Highlights from Foxboro Users Group 2012 | Automation.com

Highlights from Foxboro Users Group 2012

October 072012
Highlights from Foxboro Users Group 2012
Held in Boston, MA on August 13 - 17, 2012
October 2012
By Bill Lydon, Editor
The 2012 North America Invensys Foxboro User Group was focused on Foxboro users rather than a combined audience of Invensys’ brands. The event was held near Foxboro’s headquarters and included more than 60 Foxboro subject matter experts who conducted sessions and provided answers user questions. The conference featured four days of breakout and training sessions.
Nathalie Marcotte, VP Marketing - System Business at Invensys, opened the conference noting that the conference was specifically designed for users. The theme of the conference was plant modernization. Marcotte noted that sessions were designed to provide information for users to make the best of their investment in Foxboro I/A systems for “today and tomorrow.” “When we think about modernization, I heard somebody talking yesterday that it is difficult on the I/A or DCS side to justify modernization,” said Marcotte. The person said, “A setpoint is a setpoint, my loop works…” She suggested that attendees expand their view on modernization by saying, “It is not only the DCS that we need to modernize, we need to modernize our plant and operations...” She discussed the need to capture the knowledge of operators before they retire and transfer it to the younger people and make them more efficient. The conference included four session tracks - What’s New, DCS Upgrades, Other IOM (Invensys Operations Management) solutions, and Service & Support.
Mike Caliel, President and CEO - Invensys Operations Management
Mike Caliel noted that the last time the conference was held in Boston was five years ago. He described the company’s goals to be the automation partner of choice to optimize business performance. Caliel said they want be recognized as having “an unmatched portfolio of strong brands, thinking and innovative technology, reputation for excellence, and be a pivotal player in defining the industry agenda.” He described the depth and breadth of Invensys as a company with a long history and strong financials to make investments. Caliel emphasized that they have realigned internally to ensure focus on key areas - particularly software, control & safety, and equipment business - to understand user’s needs and provide valuable solutions.
Caliel suggested that the company has exhibited creativity and innovation from great people throughout its history. He said Invensys has been a “pivotal and driving force” in the industry and described this as the company’s “innovation engine.” He went on to assure the audience that this will continue. Caliel emphasized that as the pace of change keeps increasing they intend to continue to provide “fresh thinking” to “define the industry and the industry agenda as we go forward.” He also discussed the continued development of the Enterprise Control System (ECS) for overall plant automation and integration. His last commitment was that there will be continuing development and support for Foxboro I/A system. 
Modernization Program
During the conference, Invensys announced a New Modernization Program. David Gaertner, Director of the Modernization Group, presented thoughts on the new program. Illustrating the need for modernization, he shared the results from a 2009 survey. Invensys used a third party company to survey their customers to determine if their organizations had modernization plans. 77% did not have a plan or did not know if a plan existed in their organization. He described the idea of taking a holistic approach to modernization, based on the business view of requirements.
Grant Le Sueur, Director of Product Management, described how virtualization is meeting user requirements to accomplish the following goals:
  • Update production system online without disruptions
  • Extend system life without major capital expenditures
  • Take a snapshot of production system to do offline maintenance
  • Eliminate workstation obsolescence cycles
  • Shorten MTTR (mean-time to repair)
Invensys now supports Microsoft HyperV and VMware platforms as well as thin clients, which are becoming popular to reduce administration costs.   He also discussed off-site archive services, as well as shadow-system support for customers willing to share their applications with Invensys support teams. Gary Freburger, President of Systems Business for the Invensys Operations Management, emphasized that qualifying virtualization technology is not simply a one-shot proposition. It will be included as a part of the company’s quality and testing process.
Cyber Security
Doug Clifton, Director of Critical Infrastructure and Security Practice, and I discussed their cyber security activities. Invensys has 21 dedicated cyber security consultants in North America that work with clients. Clifton stressed that cyber security is an ongoing activity that starts with a site assessment. A growing requirement is bridging process data to business systems, which requires specialized knowledge of configuring secure systems.
Thoughts & Observations
The Foxboro Users Group conference was an acknowledgement that the monster conferences have their place, but the ability to focus on one area provides a great deal of value to users.
The biggest value for conference attendees was the breadth of Foxboro-specific sessions.
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