Optimization markets will continue to grow — ARC

April 3, 2009
The real-time process optimization and training (RPO) and the process engineering tools (PET) markets are expected to grow at respectively 9% and 11% compound between now and 2013, despite the current global economic downturn, according to two new reports from ARC.

The real-time process optimization and training (RPO) and the process engineering tools (PET) markets are expected to grow at respectively 9% and 11% compound between now and 2013, despite the current global economic downturn, according to two new reports from ARC, both authored by Tom Fiske. As well as their specific content, the reports are significant because of being among the first from ARC to take into account the impact of the current slowdown in the global manufacturing environment. Capital expenditure in the developed world is expected to decline, with many large capital projects being delayed or cancelled altogether. “For the next year or two, companies will be hunkering down and cutting costs to remain viable,” says ARC.

Nevertheless it identifies some reasons for optimism. The regions driving global growth ― China, India, Brazil, Russia, parts of Eastern Europe and Middle East―are less affected than the developed world and will achieve positive GDP growth, it argues. Moreover plant operators and EPCs will be under intense pressure to improve engineering efficiency and reduce costs, for which both PET and RPO solutions offer potential assistance.

ARC defines the PET market as comprising two major segments, engineering design tools used for physical plant layout and process simulation and optimization tools for conceptual and process design, modeling and off-line optimization. That market was worth slightly less than $1.8 billion in 2008 and is set to grow to more than $3 billion in 2013.

By contrast, the RPO market is made up of advanced process control (APC) ― model-based software to direct and control process operations; on-line optimization, continually monitoring the state of the process against a reference model to predict an optimum operation path; and training simulation and control system validation using real-time dynamic simulators. That market ARC expects to grow from a little over $1 billion in 2008 to more than $1.5 billion in 2013.

Complementary Technologies

PET solutions are playing an increasingly important role in the operational phase of plants and assets and, as such, can be seen as being complementary to RPO applications, with both likely to play a critical role as plant operators aim for higher returns on their assets. APC, ARC points out, has decisively demonstrated its value with many leading companies successfully applying the technology to increase throughput, improve yields, reduce energy and raw material usage, and improve product quality, plant stability, safety and responsiveness. APC and its extension to RPO, says ARC, address the key issues in today’s business climate.

European Wireless Market

The combined market for wireless devices in factory automation in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the U.K. generated revenues of more than $75.2 million in 2008 and is estimated to grow to $132.8 million by 2012, according to new research from Frost & Sullivan. However, while the market in the automotive, food and beverage and plastics industries is being driven by the need for real-time data, workforce mobility and ease of installation and commissioning, user concerns about reliability, security and interoperability continue to hinder levels of uptake and need to be addressed by vendors. Many end users are still not convinced that wireless transmission is robust and are, therefore, unwilling to risk investment. Specific concerns include signal mismatch, data loss and disturbances from existing networks, while the inherent conservatism of the food and beverage and plastics industries is a further factor. “Vendors should undertake effective initiatives to spread awareness about wireless technology and educate end users on the range of wireless applications and their benefits,” says Frost & Sullivan analyst Khadambari Shanbagaraman.

Frost & Sullivan has also been conducting research into the potential of wireless power and has concluded that induction-based wireless power could represent the next wave in powering portable electronic devices. Several companies have already developed wireless power technologies such as charging pads to power personal electronic devices, while other research is examining their potential for industrial applications and considering alternative technologies such as resonant induction, microwaves and lasers. Surprisingly, however, Frost& Sullivan makes no mention of existing applications in industry such as ABB’s use of inductive techniques to power robot cells. Future progress, it says, will be dependent on allaying public and user concerns over safety.

DHS Taking Over PCSF

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Control Systems Security Program (CSSP) has set up an Industrial Control Systems Joint Working Group (ICSJWG) to take over the work of the public and private partnerships created by the Process Control System Forum (PCSF), the main U.S. forum for the discussion of cybersecurity issues in the process industries. ICSJWG will operate as a collaborative and coordinating body under the Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council (CIPAC) requirements, providing a vehicle for communication and partnering between federal agencies and departments and private asset owners and operators. The stated objective is to secure Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR) by accelerating the design, development and deployment of secure industrial control systems. To that end ICSJWG will continue to collaborate with industrial control system stakeholders including those from the international community, government, academia, vendors, owner/operators and systems integrators. According to ARC’s Bob Mick, however, the change has more to do with putting PCSF on a sound legal footing than with any dissatisfaction with the role it has played in focusing attention on and prioritizing the security aspects of automation and control systems.

Canary Labs Lowers Entry Bar for Process Historians

Canary Labs believes it’s lowered the entry level for process historians by a factor of between five and 10 with the introduction of InfoLink, which combines its Trend Historian and Trend Link software, proven over 10 years and more than 10,000 installations, with Software Toolbox’s symbol library and, optionally, Sytech’s XLReporter. Pricing starts at $3,500 with the XLReporter option adding a further $1,600. Running on any PC including HMI/SCADA workstations, InfoLink obtains its data via OPC and stores it with tags and time stamps, for retrieval and display in real time or playback mode. Rather than losing resolution through compression, all the original data is retained on disk. Screens can be designed using the 4,000 plus symbols from Software Toolbox with InfoLink calculating and displaying KPIs in real time. Data from XLReporter and Trend Historian can be formatted into reports that can be stored in HTML and viewed via standard web browsers. Data can be played back at any required speed or paused and stepped through, with the facility to change from a trend display to an HMI screen or to have four different screens displayed at the same time. In addition the Tag Explorer tool allows an operator to view tag attributes, display historical data, show statistical information or a graphical trend and search for data matching particular conditions. It  integrates with external sources such as weather data, manuals, drawings  and cameras.

Longwatch Adds Thermal Imaging Capability

Longwatch, the company set up by Intellution founder and former president Steve Rubin to embed video into SCADA, has added an interface to FLIR’s A-Series Thermal Imaging cameras to the Longwatch Video Surveillance System, enabling thermal images to be viewed on standard HMI/SCADA software such as Wonderware InTouch and GE Fanuc iFix. Thermal images allow operators to see product or utility leaks, “hot spots” in a process, imperfections in finished goods and other anomalies and can also be used for intrusion monitoring. The thermal cameras connect to Longwatch Video Engine software, which continuously records images from multiple cameras and sends video clips over the plant network to the Longwatch Video Control Center (VCC) in the control room. The VCC in turn sends them to the HMI/SCADA software, a cell phone or a PDA and stores them in a Video Historian. Clips can be sent on a regular scheduled basis or on command from the HMI/SCADA system, when a process or assembly step occurs, or in real time when an alarm occurs.