March/April 2013
automation update | News from the Field

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ARC publishes global service provider selection guide

ARC Advisory Group released its global service provider (GSP) supplier selection guide. The guide includes both selection criteria and guided workflow steps for choosing a services company. The scope of the criteria covers the needs of corporate IT and manufacturing IT, including communications with control systems. The guide has attributes tailored for industrial organizations and allows those involved in a GSP selection process to make quicker and improved decisions.

GSP selection has become mission critical. The needed services include application and IT infrastructure development, roll-out, and maintenance. The companies have become complex, and decision making involves a range of capabilities from specific technologies to managing major programs. Suppliers have specific domain expertise, geographical presence, and knowledge of certain industry dynamics.

The ARC STAR supplier evaluation and selection service guides users through a step-by-step process of selecting and evaluating suppliers against specific technology, application, and industry requirements. The process guides the user through the project and team definition, reviewing and editing ARC-provided selection criteria and supplier questions, weighing selection criteria, developing a supplier request for information (RFI) list, evaluating supplier responses, and developing a final ranking of RFI results. ARC STAR then fully documents the process and results for management review and approval. ARC STAR helps ensure inclusive, fact-based, impartial supplier evaluations and selections, free of the user bias issues that typically hamper these activities. In addition, ARC estimates that ARC STAR can reduce the cost, effort, and timespan for a supplier selection process by well over 50 percent.

AIA USB3 Vision standard available for download

AIA released the USB3 Vision camera interface standard, and it is now available for free download on the AIA website. This easy-to-use standard is based on the prevalent USB 3.0 consumer hardware that the world is already comfortable with. Vision component manufacturers have embraced the standard and are expected to widely adopt it; many components are already selling today.

Based on the USB 3.0 interface (SuperSpeed USB), USB3 Vision was developed specifically for the global vision and imaging market and takes advantage of the USB 3.0 ports that will soon be standard on most PCs. It offers bandwidth of 350 MB/s, which satisfies a very broad spectrum of vision and imaging application needs. USB3 Vision, like GigE Vision, does not require a frame grabber. The standard covers four basic operations: device discovery, device control, event handling, and streaming data. A device can optionally support device functionality with USB 2.0. Both power and data are transmitted over the same cable with possible cable lengths of five meters over passive cables and ten meters or more using active cables. The standard defines the mechanics of screw locks on the micro-USB 3.0 connector. The standard will give users plug and play capability using components from different manufacturers.

Rockwell Automation releases tools for machine safety design

Rockwell Automation released two tools to help machine and equipment builders (OEMs) and manufacturers save time when designing machinery safety systems. The Rockwell Automation safety automation builder (SAB) configuration software and safety functions pre-engineered design documents help users navigate the safety system design process and apply best practices.

The SAB tool guides manufacturers through the safety system design process by providing options for layout, safety performance level (PL) analysis based on ISO 13849-1 using IFA's SISTEMA (safety integrity software tool for evaluation of machine applications), and product selection using Allen-Bradley safety automation products.

The SAB software automates the safety-selection process to help speed system design and minimize human error. With the SAB tool, users import an image of machinery and answer questions using a drop-down menu and help screens to identify and select the necessary safeguards. The software then compiles all product selections, generates a bill of materials, and compiles necessary data to populate SISTEMA. SISTEMA indicates the attained PL of the safety system using ISO 13849-1 through an automatic calculation. As part of the process, users also receive a SISTEMA project file.

The SAB software can be downloaded on the Rockwell Automation website and also requires that users download and run SISTEMA.

Automation By the Numbers


Though oil prices have been in a slump following a period of extraordinary growth, and demand has been reined in by the economic downturn, the oil and gas industry still enjoys a favorable investment environment. The upstream segment will continue to see strong project activity. The industry faces some key issues, including the increasing cost and difficulty of extracting oil from both older, developed deposits and from newer, non-conventional finds, the shrinking availability of knowledgeable personnel, and a need for real-time production data across the enterprise to enable quick, well-informed business decisions.

Automation expenditures by the upstream oil and gas sector, which includes exploration, production, and pipelines, are expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 8 percent over the next five years, according to ARC Advisory Group's "Automation Expenditures for Upstream Oil & Gas Industry Global Market Research Study."

According to the estimates, demand for petroleum products will increase substantially as the economies in developing regions improve and per capita energy consumption increases. Today's production and processing capacities struggle to keep ahead of the demand curve, and both upstream and midstream facilities will need to be expanded. New sources, such as tar sands, shale oil, and coal-to-liquid gas, will require new midstream and production facilities to be developed, increasing demand for automation systems and field devices.


ABB selected 40 research projects for funding, after inviting academic and research institutes around the world to submit proposals for grants that will shape the future of power and automation. The program is intended to support promising graduate students' and senior researchers' projects with industrial applications in the power and automation area. The 40 projects were chosen from more than 500 proposals submitted by more than 250 universities in 46 countries.

Among the selection criteria was how well projects matched the 33 research topics specified by ABB, as well as their potential for industrialization. Grants typically range from $50,000 to $80,000 a year, and funding is initially for one year, but ABB expects to support the projects over a longer period of time.


IMS Research estimates that fieldbus protocols accounted for 75 percent of new industrial automation component network connections in 2011. This is projected to fall to 69 percent in 2016. New network connections using fieldbus protocols are still ahead of Ethernet, yet growth of Ethernet connections is expected to be considerably higher through 2016.

More industrial automation component vendors are offering Ethernet provision as standard on their devices. A number of vendors released new products in 2012 that put the emphasis squarely on connectivity via Ethernet technology. As these vendors push the adoption of Ethernet protocols, it requires machine builders and end users to switch from older fieldbus technologies.

The future still is strong for fieldbus, with new connections increasing year to year. However, it is undeniable that industrial Ethernet growth will remain higher than that of fieldbus. IMS believes that within 10 to 15 years industrial Ethernet will be the dominant networking technology in industrial environments, and almost all components will offer Ethernet connectivity as standard.

Long product lifecycles and conservatism in industry will maintain fieldbus in the near term, but eventually it will be relegated to a supporting role.


The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) announced the publication of its updated research study titled "Positive Impact of Industrial Robots on Employment." The study, conducted by Metra Martech Limited, London, U.K., found that more than two million jobs will be created in the next eight years because of robotics in industry.

The authors of the study see robots creating jobs primarily due to the use of robots in new product development, current industry expansion, and downstream job development. The study illustrates opportunities for manufacturers to participate in the rebalancing of worldwide manufacturing using robots to level the playing field, resulting in increased higher paying jobs.

Generally, countries where manufacturers have embraced the use of robots have resulted in greater manufacturing output and lower unemployment.