Last week this came up 3 times in a week, customers asked me are we working on a unifying configuration environment that will manage standards for control, supervisory and more over multiple different vendor controllers. We talked about the need for multiple teams, one for templates development, others for deployment and the critical need for version management. You cannot expect to have standards if you do not have strong governance and in my experience this means a tool, and environment that promotes the successful management of standards.
We talk about federation of information across data sources in an information driven manufacturing environment, but an effective operational transformation is about decisions and actions in a timely manner and consistent manner. Too often we talk at the high level and overlook the extensive work required on the plan automation control integration. Most plants are on to at least their second generation of control, in DCS, PLC and SCADA. These systems are mature and functionally immensely rich that they can expand and evolve to satisfy most processes today.
The Modern Automation/ Operational system is not an enclosed system, it will have many controllers of different sizes running different processes, hopefully the correct controller for the correct process. With the evolution of the “Internet of things” in the automation world there is a trend to smaller powerful controllers so each asset/ process has it is own control that links into the higher world. This makes sense as long as there is the ability to federate these controls from a:
· Naming convention consistency across the controllers
· Control Standards for a process over different controllers
· The ability to configure different levels of a control/ process strategy across controllers but deployed to a different controller instances which in many cases will be controllers from different vendors.
· The ability to automatically configure the integration with the supervisory platform and the controller at the same time, any changes are automatically managed and sustained.
· Clear governance over the management of standards and versions across the supervisory and controllers
· Version management is key the ability to manage different versions of standards in the same strategy deployed to different controllers, combined with incremental updates.
· The End to End System Integrity at the time of deployment, this is the step most people are concerned with as the system must make sure the integrity of the different parts of control sub system are in place, so we have no dead ends on references that can cause controllers to not function. Assumed in this is the peer to peer communication and referencing between controllers of different roles, types and vendors.
Yes, the leaders in the operational transformation while implementing a Supervisory Platform with operational standards and decision support, they are complimenting their investment with an equally often more significant investment in alignment of the existing and new control systems. Their standards, their interfacing and most of all their management of integration and standards.
The new generation “Industrial Enterprise Configuration Environments” will live above the individual vendor configuration systems but enable a holistic management of strategy and standards leveraging a multi discipline team, with version governance naturally built in. When we look at the “Internet of things” this will become key, as we go to “atomic control” at the devices and machines, the thought of learning multiple tools is not practical. The only way in the industrial world will be a common configuration environment that enables standards, and deployment to different device platforms, with governance, and confidence.
Watch this space as we accelerate the innovation in this area, to bring reality.