With Version 2.0, PlantPAx Comes Into Its Own

A Compelling Package for Process Manufacturers and OEMs, New Release Combines Scalability, Integration and Services

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Automatio Fair 2011

By Walt Boyes, Editor in Chief

"Our current DCS would have been cost-prohibitive to upgrade," said Jeremy Kouw, general manager of Nyrstar Hobart's zinc-smelting operation in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Hardware for the distributed control system (DCS) was failing, and repairs were becoming expensive and requiring longer lead times.

Nyrstar turned to Rockwell Automation's Global Solutions team, which developed a migration strategy to replace the smelter's aging controls with Rockwell Automation's PlantPAx process automation system. "The Rockwell Automation solution provides us with better integration and improved diagnostics, maintaining plant uptime and delivering improved plant performance reporting," Kouw said.

Som Chakraborti, director of Rockwell Automation's process business, also cited a recent $6-million award from Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering to provide emergency shutdown and fire and gas safety systems, together with engineering services, for four new offshore drilling ships.

These high-profile contract wins, together with enhanced functionality needed for demanding processing applications, point to gathering marketplace momentum for Rockwell Automation's solutions set for process manufacturing. "PlantPAx has established itself as a market-leading DCS and more," Chakraborti said, addressing more than 800 users gathered for the company's Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) this week in Chicago.

Chakraborti noted that PlantPAx version 2.0 can now handle projects of any complexity, and is fully scalable from small to very large projects. "We are extending the PlantPAx application space into the OEM market," he said. "We see more OEM activity in the process industries as the asset-owner companies lose engineering and integration resources. So we are increasing the level of PlantPAx support for OEMs and integrators."

Chakraborti added, "We are also rolling out new contractual service models for lifecycle management of PlantPAx systems. We're calling this Assurance Integrated Support. We believe that we've found a differentiable way to provide tightly linked service support to our customers in a way that will help them manage their service budgets more easily.

"We have also made our integrated process control and power control differentiated from the competition," Chakraborti said. "By giving the system EtherNet/IP enablement all the way down to the devices and motor controls, we have made a more tightly integrated and robust system than a typical integration with multiple bridges and protocol converters."

Steve Pulsifer, director of marketing for Rockwell Automation's process solutions business, said, "Users now can tie intelligent motor devices into this unified control architecture, making an immediate and measurable impact on asset availability, operational efficiency and energy management. The tight integration between process automation and motor control is especially beneficial in heavy industrial applications with considerable mechanical investments, such as metals, mining, cement, power, oil and gas, water/wastewater, and pulp and paper applications."

Important new additions to PlantPAx v2.0 include end-to-end high availability on EtherNet/IP from the supervisory level to the controller, a flexible and robust device-level ring topology and detailed I/O diagnostics. "We've taken advantage of the high level of diagnostics in our ICS Triplex safety systems and moved that feature into our PlantPAx I/O," Chakraborti said.

"We have included a controller-based Logix Batch and Sequencing Manager instead of requiring that the batch manager be located at the supervisory layer," he added. "This allows us to take full advantage of the very fast response of the Logix controller, and it provides even more value to the OEM, with more flexibility and less complexity."

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