Yokogawa has announced the release of new versions of both its Centum VP control system, originally launched in January 2008, and of the ProSafe-RS integrated SIS (Safety Instrumented System) first introduced in 2005. The two announcements are closely linked because one of the key features of Centum VP R4.02 is even closer linkage with ProSafe-RS. Other enhancements to the DCS include what Yokogawa calls improved information visibility together with a more intuitive operator interface, improved alarm management and new Foundation fieldbus engineering functionality.
The new consolidated alarm management functions include the ability to define alarm monitoring and notification in the same engineering environment used to configure control and monitoring operations. According to the company, linking the engineering for the alarm, control and monitoring functions will result in improved efficiency. Similarly the new Foundation fieldbus functionality is designed to enhance the efficiency of engineering work in the field by automatically checking data after configuration changes to Foundation fieldbus devices.
Centum VP's launch in 2008 was regarded by many as something of a damp squib since, of the three major innovations described at the time―a unified real time database, Real Time Production Organizer and Windows Vista based HMI―only the last was actually available at the time, while the others were scheduled for release in 2009 or 2010. No mention of either of the missing items in this latest release and, perhaps more surprisingly, given the recent announcements from other DCS vendors, no mention either of a move to Windows 7, while the only mention of the more intuitive operator interface simply says that it is easier to use.
Yet Closer Integration
Arguably the most significant change is a further step taken down the road of integration between the SIS and the BPCS (Basic Process Control System) which now makes it possible to operate and monitor the two systems through the same HMI. When it was first introduced in February 2005, ProSafe RS was only the second SIS from a major vendor to share a hardware platform with the DCS, although ABB, whose System 800xA HI was the other, disputes the degree to which the Yokogawa solution actually shares the Centum controller platform.
Be that as it may, the adoption of the concept by the normally ultra-conservative Yokogawa did much to allay criticism not just of its own, but of competing vendors', integrated offerings. Since then Yokogawa claims to have installed the TÜV certified SIL 3 system in more than 500 projects.
The new version, ProSafe-RS R2.03.00, features a new high-speed CPU module, enhanced online maintenance capabilities and a new digital output module for use with higher voltage devices. The CPU module has a processing speed 3.5 to 4 times faster than its predecessor, while the number of I/O points supported has been increased by nearly 50% to 1500. Application capacity has also been increased by 50%. The new digital output module allows direct connection to 48V DC field devices, such as valves, eliminating the need to supply power through a relay and enabling simpler and more cost-effective system configuration and easier maintenance. It is also now possible to install I/O modules without disrupting the input or output to or from any connected device and to change the scan frequency online. As a result it is now possible to reconfigure the SIS without halting plant operations.
- Any automation industry vendor which has in the past enjoyed a degree of schadenfreude at the treatment handed out to its competitors by their own employees through Jim Pinto's weblogs should take note of the recent experience of Yokogawa. While Invensys and more recently Rockwell and Honeywell have had to put up with an almost continuous stream of criticism from the lower decks and have developed fairly, though not entirely, thick skins as a consequence, Yokogawa, which has to share a blog page with Omron and any other Japanese vendor who might attract passing attention, had until recently averaged no more than two or three posts a year, generally of a fairly complimentary nature.
That was until mid-October when there was a sudden outburst of discontent from Yokogawa's Netherlands and U.K. operations, with Germany joining in a few days later. Many of the gripes mirror those from other companies suffering in the current economic climate, with management, particularly those with MBAs and, in this case, those with a Foxboro pedigree, coming in for a particular kicking.
However, Yokogawa should be congratulated on introducing a new element to this form of ritual abuse by adding infighting between the various European companies. Thus the Dutch have been criticizing the Brits for failing to secure projects and for mismanagement of the ones they have, while the Brits have countered, claiming that, whenever they do get a project, the Dutch pinch it. Don't you love the way the European Union brings the different nations together in harmony!