Streamline Engineering Tasks with Electronic Marshalling

Human-Centered Design Approach Yields Everyday Engineering Efficiencies

By ControlGlobal.com Staff

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While Emerson Process Management's DeltaV with Electronic Marshalling technology particularly shines in the face of looming project deadlines, it can also reduce effort and streamline engineering tasks when you're not quite so crunched for time.

Indeed, the effective elimination of marshalling cabinets—as well as separate intrinsically safe barriers if you need them—also eliminates much of the engineering effort that goes into them. And because with Electronic Marshalling each uncharacterized I/O channel is much the same as the next, the only remaining variable associated with the cards, cabinets and field enclosures is: How many of each do you need? Electronic Marshalling technology also comes with all the power of DeltaV's engineering tools, which can help streamline and manage what configuration and programming tasks remain.

TPC Group, for example, is in the midst of a staged modernization of the control systems at one its Gulf Coast petrochemical facilities. They're transitioning a few process units at a time over to the DeltaV system, and ultimately will Electronically Marshal all of their I/O. "And we're not taking any of our processes down," notes Bob Crawford, staff engineer in the company's process automation group. "It'll be hot cut-over on more than 5,000 I/O when all's said and done."

Read Also: Control Room: Shrink Your System Footprint

In helping to manage this systematic transition, "the DeltaV engineering tools are as important as the Electronic Marshalling," Crawford adds. "For example, the ability to download Excel spreadsheets of configuration data allows us to do things more quickly and easily. And with DeltaV and AMS, we have a lot more diagnostics and configuration power than before," Crawford says. "The combination of technologies is very powerful."

Crawford also appreciates the single channel flexibility afforded by Electronic Marshalling, which allows them to logically group I/O together on the same CHARM I/O card (CIOC), rather than, for example, having the I/O associated with a single pump wired to several traditional I/O cards of different types. "Because you can put those I/O together, it's much easier for the technician to manage and troubleshoot. It's a whole new concept compared to the old days. Open space and spares can go anywhere. The possibilities are endless."

Scalable for Small Projects, Too

While Electronic Marshalling was designed with industry's most demanding and complex process automation applications in mind, it can also make relatively small modernization projects easier to manage and execute than previously thought possible.

For example, in researching this article we spoke to a research engineer who recently moved into a role that includes supporting the water treatment facilities for the company's research and development labs. He confessed to having had limited controls or instrumentation experience up until two years ago, but nevertheless was able to recognize the potential for Electronic Marshalling to help modernize operation of the water treatment facility's holding tank area.

Tanks with existing standalone controllers and sump pumps were scattered several hundred feet from a central control room, "and we didn't have a good way of marshalling that wire to one location," he explained. Further, the pilot plants run continuously so a shutdown was out of the question. In the end, four CIOCs were installed in remote field enclosures, with network cables back to a controller in the control room.

Despite his inexperience with controls in general and the DeltaV system in particular, our researcher was able to develop the sump pump logic on his own and bring it online first before tackling the other sections in turn. "Electronic Marshalling allowed us to wire one area at a time, then plug in that network card. We were able to transition without shutting down." Today, they're using DeltaV to implement new strategies previously unachievable, for example, to automatically reroute flow among the holding tanks to avoid overflow conditions. "But the real beauty was when someone wanted to add another measurement as an afterthought," he said. "We just wired up the device, put in a spare CHARM, and it was done."

DIY Resurgent

Our researcher is only one of a growing class of process automation do-it-yourselfers finding that Emerson's focus on human-centered design (HCD) has made a big difference in what types of projects they can comfortably execute without turning to outside expertise. Indeed, both AEL Mining Services and Johnson Matthey, whose Electronic Marshalling implementation experiences are detailed elsewhere in this special report are proceeding—and succeeding—largely under their own steam.


Drugmaker Johnson Matthey enlisted the help of Emerson local business partner (LBP) Proconex to modernize the control systems for the first two of 18 similar reactors at its West Deptford, N.J. facility (see p12 for more project details). "We helped out for two weeks on the first two reactors," says Donald Bockman, Proconex account manager, "but now they're doing it on their own."

And at South Africa's AEL, "they just bought the hardware, installed and configured it themselves," according to Alan Windram, engineering manager for process systems and solutions for Emerson LBP Automation and Control Solutions. "Our LBP helped guide us in what to buy," says Leon Clulee, senior project manager for AEL (see p14 for more project details). "But we wanted to do the work ourselves so that the guys who are here understand the system and know what to do in the middle of the night."

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