Since its invention, the DCS and its development have focused on increasing power and reducing cost. “Forty years of R&D in control systems has gone into the platform, not the function, but the value lies in the function,” said Peter Martin, vice president of innovation and marketing, Process Automation, Schneider Electric, during the 2017 North America Foxboro User Group on Aug. 22-24 in Foxboro, Mass. "The function is control—using process and logic control to improve operational efficiency, energy efficiency, material efficiency and throughput.”
Martin explained that control can be extended beyond efficiency to safety and reliability. “It can empower workforces with profitability data for the assets it controls and assets beyond the control system,” he added. “Better control means we can push thresholds, which can impact safety, so we can use Triconex for real-time safety control. Pushing thresholds pushes reliability, so we can manage maintenance by monitoring reliability in real time and measure risk.”
Foxboro’s flagship process control system, now dubbed EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS, “leverages the entire Schneider Electric EcoStruxure portfolio—buildings, power, IT, machines, the electrical grid—along with the plant, with a tremendous portfolio for control, planning, scheduling and maintenance,” said Chris Lyden, Schneider Electric senior vice president, strategy and offers. “Foxboro DCS integrates it together. It's the profit engine.” Lyden spoke to 230 attendees from 15 countries at the user group event.
By controlling on the basis of efficiencies, throughput, safety and reliability risks, “We can put a control loop on profitability,” said Martin. “For anything we can do to make an asset perform better—change a setpoint, train an operator—we can measure the profitability. We can manually control profitability, and we’re 95% of the way to making it automatic.”
To help users show return on process control upgrades, Schneider Electric has a new patent application in process on “real-time profitability,” Martin reported. “If our client chooses to use the full capability, ours is the only DCS that will return 100% of the cost within a year.”
Martin added the ROI comes from improving productivity by 1-2%, and reducing energy and material by 3-5%. "That’s at least $24-28 million on a $4 million system for an ethylene plant, or $2-3 million on a $1.5 million system for a cement plant.”
A key feature is real-time calculation of cost savings in terms accepted by cost accountants. “Engineers always want to revise cost accounting and translate it into engineering terms,” Martin explained. “Rather than work around it, let’s look into it, model it, use external data—cost data—and do it in a way that’s auditable by the cost accountants. No translation needed. Control should be the best investment you can make. We need to show the accountants in their own terms.”
Apps + analytics = profitability
Historically, DCSs were limited to controlling the efficiency and safety of the process without measuring and controlling other operating variables in real time. EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS, which also marks the evolution of the Foxboro Evo control system, is designed to increase the business value that process controllers can generate by making real-time profitability more visible.
With patented, customizable real-time accounting (RTA) models built in, EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS lets users evaluate real-time financial performance of an industrial operation directly at the equipment asset level. This lets them see the impact their decisions and actions have on the profitability of the operations they control. Its RTA models can be manipulated and adapted to suit a variety of industrial operations across multiple segments, so a wide range of industries can reap more value from their systems.
“For the most part, by the time business managers receive their monthly updates from whatever enterprise resource planning systems they use, the information is no longer relevant to the operational business decisions they need to make, or should have made,” said Martin. “EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS breaks the mold because our RTA models help control value asset-to-asset, all the way up the enterprise. By aligning process control with the hierarchy of the plant, we can provide far more visibility into the financial performance of every plant asset and asset set. That allows plant personnel to understand the impact their decisions have on the business, and business leaders to understand the impact their decisions have in real time.”
EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS works in tandem with EcoStruxure Profit Advisor, Schneider Electric’s new software solution that applies the company’s RTA models to help the industrial workforce diagnose and analyze the profitability of processes throughout the plant. While EcoStruxure Profit Advisor connects to any process historian to mine both historical and real-time data, EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS takes the next step by building the algorithms into the process controllers themselves, extending real-time accounting capabilities to every point in the process.