01 May 2003

Automation solutions loom on horizon

Industry mavens offer sneak peak.

By Ellen Fussell

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule on electronic records and electronic signatures-21CFR11-has been in effect since 1997. Since then, industries have experimented with a number of ways to comply, from doing nothing (and waiting for the FDA warning letters to see how they expect the rule to be observed) to floundering with extensive and expensive solutions with advanced access control, audit trails on every piece of data, and elaborate systems. Some just avoid the issue altogether, using simplified technology and avoiding any kind of data storage in the systems.

In his submitted abstract to ISA's EXPO 2003, Morten Kristensen of Novo Nordisk Engineering A/S Automation advocates thoroughly analyzing the business and production processes to define an automation strategy for using state-of-the-art technology to automate key processes and reduce manual paperwork. Companies will only be able to fully comply with 21CFR11 by using the most compliant software on the market, without going overboard in specially programmed solutions that are costly to develop, validate, and maintain.

The Houston Reliant Center will open its doors to ISA show attendees 21-23 October to reveal, through more papers, presentations, and plenary sessions, a wider glimpse into the new world of automation and control. This brand new facility will host four specialty pavilions-sensors, industrial computing, Bluetooth, and industrial IT.

This year's three-day event will also cover topics on safety, NOx, Linux, Microsoft .Net, lifecycle, and OPC to name a few. Among the 57 papers submitted for approval to date, subjects include Web services, wireless, Ethernet, fieldbus, optimization, maintenance, and food and beverage compliance issues such as 21CFR11.

The following are brief excerpts of more papers submitted for the show:


Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) deployment can effectively use OPC, provided the driver's SCADA engine properly handles the unique SCADA communication requirements, said Randy Kondor of Matrikon in his abstract. Traditionally, SCADA deployment has always used proprietary software applications and drivers to enable control centers to effectively manage the large amount of collected data. With the advent of OPC, integrators tried to apply industrial standards to SCADA-based implementations. To boost success of these attempts and avoid huge cost overruns, integrators need to differentiate between plant-based OPC mentality and SCADA applications.

"Although OPC makes it possible to handle the specific issues posed by SCADA operations, the actual feature implementation is left up to the software developers, so it naturally follows that OPC SCADA servers are not created equal," Kondor wrote. "Sophisticated buyers will research their requirements, and ask for them explicitly. Unfortunately, OPC servers that work well in a plant environment do not necessarily work well in SCADA applications."


In his abstract, James Cobb of Emerson Process Management talked about process monitoring with fieldbus in existing plant environments. Fieldbus technology and transmitters work effectively in existing facilities, while legacy control systems might not make the cut when it comes to upgrades with fieldbus. They can access fieldbus devices using intermediary devices, providing access to multivariable instruments, device diagnostics, and device performance calculations. Cobb said that an operating plant with a young control system "doesn't have to be left behind in the transition of intelligent field devices to fieldbus technology."

Applications that manufacturers consider today can jump on board the new generation of fieldbus instruments. "Temperature applications provide a unique opportunity to leverage this technology as older multiplexing systems need to be replaced," he said. facilities can gain valuable experience with fieldbus technology and lay the groundwork for a future transition to an all-fieldbus plant."

"What tools will I need to maintain a Foundation fieldbus network?" That's the question Alan Dewey of Emerson Process Management asked in his abstract. The right tools can make any implementation easier. "As fieldbus devices become more powerful, the tools to maintain fieldbus networks need to keep up," Dewey said. "Segment de-sign tools can help the engineer design the network topology in the optimum manner. Simple analog and digital test tools can help the engineer verify the suitability of the fieldbus wiring. Configuration tools available on fieldbus host systems can help the user totally configure not only the devices themselves, but also a control strategy to run in the devices." Portable test tools can help the user maintain and troubleshoot foundation fieldbus devices in the field and on the bench, he said.


"The industry has to change to fulfill the changing requirements of the consumers and the governmental rules," wrote Eelco van der Wal of PLCopen in his abstract about changing the landscape of industrial control. Combining new technologies with existing ones is one way to solve issues, especially with consumer-oriented suppliers such as the food and beverage or pharmaceutical sectors. These industries "transfer their requirements to their machine suppliers, who in turn transfer them to their control suppliers," he wrote. The application software is crucial, but needs standardization.

The motion control landscape is dotted with incompatible systems and solutions, he said. And it costs money to have different levels of motion control in one machine or factory. Standardization within the programming environment can reduce costs. "At this level the application knowledge is converted into programs," he said. "Standardization here means not only the programming languages themselves . . . but the interface toward different motion control solutions. In this way, the programming is less hardware dependent, the reusability of the application software increased, and the costs involved in training and support reduced."


Beginning in the 1950s, our nation's environmental agencies sought ways to improve the quality of our air. Gas-guzzling automobiles and factories belching tons of pollutants daily were the first targets in the environmental wars of the 1950s, said Larry Day of Nationwide Boiler, Inc. But as our population continues to expand and we use greater amounts of fossil fuels, we are targeting other sources of air pollution. Emissions monitoring is the fad now-"where once boiler emissions went unregulated," producing front-end and back-end techniques for practical and economically viable alternatives. "Several of these methods have matured well past the research and development stages and are proven in numerous installations through the country," he said. "Installation costs are a factor, but often improved operating efficiency provides an acceptable return on investment."


In an abstract on layers of protection analysis, Scott Sandler of SIS-Tech Solutions gives a play-by-play on determining the safety integrity level (SIL) in a risk assessment. He said the process industry "is obligated to provide and maintain a safe working environment for their employees, which happens through design and safeguards, instrumented systems, procedures, and training." Layers of protection analysis is a semiquantitative methodology that helps analyzers determine the integrity level of safeguards to mitigate the process risk.

During a process hazard analysis, a team determines the potential frequency and severity of an incident and whether existing safeguards are inadequate before making recommendations for further risk reduction. The team lists all safeguards, whether they partially or completely mitigate the process risk, or whether they are independent of each other. This often results in the team assuming more risk reduction from the safeguards than is physically possible, based on the integrity of the individual components. The team's subjective assessment of safeguard integrity often results in inconsistency-which could mean over- and under-prediction of more safeguarding requirements. How can teams be objective when assessing risks?

One way is to compare the frequency of the hazard without the action of safeguards against a predetermined risk tolerance target to determine the additional risk reduction needed, often expressed in terms of independent protection layers (IPLs). Only then can the team compare the existing number of IPLs to the required value, which sets the SIL requirements of the additional safeguards.

Other experts offer valuable insight in submitted abstracts, many of which will be full presentations at this year's event. IT

Editor's Note: Submitted abstracts quoted in this article have not necessarily been formally accepted as of yet for presentations this year.