Control News from Europe April 2008

Read 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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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.

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