Just as too much of a good thing can be wonderful, PlantPAx isn’t resting on its many advantages and achievements in recent years, and is instead building on its gains to give process industry users even more capabilities, efficiency and productivity.
This was the main theme kicking off a sold-out Process Solutions Users Group (PSUG) meeting at the recent Rockwell Automation Fair 2021. The two-day, process industry event had to cap off attendance at 550 visitors to its 14 customer sessions, nine technical sessions, four hands-on labs, four ask-the-expert panels and four voice-of-the-customer sessions.
“As we’ve learned lately, the most important thing is personal networking, so we’re trying to make the best use of the privilege of being together this week,” said Jim Winter, global process business director at Rockwell Automation. “And wow, it’s been a challenging couple of years. We’re seeing workforce changes with many professionals retiring early. Plus, we’re finding new people rely on overview courses and just-in-time (JIT) learning. Capital and operating costs are shifting, too, with just about everyone moving from thinking, designing and commissioning to considering 20-30 years of lifecycle costs and total operating costs (TOC).
“Finally, recent supply chain disruptions and market volatility are driving manufacturers to seek greater flexibility and modular manufacturing solutions, which is good news for our PlantPAx distributed control system (DCS). Everyone’s also seeking more sustainable operations, whether they’re making or using water, gas, electricity, steam or renewables, and PlantPAx is well-positioned for those applications, too.”
Users ask, PlantPAx provides
In response to input from the PSUG community, Winter reported the latest release of PlantPAx 5.0 in late 2020 featured a variety of much-desired capabilities, including:
- FactoryTalk Logix Echo emulation,
- IEC 62443 certifications with reference architectures,
- 50% fewer servers needed by larger PlantPAx systems,
- Object alarm configuration with one click,
- Library migrations via simple firmware flash,
- New PID object in controller, and
- Organization, ownership and arbitration of equipment.
Up to now, Winter added that PlantPAx and its users have also notched some impressive gains, mainly in the areas of reliability, productivity and profitability:
- Natural gas system integrator BXG stated that, “Standardizing on PlantPAx across the company allowed our customer to focus on the improvement of its natural gas process. Being able to do this, unscheduled downtimes dramatically improved.”
- System integrator ACC added that, “PlantPAx Design provides the out-of-the-box experience for accelerated design and reduced risk with a fully integrated system from control to information. Its standardized code lets users get up to speed and into production quicker.”
- Mining equipment provider Proensi reported, “PlantPAx improved silver tailings recovery from 15% to 70%.”
More advantages-new controller and I/O
As if its previous and upcoming gains weren’t enough, PlantPAx is also working with more open technologies, pursuing low-code/no-code capabilities that let users employ software building blocks, and participating in digital transformation initiatives that will further decrease downtime, increase productivity, and make its users even more competitive, according to David Rapini, PlantPAx global business manager at Rockwell Automation.
All these capabilities are already getting an assist from Rockwell Automation’s release last October of two new superset, conformally coated controllers, namely ControlLogix 1756-L85EP and CompactLogix 5380. They feature native objects, integrated HART, ownership and arbitration, reduced architectural footprint, regulated industry compliance, automatic hardware diagnostics, alarms in object, harsh environment readiness, analytics enablement, and cybersecurity.
“Embedded objects are integrated onto the design environment of these controllers, so they’re faster to engineer and commission, easier to upgrade and are future-proof, enabling consistency from plant to plant because there’s only one place to configure them,” explained Rapini. “PlantPAx and our new controllers let users focus on where their value is, instead of having to maintain code. We’ve made it consistent in the firmware. In fact, they don’t even need to look at the code, and can see what’s happening in the graphic displays. This also eases migration, which doesn’t have to be a coding exercise anymore.”
Rapini reported the two new controllers also have highly integrated HART communications. Users can add and replace HART devices online; indicate HART signals and connections on the Logix Designer I/O tree; include integrated device diagnostics; and provide PlantPAx connection type selection. As a result, benefits include intuitive integration; devices diagnostics included in PlantPAx data type connections; and out-of-the-box faceplate rendering of HART content.
“To further aid digitalization efforts, PlantPAx is also offering System ID, which is a unique identifier for your installed architecture,” added Rapini. “This allows simplified license management, consistent user experiences, especially when working with tech support, and better lifecycle management.”
In 2022, Rockwell Automation will also be releasing a new family of Configurable I/O, FlEX5000HA. It has full redundancy capabilities including Networks, Interfaces, Backplane Models, Wiring for Universal I/O per channel configuration for flexible deployment.
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