Dinesh Paliwal, U.S. ABB president, noted the reasons that the company invested so much money in this product evolution. The regulatory environment continues to grow more complex, demanding software designed to integrate compliance to procedures such as electronic signatures. One of the biggest cost areas for information technology departments is system integration, so new software products must contain links to other applications to assure better integration. New products must leverage the convergence of process and discrete control technologies. Finally, ABB needed to leverage and extend its installed base of process automation, Paliwal said.
The company invested about $500 million to develop System 800xA in order to meet all these challenges.
Because about 75 percent of all process plants worldwide are “brownfield” sites, that is, plants that are extending current automation systems rather than building entirely new sites (called “greenfields”), a problem faced by technology providers is how to make all the disparate control systems work together. Mark Taft, ABB vice president of worldwide systems marketing, stated that this “translates into a mess of data—a bunch of different databases.”
ABB dealt with this problem through a process of extended automation, building standardized information and control objects. With a contextual information search, users can find information without needing to know where it resides.
Vice President Dick McAllister noted that this is a plant automation system, not a process automation system. Already, ABB’s robotics and power divisions are using System 800xA for information and integration projects. Other areas of application include production management, safety systems, smart instrumentation, smart drives and motor control, information management, asset optimization and documentation. The engineering environment manages one set of consistent data, for single-point entry, single-point change, and re-use across the plant.
Extended automation objects created within the engineering environment provide a foundation for the efficient development, deployment, reuse, and continuous improvement of production applications, with predictability unattainable from other automation solutions, according to ABB. Engineering efficiency is increased, as solutions and applications only need to be developed once for uniform use and reuse throughout the automation environment. This makes it easy to access and reuse the best strategies to solve problems and improve the process.
System 800xA is the latest installment on ABB’s 20-plus year commitment to its distributed control system users. ABB’s pledge of Evolution through Enhancement ensures that future advances in systems’ technologies will enhance rather than compromise customers’ current investments. Now, customers have the ability to extend the automation reach of their present system to enjoy new levels of productivity.