A DCS for the Post-Baby Boom Generation

31 March 2008

Yokogawa Electric Corporation says the new Centum will become its next-generation flagship DCS platform. Centum VP (the VP stands for ‘Vigilant Plant’) is the eighth generation of the Centum series, succeeding the Centum CS 1000 / Centum CS 3000, and is said to be backward compatible with all previous Centum series, since the first one was announced in 1975. Yokogawa says it has installed 19,000 systems around the world.

Figure 1
Figure 1

In the announcement made in Amsterdam, the company said the product ‘will become’ the next-generation DCS, pointing to a time in the future that the full system will be available. At the present, it works with I/O, controllers, and proprietary Vnet networking of existing systems. The announcement covered the HMI and database, which are the first two modules that have been released.

According to Yokogawa senior VP Satoru Kurosu, Centum VP was designed for the next generation of engineers, that is, the generation that will soon replace the large number of present engineers and operators who will be retiring soon. Since the diminished number of personnel will have to be supplanted with an increased amount of automation, Yokogawa intends to provide its customers with a method to fill the gaps by integrating plant information management, asset management, and operation support functions. In this approach Yokogawa says it is going beyond the traditional DCS function of controlling and monitoring a plant redefining the role of the production control system.

Database, HMI
The most tangible part of the announcement is the Human Interface Station (HIS). The new Microsoft Vista-based station is meant to introduce a unified and intuitive operating environment, designed and arranged to reduce operator fatigue and discomfort. The HMI is also designed to facilitate quick access to the right information, so that double the amount of operator work can be done in the same amount of time.

The other major part of the announcement is the database. The unified architecture provided by a real-time plant database is intended to serve four key functions—production control and monitoring, plant information management, asset management, and operation support—at the same time. Yokogawa says competitors provide these functions, but only through a variety of different suppliers, which leads to ‘a patchwork of disparate systems, leaving gaps and barriers that constrain operations.’ With a unified plant database, Centum VP ‘enables single-source seamless integration of advanced applications that manage plant information, stabilise processes, and improve operational efficiency.’

Figure 1: In 1988, Yokogawa introduced its Centum XL system, with the latest 32-bit RISC processors , surface mounted electronics, artificial intelligence workstations, and mouse and menu-driven touchscreen graphics. Eight CRTs were ‘stacked’ in a new configuration that gave operators a better view. The worldwide installed base at that time was 2,000 systems.

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