But with Invensys's acquisition last April of Skelta, an Indian-based business process management (BPM) technology company, the technology is now in place to greatly streamline and improve that process. With the integration of Skelta BPM into the ArchestrA platform, workflows can be coordinated and performed in a business context, Smith said during the presentation, PB-HMI14, "Skelta Business Process Workflow Processes Integrated with SCADA."
"Rather than leaving it up to the operator to be making quasi-business decisions in the control room, the workflow process can actually prompt him that it's time for this particular operation, or it's time to do a particular process because of the context the business is in. If you're in a load-shaving context, then because of that, you've now got a totally different set of operations to do. And all of those can be prompted to the guy using the workflow management," Smith said.
The approach has not yet been applied in a real-world application, Smith noted. But during the session, he provided an overview of how the approach might be set up by customers. He showed how a workflow gateway object can be easily created within the ArchestrA integrated development environment (IDE), which links the system to the Skelta workflow management software. Once a password is created, a simple tab provides quick and easy access for comprehensive workflow management integrated to the system.
"What's really good about it is that any event relating to workflow is fully integrated into the IDE, so the naming conventions, the object deployment, and the events that are going backward and forward between that particular plant object and the actual workflow process are the same," Smith said. "This means that every object in the system—every plant object, system object and I/O object—can take part in the workflow. And that's really the power of it."
The integration will enable a number of capabilities. For example, the workflow associated with a pump can be created and then made into a template, such that when a new pump is deployed, the workflows associated with the pump can be totally replicated and created in the system. "That means you've got a standard workflow for a pump, which is totally integrated with all of the actual real-time values in that pump and the way that people should be behaving in respect to that pump," Smith explained.
Business behaviors associated with an object can also be integrated as part of the workflow. An operator could be prompted to check the weather forecast, for example, and based on the outlook, to make appropriate changes in the set point on a compressor as a way to save energy. "You can prompt the operator to go do something at the business level just for a particular piece of equipment," Smith said. "I can see a lot of applications for that, particularly with the environmental work that we need to do, saving energy and trying to save the environment, for example."
The workflow can also be set up to automatically read information from the system. "The workflow designer can say, ‘As part of this workflow, I need to know what the temperature is at this point, or I need to know what the flow is,' " said Smith. "Maybe you have to make sure the pipeline is shut down before you open the valve or before you send a ticket to a guy, so it will automatically check from SCADA that the flow on the pipeline is zero, or that a sump pump is shut down. It's not going to leave that to chance." This capability will be particularly useful for "cross checking very complex systems, where you just need to tell the guy its okay to go and do something," he noted.
The integrated workflow capability will also pay dividends as companies operate with fewer experienced employees in the future. "If you've just hired a new guy, he doesn't know how you maintain a pump, and he doesn't know the actual nitty gritty of operating it during the day. So the workflow can prompt him on exactly what he needs to do at different times of the day, or based on different conditions," Smith said. "And the different conditions can actually trigger off different parts of the workflow."