Process Automation Roadmap Points Out New Features

July 24, 2008
Process Automation Roadmap Forum

Sometimes a roadmap is more like a river map or a nautical chart. 

Much like the materials they handle and the products they produce, process automation technologies are conceptually fluid and free-flowing as they’re continuously updated and improved.

Such was the case at the “Process Automation Roadmap Forum” that was presented this week at the Siemens Automation Summit 2008 in Chicago. The event was delivered by three members of Siemens E&A’s Process Automation business unit and marketing team, which both are based in Spring House, Pa.

Christoph Lehmann was among the Siemens marketers that took Automation Summit attendees on a wide-ranging tour of the company’s plans in process automation and safety.

Christoph Lehmann, senior product manager for process automation products, reported that the next version of Siemens’ SIMATIC PCS 7 software is currently under development. The next release will include a variety of features centered around the general areas of design and engineering, installation and commissioning, operational excellence, maintenance and migration.

Among the new functionality will be a new Forcing capability in the PCS 7 Continuous Function Chart (CFC) environment that will allow values to be pushed directly online when users are testing their CFC logic. “This will provide a productive test environment and further reduce commissioning time,” Lehmann said. “Users will be able to open detailed views, which can help during factory acceptance test (FAT) commissioning.”

In the installation and commissioning area, the next PCS 7 release will include several fieldbus-related innovations, such as Profibus PA redundancy and new intrisically safe active field distributors.
In addition, PCS 7’s new TeleControl feature will be a highly integrated solution that allows the software to be applied in far more widely distributed applications, such as pipelines. It includes time stamping and buffers data from an application’s remote terminal units (RTUs).

Meanwhile, in the operations excellence area, PCS 7 now features an enhanced graphics designer for software objects. It allows shadow effects, more color schemes, fill styles, transparent objects and other functions. Likewise, the software’s new trend-controlling feature permits continuous zooming and scrolling, a background grid and several improved Y-axes display capabilities. In addition, the software’s newly enhanced alarm visualization functions include a fully configurable status bar, alarm status and text ad icons, and unlimited alarms per alarm window. Finally, the software’s operations jurisdiction now contains an Advanced Process Library that’s been improved to meet U.S. requirements, and it includes ergonomic symbols and task-oriented faceplates, as well as uniform representation of state information and uniform operation nodes.

PCS 7’s maintenance-related capabilities will include a new PDM version, which will be web-enabled and operate through a maintenance server.

Charlie Fialkowski, Siemens' process safety product manager, added that, “Process safety also is a dynamic area, and lately we’ve had to adapt to standards too.” He reported that recent research by ARC Advisory Group indicates that the process safety field needs to better integrate with control systems, use cost-effective logic solvers for lower SIL-level applications, increase security against unauthorized users and allow more flexible programming.

In the area of engineering tools and HMI, Fialkowski reported that Siemens plans to follow last summer’s introduction of its F Systems Version 6.0 with a new Version 6.1. This next version will support PCS 7’s CFC Forcing functions, feature enhanced password protection and include override blocks and faceplates.

Likewise, Siemens plans to follow this year’s release of its new Engineering Tool Version 6.1, which had tighter integration with PCS 7 via more detailed messages, with Engineering Tool Version 6.2. This next version will have new filtering and viewing enhancements and will let users access diagnostic/status information via its faceplates.

Fialkowski added that the process safety division also released its OS Viewer Version 6.1 in December 2007. It presents alarms and events in PCS 7’s alarm log and provides enhanced access control. The company also launched its low-cost Safety Logic Solver 412 FH CPU in September 2007. More recently, in April 2008, the division also debuted its Safety I/O F-AI 6 HART module, which has half its former footprint, operates in an extended 0 mA to 20 mA analog range and costs 35% less than before.

Siemens also is planning to release a new F-DO I/O product for fire-and-gas applications. Fialkowski reported that the new I/O will offer faster reaction times, faster wire-break detection, energized trip diagnostics and engineering templates to reduce set-up time.

To further aid users, Fialkowski says he and his process safety colleagues published a fire-and-gas applications manual this past May, plan to put out a proof-test manual in December 2008 and also are working on a burner-management manual, though its publication date hasn’t been decided yet.

Finally, Stacey Jarlsberg, Siemens' senior product manager for APACS, reported that Siemens uses a long-term, step-by-step strategy to manage its process automation products for its users. This strategy includes:

  • Enabling PCS 7/APACS+ OS upgrades of ProcessSuite and APACS to PCS 7 without requiring users to shut down
  • Performing industrial Ethernet module upgrades from Siemens’ MNet to Ethernet, as well as providing peer-to-peer communications to PCS 7 controllers
  • Establishing a PCS 7/APACS+ ES Library by recreating the APACS and Basic Applications Library as a PCS 7 library
  • Setting up a DP/IO bus link for AS migration that allows upgrading of APACS+/QUADLOG controllers, while retaining users’ existing APACS/QUADLOG I/O modules.

“When users ask ‘Why should I upgrade to PCS 7/APACS+ OS,’ they must realize that they’re not making a DCS selection,” said Jarlsberg. “They’re making a business decision that will last for the next 10 to 15 years. That’s why we have a long-term strategy based on standard products.”