Busting Myths About Foundation Fieldbus

Mythperceptions About Fieldbus Can Be Changed

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By Larry O'Brien

About the Author
Larry O'Brien is the global marketing manager for the Fieldbus Foundation.

The first commercial Foundation fieldbus applications were installed in 1997. Since that time, over a million devices have been sold into a billion-dollar market of products, applications and services. Many myths and misconceptions, however, continue to persist surrounding Foundation fieldbus technology. In this document, we bust some of these more persistent myths .

The process industries are well-known for being conservative, and many of the old issues encountered during these early projects continue to persist as myths today. Many other myths have no basis in fact at all, and it is unclear how they got started in the first place. The oral tradition is strong, however, and these myths stubbornly survive. 

Myth: Implementation Is Too Difficult

Implementing Foundation fieldbus technology isn't difficult; it's just different. With proper training and the right vendor or integrator partner, Foundation fieldbus technology actually reduces the risk in the engineering and operational phase of the project, which also increases the net present value of the capital investment. Furthermore, the accumulated knowledge governing Foundation fieldbus engineering is readily available. It has been combined into a single set of free, downloadable guides from the Fieldbus Foundation (www.fieldbus.org)

The AG-181 System Engineering Guide is a comprehensive resource containing best practices for engineering, design and installation of Foundation fieldbus systems. The foundaton also offers supplemental guides on wiring and installation, intrinsically safe systems, and a guide to function-block capabilities in hybrid and batch systems.

Many resources exist today for cost-effective training. With eight certified training centers worldwide, users now have access to the best instructors for face-to-face, onsite or remote training. To ensure success, training should start in the earliest phases of the project to enable a smooth transition after project handover.

Myth: There Is No Cost Benefit to Foundation Fieldbus

When best practices for project engineering are followed, the installed cost of a Foundation fieldbus-based system can be much less than a conventional system in several key areas. Instrumentation commissioning and checkout times are greatly reduced. What used to take a field technician hours to accomplish now takes minutes.

Up to 75% of all start-up delays directly relate to instrumentation and controls. Foundation fieldbus technology can make commissioning easier and reduce overall commissioning times by as much as 85%. This results in faster plant start-up and faster time to production.

If you're a first-time implementer, or if Foundation fieldbus technology is being deployed at your site for the first time, it makes sense to invest in some training for your instrument technicians, operators and other people who can benefit from the technology. Training is a necessary investment, but training is highly accessible and does not have to break the bank.

Choosing the right engineering partner can also reduce installed cost. References are important. A growing number of engineering firms, from large engineering contractors to independent systems integrators, are becoming well-versed in Foundation fieldbus engineering best practices.

The real cost benefit to Foundation fieldbus technology is at the operations level. Numerous end users have avoided unplanned shutdown due to the diagnostics and function-block capabilities of Foundation fieldbus.

Many end users view maintenance as one of their key costs that can be cut. End users have estimated that more than half of maintenance activities result in no action. Foundation fieldbus technology with its predictive diagnostics can help users develop a proactive maintenance strategy that avoids unnecessary trips to the field for routine scheduled maintenance.

Myth: I Don't Need to Invest in Fieldbus When There Is Wireless Technology

Wireless technology has many advantages, but fieldbus and wireless technology are not mutually exclusive. Wireless in control applications is a long way off, and no end users are going to replace their entire control system infrastructure to support only wireless devices. The Foundation has made it a policy to coexist with industrial wireless technologies for process automation. Through our Wireless and Remote I/O project (WIO), the Foundation has generated specifications for gateways to incorporate either ISA 100.11a or WirelessHART data into Foundation fieldbus systems. Combining the wealth of diagnostic data in wireless devices with the capability to manage that data and turn it into useful information in a fieldbus system is a powerful solution.

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