The solution may come from an unexpected source. Automation suppliers are devoting more attention to integration of package units. In recommendation NE 148, Namur expresses its support for autonomous, decentralized controllers which have the capability to independently monitor internal flows. DIMA (Distributed Intelligence in Modular Systems) unveiled by Wago in 2014 is one of the first implementations of this recommendation. The module is based on a standardized, open, non-proprietary systems communication and interface architecture which supports integration of process flows in decentralized automation and package unit environments. Intelligent modules with on-board automation capability have the versatility needed for integration into, or disconnection from, a higher-level system.
Integration is Crucial
Once the integration issue is resolved, it will be possible to exploit the full potential of package units: short lead times, integrated designs and lower overall investment costs. Pre-assembly minimizes the time to install and connect the equipment on-site and also reduces downtime particularly when enhancements and extensions are made to the production line. The modules are produced at the supplier’s manufacturing plant, so conditions on site are generally not a major consideration. Regardless of whether the destination is a chemical plant or a windy off-shore drilling platform, the modules are assembled in a safe, clean, reliable production environment. Functional testing and a completeness check are performed prior to shipment. One-stop shopping also reduces the number of organizational interfaces, if not the number of process control system interfaces.
Stand-alone solutions are not the answer if the future objective is large-scale rollout of package units at chemical parks. The systems will have to operate as part of the network in a complex production environment. It may well be that automation solutions such as DIMA are the piece that is missing in the modular system toolkit. At any rate, there is still a big need for plug-and-play products.