Here is an industrial automation announcement from the recent SPS IPC Drives trade fair held annually in Nuremberg, Germany. This one discusses a new open integration, some say interoperability, program based upon open standards.
This blog has now complete eight years—through three names and domains: Gary Mintchell’s Radio Weblog, Gary Mintchell’s Feed Forward, and now The Manufacturing Connection. Through these eight years one consistent theme is advocating for what I believe to be the user’s point of view—open integration.
Users have consistently (although unfortunately not always vocally) expressed the view that, while they love developing a strong partnership with preferred suppliers, they also want to be able to connect products from other suppliers as well as protect themselves by leaving an “out” in case of a problem with the current supplier.
The other position contains two points of view. Suppliers say that if they can control all the integration of parts, then they can provide a stronger and more consistent experience. Customers worry that locking themselves into one supplier will enable it to raise prices and that it will also leave them vulnerable to changes in the supplier’s business.
With that as an introduction, this announcement came my way via Endress+Hauser. That company is a strong measurement and instrumentation player as well as a valued partner of Rockwell Automation’s process business. The announcement concerns the “Open Integration Partner Program.”
I’m a little at a loss to describe exactly what this is—other than a “program.” It’s not an organization. Rather its appearance is that of a memorandum of cooperation.
The program promotes the cooperation between providers of industrial automation systems and fieldbus communication. To date, eight companies have joined the program:
AUMA Riester, HIMA Paul Hildebrandt, Honeywell Process Solutions, Mitsubishi Electric, Pepperl+Fuchs, Rockwell Automation, R. STAHL and Schneider Electric.
“By working closely with our partners, we want to make sure that a relevant selection of products can be easily combined and integrated for common target markets,” outlines Michael Ziesemer, Chief Operating Officer of Endress+Hauser. This is done by using open communication standards such as HART, PROFIBUS, FOUNDATION Fieldbus, EtherNet/IP or PROFINET and open integration standards such as FDT, EDD or FDI. Ziesemer continues: “We are open for more cooperation partners. Every market stakeholder who, like us, consistently relies on open standards is invited to join the Open Integration program.”
Reference topologies are the key
Cooperation starts with what are known as reference topologies, which are worked out jointly by the Open Integration partners. Each reference topology is tailored to the customers’ applications and the field communication technologies used in these applications. “To fill the program with life in terms of content, we are going to target specific customers who might be interested in joining us,” added Ziesemer.
Depending on industrial segment and market, the focus will be on typical requirements such as availability, redundancy or explosion protection, followed by the selection of system components and field instruments of practical relevance. This exact combination will then be tested and documented before it is published as a joint recommendation, giving customers concrete and successfully validated suggestions for automating their plant.
Ziesemer adds: “With this joint validation as part of the Open Integration, we go well beyond the established conformity and interoperability tests that we have carried out for many years with all relevant process control systems.”