Distributed Control / HMI / I/O Systems / PLCs & PACs

Lifecycle the focus of Foxboro roadmap

The Schneider Electric brand’s roadmap promises prioritized strengths and a new level of lifecycle certainty.

By Paul Studebaker, editor in chief, Control


Schneider Electric offer managers faced an eager crowd of customers at their session describing the Foxboro brand’s roadmap for the next few years at the company’s CONNECT 2016 conference this week in New Orleans. Product line developments in I/O, integration, controllers, networks and applications are designed to support today’s plant priorities: connectivity, reliability, efficiency, sustainability and services.

“The roadmap is designed to help plants achieve future-proof operations and lower total cost of ownership over 20 years or more,” said Alain Ginguene, director, offer management, Foxboro, Schneider Electric. “We want it to be easy to integrate products; get your networks implemented and above all, secure; reduce engineering complexity and simplify maintenance over the product lifecycle.”

I/O developments include adding redundancy to Intelligent Marshalling. The new FBM248 offering now includes redundancy capabilities and is 100% software configurable to support the company’s FLEX project execution methodology, which minimizes risk on delivery and reduces spare-parts requirements. Release continues on Compact 200 Series modules, which offer the same reliability and 50% smaller footprint than the regular 200 Series. “All 200 Series now receive conformal coating,” said Ginguene, making them more suitable in harsh environments such as offshore platforms.

Advances in integration include the company’s Unified Control and Safety offering. The hardware fits on a Tricon chassis, and the software allows users to configure safety PLC blocks that are generated automatically by the system, with the option to display some or all tags, and built-in change management. “It can be used with Tricon, Trident, and TriGP,” Ginguene said. “The software is independent of the hardware.” Also, a new Unified Modicon Configuration/Unity Pro experience allows “enter only once” for configuration and system management.

Intelligent Power and Motor Control Center (iPMCC) integration allows motor drives, starters, protection and power management to be integrated within the Foxboro Evo DCS. Easy integration drives energy management with control and HMI templates, now implementing complex functionality and industry-specific applications.

Field Device Controller FDC280 allows a large amount of integrated data and multiple communication protocols in a compact format. Available in two to three months for Modbus TCP, more protocols will continue to be added over time so one box can handle five or 10 versions of protocols. Putting control and communication in one box to serve data to the central processor (CP) simplifies connection to protocols such as RS-485, and minimizes footprints in the field.

In the controller category, the next generation will be an embedded multivariable controller, the MVC 280 due in 2017. This will be followed by a number of software additions and updates to the FCP280 in mid 2018. 

Networks and security

In mid-2016, Magelis industrial workstations and servers will be qualified for use with Foxboro Evo in harsh environments, 24/7 operation, reduced space requirements and increased physical security applications, with extended lifecycles for both hardware and software. Ginguene said, “Where a PC might last two to five years, with these machines, life is doubled.” Also, new Ethernet switches are being qualified for use with Foxboro Evo.

Last year, the FCP280 Field Control Processor received ISA Secure EDSA certification, and development centers in Foxboro, Mass.; Worthing, UK; and Hyderabad, India received ISASecure Security Development Lifecycle Assurance (SDLA) certification. “Now we’re working on ISASecure System Security Assurance (SSA) certification,” Ginguene said. “A supplier may apply for SSA and SDLA in parallel, and we did SDLA first.”

A new Control Network Interface serves as a bridge to connect systems or segments into independent, but linked, systems with security. This allows maintenance flexibility and transparency across units while keeping them independent for robustness.

Applications and software

Situational awareness graphics and libraries support pattern recognition, reserve specific colors for abnormal situations, and provide minimal visual distraction with low-contrast graphics. “When you do an upgrade, where’s the value?” asked Ginguene. “This new type of HMI makes operators more efficient, and improves plant performance and uptime.”

System Auditor (formerly Foxray) centrally documents Foxboro systems of all ages and styles, and supports alarm management and shelving. The ability to detect, interrogate, configure, enable and document (DICED) smart field devices automatically takes care of “a lot of work you don’t have to do manually,” Ginguene added.

Maintenance Response Center is a decision-support application—a dashboard to gather field device alerts and alarms, and to help maintenance people do their daily job. Laptop, tablet and smartphone support give them “all the information they need to identify the type of problem and whether it’s critical or not,” Ginguene said.

Windows 10/Server 2016 is the next OS platform from Microsoft. Ginguene said, “Its adoption, coming in mid-2017, will extend lifetimes, allow Windows 7 and 10 in the same system, and provide security for the mobile workforce.”

Defining product status and lifetime

Mike Chmilewski, vice president, offer management, said Schneider Electric will be quantifying each product’s status and lifetime. Products currently move from “preferred” phase when new through “available,” “mature,” “lifetime” and ultimately “obsolete” phases on an undefined timeline. “Not forecasting future stages has caused a lot of angst, so now we will be specific and publish guidelines for hardware and software lifecycles.” Chmilewski showed anticipated product life guidelines ranging from 30 years for I/O and 15 years for controllers to 10 years for networking equipment, eight for servers and five for a version of software.

“These are only guidelines,” Chmilewski added, but now, instead of leaving both customers and Schneider Electric representatives uneasy about the anticipated life of a product they’re specifying for a project or update, “We can automatically generate installed base reports for a facility, sit down and talk, and make a plan, not a panic. We can be proactive, predictive and collaborative.”