The evolution of industrial control systems over time has been about operating ever closer to the limits—improving safety, providing more visibility, all driven increasingly by software. “It’s helped us to run our equipment closer to the limits for longer periods of time by using automation,” said Jason Urso, chief technology officer for Honeywell Process Solutions, briefing media and analysts in the lead-up to this week’s Honeywell Users Group (HUG) Americas symposium in San Antonio, Texas.
The technology continuously advances to help production operate flawlessly and respond correctly when something goes wrong. “We’re running our plants today with fewer people and getting more throughput, while at the same time getting a 10x improvement in safety,” Urso said.
At the forefront of a new era of technology today, Urso said, Honeywell sees a new round of benefits emerging around three key pillars: project standardization, infinite system longevity, and the connection of data to knowledge. In typical HUG form, the conference this week kicked off with a flurry of new product introductions—all surrounding those three pillars.
These are concepts that Honeywell has been rolling out over the past few years in one form or another. Project standardization—driven in large part, as with other industry suppliers, by ExxonMobil’s demands—is embodied within Lean Execution of Automation Projects (LEAP), introduced four years ago at HUG. With several fundamental technology innovations like universal I/O and cloud engineering, entire systems can be staged in the cloud, with a whole new way of running things like factory acceptance testing.
“When we introduced LEAP a couple years ago, we did that to address the challenges of customization and late changes,” Urso told the audience at this year’s conference, leading into the introduction of the first major new product introduction of the week: the S300 SIL3 Safety Logic Solver, which decouples software from hardware with the technologies first introduced with LEAP, including universal safety I/O and cloud simulation.
“It used to be that software was tightly bound to the controller or microprocessor,” Urso said. “We’ve taken the software that’s run in our long-time Safety Manager and extracted it so it’s hardware-independent.”
The S300 can be run in the cloud during the project execution phase, Urso explained, enabling automation engineers to work on the project without having any of the physical equipment in place. “It allows us to land that software on a variety of form factors that work for different types of process conditions,” he added.
Some of these same concepts in cloud engineering lead Honeywell to digitize the process engineering process itself, using digital twins of the process for factory acceptance testing (FAT). “We did that for years, largely for the purpose of training,” Urso noted. Now it can be used to completely validate all the controls, procedures, etc., without any physical hardware. “This is truly transformative for factory acceptance tests.”
Honeywell’s introduction of the Open Virtual Engineering Platform enables engineers to log into digital representations of their physical systems. “You no longer need to have physical test systems at each one of your locations,” Urso said. “This is a way to make sure application engineering is performed flawlessly before deploying a physical system.”
At HUG EMEA last year, Honeywell revealed its infinite longevity concept through the introduction of its Experion Local Control Network (LCN) system, which enables incremental upgrades of the company’s legacy TotalPlant Solution (TPS) control system.
Honeywell already has a reputation for equipment that lasts 40-50 years out in the field. The automation supplier nonetheless felt that it needed to take an entirely different approach to upgrade systems in place, never again having to worry about rip and replace, Urso said, while at the same time providing the power of new technology.
“We were able to take what were legacy hardware nodes and fully emulate them in software,” Urso said. “This eliminated the leading cause of end of life of a system, which is component obsolescence. We can run what was a 40-year-old platform on any hardware that is current in the day.” This concept also preserves the customers’ knowledge, he added.
Now TDC 3000—a Honeywell control system long used in process industries—can be TDC Infinity. By emulating TDC’s legacy hardware with software, the system life becomes infinite. “Never again will we have to worry about component legacy because we’ve captured all the components in software,” Urso said. “It can run on any hardware platform of the day.”
The third pillar, Honeywell Connected Plant, is the company’s initiative geared toward turning data into actionable insights to deliver higher levels of safety, reliability, efficiency and profitability. “It’s oriented around helping our customers achieve best performance and improve individuals’ access to knowledge so they can perform flawless operations,” Urso said.
Typical human knowledge is gained by learning and then remembering as much as we can. Our brains are limited by what we can remember, but today we have a limitless amount of knowledge available at our fingertips through technology, Urso commented. “But the thing about that in the process industries is we’re often still constrained to the capability of the most knowledgeable person within the plant,” he added. “We haven’t really harnessed the power available in our everyday lives.”
Connected Plant provides the ability to connect not only to others within an enterprise but outside it as well. “We have access to the world’s best knowledge through connectivity,” Urso said. “But we need more than just connectivity to make better decisions.
Typically, data today is stored in spreadsheets, a variety of other systems, or often just in people’s heads, Urso said, commenting on a range of capabilities that Honeywell is introducing to digitize that knowledge.
The opportunities for connecting data to knowledge are great, with a bevy of problems waiting to be solved:
- Up to 30 percent underutilization of equipment
- Up to $3 million a day in unplanned downtime
- Safety and compliance spending of $60 billion a year
- Some 45 percent of the workforce planning to retire by 2023
- Increased costs of 15 percent because of inefficient labor planning
Several recent introductions designed to address those problems are on display in Honeywell’s Knowledge Center this week. Thermal IQ, for example, enables maintenance engineers and plant managers to more effectively monitor and manage their thermal process equipment, minimizing unplanned downtime and maximizing uptime. Measurement IQ for Gas provides 24/7 real-time condition-based monitoring for metering operations. This assures accuracy without routine in-person checks.
Urso likens the shift in digitalization to our ability as consumers to more effectively navigate from point A to point B—static roadmaps (good luck to you if you get off your route or if there’s an accident ahead) giving way to digitized maps that can not only keep your route up to date, but also know where you are on the route.
“That’s a great example of what we’re trying to do with Connected Plant,” he said. “The best knowledge we’ve got is always available to us. And we’ll always have a recommendation on the best way to get from point A to point B.”
Introduced at this week’s conference, Connected Plant Unit Performance Monitor helps identify opportunities to improve plant performance. “The operator can see the impact of operating at less than optimal,” Urso explained. “It shows you what the issue is and the economic consequence of that.”
Asset Performance Insight, introduced earlier this year, provides a single integrated dashboard for asset performance and health. “It gives an unprecedented view of your assets in context of your process,” Urso said.
Some related innovations that Honeywell has recently released address things like workforce capabilities and labor planning—helping workers get from point A to point B. At the ARC Industry Forum earlier this year, Honeywell introduced Immersive Competency, which combines augmented or virtual reality with data analytics to create a cloud-based simulation tool for training plant personnel. Highlighted at the Offshore Technology Conference in early May, Intelligent Wearables provide industrial workers with the hands-free knowledge that they need to get jobs done on-site. Both technologies were on display this week in the Knowledge Center, giving conference attendees the opportunity to put on the headsets and try them out.