Focus is on transformation, via mobilization and virtualization
Nick Denbow reports in July’s Industrial Automation Insider
The Honeywell User Group convened again mid June, in Phoenix, Arizona, for the annual meeting, billed as for the Americas, but with 1000 plus attendees from 34 countries, it was more like a world event – back at the attendance levels of 2007, and double those from last year (INSIDER, July 2010 page 4). However, as Gary Mintchell observed, and pointed out in his FeedForward blog, the ratio of staff to users has decreased in these events, so the user numbers were even more impressive. Just like last year, Norm Gilsdorf, president of Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS), opened the conference with a keynote speech commenting on four vital elements: – for 2010 you may remember they were the “-ty” elements, like uncertainty, and availability (of capital), safety and security, availability (of engineers), and utilities (green energy and water). Some of these came through to 2011, but there was no mention of uncertainty and capital availability as constraints, which must reflect a general upward mood-swing.
For this year the four vital elements are all “-ations”: spelling them out we have “globalization, mobilization, integration and collaboration” quoted as the vital elements in the competitive marketplace. To respond to this, Gilsdorf declares that Honeywell has changed: “We’ve evolved from being an automation company to a business transformation company,” enabling customers to make “faster decisions, better decisions, decisions in remote-access areas and decisions that will improve profitability.”
Mobilization of people and assets is important, Gilsdorf said, but process industries are really only just beginning to adapt to this trend. By mobilization, he means information transfer to people on the plant or on the move: “Getting information to the right place, to the right experts, wherever they are in the world, can also create a competitive advantage.” Mobile computing devices are being used within industry: “We need to learn to leverage that in the process industries—so you can make faster decisions, better decisions, decisions that sometimes don’t need operator intervention, decisions that help you solve problems better, in a faster way,” he said.
The emphasis of OneWireless at Honeywell is now pointed more at information flow than just at wireless plant sensors and controls. This is the essence of business transformation, using techniques available within automation systems to add more value, enable better business decisions. Integration and collaboration
Integration and collaboration means Honeywell has been working more closely with the supply chain, with companies such as Microsoft, IBM and SAP, and also refers to the recent acquisitions of Matrikon and RMG: the careful addition of such acquisitions is seen as a Honeywell strength. However, maybe the recent focus on acquisitions like Enraf and RMG has brought management attention back onto field devices, where they realize that investment has lagged behind competitors: one of the new divisions created is to concentrate on field instruments. Gary Mintchell also reported that Gilsdorf is forecasting increased investment to add more intelligence onto standard field devices in the coming year. He also has committed to bring in 50 new young engineers into HPS centres across the world every year, to enhance both HPS and the industry in terms of youth and expertise.
Latest product developments
Jason Urso, chief technology officer at HPS, then detailed some of the major new product launches and developments of interest for 2011, in a fairly packed presentation. First came the Honeywell approach to reducing TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), a critical priority for HPS. Major user attention in Phoenix was paid to all lectures discussing virtualization technology, to be available with the Experion PKS, via the Honeywell collaboration with VMWare, by Q3 2011 (VMWare was a sponsor of the HUG conference, as were Microsoft and Matrikon). Virtualization is promoted by HPS since it can reduce the PC hardware users need on site by around 90% in some cases.
Mobilization now allows DCS information to be transmitted via OneWireless from the Experion PKS to integrate smart devices in the field network, such as the Dolphin operator interface from Honeywell Hand Held Products, making operators more efficient in the field: also data can be transmitted securely to commercial devices, such as iPhone and iPad.
Personal gas alarm
Also for these mobile operators, Honeywell are still planning the launch of the personal gas alarm and wireless locator in 2011: first discussed at the HUG European meeting in October 2010 (INSIDER November 2010, page 3) this was new to the US audience, and described as “game changing” by Urso, so possibly includes other capabilities.
Similar devices offered for lone worker protection (but in non-hazardous areas) by Intelligent Distributed Controls in the UK use ZigBee wireless communications, and include temperature monitoring and a positional location engine, based on the inputs from built-in accelerometers: these sensors also provide a tilt alarm, triggering if the operator should fall. The basic Honeywell concept is for a five gas detector, which alarms locally and back in the control room, with an ability to provide location information on the plant, so help can be despatched – for example if there is no movement or response. The location data can also be used to alert control rooms if personnel or contractors, equipped with the devices, stray into areas of plant where systems are being started up, etc. A n o t h e r OneWireless capability introduced at HUG was the Wireless Rotating Equipment Solution, a package of the XYR6000 Multiplexer wireless vibration monitor and the enhanced Asset Manager R400 software for online performance and condition monitoring, targeted at assets that were not previously monitored with static vibration monitors. The XYR6000 offers a four year battery life from field replaceable intrinsically safe batteries.
•The next HUG is scheduled for Phoenix (AZ US) 10-15 June 2012.