Staying Tuned In to Innovation
When everything works out fine, all of this sounds easy. However to come up with new ideas, you have to think outside the box. In 2010, ABB invested around $1.33 billion in R&D. The company has developed a wireless temperature transmitter which does not rely on an external source of power. The very low amount of power needed can be generated from waste process heat. Other ideas have their origin in the oil & gas industry, for example totally integrated operations on oil platforms and in the control center on land. A completely different approach to on-screen process visualization for operators was developed during the course of a project for the paper industry. To make the ideas a reality, ABB has no hesitation about connecting the dots to other industries. Terwiesch mentioned some unconventional thought processes: “How do fighter pilots quickly gather and internalize information in the cockpit and how do games consoles display gestures on screen?”
Slow Takeup of Cutting–Edge Functionality
Despite promising developments, there is often a gap between the actual installed base and what is technically feasible. “Why does state-of-the-art functionality remain unused despite the fact that it is available?” wonders Dr. Thomas Tauchnitz who was recently elected to the Namur Executive Board. “And why are leading-edge control strategies made available but not implemented?” Advanced solutions systems developed by a number of process control system manufacturers in recent years are another example. Take up by the chemical industry remains marginal. In addition, these systems are often only deployed on existing production lines and then only after the efficiency gains have been demonstrated. “It would make more sense to consider these systems back in the engineering phase,” pointed out Dr. Olaf Kahrs from BASF.
To actually find out whether provision of these functions is worth the effort and investment on the part of manufacturers, Namur surveyed users, engineers, system integrators and manufacturers. The results revealed few surprises. “In general, users are very satisfied with current control systems,” reported Michael Krauß who presented the results. By and large, users understand the usefulness of many state-of-the-art functions such as Advanced Process Control, but they are not taking advantage of them. The same is true of other advanced functions.
In response, Namur recommends a portfolio segmentation strategy which focuses on service and functionality rather than on products and components. “This presupposes the existence of sufficient consultancy expertise as the core element in the product portfolio. It contributes to the success of the project by encouraging agreement between the manufacturers and users on the success factors and project requirements at an early stage,” said Krauß at the conclusion of his presentation.
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