Migration's Sweet Spot

In the United States, as in most other developed economies, there have been very few new manufacturing plants constructed in the last 20 years.

The automation action is occurring at existing manufacturing sites, where older, obsolete systems are being modernized through new technology.

Migrations and upgrades have become hot areas for the vendor community, as each supplier develops a strategy to retain its installed base, retrain its users in new solutions, and restrain its customers from migrating to competitors’ products—presumably by providing a more compelling migration solution.

But what’s in it for the manufacturing user community? Are migrations about vendors selling more products, software and services, or are there bottom-line reasons a manufacturer should consider migrating existing automation systems to newer solutions?

To answer these questions, it’s important to first define the market for migration. In other words, what’s the installed base of automation systems, and which systems should be upgraded first, for maximum benefits? The numbers I’ll cite here are from Morgan Stanley, as reported in its Capital Goods: Global Insights report of September 2003, “Automation: Deep Dive plus Customer Survey.”

According to this report, the top European automation suppliers—ABB, Invensys, Schneider and Siemens—comprise a worldwide installed base of just under $100 billion. The top U.S. suppliers—Emerson, General Electric, Honeywell and Rockwell Automation—have a total global installed base for automation in industrial businesses of about $64 billion. Including the automation systems installed by Honeywell’s commercial businesses adds about another $15 billion to that total. Installed base figures for the leading Japanese automation suppliers—Fanuc, Omron and Yokogawa—were not available, per the report.

Conservatively, this adds up to more than $200 billion worth of automation equipment installed worldwide—much of which is prime for migration.

The average life cycle of automation equipment is hard to pinpoint, but broad product areas can be broken down in this way. Field devices, terminations and wiring have an average life span of about 25 years or more; controllers, about 10 years or more; and operator stations, about five to seven years.

It’s about the user

The need to expand the role of the operator, coupled with operator stations aging out more quickly than most other equipment, has led many manufacturers to attack the user station first in a migration strategy.

In fact, says Peter Zornio, director of product marketing for Honeywell Process Solutions, in Phoenix, “That’s our sweet spot for migration projects.” Specifically, Honeywell is targeting systems that were installed between 1985 and 1996—those that did not include, for example, the new alarming information and business process data now available in distributed control systems (DCSs). “In systems installed after 1996, manufacturers are already using Windows-based stations and can bring in third-party software applications,” continues Zornio. “But for those late 80s, early 90s installations, what we often see is a Honeywell Universal Station sitting next to a personal computer. It’s a quantum leap to go from these systems to our Experion PKS.”

And how simple is that process? According to Zornio, it’s as easy as a two-step. “Step one, bolt on the Experion TPS (TotalPlant Solution—an earlier Honeywell DCS) server, which is the key infrastructure piece,” says Zornio, “Step two, connect the Experion operator station to the network.”

Every major automation supplier has a similar strategy in place to simplify the migration process for its existing customers. Minimal investments can result in maximum benefits, while still taking advantage of existing controllers and field terminations. The best of these migration programs also allow users to retain much of their software investments, while leveraging newer Web Services-based technologies.

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