Rockwell Automation Process Automation Review |

Rockwell Automation Process Automation Review

September 102012
Rockwell Automation Process Automation Review
September 2012
By Bill Lydon, Editor
Rockwell Automation is clearly focused on building a process automation business to compete in segments that have traditionally been dominated by DCS suppliers.   I recently had the opportunity to visit with Rockwell PlantPAx experts in Mayfield Heights, Ohio to discuss the system and explore this business initiative. Alexander Cherpakov, Ph.D, System Engineering Manager Process Business, provided overall information and Shannon Foos, Process Segment Manager-Fieldbus and Asset Management, discussed the process networks.
What is PlantPAx?
Cherpakov noted that this is not Rockwell’s first try at serving the process industry and they have learned many things from past mistakes. Throughout our discussion and on various PowerPoint slides, PlantPAx was described as a systems architecture consisting of a portfolio of Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture components and 3rd party products combined to implement process control systems. Their presentations emphasized that the PlantPAx architecture organizes system components consistent with process industry standards yet maintains the scalability of traditional Rockwell Automation offerings. Cherpakov stated that PlantPAx can be cost effective down to applications of 8 to 16 loops, “…where no DCS would be cost effective…” The system includes a standard set of elements based on the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture components. The standard Integrated Architecture engineering and development environments are extended through PlantPAx tools and utilities that simplify implementation of process systems. Integrated Architecture software components and versions that comprise the PlantPAx system release 2.0, (2012 update), include the following:
  • RSLogix™ 5000 software, version 20.x
  • FactoryTalk View software, version 6.1
  • FactoryTalk Batch software, version 11.01
  • FactoryTalk AssetCentre software, version 4.1
  • FactoryTalk VantagePoint software, version 4.0
  • FactoryTalk Historian software, version 3.0
Additional tools and libraries are available that, when combined with Integrated Architecture software components, greatly add capabilities to PlantPAx.  For example, the PlantPAx Process Library is a predefined library of control code, faceplates, and display elements designed to allow a process user to quickly assemble large applications. The process automation system server (PASS) is a required system element that contains these Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture software components.   
We further discussed the following more specific topics.
Network Configuration
Rockwell Automation representatives continue to tell me that they are network agnostic and will support any network. However, the backbone of the PlantPAx architecture is EtherNet/IP unless dual ring redundancy is required, in which case, ControlNet is used.   It has been stated that a number of customers also like using ControlNet since it keeps the IT department out of automation. In a presentation at the Rockwell PSUG (Process Systems User Group) meeting last year, a user told me the same thing. Rockwell Automation is participating in ODVA groups and working to define a dual ring standard for EtherNet/IP.
Field Networks
Other networks such as HART, Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus, WirelessHART, and ISA100 are brought into the system with gateways that are either external or located in the ControlLogix rack. The data from these devices and any associated electronic data sheets are normalized and mapped to Rockwell’s internal data models.   The Logix architecture uses an Add-on Profile (AOP) that automates much of this task. AOPs are developed and licensed by Rockwell Automation Technologies only to selected third parties.  
In June of 2012, Rockwell Automation announced the Allen-Bradley 1788-EN2FFR and 1788-CN2FFR linking devices that provide a link from EtherNet/IP or ControlNet networks to the FOUNDATION Fieldbus H1 device-level network. These linking devices use the Add-On-Profile’s (AOP). Both devices support up to 16 field devices on a single H1 segment and feature multiple redundancy configurations, including redundant linking devices, H1 media, ControlNet media, and EtherNet/IP Device-Level Ring.
Ethernet Configuration
The presentation on system performance included PlantPAx infrastructure guidelines recommending the use of managed switches, static IP addresses (workstations, servers, controllers), and logically segregating I/O, control system, and enterprise networks. This is interesting because it is my understanding that the majority of corporate IT departments strongly like to avoid static addresses.
Rockwell Automation is open to supporting all the wireless standards using third party add-on products.  EtherNet/IP is also being used over 802.11 and unlicensed 2.4 GHz radios. 
Shannon Foos highlighted the application of EtherNet/IP over 802.11 wireless networks. She noted that the use of Rockwell 1734 point I/O with the ProSoft Wireless POINT I/O Adapter (ILX34-AENWG) and 1734 HART I/O slices (1734sc-IE2CH or 1734sc-IE4CH ) is an effective way to wirelessly connect remote points using HART. 
Instrumentation from Endress+Hauser and others that support EtherNet/IP can also run on 802.11 Ethernet for wireless applications using off the shelf networking hardware.
Electronic Marshaling
I asked if Rockwell Automation has something comparable to the new electronic marshaling offer by other DCS vendors that yield significant engineering, installation, and startup savings. Rockwell’s 1794 Flex I/O was suggested as an alternative. I don’t feel this is a comparable alternative because it doesn’t offer dual network redundancy and field points are fixed function rather than software field configured.
PlantPAx System Characterization
We spent a great deal of time reviewing the work Rockwell Automation has done developing the PlantPAx characterization lab and software used to model and predict PlantPAx performance based on customer provided information. The main goal of the PlantPAx System Characterization is to provide a recommended architecture and information (boundaries) concerning a system operation. This results in predictable system performance for recommended hardware and software configurations and reduces the risk of system performance issues. PlantPAx System Characterization is not based on plant and process models so it therefore requires information from users - information that in most cases will be their best guess.  This is a very impressive approach to predicting and properly sizing systems. The approach is further defined in the video below.
Engagement Model
Rockwell Automation is working with their distributors to approach a wide range of process users. Distributors, in addition to Rockwell Automation, are adding process specialists to their staff.   We had a discussion about some major users that are doing installation and configuration themselves. This self-service approach is comparable to a large portion of Rockwell Automation’s PLC business. One advantage that these customers believe this approach provides is more engineering control over the system versus using a DCS supplier or systems integrator. In addition, projects were cited where customers believe their total cost of ownership over time using PlantPAx will be lower based on maintenance, upgrades, and other costs.  
Thoughts & Observations
Rockwell Automation is promoting a different architectural approach to the process industry and is using their distributors and authorized system integrators to propose the idea that together they offer a better value proposition to users.
The new CompactLogix 5370 line of controllers (L1,L2 andL3) are about twice as fast as their predecessors, at a lower cost and provides a strong platform for PlantPAx process applications. Click here for more Information.
The PlantPAx System Characterization lab and software is impressive. But I wonder if this characterization is a requirement because it is difficult to predict system configuration and performance with this loosely coupled system architecture. I say loosely coupled in this context since a PlantPAx system is built using software, hardware, and firmware elements from the broad portfolio of Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture components and 3rd party products.
Version changes are an ongoing complaint I hear from ControlLogix users when they move to higher level revisions or new features of software. Often the controller needs an expensive firmware update to take advantage of new features. Based on our discussion, this tight coupling and dependency is core to the Logix architecture and therefore the same for PlantPAx.
Rockwell Automation is a leader and profitable supplier of discrete controls in North America, particularly automotive. These industries are ramping back up and making significant automation investments again. It is unclear how Rockwell Automation is balancing resources to properly serve its traditional discrete customers plus new process customers. It may be that the process opportunity is much larger and requiring more emphasis.
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