Software / Distributed Control / Data Acquisition / SCADA / Motors / I/O Systems

Innovations abound in CONNECT Expo Hall

Schneider Electric and its partners show how coordinating process control technologies can optimize users' applications and ensure their success.

By Jim Montague, executive editor


Like a really great gift basket with seemingly endless treats, the Expo Hall at this week’s Schneider Electric CONNECT 2016 user group conference reveals one terrific surprise after another.

The Expo Hall is organized by industries, functional areas, Schneider Electric technologies, and its Collaborative Automation Partner Program (CAPP) members. In the Industries section, there are booths highlighting the company’s capabilities in power, mining, water/wastewater, upstream and downstream oil and gas.

Close by, in the hall's Technologies sections there are kiosks featuring the company’s remote SCADA solutions, field devices, Foxboro Evo and Modicon automation systems, FLEX project execution methodology, SimSci simulation and training software, RefineryWise software, and a host of other solutions to manage, maintain and protect users' applications, while keeping them safe and saving energy at the same time.

Martin Turk, director and global solutions architect at Schneider Electric, reported that, "My top five exhibits at CONNECT 2016 have to include PRiSM predictive analytics software that's now part of our Avantis platform; AIT advanced process analyzers; enhanced Tricon CX safety solutions; ongoing improvements to the Foxboro Evo process automation system; and the continuing evolution of the SimSci Spiral Suite software.”

ONO for water/wastewater

Likewise, in the water/wastewater booth, Hermann Wartinger, vertical director for water/wastewater at Schneider Electric, is demonstrating how the company’s Online Network Optimization (ONO) software tool can help users perform analysis, conduct leak calculations, manage work orders, and maintain their applications day-to-day.

"ONO's operations SCADA screen can display a user's entire water/wastewater network, and run 20% of all their assets, even though 80% of these systems and equipment are typically underground," said Wartinger. "So, while simulation has usually been for designers and engineers, ONO's primary benefit is that it brings simulation to the operators, and they don't need lots of sophisticated knowledge and programming to do it."

Brazil mine relies on PES

The mining, metals and minerals (MMM) exhibit showcases how Schneider Electric's mine-to-port solutions balance utilization and availability for their users. "We still making big rocks into little ones, but our intelligent I/O and other new tools are enabling us to fully serve these supply chains much more easily," said Bob Cook, director of global industrial solutions for MMM at Schneider Electric.

For example, Cook and Rogerio Martins, MMM vertical director, demonstrated how Schneider Electric's electrical and power capabilities and its new PlantStruxure Process Expert System (PES) controls have aided Valé's €30-million, iron ore mining operation in Minas Gerais in Brazil. "We do onsite value-based consulting for our clients," says Cook. "We do gap assessments of projects, estimate different levels of value that can be achieved, and then customers pick the level that's right for them."

Intelligent I/O goes redundant

To chart Foxboro Evo's progress, Thad Frost, senior technology manager for Foxboro Evo I/O and enclosures, stated that Schneider Electric introduced intelligent marshalling about five years ago, but clients still needed a smaller footprint, so it developed a half-size version that launched in 2014. These gave Schneider Electric its M200 standard universal I/O and M200 compact universal I/O, but they're being joined this week by FBM248 standard redundant I/O, as well as a universal I/O for safety built on the Triconex platform. They'll be joined later by a compact redundant I/O version.

"We see the market growing for universal I/O and redundant I/O to maximize uptime and reliability for users," explained Frost. "We're also working with Phoenix Contact on an interface for our universal I/O card called Viper, which is an I/O accessory that works with our IO card. This will allow builders to ship I/O cabinets without caring what signal they'll be handling because they can put in whichever accessory they need later. This gives us a hybrid solution that leverages the strengths of both hardware and software configurable systems."

All-Ethernet controller

At the Expo Hall's demo wall, Florent Lacharme, product offering manager for Schneider Electric's Modicon M580 controller, demonstrated a new ePAC device that seamlessly integrates in its local Ethernet network with help from added backplane connections for Modbus TCP/IP and EtherNet IP communications.

"This allows devices like rotors, switches and gateways to all be on the same DIN rail as the controller, where they're configured with our Unity Pro software, which makes the whole process much simpler and easier. This M580 platform is also very cyber-secure, and allows users to tune the level of security that's most appropriate for their application."  

Stephen Golemme, technology manager for control room operations at Schneider Electric, added that, "Unity Pro's integration capability with Modicon and Foxboro Evo was released a couple of months ago, and it allows users to take their PLC configuration file, and automatically build an interface with the database on their DCS. This lets them pick the tag names they want, use a naming wizard, and even do automatic renaming if their PLC's configuration changes later."

PES rules them all

To bring all these innovations together, Herve Vandem, PES offer manager at Schneider Electric, explained that its PlantStruxure PES has a single software environment, so users don't have to call up numerous tools. "PES is a perfect fit for smaller and medium applications with up to about 5,000 I/O, such as water/wastewater, mining, food and beverage, specialty chemical and others," said Vandem. "This system is distinct from and doesn't compete with Foxboro Evo, which handles large DCS-based applications with tens of thousands of I/O, such as in the chemical and oil and gas industry.”

"PES is using a pure, object-oriented approach to code in the controller and animation on the HMI. Traditional PLCs and SCADA requires users to add code, put in symbols, and establish links, which can result in simple mistakes. PES is simpler, brings the DCS model to PLC engineering, and integrates DCS functions with the flexibility and openness of a PLC. Also, PES does energy management, so users can gauge what's consumed from anywhere in their plants, and compare it to levels of their product produced. Finally, PES is also integrated with M580, which makes it the most flexible process automation system on the market."

Triconex unleashes Tricon CX; a new logic solver solution architecture

The latest addition to Schneider Electric's distinguished resume of process safety, critical control, programmable controller solutions is its Tricon CX, which builds and adds to the outstanding history of the Tricon product originally released in 1985. Following a pre-launch introduction in 2015, meetings with customers and industry consultants led to minor refinements for Tricon CX and a new launch schedule, according to Mark Turner, manager of Triconex Safety Products. While the classic Tricon Safety Controller product can handle 400-460 I/O in one standard automation cabinet, he reported that Tricon CX will be capable of delivering double that amount, 800-920 I/O, and do it in the same space.

"And, as always, as part of the Triconex family, Tricon CX, provides our Customer base with a highly available, highly reliable, triple-modular-redundant, fault tolerant, control solution with no single point of failure," added Turner.

FLEX unifies, executes projects

Finally, just as PES ties together software platforms, Schneider Electric's Flexible Lean EXecution (FLEX) program gathers together formerly separate project elements to simplify tasks for its customers working on greenfield and brownfield projects in the oil and gas, power, mining, water/wastewater and other industries.

"Traditionally, projects and EPCs are governed by milestones, but configuring a process automation system makes up about 30% of the risk to startup dates," said Stephen Gray, director of global engineering management at Schneider Electric.

"We want to take all that risk out, and FLEX helps users do that by bringing in and coordinating intelligent marshalling and standard cabinets, and by delivering data, auto-generated software and documentation to standard templates. This information can then be used by software like Intergraph's Smart Plant Instrumentation (SPI) design tool, and as data matures, we do re-validations and change-management reports. FLEX takes those former milestones off the critical path, and can generate 20-33% savings in capital expenditures, while doing software and hardware builds simultaneously can save 30% on schedule time."