29 January 2003
Siemens to extend manufacturing automation to process, again
Siemens Automation & Drives has set its sights firmly on the process industries again for 2003, and this time has high hope of better success. Brian Tinham reports
Siemens Automation & Drives has set its sights firmly on the process industries again for 2003, and this time has high hope of better success.
Siemens Process Automation (SPA, under the umbrella of Siemens Automation Solutions, SAS) is the new notional business unit for the sector. It’s the outcome of Siemens’ acquisition of hitherto independent distributed controls systems (DCSs) company Moore Products a couple of years ago and latterly also systems integrator Dickinson Controls.
It’s also the result of an integration and development programme spanning Siemens’ own PCS7 PLC-cum-DCS control systems and Moore’s APACS very modular DCS-cum-fault tolerant safety system, itself developed for the demanding oil, gas and pharma batch industries.
It’s not the first time that Siemens has attempted to extend its footprint beyond its dominant position in general manufacturing automation. Just three years ago, following the firm’s purchase of MES (manufacturing execution systems) company BBT, Siemens formed Aurega Integrated Manufacturing and declared itself on the threshold of that dream.
Siemens then seemed on the brink of taking generalised MES (linking and managing disparate plant departments with automation around scheduling, maintenance and so on) and process control right across Europe. But things in process take a long time – and in Siemens sometimes even longer.
And while there’s no doubting the firm’s considerable control pedigree, particularly through its utilities control systems – latterly on, for example, whole commercial combined heat and power (CHP) plants – control systems involved (like its Teleperm series) were dedicated and embedded. Similarly its entrenched business units.
Today’s move, however, looks different and altogether more focused and likely to succeed. Siemens has already acquired both Applied Automation for its on-line process gas analysers, and Milltronics for its fluid level sensors. So there’s much more of a big-league in instrumentation and control footing for SPA.
Beyond that, the firm’s PCS7 itself has a somewhat chequered, but increasingly respectable, heritage that stretches back more than a decade to Siemens’ purchase of Texas Instruments and its PM550 process-centric PLC with its APT software, improved and renamed by Siemens, PCS.
The then integration of its manufacturing automation PLC and analogue process control systems was trumpeted at instrumentation and control fairs in the mid ‘90s as the way to go for batch and hybrid process manufacturing plants involving the inevitable mix of analogue and discrete digitally-based manufacturing operations.
Adding the pure batch process control pedigree of Moore’s latest DCS iteration APACS, which itself, when launched, packed incredible punch for control system afficionados, means a system to challenge arch-rival Emerson’s market leading DeltaV control system. That came from the Fisher, Rosemount and Intellution stables – all Emerson acquisitions from years ago, and in Intellution’s case, a very recent divestiture to that other manufacturing automation arch-rival, GE Fanuc.
So there are two points. First, PCS7, now released at version 6, is a considerable step forward on version 5. Based on Siemens’ Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) architecture (as are all its systems now), involving a hierarchy of digital network standards from fast Ethernet at the ‘top’, to flavours of Profibus, ASI and Interbus at the plant level, it’s completely integrated with everything else from the Siemens stable.
It also now sports all APACS key functionality and, with TIA, thus supports what’s meant by most of ‘collaborative manufacturing business’ for process.
Which invites the question, what happens to APACS? To which the answer is, ‘it’s supported until 2016 for existing users, but new users will be gently pointed in the direction of PCS7v6’.
Returning to the key points – second, Siemens now has considerable engineering pool to throw at the process sector – both SAS and its Dickinson Controls engineering staff. Then add the Siemens European and indeed global footprint, and it’s not difficult to see the appeal for big process multi-nationals either building new, or extending and renewing existing plants.
It will be a long haul, but Siemens looks set to ramp up its currently low and argued market share in the process industries over the coming years.
Siemens Industry Ltd
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