Arena Immerses Attendees in 800xA Experience

Dramatization Drives Home Benefits of ABB Automation Platform and Control Room Technology

By Jim Montague

ABB A&PW 2012

If a picture's worth 1000 words, then what about a 45-minute dramatization?

That's the logic behind ABB's effort to paint a real-life picture of the problems faced by the staff at a hypothetical process plant, and how its System 800xA extended automation platform and related solutions can help solve them. The players lay out in graphic detail all the performance and emotional difficulties caused by their lack of organization and then demonstrate how 800xA's many tools can give them common views into their applications, help them learn to speak the same technical language as their colleagues, and coordinate their efforts for far better results.

For example, even as the "operations VP" is scolding the plant's staff for poor key performance indicators (KPIs) and missed alarms, the plant manager reports a trip in a main application area. Meanwhile, the maintenance manager says his staff is doing regular monthly checks, but they're short on expertise due to retirements, and the process safety manager and electrical engineering manager complain that their recommended updates aren't being implemented. And everyone seems to have different documentation that none of their co-workers can access.

All of these are, of course, common problems in real-world applications. Spoiler alert: The cavalry arrives when the plant's staff adopts 800xA, allowing them to get on the same page with single-view display and reports, cooperate, and improve their operations and performance across multiple applications. Whew, a truly happy ending.

The dramatization debuted this week at the ABB Automation Arena on the exhibit floor at ABB Automation & Power World 2012 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. The Arena itself is headed for a permanent home in Houston, and three more are to be built around the world: in Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Zurich.

"When customers are told by sales people about how a process control solution works or read about it in a text or a PowerPoint presentation, it remains an abstract concept that can be hard to grasp and remember. We wanted to offer a more immersive explanation and experience," said Tobias Becker, senior vice president and global business unit manager for ABB Control Technologies. "We wanted to connect with their hearts as much as their heads and show how these tools can help them save the day."

The Automation Arena showcases how operators can use 800xA on ABB's latest flat-screen displays, ergonomic workstations and other solutions to help fewer operators control more I/O points and functions, optimize performance, minimize risk, reduce unplanned shutdowns, improve profits, and even attract and retain talented staff—especially younger candidates who are likely more familiar with Xbox and Game Boy interfaces.

"Control rooms really haven't been talked about in a substantive way for 20 years, so we're trying to move the operating environment back to center stage and create a place that can improve users' awareness, effectiveness, performance and their daily lives, too," explained Becker. "Printed brochures and sales calls simply can't do enough to get this message across, but the Automation Arena shows 800xA's true value proposition and lets visitors experience what they can do with ABB's solutions."

According to Becker, the combination of products in the Automation Arena can save users 40% on the space in their control rooms, which can add up quickly because control room costs average are about $6000 per square meter, not including long-term lifecycle costs and other expenses.

"In addition, where process facilities used to have 10 to 20 control rooms for separate functions, many are now consolidating them into just a few control rooms, and this makes it even more crucial to make them as efficient as possible," explained Becker. "The Arena shows how local and remote operators share relevant screens, instructions and even video; understand problems faster; collaborate on real-time problem solving; and even demonstrate to managers, accountants and CEOs who haven't worked in control rooms the true value of what operators are doing to achieve higher-efficiency operations."

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