21 April 2006
Revolution in plant-to-business IT leads step change in business performance
A unified real-time control, information and application environment across virtually all process plant and enterprise systems: that’s how Invensys describes its InFusion, which, it says, has been years in development and will dramatically reduce overall IT costs. Brian Tinham reports
A unified real-time control, information and application environment across virtually all process plant and enterprise systems: that’s how Invensys describes its InFusion, which, it says, has been years in development and will dramatically reduce overall IT costs.
Also dubbed ‘the world’s first enterprise control system’, it goes way beyond plant and industrial operations automation and management to provide business-wide connectivity. We’re looking at a combination of Invensys technologies with IT from Microsoft and SAP for business integration.
Invensys insists that with InFusion, “most existing plant floor and enterprise systems can now be cost-effectively integrated into a common system. It’s one helluva claim but it means that process manufacturers in particular really can now align their plant operations and maintenance departments across multiple sites with the business and supply chain to optimise overall productivity through asset performance management.
“The InFusion enterprise control system is as revolutionary as our ground-breaking Foxboro I/A Series automation system and Wonderware InTouch HMI software were when first introduced,” says Mike Caliel, president of Invensys Process Systems. “By dramatically reducing both plant and enterprise integration costs, InFusion will help our customers finally break down stubborn technical and organisational barriers, while preserving and extending their equity in existing automation assets.”
In fact, there are more than 60 issued and pending patents, and the system does offer capabilities not previously available from any single automation or information system.
Examples include: the unprecedented integration across virtually all existing DCSs (distributed control systems), PLCs (programmable controllers), subsystems, and intelligent field devices, regardless of vendor or protocol; and interoperability between plant floor, MES (manufacturing execution system), and enterprise systems.
But importantly, there’s also a unified engineering and support environment for plant floor and MES systems with an application object model that simplifies both creation and re-use of equipment, unit, and plant strategies. That alone has the potential to hugely improve engineering productivity.
Then with the real-time business integration into the Microsoft and ERP environments – an ultra long term goal of standards bodies like ISA S95 – visibility into both the plant and the business, with a unified view across operations and maintenance departments, certainly has the potential to get plant and business working much closer together.
Invensys has worked with Microsoft, SAP and others on this, and it’s founded on a platform-independent, web services-based architecture. Key technologies and standards include Microsoft .Net and BizTalk Server 2004, SAP NetWeaver, ISA S95 for manufacturing-to-enterprise integration, MIMOSA for maintenance-to-enterprise integration, and OPC for real-time connectivity.
InFusion also represents the first major implementation of Open O&M (operations and maintenance), the industry-standard convergence of OPC, ISA S95, and MIMOSA. The approach gets away from costly and complicated point-to-point solutions, and should help to ensure that the right information is delivered to the right people, at the right time, and in the right context.
Initially, InFusion unifies Foxboro’s process control systems with Wonderware’s HMI, plant intelligence, and device integration systems into a single Archestra (Microsoft .Net-based industrialised software architecture) system.
It also integrates: Triconex TMR (triple modular redundant) safety, emergency and critical control computing systems; Foxboro’s RTUs (remote terminal units) and intelligent SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) applications; SimSci-Esscor advanced control, simulation, and process optimisation systems; Avantis real-time condition monitoring and asset management systems; and Foxboro intelligent process instrumentation and advanced auto-diagnostics tools.
Key innovations include the InFusion Collaboration Wall, which provides plant operators, maintenance technicians, engineers and managers with a shared view of process control, maintenance, performance and business application displays: there’s the potential for serious collaboration for you.
How quickly that, or indeed the rest of Invensys’ bold move will catch on, however, is uncertain. There will be considerable company culture hurdles to overcome, and Invensys accepts that moving up to this level of technology on existing plants will not be without its cost implications – although it insists the ROI is indisputable.
Most likely, the bigger process manufacturers in, for example, oil and gas, will first pilot the technologies and concepts – building on the testing that will already be underway at favoured client sites. So expect the approach to take years to roll out there.
However, across the broad swathe of process-orientated manufacturing, adoption could be quicker. As Greg Gorbach, vice president of collaborative manufacturing research at analyst ARC, says: “Maximising the performance of your manufacturing assets requires a two-pronged strategy: utilise real-time information from every area and plant to inform people and your business systems; and provide a dynamic feedback mechanism to allow you to swiftly respond to changes to optimise business performance throughout the enterprise.”
The fact that this system is designed to work with existing enterprise and plant systems makes such closed loop control for end-to-end business processes easier to attain – and the attraction should be clear.
It can’t be long before other big players and competitors – like Emerson, Honeywell and Siemens – launch similar offerings.
Invensys Systems (UK) Ltd
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