Failure is not an option!


ProSoft Technology’s PROFIBUS Modules and Industrial Radios allow critical data to be transmitted from ControlLogix PACs at Flood Defense System.

Failure is not an option when upgrading a flood barrier’s control system. Should a flood barrier malfunction, thousands of homes and businesses could be severely impacted.

Upgrading a flood barrier isn’t a task that can be done overnight. It takes months and months of work. The barrier has to remain available for use throughout the upgrade, making it a considered and careful task. There has to be several fail safe measures and redundancies in place. Whoever said redundancies are a bad thing hasn’t taken a look at a flood barrier system.


Two concrete towers stand 20 meters above the ground on either side of the mouth of Dartford Creek. This is the UK Environment Agency’s Dartford Barrier Flood Defense System in Kent, South East England. The barrier is routinely closed, in conjunction with the bigger Thames Barrier upstream, to prevent high tide water levels in the River Thames Estuary flowing back up the creek and flooding Dartford and the surrounding area.

Two steel gates, each 30-metre across and weighing over 160 tons each, are suspended at high level between the two concrete towers. Like a huge guillotine at the creek mouth, one gate may be slowly lowered on its supporting chains onto the river bed to block the flow of water. Then the second gate may be slowly lowered to rest onto the top of the first gate. When closed together, the 160 ton steel gates can withstand up to 10.4 meters of water.

The gates are raised and lowered by direct drive oil hydraulic motors. The drive system comprises two 18.5kW pump and motor units, providing both duty and standby facilities, enabling a gate to be raised or lowered in 15-minutes. When not in use both gate structures are safely held in the fully raised position and latched using hydraulic latch mechanisms. This permits vessels to pass underneath the gates along the creek.

It is envisaged that due to climate change that the barrier may need to operate an average of 50 times per annum over the next 25 years.

“The system has to be highly available with many fallback systems in case of failures,” said Andrew Garwood, a Senior Contracts Manager in the Controls Division of Qualter Hall & Co Limited, Barnsley (GB).

Just a couple of years ago, the control system was starting to show its age. As part of a large upgrade to the barrier, its associated control system was overhauled. The original control system was a completely hardwired based relay system that was over 30 years old. Spare parts for the 30 year-old system were becoming scarce.

Qualter Hall provided the M&E contracted works on behalf of the principal contractor Birse Civils, who had engaged Qualter Hall as the Systems Integrator for the project and as the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Contractor in charge of upgrading the control system; they had several goals in mind. Number one was safety and reliability. Flooding, should it occur, could cause extensive damage to the surrounding area.

instrument_inst_DartfordQualter Hall, who provides an attractive ‘one stop shop’ for a multitude of engineering solutions, decided to call ProSoft Technology. Qualter Hall selected this company, because it was a reliable, cost effective solution that was endorsed by Rockwell Automation. ProSoft Technology is a Rockwell Automation Encompass Partner.

Two Rockwell Automation ControlLogix redundant PACs are inside each of the 20-meter towers to control the opening and closing of the barrier, but much of the equipment the control system spoke to was PROFIBUS or Siemens based. Two PROFIBUS Master communication module (MVI56-PDPMV1) from ProSoft Technology were installed inside the ControlLogix PACs to facilitate communication from the Rockwell Automation processors.

“The ProSoft Technology modules were utilized to provide PROFIBUS DP into the ControlLogix rack and permitted four separate PROFIBUS DP segments for redundant operation,” Andrew Garwood said.
Fiber optic cables were installed between the two towers, as part of the control system overhaul. While the cable links were being constructed, ProSoft Technology 802.11 Industrial Hotspot radios served as the communication link.

“The wireless link was then used as an automatic fallback connection should fiber optic connection be lost. The ProSoft Technology equipment was selected for its flexibility and support of the spanning tree protocol (RSTP) “, Andrew Garwood said.

ProSoft Technology’s solutions helped ease the engineering work by making it possible for the ControlLogix system to communicate as one single protocol.

The system now allows data to be reviewed quickly, centrally and remotely, providing convenience when accessing diagnostic information.

Thousands of homes and businesses are now safely protected.

#Autofair Windy city was host to impressive 20th anniversary event!


An impressive 12000 people attended he 20th anniversary Rockwell Automation Fair® event which this year was held in Chicago in November. It is regarded by manufacturers, media and analysts as one of the the premier automation industry event in the calander.

Wrapt attention during discussion at Rockwell Automation Fair

Rockwell Automation and its partners aimed to share insights on smart, safe, sustainable solutions that can help customers optimize their plants, improve performance of their machines and manufacture products in a more sustainable manner. As with many of the events crowding the automation calender this year, we at Read-out had to content ourselves with a virtual presence with a heavy reliance on tweetaholics  (#autofair #PSUG #ROKsaf) who kept those of us who were afar more closely connected with events as they happened. As is usual with such events we prominently highlighted the event on our home page!

Press releases and other reports on this event are shown in the box on the right!

Releases issued during #AutoFair
• Manufacturing footprint in Brazil to double!
• $6m + Order placed by Korean ship builder
• Direct link to control & business systems for enhanced manufacturing intelligence
• 12,000 attend 20th Automation Fair in Chicago
• Power Range of AC Drives extended
• Integrated architecture delivers new dimension of scalability
• Zinc smelting automation system order for Hobart
• PlantPAx process automation system extended
• Top ten innovations of integrated architecture

• Safety is good business
• Back to Basics with Functional Safety (Greg Hale ISS Source)

Show News!

• Day 1 Live from Chicago
• Day 2 Live from Chicago
• Day 3 Live from Chicago

• Join Automation Fair discussions on LinkedIn
• See also their facebook page!
Photo’s from Safety Forum

As may be gleaned from the hashtags mentioned above there are in fact a number of conferences intertwined at this event. The first is the Safety Automation Forum, which is actually held on the twop days immediatly poreceeding the Automation Day proper. In effect it sets the stage for Automation Fair, showcasing some of their “most elite customers” who shared best practices and demonstrated how they have deployed successful safety programs that improve business performance. It also included technical training sessions and networking opportunities.  Presentations from this part of the event may be found on Rockwell’s Slideshare site. Greg Hale recorded impressions of some of these presentations in his ISS Source site (see links in box on right!). There are also some short comments on the Safety Forum on Rockwell’s YouTube site!

The second co-event was the Process Solution User Group (PSUG). This provided the opportunity for over 800 delegates to discover ways to achieve process automation excellence and gain a competitive advantage by interacting with peers and industry experts who are improving their processes, creating new revenue streams and establishing best practices. This was also held during the two days preceeding the main event. I caught this  from the ubiquitous Walt Boyes who tweeted “Edwards:”I didn’t talk about Stuxnet because there is already so much info in the press about it.” But the most intriguing tweet we saw under #PSUG was  “Check it out on YouTube  #PSUG opens with a stirring Chicago-style rendering of “I Got Them Process Blues.”

Automation Fair proper was well covered by Putman, publishers of ControlGlobal in their reports in the Show Daily. Another tweet stated “There were more customers at Automation Fair in Chicago than I have seen at any of the previous events!”

• Among the co-exhibitors was Cisco and their Peter Granger blogged on his journey to the show We’re not going to crash? Do I really want to know? TMI! before neatly telling us of their exhibit. (His stand might not have been mentioned had he not told us of his adventure – who says social media doesn’t work?). They have some videos of their exhibt too on their Cisco YouTube Channel!
• Pepperl+Fuchs tweeted “Whew! It’s been busy so far! Taking a quick break…stop by and see us at booth 116 today!” (Nice pic guys!).
• Rumsey  Electric got in the fun spirit of things too “Feel like a kid again and stop by booth 833 to see sensors and classic toy cars in action!
• RacOman were offering a free iPad 2 on Booth 225.
• Eric Gory of Molex demonstrated the new Profibus Remote module live on the floor.
• “More than 150 media from around the world are at this year’s #Manufacturing Perspectives @ #autofair. Record attendance for the event,” reported Canadian publication Manufacturing Automation.

The Rockwell Automation Fair was a different experience for us than the other shows we have attended using twitter. There were not that many tweets but as a company Rockwell have utilised a lot of media and in our opinion quite cleverly. They have used many, mercifully short, videos on YouTube to provide information. They have not been shy in using twitter and other social networking platforms to publicise the event and some of this expertese seems to be catching on among some – though by no means all – of their partner companies.

In the accompaning exhibition area many of Rockwell’s partner companys demonstrated their products and technologies.  Also there were many of Rockwell’s own products and applications on display and demonstrated!

As another record-breaking Automation Fair drew to a close, it was time to mark the calendar for Automation Fair 2012, when the “biggest automation experience on the planet” goes to the City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia.  The date is 6th November.

This message was retweeted a number of times “Thanks to Rockwell Automation for another great #autofair. I learned a lot.”  and “Chicago will be tough to out-do but we are looking forward to planning next years in Philly!”