Process Solutions Evolving

Did Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) short-circuit the Open Process Automation work? Inquiring minds wonder. Once again, some news and analysis of a conference that I couldn’t attend—three of these the same week in June.

HPS and ExxonMobil sent this release. Subsequently, I talked with some sources at competitor companies who broached the question to me—did this news short-circuit the ExxonMobil-led effort for a new process control solution? An interesting caveat is that there is more than one group within ExxonMobil—and they don’t necessarily agree.

From the first release:

The Open Process Automation group was initiated by ExxonMobil who was trying to find a better (less expensive) upgrade path for its control systems that had fallen behind that of its competitors. The oil & gas supermajor still has in operation a significant number of older systems installed as far back as the 1980s—systems that have served the company well for more than 30 years, but as older electronic components have been replaced by more modern alternatives, spare-parts shortages and looming obsolescence put ExxonMobil and other owner operators in a difficult place.

When facing obsolescence, rip-and-replace is clearly the option of last resort—incurring high costs, protracted downtime and the loss of all the intellectual property invested in developing a system’s displays, databases, control strategies and third-party interfaces, according to David Patin, distinguished engineering associate – control systems, ExxonMobil Research & Engineering.

The company’s installed base of Honeywell TDC 3000 systems, in particular, looked to be facing a critical shortage of spare parts in the year 2025, Patin explained. “So in 2011 we met with Honeywell regarding the future of TDC 3000,” Patin began, addressing a plenary session of the Honeywell Users Group Americas 2018 conference this week in San Antonio.

Challenge issued

Unwilling to settle for rip-and-replace, “We challenged Honeywell to develop and prove a method to migrate TDC forward,” Patin said. The two companies established a joint task team to investigate the problem.

ExxonMobil’s wish list of deliverables included avoiding wholesale system replacement (especially the I/O); preserving the company’s intellectual property investment; allowing for on-process migration of system components (meaning without shutting down the process); enabling new capabilities not currently possible with TDC; and unifying TDC with Honeywell’s current state-of-the-art Experion platform.

This last item encapsulated a desire for a solution that would “be usable by a younger workforce, yet stand the test of time,” Patin said. “I picture a third-grader who’s also a future TDC engineer,” he said. “They just don’t know it yet.”
Also implicit in ExxonMobil’s requirements were continued “rock solid” reliability and security, Patin added.

Solution identified

Since the technical obstacles to bringing TDC forward hinged on hardware obsolescence, notably controller microprocessors and communications chips that would no longer be available, the team settled on an emulation approach that would effectively abstract TDC system functionality from the specifics of the older hardware.

And in February 2018, seven years after that first meeting of the minds—and two years ahead of schedule—Honeywell answered ExxonMobil’s challenge with the release of Experion LCN R501.1. The Experion LCN, or ELCN, effectively emulates the TDC system as software. “It’s 100% binary compatible and interoperable with the old system,” Patin explained. “Current TDC code runs unmodified in this virtual environment, greatly reducing the technical risks. Intellectual property such as application code, databases and displays are preserved.”

In the end, the Experion Station, Server, ACE and APP nodes can take the shape of Windows-based “physical” applications or virtual machines. Application Modules, Network Gateway and Network Interface Module functionality is redeployed on Universal Embedded Appliances or as virtual appliances. Only the Enhanced PLC Gateway cannot be readily virtualized because the emulation of serial network connectivity is not well behaved, Patin explained. “This means you can build an almost 100% virtualized or 100% physical system—or somewhere in between.”

With the new solution, LCN and UCN messages are now encapsulated in standard Internet Protocol. “All the old networks now exist as logical constructs on Fault Tolerant Ethernet,” Patin said. “We’re no longer locked into proprietary networks.”
And to address the challenge of on-process migration, Honeywell has also introduced several bridge devices that effectively facilitate the virtualization of TDC system node functionality—without the need to interrupt the process under control.

Benefits achieved

Virtualization of the TDC environment has come with some added benefits, including the ability to use Honeywell’s cloud-based Open Virtual Engineering Platform to engineer TDC solutions; lower cost, smaller footprint training simulators; peer-to-peer integration of virtualized HPM controller nodes with current-generation C300/ACE nodes; support for OneWireless (ISA 100 and WirelessHART) connectivity; and integration with ControlEdge and Unit
Operations Controllers.

“It’ll be a game-changer,” said Patin. “We don’t know all that’s possible as yet.”
Other benefits include a drastic reduction—or elimination—of spare parts, as well as reductions in cabinet space requirements. “We’ve gone from two nodes to six in a single cabinet,” Patin said. “We’ve not fully realized unification with Experion, but that process has begun.”

Overall, Patin gave high marks to the Honeywell team for its response to ExxonMobil’s needs. “The challenge was met, and expectations exceeded,” he said. “The need to replace an entire system is eliminated, future component issues are virtually eliminated (pun intended), intellectual property is preserved and on
process migration is supported.

“ELCN technology essentially resets the odometer on your TDC 3000 investment,” Patin added. “It’s the best example of Honeywell’s commitment to continuous evolution that I’ve ever seen. And if it were a final exam, I’d give Honeywell an A on this one.”

<End of release>

Safety Manager

HPS also announced Safety Manager SC, the next generation of its flagship Safety Manager platform. Its modular, scalable design enables it to function as a single platform for all enterprise safety applications, allowing customers – who are often using four or five different safety systems – to consolidate and reduce their training and engineering costs, and spare parts inventories.

Safety Manager SC incorporates a new Series C-based controller and Honeywell technologies such as LEAP, Universal Safety IO, offline simulation and Experion integration, which collectively simplify safety system engineering, development and testing.

“Our customers increasingly want integrated safety and control solutions and the simplicity of partnering with one supplier for all their needs,” said Tim LeFevre, global customer marketing manager for safety systems, HPS. “We deliver exactly that by combining unrivaled expertise in distributed control systems (DCS) and safety systems with deep integration know-how. Honeywell is one of the few vendors that can support the full safety lifecycle.”


The ability of Honeywell Connected Plant’s offerings to deliver higher levels of safety, reliability, efficiency and profitability will continue to be the primary discussion point at the 43rdHoneywell Users Group (HUG) Americas symposium. More than 1,300 delegates from across the oil and gas, chemical, pulp and paper, and metals and mining sectors are attending the event, which features numerous displays of the newest technologies along with dozens of Honeywell- and customer-led sessions and technical discussions.

Throughout the conference, Honeywell will showcase how turning data into actionable insight requires more than just upgrading technology; it requires a system for capturing, retaining and sharing knowledge that allows both the plant and its workers to perform at their best every day.

“Digital transformation has to be about more than just moving data into the cloud,” said John Rudolph, president of Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS). “It ultimately has to be about the outcomes, including driving increased productivity and savings for our customers while allowing them to increase knowledge capture, knowledge sharing and knowledge retention among their employees.”

Rudolph was named president of HPS on May 31, 2018, succeeding Vimal Kapur, who was named president and CEO of Honeywell Building Technologies. Rudolph led the Projects and Automation Solutions, and Lifecycle Solutions and Services businesses for HPS over the past six years, driving significant growth. Rudolph also has held leadership roles with TAS Energy, General Electric and Ingersoll Rand.

Here is a revealing comment from the press release about HPS’s strategy and direction—something we’ve all been wondering about. “HUG attendees will be able to see and experience the Company’s ongoing transformation into a software-industrial provider.”

Announcements in brief:

  • Thermal IQ – Enables maintenance engineers and plant managers to more effectively monitor and manage their thermal process equipment, minimizing unplanned downtime and maximizing uptime.
  • Uniformance Cloud Historian – This software-as-a-service cloud hosting solution for enterprise-wide data capture, visualization and analysis helps customers improve asset availability, optimize processes and increase plant uptime.
  • Asset Performance Management – Integrates asset and process data for actionable insights to improve asset performance and plant profitability.
  • Immersive Competency – This cloud-based simulation offering uses a combination of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to train plant personnel on critical industrial work activities, empowering them to directly improve plant performance, uptime, reliability and safety.
  • Personal Gas Safety – This solution integrates with Honeywell’s leading plant control system to protect workers and speed emergency response in case of hazardous leaks or worker injury.
  • Intelligent Wearables – This hands-free, wearable technology allows industrial workers to more safely, reliably and efficiently accomplish their tasks in the plant or the field. It uses a head-mounted visual display that responds to voice and brings live data, documents, work procedures, as well as health and safety information into view and can connect field workers with remote experts in real time.
  • Experion Batch – Combines Experion distributed control, batch automation, and new visualization technology for improved efficiency, quality and throughput.
  • Measurement IQ for Gas – Provides measurement under control by transforming metering operations with 24/7 real-time condition-based monitoring.
New Directions, Renewed Energy Pervade Schneider Electric Connect 2016

New Directions, Renewed Energy Pervade Schneider Electric Connect 2016

ExxonMobil VasserThe 2016 edition of Schneider Electric’s Foxboro/Triconex/Modicon user group meeting attracted a fair number of people. This is amazing given that advanced notice wasn’t very advanced.

It’s always great catching up with some of the industry’s thought leaders, as well as getting a glimpse of new and coming products. Among the themes that came across strongly included “security by design” and focus on customer’s assets not just control and automation.

The acquisition has turned out pretty much as I thought it would. Schneider Electric has brought financial stability and investment in research and development. Organization stability is getting there, but people are still moving around a little. The only surprise I had was Schneider’s view of software. I figured that since Schneider Electric had very little history with software that it might shop the division. In fact, the Aveva reverse acquisition (or whatever) seemed to prove the point. Yet, hallway conversations universally pointed to a different reality. Schneider senior management sees great possibility for its new software assets. Since one of its competitors just renamed its upcoming event by removing the word “software”, I find this a significant competitive move.

Different Project Ideas

In an interesting twist, the opening keynote was given by a customer—Sandy Vasser of ExxonMobil. Vasser had presented his vision at the ARC Forum in Orlando in February, so I had an idea what was coming—a challenge to Schneider Electric, and indeed all suppliers. The oil & gas industry faces many challenges and it is time to think differently about traditional automation practices and technologies. The key is lowering the cost of projects and time to first oil.

ExxonMobil Universal IO

A new approach is required:

Reduce customization

  • push customization to the software, use standard hardware
  • eliminate the need for project specifications
  • eliminate the need for the infrstructure to support customized solutions

Reduce complexity simplify designs

  • reduce the component count and the number of divergent systems
  • take full advantage of the capability of the installed systems
  • reduce the number and simplify interfaces

Eliminate simplify or automate processes

Mitigate the effects of dependencies

Reduce the amount of automatically generate documentation

Take managed risks accept some compromises

Develop and enable trust with our suppliers and our contractors

Key enablers:

  • Smart configurable I/O in standard field junction boxes
  • Virtualization (runtime and engineering) completely separate hardware so can test software without hardware
  • Customization pushed from hardware to software
  • Autodetect/Autointerrogate/Autoconfigure/Autoenable/Autodocument I/O

New challenges for our key suppliers

  • control systems age in place
  • system architectures made simple
  • systems consist of building blocks that can be easily upgraded to current technologies
  • upgrades or repairs will not be intrusive, disruptive, or unnecessarily costly
  • rip and replace will never be necessary
  • control system selection for a facility will be for life; fully supported and sustained

We have heard Vasser’s challenge before. But this reinforcement shows how serious ExxonMobil is about moving project planning and implementation to a new level. Faster time to start up and greatly reduced cost. The challenge for suppliers such as Schneider Electric is to bring what the customer wants and still make money. If the customer drives the supplier to a point where profits are just not there, then innovation will cease. But a good challenge from a supplier can spur innovation. We’ll see.

A New Distributed Control System?

A New Distributed Control System?

The undercurrent talk of the ARC Advisory Group Industry Forum this week in Orlando was how ARC’s Andy Chatha promoted the ExxonMobil/Lockheed Martin initiative to develop a new type of distributed control system.

I have to dash this initial thought off since I have about 20 minutes to get to my plane home. My week has been non-stop meetings from 7 am until at least 11 pm all week. This morning was a bit of a breather. Lots of stuff going on.

However, the ExxonMobil initiative provoked much discussion, rumors, speculation, whatever.

Part of the problem is that the program has just been announced and therefore is not defined.

The basic problem seems to be that Exxon is operating with very old DCS technology and has a great need to upgrade. But “ripping and replacing” would be very expensive. From conversations that I can report without naming names, I gather that they are looking for a software-defined distributed control residing above the current hardware control layer. The further wish is that the hardware layer would include parts interchangeable from supplier to supplier.

It hopes that this would be an industry-wide consortium that would drive standards for the software and the hardware. It has requested cooperation from technology suppliers as well as its peers in the oil & gas industry.

There are pieces of this that look very interesting. And, of course pieces that stand probably the proverbial snowball’s chance.

“Software defined” is of course developing in several industries (think Ethernet switches?).

My experience is that this sort of industry-wide standards development takes so much time that the technology it envisions is obsolete.

I’ll have more later after giving the idea more thought.

Meanwhile, I have announcements from Inductive Automation, Honeywell, Bentley Systems, Yokogawa, ABB, Bedrock Automation, and more coming tomorrow when I get a chance to think and write.

A New Distributed Control System?

Connected Manufacturing Enterprise Still Key For Rockwell

Rockwell Automation kicked off its big week at Chicago’s McCormick Place on Nov. 16 welcoming over 900 attendees to its annual Process Systems Users Group (PSUG) conference. Its speakers left no doubt that the Connected Manufacturing Enterprise is still the core strategy.

The significant point is probably less the message than the fact that Rockwell has attracted that many people to Chicago at a time when many companies–especially in the oil & gas sector–are not sending people to conferences and that Rockwell itself is a relatively new player in process.

John Genovesi, VP Information Software and Process Business, gave the Rockwell “Connected Enterprise” talk for his keynote.

The point of the Connected Enterprise lies in leveraging today’s technology to connect people closer to process to drive more efficient business. We can now get into data in your control system–driving IT/OT convergence driving productivity improvement.

Benefits of the Connected Enterprise include decreased time to market, lower total cost of ownership, improved asset utilization, enterprise risk management.

Rockwell’s three strategies to achieve this include integrated architecture; intelligent motor control (Ethernet connection), solutions & services.

Genovesi continued on to argue for customers to consider taking a “modern DCS approach”–Rockwell’s of course. The modern approach includes:

  • Flexible architecture
  • Contemporary infrastructure
  • Robust security
  • Productive workforce

Rockwell Automation has espoused Connected Manufacturing Enterprise as a consistent strategy and focus for years. It is obviously working for the company as it has continued to grow–especially in the process business.

A New Distributed Control System?

Remove Automation From The Project Critical Path

Sonnenberg Nyquist EmrEx 2015Is it possible to remove automation from the critical path of a large process industry project? Not only that, but use automation to shorten the other paths of the project?

That is the goal of the latest thinking from Emerson Process Management–especially the Systems and Solutions business.

I have been at the 2015 edition of the Emerson Global Users Exchange in Denver this week. I have many details to share. I’ll get those on the plane going home this afternoon.

Before I talk about “Project Certainty”, a few thoughts on the conference.

Everyone knows how the oil & gas industry has been hit by falling oil prices (thank you shale and Saudi Arabia). The impact was first apparent in conference in our part of the industry when travel was cut and attendance at the ARC Advisory Group conference dropped. Same here. While this is still a large conference, the impact of travel budget cuts was obvious.

There were lots of sessions and around 2,500 people around, but in a more normal year there probably would have been maybe a thousand more.

But Emerson still unveiled lots of new products and initiatives.

The photo captures Emerson EVP and Emerson Process President Steve Sonnenberg and Emerson Process Systems and Solutions business President Jim Nyquist introducing Project Certainty.

What Emerson has done has been to look at all the technologies introduced and deployed over the past ten years or so and apply to the bigger picture. They have put forth an answer to how can wireless products, electronic marshaling, the CHARMS configurable I/O, and many more help companies shorten the project path if project planners use the ideas from the beginning of planning and design of a project.

The example is SASOL who is building what is in effect eight plants in Louisiana using these ideas and already showing returns.

I’ll have more on this in my next post. But this reveals some solid thinking about customers and needs by the Emerson team.