassessing its DCS options as the end of its original 10 year supply agreement with ABB . . . approaches” as INSIDER suggested might be the case. It’s hard to believe that ABB didn’t ask them for one.


IPS will “invest to maintain leadership in DCS, SIS”

Flying five European hacks to Abu Dhabi for a long weekend might not be the best way to save the planet—1.4 tonnes of CO2 per head to add to the 0.13 tonnes generated 24 hours earlier on a Yokogawa day trip to Amsterdam—but it’s probably as effective a way as any of demonstrating Invensys Process Systems (IPS)’s recovering self-confidence. Unlike the Amsterdam outing on which, due to an administrative oversight, INSIDER had actually paid its own way, this was a press freebie in the grand tradition, so readers are advised that what follows carries the usual government objectivity warning.

Justification for that increased self-confidence came from Invensys Middle East managing director Nabil Kassem when he opened the 2008 IPS Business Technologies Conference, which attracted some 400 IPS users and potential users to the less-than- arduous environment of the Hotel Beach Rotana. Since he joined in 2005, IPS Middle East has increased its customer satisfaction rating from a less-than-inspiring 51% to 80%, its number of employees from 95 to 230, and the value of its contracts under execution from $206 m to $505 m, in the process handling 14 MAC projects, as well as four projects based on the recently introduced InFusion.

“Our aim is to be able to service the customers of the region from the countries of the region with staff from the region,” said Kassem. To that end he has recruited a total of 52 engineers from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) since 2005 so that Saudi and GCC professionals now make up 24% of the total Invensys Middle East workforce. Add to that the relocation of EMEA marketing vice president Ken Fox to the IPS Middle East HQ in Dubai, and it’s clear that the company is taking the region seriously.

Setting the technological scene for the event was Chris Lyden, chief strategist and the sole representative of the IPS top-brass in Dallas. Among the issues he suggested that the automation industry must now address and, hence, where IPS would be focussing its efforts are enterprise level integration—only 2% of process manufacturing companies have just one site, while more than half have 25 sites or more; a diminishing skills base—the average process engineer is now 47 years old; and the merging of automation with IT—25% of regulatory violations are due to report submission errors.

Lyden identified a range of transformational technologies which are now coming to maturity:

Sensor technologies – As technology enables more sensors per wafer, volumes are rising and units are falling, with MOTE technology allowing sensor, microprocessor and radio to be combined on a single chip. Such developments will eventually drive sensor costs so low that sensors will become ubiquitous.

Wireless – Closely associated with, but by no means confined to sensors is burgeoning wireless technology. “Wireless is everywhere,” said Lyden, extending both to the DCS and to the transmission of business data and information.

Batteries – Battery technology is currently the limiting factor. Control in the field based on wireless is not currently viable, but rapidly will become so once battery and energy scavenging technologies permit. Technologies such as “nanotube” capacitors offer the potential for smaller batteries than those based on conventional technologies, which can be fully charged instantaneously. Solving the power problem will lead to a further proliferation of wireless and to the widespread adoption of control in the field.

Service Oriented Architectures – SOAs provide the means to integrate applications with the information that is required.

Virtual reality – Virtual reality is becoming available in a form which will offset emerging skill-set issues.

Five layers into three

The results of these and other technological developments, said Lyden, will be to reshape the traditional Purdue reference model of the manufacturing IT hierarchy. Developments such as control in the field and wireless-enabled field workers in effect collapse the five layer model into just three layers. With the proliferation of sensors, measurements will no longer be made just for control of the process, but for assessing the health of the plant and its equipment. At the same time, instead of a variety of different HMIs and applications, a common service oriented architecture can cater for the specific needs of different users in, for example, operations, advanced process control or asset management.

Since 1968, said Lyden, the ratio of the points of measurement to points of control in process plants had exploded from 1.5 to 1, and a typical 5000 measurement points to 25 to 1 and a typical 150, 000. As a result the basic process control of the 1960s had evolved into to the “business control’ of the present day, with ever more measurement points being added as the cost of I/O falls, making ever more sophisticated applications justifiable.

Core technologies

“Invensys,” he said, “will invest to maintain leadership in our core technologies of DCS, SIS and modelling and will increase investment in InFusion as our unifying platform for enterprise control.” More specifically it will expand its wireless capabilities to provide “the most capable wireless infrastructure,” with the ability to integrate any instrument and any piece of equipment. “We’re positioning ourselves to take advantage of the proliferation of sensors and the applications they drive.”

All of which tends to belie recent suggestions that the move of the IPS headquarters to Dallas foreshadows a withdrawal from the hardware business and an exclusive concentration on software and services. Couple that with the prospect of a new generation of controller hardware for IA and intimations of a reassessment of Triconex’s position in the ongoing debate over integrated SISs, and it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that, at least in the view of those calling the shots in EMEA, IPS is in the process automation business for the long haul. Whether that view reflects the consensus in Dallas or London may be an entirely different matter…

One carrot dangled in front of journos ahead of the Abu Dhabi event had been the possibility of meeting IPS president Paulett Eberhart and, perhaps, of quizzing her on the true significance of that move to Dallas. In the event, it transpired that she had been in the Gulf a week earlier, so it was left to the EMEA top brass to fend off the questions. That they did successfully, if not necessarily in the way that she might have wished. Broadly the consensus appeared to be that the move had no real significance as far as the longer term strategy of IPS was concerned and certainly did not imply any eventual merger with or acquisition by EDS. So what was the explanation? “Well, she really doesn’t like Boston …”


Imitation validates InFusion concept

Nearly two years on from the original launch in Boston in 2006, the InFusion story seems to be less ambitious, more understandable and a lot more credible, aided in part by the 65 sales made in its first year and the 150 in the current financial year and by the fact, claimed InFusion marketing director Grant Le Sueur, that competitors are beginning to copy the InFusion message.

Wonderware

Interestingly, while you’d have been hard pressed to find any reference to it anywhere else at the Abu Dhabi event, Le Sueur is happy to acknowledge the debt InFusion owes to Wonderware and specifically to such offerings as InTouch, InSQL and Application Server. With InFusion being presented as an “application environment,” the message is of the advantages of a common infrastructure built on a service oriented architecture in line with the requirements of the S95 enterprise integration standard and of the huge savings in engineering resulting from the use of object technology and, in particular, the ability to link graphical and engineering objects.

Le Sueur’s claim that InFusion is an “agnostic layer—we don’t care whose DCS it is” was given added credibility in a keynote presentation from Nile Al Ruchaid of Petro Rabigh, the $10-bn refining and petrochemicals complex due on-stream at Rabigh in Saudi Arabia in the third quarter of this year. InFusion provides the integration layer at Petro Rabigh in what was described as a “world-class MES implementation,” interfacing with Yokogawa’s Exaquantum Plant Information Management System (PIMS). Integrating with SAP it provides Petro Rabigh with “a single window for all applications.”

Developments

InFusion developments promised for early release include a broader range of enterprise integration options, a portfolio of “focussed” solutions based on third-party applications, simplified licensing and greater MES and supervisory capabilities based on Invensys’ recent Cimnet acquisition, now integrated into Wonderware and its Factelligence Industrial Portal.

That word “agnostic” cropped up again in the series of presentations on wireless given by IPS principal wireless consultant Garry Williams. Invensys’ stance is to present itself as an objective consultant on wireless rather than as an evangelist for any one particular technology, application or vendor’s solution. Williams’ vision is of a “WiMax bubble” under which organizations can implement a range of solutions of which 802.15.4 wireless sensor networks are just one example. How far the agnosticism can be sustained as Invensys brings forward its own wireless-enabled field devices is debatable, however, as is the potential impact of an even closer relationship with one of its principal partners, Apprion, whose newly appointed CEO is none other than former Wonderware president Mike Bradley.

Multiple myths

One of Williams’ primary objectives is to dispel the multiple myths which surround wireless and threaten to impede its uptake. Chief of these are concerns over security which, he says, are largely unfounded. Indeed, he argues, properly implemented, wireless networks are among the most secure networks available and, again contrary to popular myth, are neither easily hacked nor readily jammed or seriously slowed by the security measures.

Invensys’ go-to-market strategy is based on a top-down approach, commencing with a full assessment of the customer’s site, followed by the provision of a complete hardware and software solution which creates a common wireless infrastructure to which can be added fully engineered solutions over time. But he does have a word of warning: “Don’t try implementing wireless without getting IT involved.”

Invensys’ third-quarter results seem to have reduced the recent volatility in the share price which, having dipped below 200 p in mid-January, has since climbed steadily, breaking back into the 260s in recent days. Operating profit for the quarter was up 26% in constant exchange rate terms on the same period last year at £67 m on revenues up 5% at £545 m. Operating margin was up from 10.2% to 12.3% and orders were up 6% at £540m.

A significant milestone will be passed on March 18 next when the remaining £343 m of high-yield bonds will be redeemed from existing cash resources, almost 10 years to the day after Siebe acquired Wonderware for $375 m, setting off the string of deals which led to the creation of Invensys and the financial nightmares which have beset it ever since.

IPS’ operating profit for the quarter was £31 m, up 14% on the same period last year, on revenues up 9% at £214 m while operating margin inched up from 14% to 14.5%. Orders were up 6% at £227m. At Eurotherm, operating profit was steady at £2 m on revenues up 7% at £39m.


Yokogawa sees the DCS as the vehicle for integration

Whether you believe that Yokogawa will realize its ambition of leading the global process automation market by 2010—and cynics might argue that how it defines the market in 2010 will ensure that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy—it is undeniable that the pursuit of that ambition has transformed the company out of almost all recognition.

Just a few short years ago the then newly recruited UK managing director, Martin Ward, was assuring INSIDER that Yokogawa or indeed any other Japanese company would never bring to market any product or solution until it was 100% proven. It simply wasn’t in their culture or character.

That view took something of a knock back in 2005 when the company became only the second vendor to announce a fully integrated safety instrumented system (SIS) logic solver based on the same common hardware platform as its DCS controller and, moreover, to do so before it had actually received its TÜV certificate and before its full functionality was available.

HMI = DCS

Move forward three years and the transformation is complete as the company unveils what its former head of marketing and, since last April, senior vice president of its Industrial Automation Business Headquarters, Satoru Kurosu, calls its “new generation DCS,” when all it is actually in a position to deliver is a new software HMI. Small wonder that Anjo Wiegerinck, industrial automation systems marketing manager with Yokogawa Europe, told INSIDER that having traditionally been content to follow technology trends, Yokogawa now intends to lead.

That conversation took place at the top of the Rembrandt Tower in Amsterdam after the presentation to the European press of CentumVP, as the new DCS is to be known, just days after its U.S. debut at ARC’s Orlando forum. The bare bones of that presentation were broadly in line with what we had been able to glean from reports of the US version. What they and, hence, we had failed to convey, however, was both the sheer audacity of the presentation and the radical nature of its content.

According to Masatoshi Nakahara, vice president of the Industrial Automation Systems Business Division, Centum VP is the “culmination of an effort to introduce IT technology to automation systems” and is the key enabler of the next step in realizing Yokogawa’s VigilantPlant vision. As such, it takes its place in a sequence which started in 2005 with the introduction of the ProSafe-RS SIS, and continued in 2006 with Yokogawa’s asset management offerings and in 2007 with CAMS, its Consolidated Alarm Management System. Reiterating the Peter Drucker nostrum that “A well-managed plant is quiet and boring,” he listed a series of key challenges VigilantPlant in general and CentumVP in particular are designed to address: blind spots and gaps in process and production information and its separation into knowledge silos; too many surprises cropping up during production and too much time and energy being lost in correcting problems; and a shortage of expertise and skills that is being compounded as the baby boomer generation approaches retirement. The key challenge for engineers in the process industries, says Nakahara San, is “How can I achieve my goal and still leave for home earlier?”

Gaps and barriers

Yokogawa will address these challenges, he says, by providing both horizontal and vertical integration, “closing the gaps and breaking down the barriers.” As such, it aims both to integrate multiple plants or production units across a site or even an enterprise—and at the same time link the process control and monitoring layer of the hierarchy with business planning at the headquarters, thereby eliminating both barriers between individual operating units and gaps in the production cycle. The horizontal aspect of that integration is the responsibility of Centum VP, which is described as a “multiplant DCS” and provides “an integrated platform for operational excellence,” while vertical integration at the MES level will be handled by a new and, dare one say, InFusion-like “Real Time Production Organizer.”

Taking up the story Anjo Wiegerinck explains that in today’s plants many of these gaps are filled and barriers overcome by human intervention or, as he put it, by “Ton, (sic) the human gap filler.” Real-time decision makers in production planning, operations, maintenance and production management all need access to data in a variety of real-time databases held, not just in the DCS and SIS, but in separate plant information management, advanced operator assistance, advanced process control and plant resource management systems. Centum VP will address the integration issue by providing a single operating core—the DCS—on top of a single unified real-time database while facilitating common access for all real-time decision makers through the Real Time Production Organizer.

Jam tomorrow

All of which sounds fine, were it not for the fact that neither the unified real-time database nor the Real Time Production Organizer will be available before next year or possibly 2010. So at the end of the presentation, what we have is a new HMI, admittedly a highly sophisticated HMI, but an HMI nonetheless.

Its principal claim to fame is that it is the first from a DCS vendor, or rather more contentiously, “the first DCS” to run under Windows Vista. That isn’t quite as ground- breaking as it might appear, however, since in order to ensure that it can also run under XP, as not all users can be expected to put their faith in Vista, it doesn’t take advantage of Vista graphics. On the other hand, when it is run under Vista, it does allow users to exploit its extended security capabilities.

Described as “unified and intuitive,” the HMI is designed to provide a common interface across all classes of application. Displays are built up from a common set of facilities under a single fixed-system message banner with Explorer-like navigation tools in a side bar and rapid access to frequently or recently used displays or “view sets”—groups of graphics, trends and faceplates relating to particular units or operations. Within the HMI, Yokogawa has now settled on CAMS as its standard alarm viewer in line with an overall objective of providing less data but more information. As a result, the claim is that it doubles an operator’s speed of decision making and halves the time required to respond to an event with the necessary corrective action.

New hardware?

Despite the hype, however, CentumVP today consists essentially of Centum 3000 R4 with a new HMI and even by 2009 or 2010 what Yokogawa is proposing is essentially a software solution rather than anything resembling a fully fledged DCS.

So does it actually intend to introduce any new hardware, or is it coming round to the view that a process automation vendor no longer needs to develop or manufacture its own hardware? That issue had certainly been debated within Yokogawa, Wiegerinck told INSIDER, but new controllers and I/O, together with new engineering tools are planned as a further stage in the road map, presumably beyond 2010.


The Switzerland of the comms business

Two announcements from the Portland, Maine-based communications specialist Kepware point to an eventual confrontation between enterprise-level application providers and automation vendors in the no man’s land of MES. On the one hand, it has just renewed a five-year agreement under which it provides Rockwell Automation with third-party communications for its FactoryTalk View Site Edition and FactoryTalk View Machine Edition products. On the other, it has announced that its KEPServerEX OPC server is to be used by Oracle to provide plant-floor execution data to manufacturing applications in the Oracle E-Business Suite.

130 protocols

Kepware claims to be the leading supplier of drivers to the automation industry. With support for more than 130 protocols, it supplies some 100,000 drivers a year or, according to sales and marketing vice president, Roy Kok, more than most of its competitors have supplied in total. “It’s the most widely OEMed product in the industry,” he told INSIDER. As well as Rockwell and Oracle, key clients include Cutler Hammer, GE Fanuc and, perhaps surprisingly, Wonderware, while, at the enterprise level, it has also developed relationships in the SAP world with, among others, Lighthammer.

Explaining the logic behind the Oracle relationship, ARC Emerging Technology vice president Bob Mick commented “Oracle has been building out their Operations Management functions and has reached the stage where they need out-of-the-box access to a broad range of operations information, including legacy systems, to be successful.”

KEPServerEX is designed to allow users to set up communications from equipment to control and business systems using a wide range of “plug-in” device drivers and components. “Oracle wanted our product to provide the automation connectivity they need,” said Kok. “Using KEPServerEX means they only have to test one interface. We are their connectivity.”

As part of the Oracle agreement, Kepware is enhancing the product to provide OPC client functionality so that it can act as a gateway from any OPC server, including third-party device drivers, as well as higher level HMI/SCADA or historian products. It will thus enable Oracle to add an OPC client to its own system. Kepware is also adding a first level of data analytics to generate derived information from real-time plant floor data and provide support for complex data tags so that information can be aggregated into concise time- or event-relevant structures. These capabilities will also be made available to all Kepware customers, leading OPC Foundation president Thomas Burke to observe that “Kepware’s additional support to create complex data . . . will form the foundation for OPC-UA connectivity in the near future.”

Good partner

To some extent these developments might appear to conflict with Kepware’s avowed policy of not competing with its customers. “We’re seen as a good partner because we stay true to our core competencies”, explained Kok. However, it does already offer a range of basic logger—“not historian”—redundancy and gateway products as well as embedded functionality for non-Windows platforms.

In any case, says Kok, interest in MES is doing a lot to change the market. “Automation players are developing MES type products. What’s changing is that they don’t want to put a lot of investment into mature markets. There’s a buy-versus-build decision over drivers. Communication is something they can outsource—nobody sees it as a core competence.”

Add to that the fact that it has 40 people dedicated to product development—“that’s probably five times the size of the driver teams in most software companies”—and buy-versus-build becomes a much easier and more logical decision. Kepware is positioning itself to be the beneficiary, whoever eventually wins in the battle between ERP and automation for the MES space. As Kok explained, “We’re the Switzerland of the communications business.”


MES app adopts Service Oriented Architecture

The latest MES vendor to recognize the advantages of service oriented architectures (SOAs) is Citect ,with the latest release of its Ampla MES solution. Version 3.2 includes new features designed to support SOAs and reduce the time to develop operational reports. “. . . SOA is being rapidly adopted as a key to enterprise architectures by leading companies in mining and manufacturing,” explained Ampla global director Colette Munro. “SOA allows multiple applications to provide and consume services using standards, which in turn provides our clients with faster integration and more flexible business processes. The move to SOA has also enabled us to deliver new services to our customers more rapidly.”

Web services

The new release uses a new web service layer to support SOA. The web services have been designed from the outset to provide platform independence and broad interoperability based on culture invariance, time zone independence and WS-I compliance and Java interoperability testing.

As part of a focus on standards and connectivity, Ampla also connects more seamlessly to standard reporting tools, such as Microsoft Reporting Services and Crystal Reports, allowing IT departments and end users to leverage existing reporting infrastructure more easily. Also included is a new online knowledge base.

Availability of the new release comes as Citect reveals details of the first Ampla installation in the UK at Ryvita’s Poole, Dorset, crispbread facility where systems integrator Silchester Control Systems has achieved a 90% reduction in manual inputs across the production system. Ampla forms the backbone of a factory-wide reporting system integrating both Citect SCADA and Citect Reports and was installed by Silchester without downtime or loss of production. Ryvita supply chain director Mark Chesworth described the project as “a major step forward in terms of information accessibility for the site” and added that “We believe this evolution will prove to be truly empowering for our production staff.”


Windows CE as a Web Server

Austrian SCADA vendor Copa Data has released a new version of its zenOn SCADA package, incorporating a fully configurable alarm manager that allows a user to develop customized alarm display themes to improve readability and render alarm pages compliant with an end user’s or manufacturer’s specific color usage. A “traffic light” scheme against each alarm can also now be configured to comply with localized color scheme.

Arguably the most significant development, however, is the ability within zenOn Web Server Pro for CE to connect up to three browser clients to zenOn when running on Windows CE. Allowing the application and other information relating to a zenOn- controlled machine running Windows CE to be seen on a standard browser represents a significant cost reduction compared with alternatives and, claims Copa Data U.K. managing director Duncan Fletcher, defines “zenOn as the SCADA HMI of choice for machine builders.”

Also available in the version 6.22 is a Remote Desktop facility which allows the desktop of another computer or terminal to be viewed and operated remotely, for example, during commissioning. Remote Desktop is available on all CE and PC zenOn runtime stations, though not on web clients, and requires a Windows PC-based OS to access the “view and operate” functionality. The facility is now included as part of the basic zenOn package.


Emerson claims Europe's first offshore wireless

Emerson has released, or perhaps more accurately, has received approval from StatoilHydro to release more details of the installation of a Smart Wireless self-organizing mesh field network to monitor wellhead annular pressure and heat exchanger pressures on the Grane platform operated by StatoilHydro in the Norwegian Sea off Bergen. The network is believed to be the first offshore wireless installation in Europe and had been featured at the Vienna launch of Emerson’s Smart Wireless Architecture in November 2007.

“We had some concerns that this new technology would work reliably in the harsh environment of our offshore platform,” said Geir Leon Vadheim, instrument lead, Grane Operations, StatoilHydro. “We also needed to address the issue of how we would integrate the data gathered by the wireless gateway into a third-party system As it turns out, the integration was easy and the performance of the Smart Wireless transmitters has exceeded our expectations.”

Twenty two wireless Rosemount pressure transmitters have replaced traditional gauges using a gauge adapter fitting used to allow a direct “screw in” replacement, 10 measuring annular pressure on a wellhead and a further 12 monitoring inlet pressure and pressure drop over the heat exchanger. Each transmitter relays data back to the operator consoles in the control room via a wireless gateway mounted outside the process area, on one side of the platform and at a height where it can oversee the wellhead area.

Surrounded by metal

Although the wellhead area is crowded with metal pipe work and other metal obstructions and has metal walkways both above and below it, Emerson claims that each transmitter found the gateway as it was powered up and the mesh was established. The network enables continuous monitoring of pressures and eliminates the need for daily visits to the wellhead to record gauge readings manually. The resultant continuous monitoring enables unusual readings to be identified earlier and action taken to investigate and rectify faults before they develop into serious problems.

According to Geir Leon Vadheim, StatoilHydro’s instrument engineers are now confident about adding more wireless devices as required. “These typically take around two hours to install compared with up to two days for a conventional wired unit,” he said.

StatoilHydro is now planning to install Smart Wireless devices on other platforms in the area.

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