Namur Main Meeting 2021 Process Automation: Now ‘More Important than Ever’

From Sabine Mühlenkamp / Ahlam Rais

Leaders from the process automation industry came together at the recently organized Namur meeting which was once again held as a virtual event this year. MTP, NOA, APL, and robots were the core topics discussed at the meeting. PROCESS has summarized the exciting two-day event.

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New look: Chairman Dr Felix Hanisch proudly shows off the new Namur logo at the 2021 virtual main meeting. For the first time, the interest group also has its own slogan: “Turn Expertise into Excellence!”
New look: Chairman Dr Felix Hanisch proudly shows off the new Namur logo at the 2021 virtual main meeting. For the first time, the interest group also has its own slogan: “Turn Expertise into Excellence!”
(Source: Screenshot Namur main meeting 2021)

“Namur is a network of people whose role is more important than ever,” with these words Namur Chairman Dr. Felix Hanisch from Bayer welcomed the approximately 290 participants at this year's Namur main meeting in front of their screens. In view of the increasing corona numbers, the organizers were glad that they had already decided on the virtual version of the conference in spring. There will continue to be a mix of in-person and virtual meetings in the future. “In addition to representing interests, Namur is a pool of know-how, which can no longer be achieved by individual companies. Technologically, the tasks of the process automation company have also become less, as numerous examples have shown. Above all, the promotion of young talent is a hot topic for us,” Hanisch emphasized in his opening speech.

Enriching data with semantics

The current automation pyramids work great in themselves, but they are too inflexible for new applications. If you want to use additional data in addition to basic automation, i.e. regulation, control and status monitoring, in order to improve the performance or the value of the systems, machines, components and devices, users reach their limits. Access via the PLC or the control system is no longer sufficient for this world.

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Even a PDF is no better than a piece of paper.

Dr. Andreas Schüller, Yncoris

Finding access to this information is complex, given the various strands of information in member companies, both vertical and horizontal. “In addition, there are many processes that run alongside, such as maintenance or engineering. But there is also a need to integrate data from different partners, such as suppliers and contractors,” says Dr. Andreas Schüller from Yncoris, describing the current world where everyone needs information but despairs in the face of interface diversity. "As a rule, a lot of data is shoveled back and forth, usually in the form of Excel spreadsheets and a lot of errors occur. Even a PDF is no better than a piece of paper."

The call for machine-readable information is therefore growing louder. Information models have the advantage that you can enrich data with semantics. However, given the variety and quantity of devices in the field, making data access and configuration user-friendly is anything but easy.

“We need a structured asset life cycle model, in other words, a digital twin in the process industry. This is not just about engineering, but also about accompanying an asset throughout its life,” says Schüller, citing an example and pointing out that automation companies are not alone. One successful example is the DEXPI (Data Exchange for the Process Industry) model. It was simply a matter of converting P&I drawings into a standardized digital format and standardizing them internationally in the early days. This was expanded step by step. Today, it is possible to transfer data from the CAE system to the SAP system at the push of a button.

The management shell is another critical tool in the direction of standardization, as a meta-model is defined here. However, this is not enough, as the various sub-models must also be standardized. In order to cope with this plethora of tasks, Schüller advocates getting to grips with information models as quickly as possible.

With automation to more sustainability

Energy efficiency, reduction of CO2 emissions, and resource efficiency are naturally on the agenda for the process industry. But this is not easy for the industry, as classic strategies such as switching off consumers, switching to green energies, or switching to other processes cannot be implemented at all or only at considerable expense.

Nevertheless, for example, Bayer wants to reduce CO2 emissions (its own sites and purchased energy) by 42 percent by 2030, and the remaining emissions are to be offset. Using two examples, Felix Buss from Bayer, outlined the way forward. The first step is defining targets and then initiating a step-by-step optimization process. These measures result in requirements for digitalization and automation, which were explicitly presented for the process industry.

We have to change and use automation as an enabler.

Stefan Krämer, Bayer

“It’s not an easy area for innovation, but it’s a rewarding one,” says Felix Buss. The framework conditions are challenging because of long plant lifetimes and high availability requirements. “We have to change and use automation as an enabler,” says his Bayer colleague Stefan Krämer with conviction. One approach: information models can be used to optimize processes with the help of KPIs, and the same applies to APL, NOA, MTP, and management shells. “Here, 100 percent of the data could be used for process optimization in terms of energy efficiency or monitoring and optimization,” says Krämer. After all, all the necessary concepts and automation methods are available and described. “We just have to use them!” Krämer affirms.

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