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At its European users group meeting, Honeywell promotes a new ROI: ‘Return on Imagination’

Author : Michael Babb

08 December 2009

“Imagine what innovative process automation will bring to us in 2020,” said Norman Gilsdorf, President of Honeywell Process Solutions, speaking to an audience of about 500 gathered at a Lisbon hotel for the annual EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) Honeywell Users’ Group meeting.

Norm Gilsdorf and Jean Marie Alliet
Norm Gilsdorf and Jean Marie Alliet

That’s only 11 years from now, but Mr. Gilsdorf is confident his company has the proper roadmap. 

It has six signposts on it:

1. Ubiquitous sensors;
2. Wireless instruments;
3. Converting data to knowledge;
4. Converge IT and process control;
5. Unify automation layers; and
6. Enterprise-wide optimisation.

“Technology is a great enabler to bring people together,” said the chemical engineer who has spent much of his career since 1977 commissioning UOP equipment and control systems in remote oil and gas areas of Russia and the “stans,” as well as other areas in Europe, Asia, and Africa. He was previously the VP and general manager of the Process Solutions business in EMEA and replaced Jack Bolick as president of Honeywell Process Solutions last year.

Data overload, coupled with skilled worker shortages are combining to make industry challenges more difficult, he said. “Managing the data overload and turning it into knowledge for a safer, more efficient and reliable plant is our biggest challenge.”

But, as companies address these challenges, they create even more data to be managed. This becomes a vicious, never ending circle.

Lick and stick

The process world will become filled with new sensors for new applications, said Mr. Gilsdorf. MEMs and smart dust—tiny wireless microelectromechanical sensors as small as a grain of sand—are an example of how ubiquitous sensors may become. Hundreds could be scattered around to monitor temperature or humidity, or other critical variables such as fire and gas detection.

Though they are not as small as grains of sand, the era of small sensors is getting nearer. Honeywell was displaying “lick and stick” devices, facetious reference to its new small single-variable wireless sensors for temperature, pressure, vibration, equipment health, and so on. The sensors may be battery powered or they may use energy harvesting techniques.

Plant employees may soon be walking around with fire and gas detection sensors embedded in their work clothes, and GPS tracking so the control room knows where they are at all times, and gets an alarm message if they go into a potentially dangerous area.

Video may become the newest  “sensor” for the plant floor. Video analytics are already used in security applications. Video technology is emerging for both visible and IR wavelengths, with advanced video processing algorithms that can be used for leak detection, “hot” temperature spots that may be dangerous, and so on.

Without a doubt, the most interesting sensor platform Honeywell has developed is its tiny helicopter that can fly for about a half hour and do a video survey a hundred metres above the plant. Less than a metre in diameter, it will be able to perform leak detection and security services.


Lick and stick sensors
Lick and stick sensors

Wireless is close to Honeywell’s heart. Wireless, as an enabler, will cost-effectively bring in targeted data and push out the right information to the right person, said Mr. Gilsdorf.

He said the company was supporting the ISA100.11a standard because it allows more extensive use of wireless technology, extending the control network to mobile operators and allowing more sensing technologies in more places. Employees in the field will eventually be empowered with the same tools as operators in the control room, he said, thanks to mobile wireless technology.

Mr. Gilsdorf said he spent a lot of time commissioning UOP equipment in remote locations of Russia, and has memories of trying to communicate with the control room with a mobile radio (“walkie talkie”) for tedious start up operations. These difficulties will now be in the past. The new wireless equipment enables bi-directional flow of information, not just voice, which will enable rapid response and makes commissioning faster and more accurate.

Wireless also addresses new needs and regulations, he said, citing examples in energy efficiency such as pipeline pressure monitoring, monitoring the temperature on rotating equipment, and leak detection and repair.

Industrial security is one area where Honeywell can borrow experience from other parts of the company, especially in military research and development. Intruders on land, sea, and the air can be detected. He showed photographs of a radar system that can detect intruders approaching a coastal oil terminal.

Convert data to actionable knowledge

Advanced software applications—such as simulation, soft sensors, early event detection, online models for optimisation—will help to capture and automate knowledge.

A “workflow engine” and procedures built into the control system will drive automated or semi-automated actions. Mr. Gilsdorf cited a 2004 study of effective procedural practices in refining and chemical operations that said 30% of all reports listed procedural operations as one of the causes of industrial accidents.

The answer to this is to get rid of the volumes of paper procedures and put the instructions online, in a way that operators can easily access them. Operators just don’t have time to look things up in a manual.

“We took a complicated offline procedure… and automated the entire process removing a lot of the guesswork and manual intervention,” said Jim Hull, Plant Manager at a
Honeywell Specialty Materials plant.

Converging: IT and process control

Here comes cloud computing, said Mr. Gilsdorf. Cloud computing allows remote control centres to collect enterprise-wide loop data to model and optimise them centrally.

There is also a great deal of operational data that can be collected and analysed this way. He said there is an “early generation” of this existing today in 50 installations.

“Open systems are here – we need to centrally manage them more effectively with a shrinking workforce,” he said. The cloud computing infrastructure can be used to collect and process data through central locations.

This wireless temperature sensor is located on a kiln that rotates 80 times per hour.
This wireless temperature sensor is located on a kiln that rotates 80 times per hour.

This “service oriented architecture” delivers common services that support collaboration between manufacturers and their partners.

He briefly mentioned virtualisation techniques for maintaining software “while reducing the pain of technology churn.” The topic was discussed at greater length in other sessions, but for Honeywell, it basically represents a separation of hardware and software platforms, an isolation of resources so they are not affected by the latest changes that Microsoft makes in its operating system.

Virtualisation also makes migration easier on an enterprise-wide level.

Flattening of automation layers

Mr. Gilsdorf spent a lot of time talking about what he called the “unification of automation layers” by embedding key functions that provide “the right information to the right person.”

“We’ve gone from pneumatic systems to distributed control systems,” he said, “and now we need to go further along to process knowledge systems.”

What he means by flattening the business layers was shown in one graphic, that had field instruments at the bottom and ERP at the top. Raw material variability, outside the bottom, has to be linked across all these layers, to demand variability at the top, he said.

This means that all the different people who access the control system—planners, process experts, operators, shift leaders and plant managers—have to have the right information delivered to them so that they can properly align the business.

“Embedded batch” was one example. With better tools, plant efficiency can be increased by reducing batch cycle times, and reducing the unproductive times between steps. “Embedded batch provides reliable control and targeted knowledge,” he said.

Control room in the sky

In his last point, Mr. Gilsdorf encouraged plant operators to go beyond plant boundaries and seek enterprise-wide optimisation, reliability management, control and visibility, and monitoring.

He cited an example of a Indian refiner that needed to do complex crude scheduling across multiple facilities. The ten refineries—connected to the suppliers and to each other through a network of 200 depots, 40 terminals, and 17 pipelines—sourced 80 different crudes from a worldwide market. Altogether, there were six transportation modes.

Honeywell helped Indian Oil to create an integrated multi-plant solution for crude purchase. He quoted Uttam Kumar Basu, General Manager, Optimisation, as saying “With Honeywell’s help we have set a worldwide benchmark in the area of Supply Chain Planning.” The trick is to shift the supply chain to be demand-driven.

Acquisition of RMG Group

Operators don't have time to look up procedures in the documentation.
Operators don't have time to look up procedures in the documentation.

The biggest news from Honeywell this year, said Mr. Gilsdorf, was the acquisition of the RMG Group as of August, 2009.

It is now a part of the Field Solutions of Honeywell Process Solutions.

The acquisition allows Honeywell to deliver a more comprehensive automation solution in the gas chain and strengthen the solution portfolio by creating an opportunity for global growth in the “clean energy”—natural gas—industry.

RMG has solutions for gas distribution primarily in the commercial and industrial markets with with gas pressure reducing, metering solutions, odorisation stations, and CNG stations for trucks, buses, and cars. It is not involved with residential markets.

It also has transportation and storage, as well as OEM applications.

Control Engineering Europe’s news story about the acquisition of RMG can be read by clicking on the following link: (http://www.controlengeurope.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=24661)

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