By Keith Larson, VP Content
Ever since the tiered Purdue model for industrial automation was first articulated, companies have strived to unify their plant-floor control, production management and enterprise systems. Gluing these disparate systems together with communication interfaces turned out to be the easy part; delivering relevant information in context to the people best-suited to affect the real-time performance of their businesses proved much harder.
That's the sweet spot where Invensys Operations Management is focusing its efforts, according to Mark Davidson, vice president of central marketing for Invensys Operations Management. "Real time is the final frontier for operational excellence," Davidson said in a media briefing on Invensys' strategic direction for delivering value to its users at this week's OpsManage event in Nashville. "We're focused on the real-time aspect of integration to maximize the value potential of different applications that need to work together," he said.
In addition to empowering employees "on the edge" to make informed, real-time decisions, Invensys aims to grow by helping users cost-effectively modernize and upgrade the many aging control systems installed worldwide. The company's extensive installed base, which numbers more than 200,000 plants and facilities, represents a fertile ground for Invensys' growth moving forward. And the ability of its ArchestrA platform to seamlessly tie into legacy systems from other suppliers presents a prime opportunity as well. "We're also winning large greenfield projects in developing markets," Davidson said. Services, too, are a growing revenue stream. "Customers just don't have the internal resources they need and are looking to us," Davidson said.
Invensys Operations Management also continues to invest in new products and to seek bolt-on acquisitions, such as last year's acquisition of Skelta, a developer of business process management software, Davidson said. The company has since embedded the Skelta workflow engine into its ArchestrA information and automation architecture, enabling users to effectively close the loop on activities requiring human intervention. Instead of simply sending an alarm or other notification into the ether—and hoping that the operator or other recipient acts on that information—embedded workflow allows users to ensure that the correct activities and procedures are completed in a timely fashion, with accountability.
"Any application where you have an event is now workflow-enabled," Davidson said. "There is the need—and now the ability—to provide business process management and workflow alignment all the way down to production."
Workflow is but one example of the types of applications Invensys is helping to integrate in order to better align business strategy with operational execution. "What is being recognized is that business optimization transcends both the business and operations environments," Davidson said. "Our customers are asking: 'How do I optimally address the overriding executive demands of growth, profits, agility and investment to maximize shareholder value?' These decision-makers need information in context from across the organization and need to pull operational business levers to take action, Davidson said. "Companies are finding that their infrastructure and processes are not well-suited to this requirement—so transformation is a huge deal."
Technology and products are, of course, part of the enabling platform for this needed business transformation. Indeed, in an informal poll of attendees at the OpsManage event held last week in Paris, many attendees felt that their organizations were culturally prepared to embrace real-time business—but most felt they still needed help with the technology. "Which bodes well for us," Davidson said.
Among the new product and technology innovation on display at the OpsManage conference series:
- ROMeo 6.0 – This new version of Invensys' process optimization software incorporates four new refinery process models that simulate and optimize reforming, coking, isomerization and visbreaking (viscosity-reducing) units, helping plant personnel to drive more profitable refinery operations. With new support of the open OPC-UA standard and integration with Wonderware Intelligence enterprise manufacturing intelligence software, this new ROMeo software release empowers users to unite existing automation and IT systems so they function as one, holistic enterprise control system and to easily visualize analytics associated with optimal production.
- New Foxboro I/A Series System – As the core DCS component of the company's InFusion Enterprise Control System, the latest I/A Series system release includes an innovative Intelligent Marshalling solution and high-performance Foxboro Control software and Simulation software, which integrate with the company's open ArchestrA System Platform to reduce total cost of ownership and expand beyond traditional DCS functionality for improved collaboration, execution and visibility across the enterprise.
- Wonderware InTouch 2012 – Invensys continues to evolve its industry-leading HMI software by further increasing security, ease of installation and licensing, and support of the latest virtualization and remote desktop technologies. These new capabilities increase IT and engineering productivity and efficiency, raising the bar for workforce empowerment while lowering total cost of ownership.
- ArchestrA System Platform & Workflow 2012 – ArchestrA System Platform and ArchestrA Workflow provide the core integration and collaboration platform inside of the company's InFusion Enterprise Control System and, when used in combination, offer a broad range of automation and information functionality that allows users to openly integrate existing systems and applications, while empowering their people, processes and systems for real-time business optimization. New capabilities include tighter integration of business and production operations work processes, increased computing performance; stronger security; simplified installation; and support for new high-availability disaster recovery implementations using Windows Server Hyper-V virtualization from Microsoft—all leading to increased operator, engineering and IT productivity and efficiency.
- Eurotherm nanodac with Local/Remote Historian – This intelligent recorder/controller can now perform as an integral part of an InFusion Enterprise Control System solution, with new data integrity and historian integration capabilities that help customers achieve operational excellence. It serves as a small/local historian to third-party equipment, and it interfaces directly with the Wonderware Historian, providing a unique combination of secure, hardware-based local data acquisition and storage, along with powerful information, analysis and reporting software that can empower operations and engineering personnel alike.