With its October 2009 launch of the DeltaV automation system with "I/O on Demand," Emerson Process Management set out to revolutionize one of process automation's most onerous and time-consuming activities: the engineering and management of input/output (I/O) subsystems.
I/O on Demand proposes to eliminate broad swaths of time and effort over a process automation system's lifecycle, to shorten project schedules and minimize system footprint, even while increasing future flexibility. In so doing, I/O on Demand promises to deliver for its users "the greatest degree of flexibility with the least amount of effort and risk," Chief Strategic Officer Peter Zornio told Control at the time.
After just four years, Electronic Marshalling with CHARMs (characterization modules) technology, the cornerstone of I/O on Demand, already has logged more than a billion hours of operation at 300 sites worldwide. How these users—throughout the process industries and around the globe—are using Electronic Marshalling to deliver previously unthinkable results is the focus of this special report. First up, though, Control visits with Claudio Fayad, Emerson marketing director, DeltaV platform, for the big picture view of what's made Electronic Marshalling such a game-changer for how automation is done in the process industries.
Q. Electronic Marshalling technology has really taken off since it was first introduced. Why do you think so many users have opted for this approach?
A. The great thing about Electronic Marshalling is that people make their own conclusions about the benefits of the technology very, very quickly. Its ability to compress project engineering schedules has clear advantages in both greenfield plants and in retrofits.
In the first case, reducing time to first production for a manufacturer—or, for example, time to first oil for an energy company—can mean millions of dollars in revenue gained. And in the second case, Electronic Marshalling allows users to reduce or even eliminate the turnaround time associated with commissioning a new system, again restoring what otherwise would be lost production and revenue. And because of its smaller footprint, the new system can be installed in fewer enclosures—sometimes right alongside the old system in existing enclosures. This both reduces costs and allows even faster switchover to the new system.
With Electronic Marshalling, users can literally create new time and space where there was none before. The sheer amount of benefit is simply that big.
Q. How is it that Electronic Marshalling has eliminated so much time and effort?
A. If you think of the old way of doing things, a project engineer had to have a pretty firm handle on the number and type of I/O points that would be needed before he could start doing his hardware design. Each type of I/O required its own type of I/O card, typically in groups of eight. Further limiting system flexibility, each I/O card was tied to its respective controller. And when those inevitable late changes in process design trickled through, he may or may not have allowed for an appropriate number of the right type of I/O. The end result of all this inflexibility was to incur expensive change-orders late in the project cycle, or to push hardware design back later in the timeline, potentially delaying overall project delivery.
But with Electronic Marshalling, all our project engineer needs to get started is an approximate total I/O count. Each and every channel is fully characterized by its respective CHARM plug-in, which can be added or changed even up to the last minute without impacting the overall hardware design. Each I/O channel is mapped in turn to its appropriate controller automatically through the DeltaV system software, and can be logically reassigned even on the fly. And, in the rare case of a CHARM failure, annunciation is instantaneous and replacement of a single CHARM is much easier than that of an entire board, significantly reducing mean-time-to-repair.
The decades-old practice of landing wires in a marshalling cabinet, then wiring each landed pair to an I/O channel on the right kind of card connected to the right controller, is eliminated—along with the marshalling cabinets themselves. All of this greatly streamlines system engineering and documentation. Plus, you can begin building—or just order—the cabinets you need before you've even finished the process design. Automation is no longer a project bottleneck and is off the critical path. And the benefits don't stop when a project is completed. Because each I/O channel can be re-characterized at any time by simply changing its CHARM, flexibility for the future is preserved as well.
Q. So, the need for physical marshalling cabinets essentially disappears. Have some traditional work processes disappeared as well?