Process Control Advanced Solutions for the Process Industry
The digitalization of the process industry is changing the requirements for process control systems. PROCESS Worldwide got in touch with three leading players to find out the latest market trends as well as the most recent innovations in this space.
Digitalization is here to stay and this is evident with the many industrial plants across the globe strategizing their digital transformation journey ahead. The numerous perks of this concept have led the process industry to upgrade itself to more efficient and advanced technologies. Siemens, one of the leading digitalization companies, is a pioneer in this field and is well aware of the challenges of digital transformation. Manuel Keldenich, Head of Marketing Process Control Systems and Software from Siemens shares, “The digitalization of industrial plants in the process industry is making it possible to optimize production processes, reduce costs and increase efficiency.”
But what does that mean regarding the further development of process control systems? Keldenich answers, “To prepare their plants for the future, operators must rely on a highly flexible process control system that provides global access to valuable data that can be analyzed to identify areas for improvement, as well as to monitor plant performance and detect potential anomalies before they become security problems. This helps to optimize production processes, reduce downtimes, and increases security.”
"The digitalization of process plants helps to bring information from every part of the plant to the control room", explains Roel Mulder, Director System Migration & Modernization from Emerson. "Modern distributed control systems are essential to remove the barriers that prevent access to this data. This allows plant operators to take advantage of the wealth of new information provided by intelligent sensors and multivariable transmitters that can be used to build better and more complex models for optimized control and greater throughput,” he added.
He further mentions that workforce performance and safety is another area that modern DCS have been designed to increase, supporting improvements in operator handling of upset conditions and minimizing operator errors that lead to unplanned downtime.
Trends in the market
Digital transformation is changing the automation pyramid too. International organizations like Namur and the Open Group are working on new architectures which allows more data interoperability and collaboration. “OPA (Open Process Automation) as well as NOA (Namur Open Architectures) are end user driven, pushing organizations and vendors to embrace shared architectures for a more open industry,” elaborates Domenico Napoli, Global Offer Manager – Ecostruxure Foxboro DCS, Schneider Electric. “Technologies that support the ambitions set by OPA and NOA need to be leveraged in order to meet the expectations of the users in the industrial automation space. For instance, one such technology is the shared automation software layer managed by UniversalAutomation.org.”
Speaking of technologies, process control systems supported by advanced process control (APC) play a vital role in this scenario. “APC is indeed something that industrial companies would leverage in addition to an automation system to improve performance of their processes and overall systems,” says Napoli. “It is becoming more and more important for industrial plants to adopt these systems for overall operation optimization. Process intensive companies should consider using industrial software tools and working with industry experts in various market segments to provide application-specific APC to their process.”
Implementing Industry 4.0 and IoT (Internet of Things)-applications is driving the development of process control systems too. Focusing on this, Keldenich explains, “Industry 4.0 is the trend of automation and data exchange in industries, while the IoT refers to the interconnected network of physical devices and other items embedded with electronics, software, and sensors. Both are increasingly being integrated into process control systems to provide greater efficiency, better data management and analysis, and improved decision-making capabilities.”
Taking this point ahead, Mulder shares that autonomous operations are a big trend in the industry and that autonomous control systems such as software tools are used to optimize processes and also reduce dependence on physical operators. “Software tools using model-based engineering, machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI) perform `intelligent’ decision making and enable self-governance. These solutions will allow you to adapt to multiple and changing optimization goals, fine tune processes for greater efficiency and reduce downtime through autonomous calibration and optimization,” explains Mulder.
He continues that cloud computing is another continuing trend, with end users looking for cloud hosted solutions that eliminate the need to deploy and manage on-premises installations. This enables users to transfer the burden of managing servers, software, system security, updates, and requisite IT support to controls system vendors while ensuring software application and databases are available when needed.
Latest solutions in the technology zone
Schneider Electric’s Ecostruxure Automation Expert is a software centric industrial automation software with IE61499 at its core. It takes an event-driven, decentralized, and open approach to automation engineering, decoupling hardware and software to make an industrial system agile, simple and future proof. With this software-centric solution and leveraging shared, common technology (like from UniversalAutomation.org), there are more options available to implement advanced process control as part of industrial control systems. The firm is also working on Edge Control and Compute devices that will allow it to have both control (SoftdPAC) and compute (APC, AI, ML, Data Analytics) directly in the same device.
Siemens’ latest process control system is Simatic PCS neo V4.0. As the world's first and only system that is fully based on web-technologies with object-oriented data management, the process control system enables location-independent, global teamwork. In version 4.0, it supports all parts of the MTP standard (Module Type Package) up to now. Plant modules can thus be integrated even more easily into the process control system and can be described, configured, and automated independently of the manufacturer. The V4.0 also marks the launch of a new sustainable and future-ready controller generation Simatic S7-4100 – first exclusively for Simatic PCS neo.
Emerson has also recently released version 15 of its DeltaV distributed control system, which has been designed to help plants digitally transform operations through improved production optimization and enhanced operator performance. It supports a hyperconverged infrastructure virtualization option that can reduce deployment time by half and is easy to scale and maintain. Aimed at the life sciences industry, DeltaV Spectral Process Analytical Technology (PAT) integrates analytics solutions for real-time closed-loop control. This helps to increase speed to market of quality therapies by moving plants closer to continuous manufacturing of drugs. The innovation also features a modern HTLM5-based HMI that empower operators with easy access to insights for more efficient decisions.
Apart from these, there are many other solutions available in the market that aim to transform the process industry but after gaining these insights, we are certain that this might just be the beginning of a revolutionary change for the process control segment.