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ABB’s Approach to System Life-Cycle Management

April 29, 2008
Evolution Planning Supports Justification by Illustrating Concrete Improvements in Availability, Quality and/or Performance Improvements

All automation projects and systems need to evolve as business needs, markets and technologies change. ABB provides a host of life-cycle management tools to enable easy evolution of systems and software. The goal is to maximize return on assets through operational excellence, explained Mark Bitto, ABB global business development manager for Harmony Systems, in his presentation this week at ABB Automation World in Houston. “Life-cycle management accomplishes this by extending asset life, by increasing asset availability and by increasing asset productivity,” he said.

ABB’s life-cycle management program has four components: Evolution Strategy, Life-Cycle Policy, Software Asset Management Program and Evolution Planning. Evolution strategy emphasizes evolution rather than migration. “Rip-and-replace is avoided in order to protect investments in intellectual property and capital equipment,” continued John Murray, vice president and global business development manager for MOD300 Systems.

“Evolution planning supports justification by illustrating concrete improvements in availability, quality and/or performance improvements,” says ABB’s Mark Bitto of the company’s four-stage approach to life-cycle management.

“Tailored and detailed plans are formulated in collaborative partnerships with customers using ABB’s field-proven best practices. The eventual goal of the evolution strategy should be to get as much of the plant as possible into one front-end system,” added Murray.

ABB’s life-cycle policy is unique in the industry with respect to the degree of support that is given to existing systems. The formal policy allows for the continous evolution of existing systems by committing to  keep all system components active until a functional equivalent is available. In the best case, that functional equivalent will be a straight plug-and-play replacement with identical form and fit, along with improved functionality. In the worst case, the functional equivalent may require importing existing application software with some tweaks needed to the imported applications. After a functional equivalent is released, ABB will continue to fully support the older system components for at least 10 years. It will also always provide current, documented life-cycle status with projections for at least the next 12 months to 18 months to aid in evolution planning.

Everyone wants the cost, performance and familiarity benefits of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) systems, but few process plants can keep up with all-too-frequent COTS upgrades and revisions.

The solution is to buy a COTS-based system like ABB’s 800xA System. “With the 800xA, ABB provides at least seven years of support for each major system version. This support ensures compatibility with security patches, different versions of operating systems and old and new PCs,” explained Murray.

ABB’s Automation Sentinel program saves its customers time and money by bringing all ABB systems under one license agreement with a common renewal date. In most plants, the Automation Sentinel program can replace a number of separate licenses at a greatly reduced annual cost. In addition, the program includes the lowest-cost evolution path to the 800xA System. Automation Sentinel customers also receive downloads of all patches and upgrades, plus tech support.

ABB provides extensive assistance to customers through its evolution planning process. This process helps customers define needs and business drivers. It also provides a life-cycle analysis of installed systems and assesses ABB solutions and systems. It helps customers define long- and short-term life-cycle plans. Finally, it provides a continuous re-evaluation of business needs.

“The customer benefits of evolution planning are identifying business needs and goals, creating a focus on the automation system’s role in achieving these goals, giving insight into process and system risk, and shaping budgets for the next two years to five years,” added Bitto.

A key component of shaping budgets is financial justification. “Evolution planning supports justification by illustrating concrete improvements in availability, quality and/or performance improvements,” Bitto continued. “Very small improvements in these areas typically result in large increases in key financial drivers.”

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