Rockwell Automation Appeals to Users Seeking a ‘Modern DCS’

The message from Rockwell Automation during its 2014 Process Systems Users Group meeting was “we heard you” as it unveiled the new features of its PlantPAx process automation system at PSUG 2014.

John Genovesi, Rockwell Automation
John Genovesi, Rockwell Automation

Many plants with distributed control systems (DCSs) are due for an upgrade. Whether the result of catastrophic events or simply the effects of aging, continuous process plants around the U.S. and the world could benefit from recent advances in technology. Rockwell Automation is wants the world to know its DCS is ready to answer the need.

The message this year from Rockwell Automation’s Information Software and Process Business executivesat the Process Systems Users Group meeting was “we heard you, and we want to hear more,” as the company continues to invest in and improve its “modern DCS,” PlantPAx.

“Over the next two days, you’re going to hear about the modern DCS from Rockwell Automation and how it has helped customers around the world meet [their] challenges in the process industries,” said John Genovesi in his opening remarks. Genovesi is the vice president of Rockwell’s Information Software and Process Business. He welcomed more than 900 attendees from 30 countries to the Anaheim (California) Convention Center for PSUG 2014.

“All our decisions are driven by letting you capture that piece of value you most need. We want to simplify your design—give you a system that’s simple to maintain and make sure it’s secure,” Genovesi said.

For example, “skid integration is one of the values that I receive the most feedback about from customers who try PlantPax for the first time,” said Genovesi. Adding a clean-in-place or other skid of machinery to an existing plant can cost 50 percent to 70 percent more than the price of the skid itself, he said.

“Our approach is the scalable control system—you can expect your skid OEM to deliver a functional and tested skid that integrates instantly into the overall DCS,” he said. “It’s our goal to give you one unified architecture across facility, from process to power to packaging equipment. It lets you speed designing and building a plant, and then gives you lower total cost of ownership.”

PlantPAx upgrades

Genovesi and Jason Wright, PlantPAx system marketing manager, went on to describe how Rockwell Automation also has added new virtualization, batch management and integrated motor control capabilities to the PlantPAx process automation system. The PlantPAx platform now makes it easier for users to implement virtualization. Built into the core documentation of the system is a selection guide that provides guidance and best practices for adopting a virtualized automation system.

“We were first in industry to release pre-built templates for virtualized systems,” said Genovesi. “The goal was to allow software to be preconfigured. It also gives you hardware independence; you don’t need to buy a locked down Rockwell Automation server.”

Upgraded batch software tightly integrates with the PlantPAx system for a range of applications, from small, basic sequencing to large, complex batch and sequencing. With new version-control capabilities, the software automatically tracks recipe changes and genealogy, and provides approval traceability in order to more easily manage recipes. Rockwell also updated the batch and sequence manager in PlantPAx to allow users to configure sequences directly in the controller.

Better integration with motor control devices, such as the Allen-Bradley PowerFlex 520-Series of AC drives and Allen-Bradley motor starters and electronic overload relays, makes motor control configuration easier, and delivers advanced diagnostic information directly to the operator at the HMI level. PlantPAX users also can monitor key process conditions leveraging the EtherNet/IP network.

Partnering for process control

Rockwell Automation is aggressively going after new customers in the continuous process and batch process industries—especially in oil & gas, pharmaceutical and power generation. It added a new Solution Partner in May—Applied Control Engineering—that provides process-control engineering and system-integration support to such industries. ACE has a strong history of upgrading DCS systems to PlantPax process automation systems. It also is happy to report customers replace their legacy DCS systems with PlantPAx. Of the more than 20 customer sessions at PSUG 2014, many of them were modernization project.

Long-time Rockwell Automation system integrator Maverick Technologies presented a case history about Buckeye Partners’ upgrade of the Perth Amboy, N.J. marine terminal for liquid petroleum products that it had acquired from Chevron. The manually operated facility was damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Maverick Technologies helped implement a fully modernized and virtualized PlantPAx process automation system.

Leveraging the predefined standards of the PlantPAx Library of Process Objects, Maverick implemented the PlantPAx system in just eight weeks with no impact to production. The virtualized system has reduced pipeline shutdowns, improved troubleshooting and enhanced risk management against future catastrophic events.

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