Rockwell Automation’ mission to emulate ABB’s IndustrialIT and Siemens’ Simatic IT by presenting its entire range of offerings for the process and discrete sectors under a single overarching branding took a further step forward at the end of July. Rockwell announced what it described as “more than 30 new capabilities for end users and machine builders” in “the latest version of its Integrated Architecture production control and information system.” Quite how diverse those capabilities are, and quite how far Rockwell is stretching the concept of an integrated production control and information system can be judged from the fact that it includes new Ethernet switches, additional advanced process control (APC) function blocks, new safety instructions for discrete applications and additional CompactLogix PACs.
Advanced Process Control
Arguably, the most important of these to Rockwell’s ambitions in the process sector are the new APC features. The addition of runtime partial import/export functionality is said to help to reduce downtime risks and improve productivity during deployment and maintenance operations by allowing the addition of new programs, routines and add-on instructions, as well as the replacement of existing programs and routines. The new APC function blocks are designed to support long dead-time processes and provide simpler multivariable control with built-in automatic tuning. Process industry users will also benefit from a new controller online change-logging capability, which will prove of particular value in regulated industries.
The Stratix family of Ethernet switches represents the latest fruits of Rockwell’s partnership with Cisco, announced back in April of 2007. The co-branded line of modular, managed switches is described as having attributes that “will add value to both IT and automation control professionals” and is optimized for use in EtherNet/IP applications and with the Integrated Architecture system. Although Cisco’s relationship with Rockwell is no more exclusive than the one it has with Emerson Process Management, the Cisco operating system, user environment and feature set are described as being “exclusive to the Stratix 8000 line.”
The new Allen-Bradley CompactLogix L23 PACs are designed to provide Integrated Architecture capabilities within a more compact package. They come in three I/O and communication configurations and can be expanded using Allen-Bradley 1769 Compact I/O. In the obligatory ARC quote accompanying the announcement, Craig Resnick commented, “It is incumbent upon manufacturers today to deploy information architectures in the production environment that facilitates (sic) transparent connectivity between production equipment and all aspects of their enterprise.”
Rockwell also has introduced a complete suite of Machinery Safety Services designed to help manufacturers carry out risk assessments, identify hazards, optimize guarding design and performance, improve productivity and integrate standard and safety control systems. Tim Hall, Rockwell Automation EMEA safety consultant describes the company’s approach as aimed at countering the “general perception in industry . . . that fast, efficient production and safe production don’t mix. . . . if manufacturers take a more rounded approach to safety, rather than simply doing the minimum needed to achieve compliance, there can be huge benefits in operational efficiency.” The full suite of services includes hazard assessment, risk assessment, safety circuit analysis, safety systems and integration services, guarding solutions, safety system validation, production-floor safety-system support, product training and custom training. Introduction of the new services coincides with the launch by Rockwell of a new range of TÜV-approved Category 4/SIL 3 rated non-contact safety switches.