Optimization / Industrial Ethernet / Drives

User Input Drives Rockwell Automation Process Roadmap

PlantPAx Connects and Grows to Fill Its Role as a Plant-Wide System

By Paul Studebaker

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The flagship PlantPAx process automation system of Rockwell Automation is more than a distributed control system (DCS). With its myriad capabilities and access to the full portfolio of the company's power, safety, networking and programmable logic controller (PLC) products, it's part of an ever-evolving set of tools for connecting and controlling the enterprise.

The session, "PlantPAx and the Process Solutions Roadmap," at the Rockwell Automation Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) conference this week in Anaheim, California, highlighted recent additions and improvements, as well as plans for further enhancements in 2015.

"People too often think in terms of PLC versus DCS, to use the one here and the other there, when what they really want is plant-wide systems," said Kris Dornan, PlantPAx integration and characterization manager, Rockwell Automation. "We're not just a hardware supplier. We want to go beyond plant control to answer customer questions and meet their needs. They want to decrease time to market, increase automation productivity in design and operations, and adopt new system capabilities."

"We continue to invest in our modern DCS platform, making major strides to achieve our goal of providing the most highly distributed, cost-effective and performance-driven system on the market," said Jason Wright, PlantPAx system marketing manager, Rockwell Automation. "The extended capabilities further enhance the PlantPAx system, helping simplify design and integration, reduce risk, and streamline operations and engineering efficiency across a user's enterprise."

This year's new features are predominantly in batch management, virtualization, safety and integrated motor control.

FactoryTalk Batch 12 is intended to help users manage change and flexibility by handling the recipe approval process, which saves a lot of time for engineers who manage a lot of recipes. The updated software preserves and locks recipes from changes. Later, the recipe can be checked out as a work in progress and is automatically assigned a new version. The system automatically stores each version, allowing users to review their genealogy.

The batch system also provides additional protection from intellectual property theft. With security-authority binding, it helps protect recipes and equipment models. This extra layer of security helps ensure that important information is inaccessible for viewing, editing or executing by unauthorized users.

Rockwell Automation has also updated the PlantPAx batch and sequence manager to reduce engineering time by allowing users to configure sequences directly in the controller. Incorporating batch management and optimizing continuous sequencing, the batch and sequence manager is well-suited for both skid control and standalone process units, such as mixers, blenders and reactors.

For advanced control, an updated Pavilion8 model-predictive control makes it easier to visualize, tune and maintain models with a step-by-step tuning wizard, and PlantPAx MPC (model-predictive control) now can run a 10 x 10 linear model right inside the chassis for applications that don't justify a
server-driven solution.

Virtualization allows users to extend PlantPAx system lifecycle and improve availability. "We took the sizing guide and embedded it into the core documents, because virtualization is almost becoming the default mode," said Wright. "We expanded the templates for faster deployment and added ones for a historian server and an application server."

"Rockwell Automation has also released a new packaged safety instrumented system called OptiSIS," said Wright. "This is a SIL3-certified logic solver for a process safety solution that is easy to install, wire and configure with no programming required."

Integrating PlantPAx with motor control devices such as drives, starters and overload relays now eases motor control configuration and delivers advanced diagnostic information directly to the operator at the HMI level. "This helps ease maintenance activities and allows operators to diagnose issues before they occur," Wright said.

"We have a million tags and data points, and they're all very important, but we need to be able to take the right information from these devices to let the operator be more effective," Dornan said.

Design, Alarm, Network and Go Mobile

This year included a major release of Studio 5000 to make it easier to manage and design code. "With previous versions, code was organized in the way it was executed, an execution process view," said Wright. "In version 24, we also provide a logical view. You can organize the code in a way that makes sense for that process, in addition to execution. This allows you to reuse code more easily by copying and pasting into a new process. Or you can add it to a library for other future projects. We have also made modifications to allow public parameters, so you can take them to another project."

One also can create folders that make more sense, for example, a "process" or "I/O status" or "system status" folder, and drag-and-drop programs into the folders. "Say you want to just go to your ‘tanks' area and see what you need to do there to develop and maintain that code. Now you can do that," said Dornan. "We're trying to make it easier, to let the designer and operator be more productive."

For FactoryTalk Alarms and Events, FactoryTalk View 8, released in July, has enhancements including dynamic severity linked to the controller, alarm log viewer filter by time, sounds by priority and options to hide out–of–scope alarms.

In networking, new ArmorStratix 5700 switches can be deployed on machines and in extreme environments, and Stratix 5100 wireless access points feature a work group bridge. "By allowing engineers to connect up to 19 IP addresses simultaneously, it helps reduce design time when integrating machines and equipment into the network," said Wright

For mobility, FactoryTalk VantagePoint 6.0 automatically recognizes the type of device and reformats displays to fit. The addition of Mobile Favorites means it can follow users and offer their favorite applications no matter what device they happen to be using at the moment, and a native Windows 8 application allows users to share information to drive decision-making.

More on the Way in 2015

During the next year, "Studio 5000 will address an integrated system view of elements, visualization and control," said Wright. "Integrating Process Object inside Studio 5000 will mean fewer steps. And bulk configuration tools will help engineers who do a lot of similar projects."

A new release of FactoryTalk View will include a library of process objects (with the option to switch languages), control strategies and application specifications to drive consistency across projects.

FactoryTalk ViewPoint 8.1 moves from Microsoft Silverlight to HTML 5 and opens applications to Apple and Android devices, and Stratix 5400 and 5410 are new DIN- and rack-mount layer 3 switches.

"There will be new firewall and intrusion protection system offerings, and a new industrial data center for smaller applications," said Wright. "We'll also bring out complete network virtualization."

Last but not at all least, "PlantPAx 4.0 is coming in late 2015 with these and other changes to give enhanced control, automation productivity, and new technical and system capabilities," Wright said.

It's all part of the user-driven process for Rockwell Automation, Dornan said. "We value your input. We take your views and drive them into the products. What will we do next? It's up to you."