The Evolution of the Automation Pyramid!

The Evolution of the Automation Pyramid!

29. January 2018

I was inspired by an article by Kepware on the Timeline of IIoT, this made me look back the long evolution automation has had and makes me wonder about how could the future of the automation pyramid look like. Even though automation itself, in general, has numerous clear advancements and goals for the future such as Smart manufacturing, Smart factory, adapting to digitalisation, IIoT and Industry 4.0. These stay as interesting keywords and their proper formulation or transcription for process industry in specific is missing. Simple words, what is smart manufacturing in terms of chemical production? Should all the transmitters be replaced in order to implement digitalisation or IIoT? There arise a lot of questions around these. These questions are being answered by NAMUR and The Open Group through their concepts NOA (NAMUR Open Architecture) and OPA (Open Process Automation) respectively. Let us analyse them one by one.

A little bit of “history”! NOA(h)

NOA an abbreviation for NAMUR Open Arichtecture has formed an acronym among people pronounced NOA(h) gives me a reminder of the biblical story Noah’s Ark. Noah’s Ark is the ship built by Noah to save his family and two of every kind of animal from the flood and extinction. The situation of today’s automation pyramid is similar and the similarities are uncanny. Even though today’s  automation structure is widely accepted and is mature systems with long life cycles, It is too complicated to implement new technologies into this architecture, even if implemented it is either rarely used or ignored. The end user would want to keep those traditional advantages and also be up to mark on new innovations, meaning an evolution of the systems is required.

Here you can find another interesting post about open communication by Tim-Peter Henrichs.

The Natural Selection

One of the basic principles of evolution is Natural selection, where genetic alterations to the species are required for survival. This can be seen in the today’s automation infrastructure. The advancements to IT technologies post risks and sometimes are threatening to the basic advantages such as Availability, Reliability on which the automation pyramid was built on, above all to the huge investments end-users have made so far to their infrastructure. To the rescue comes “The Ark” here being NOA (NAMUR Open Architecture) and OPA (Open Process Automation), which defines the systems and technologies that are selected or fit for survival in the flood of today’s technological and economic challenges. What could be those evolutions items to the existing system?

  • Smart sensors on the field
  • An open interface from the core structure to other applications
  • A secure and strict way of communication from other applications

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A prototype was built by TU Dresden to demonstrate NOA capabilities, field data such as stroke count from a control valve was collected by sensors using HART and saved in the cloud using OPC. This data was then used by an application to analyse the efficiency of a control action in the DCS and propose an efficient integral value (I) was sent to the DCS via a secure Verification of Request (VoR) Module. The final action was then by an operator to make a decision either to take the suggested value or ignore it.

Verification of request

Example on how could a verification of request be handled in an existing process graphic

All aboard Ship ahoy!

As described above these are the end user concerns and reaction to the situation. The situation could have been due to various economic, political, technological hindrances from both vendor and end-user sides. To go on further and to survive the next generation of evolution together, as system vendor Yokogawa takes responsibility to develop solutions not only fulfilling requirement but also by creating a tangible value for the customer. It is always nice to have new ideas and prototypes but these should be realisable from and by commercially- available systems. We are working towards this by supporting market initiatives and by developing IIoT solutions specifically for the process industry such as Sushi Sensors and various other innovations.

An optimistic timeline for Process Automation evolution

An optimistic timeline for Process Automation evolution

Geometrics of the new pyramid!

There were lots of research on how Noah’s ark would have looked like there are many depictions of it. Similar to that we can only imagine how the geometrics of the new structure will look like. Share your thoughts! Yokogawa has been constantly evolved through the past century and is determined to evolve the next through our new business concept Synaptic Business Automation, our own future Automation structure.

Synaptic Business Automation

Synaptic Business Automation

Do you think the timeline is realistic? Or do you think different? Let us know. Leave a comment. Let us discuss about the evolution of process automation!

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