Today’s process industries share many challenges with hybrid and discrete industries, such as increasing global competition and ever-present cost and environmental pressures. While users have looked to the latest automation technologies as key elements to help address these challenges, plants in process industries typically operate continuously for many years making it more difficult for them to adopt and benefit from these advances, such as industrial Ethernet and IP technologies. However, with an aging installed base of process automation systems and the need for additional capacity to meet consumer demand in emerging economies, this situation is about to change. It is projected that the process industries will invest over US$100 billion globally in new control systems for process automation, split equally between modernization and new installations. As a result, many users in process industries will be looking to develop new strategies for maintaining cost-effective, sustainable production capacity. To achieve all of the business results needed, these strategies must take into account the efficient integration of the plant’s network infrastructure into the existing business applications.
Moreover, these strategies call for a network architecture that provides the best integration, not only within the process plant but also with external systems. Unfortunately, the diverse and often complex nature of field devices in process plants has made integration complicated because users have needed to deploy a range of specialty process fieldbuses in the network architecture. This fact, combined with the often extreme nature of applications in process industries – extreme plant size, hazardous areas, climate, environmental hazards, or remoteness – have made it difficult for users to realize all the benefits possible from process integration. However, standard Ethernet and IP technologies – already proven in hybrid and discrete industries – stand to change this situation for the process industries.
ODVA envisions an approach to the optimization of process integration that will be convergent, compatible, scalable and open for users and their suppliers. The approach will simplify exchange of configuration, diagnostic and production data between field devices and higher-level systems such as supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA). In addition, plant asset management (PAM) and secure remote access of field installations will be enabled and plant-to-enterprise communication simplified. This, together with the proven benefits and cost advantages of commercially available, off-the-shelf Ethernet and Internet technologies will help businesses improve productivity and competiveness.