The ABB Group, headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, hosted a recent media event in Cleveland, where U.S. Vice Presidents Roger Bailey, Mark Taft and Bob Hausler were on hand to brief industry editors about the company's newest extensions to the Industrial IT System 800xA, which was introduced last year.
The key word of the announcement is "high integrity," a term ABB is using in place of "safety." High integrity actually extends the meaning of a safety system, by having the control platform integrated and designed for maximum integrity. The integration of safety-instrumented systems with process control in the 800xA was designed with TÜV input at all times, in order to assure final regulatory acceptance. TÜV (Technischer Überwachungsverein, English translation: Technical Inspection Association) is an international technical services company for quality and safety certification. Integrating safety systems with process control is a relatively new concept, but seems to be gaining ground within the process industry.
MES for process
Even though many people think that Manufacturing Execution Systems (MESs) pertain only to discrete manufacturing, ABB introduced a module called Manufacturing Management that includes inventory, quality, operations, and weigh and disperse management functions—all MES-type functions. These are targeted at batch process manufacturers.
The Real-Time Production Intelligence addition is a performance feedback function yielding overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) calculations in real time. This should help manufacturing managers make decisions faster, making operations more productive.
In a business review, ABB’s Bailey pointed to strong growth in sales and earnings over the past year. The company bought a number of process control businesses in the 1990s, and the 800xA series was a crucial element in updating all the platforms with new technologies and meeting modern business needs, without requiring customers to trash existing investment. In that goal, ABB appears to have succeeded. When asked about extending this coverage to competitors' platforms, one of the executives remarked, "Just wait and see what comes out in the future."