February 23, 2010 by Ian Verhappen
I’ve recently returned from the ARC Forum, which took place Feb. 8 to 11 in Orlando, Fla., where about 500 industry pundits gathered to discuss the future of our industry and what trends are likely to have the biggest impact on the automation industry.
This was my first time at the event, and though the information exchanged was interesting, I did not find the majority of the presentations to be forward looking — there were exceptions, and they made the trip worthwhile, but most of the material consisted of how today’s technology was being used to solve typical plant challenges such as energy management, cyber security, lifecycle management, wireless and DCS migration, coincidentally all areas in which ARC conducts industry research reports. One of the benefits of this coincidence is that each session as started by a summary of ARC’s research by their analysts on that particular topic. In some cases, with four tracks running in parallel, it would have been nice to be in two places at once.
The press announcements were on Monday afternoon (Feb. 8) and early Tuesday morning (Feb. 9) before the full conference and sessions started. The common theme at this year’s event for all the press releases was ‘Energy Management’ and ‘Open Standards as a basis for Enterprise Integration’ mindful of the associated oversight and responsibility.
• Bentley Systems announced a pair of acquisitions to enable them to move more into the enterprise integration space
• Yokogawa promoted their entry into the Service Solutions business (no surprise as all their competitors are here and it is the largest revenue growth area for integrated automation equipment suppliers)
• Invensys released version 2.0 of their Infusion Enterprise Control System, a very interesting flexible object based architecture where for all intents and purposes anything can connect to anything and the system manages the potential associated exponential growth in connections. One thing that may be driving the need for all this connectivity with the enterprise is a recent SEC ruling that companies will now need to report ‘energy opportunities’ as part of their annual filing.
The conference started with a couple interesting presentations from U.S. Homeland Security and Proctor & Gamble. Interesting titbit from the P&G talk: “There is an inverse relationship between cost per use (i.e. how many we make per day) and the complexity of the machine required to make the product,” and Pampers machines were used as the example. The opening session was followed by a disappointing panel discussion — a low-impact way to start an event like this since the most vocal participants on the panel used the venue as a means to promote their company. I was not alone in leaving early.
Mike Anderson of DOW, during his presentation, shared that managing unplanned events typically provides a two-time return on investment.
There were several interesting items pulled from the in plant mobility session with the presentations by Boeing and Chevron. Steve Venema shared his work on Boeing’s ‘Virtual Enclave’ and how they connect a number of pieces of equipment on the same Layer 2 network. The key components of what makes this work have been incorporated into IETF RFC’s 5201 through 5207 as well as the Open HIP organisation. Chevron, who has been using roving interfaces for five-plus years now, has identified that it’s saving $3- to $5 million per year from their investment, predominantly in pump vibration data analysis. The two key ‘take-aways’ from Chevron’s Raj Patel and Eric Rearwin was:
1) “greater than 50 percent of refinery assets are not instrumented,’ and
2) “any data collected must be actionable; if you are not going to analyse what you collect, do not collect it.’
The most exciting presentations of the conference were saved for the end of the day Wednesday (Feb 10). Chevron’s Kevyn Renner’s presentation on RAVE (Real Asset Virtualization Environment) was captivating as he shared how Web 2.0 technologies can and are being used to bring people together virtually to analyse and solve problems by using the best people in the company to meet in the virtual world to discuss and solve problems. This was followed by a Dennis Inverso of Dupont sharing the methods that they use to save millions of dollars per year with their ‘Value Accelerator’ program. There are great tools here that are likely applicable to projects of any size.
The ARC Forum also often invites other groups to co-host their meeting with them to encourage the cross-fertilization of ideas between different components of the automation industry. One such group resulted in Thursday morning’s (Feb. 11) Performance Based Outsourcing Program where University of Tennessee faculty member Kate Vitasek shared the results of their study on outsourcing (also the launch of her new book the week before) on a method to obtain win-win outcomes in outsourcing. The basic ‘rules’ for vested outsourcing can be found at www.vestedoutsourcing.com/consulting/tools — and with all the outsourcing being done today, the results of this research are worth investigating.
Ian Verhappen, P.Eng., is an ISA Fellow, ISA Certified Automation Professional and a recognized authority on Foundation Fieldbus and industrial communications technologies. Feedback is always welcome via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.