This was an exciting Users’ Group where customers revealed that globalization is affecting Europe – the European Union’s role of being the manufacturing base for the region is shifting to China and Asia while Eastern Europe and the Middle East are emerging as the energy supplier for the region. This transition puts increased pressure on Europe to maintain competitiveness and leadership. Common challenges and trends that emerged during the conference were:
- Skills Shortage
- Increased Health, Safety, and Environment emphasis (internal policy and regulation)
- Wireless Solutions to improve reliability, safety, and efficiency
- Systems and Enterprise–wide integration creating demand for Process Control Network Security
A skills shortage is being created by retiring engineers with fewer new people to fill their shoes. Europe is seeing a “decline amongst those aged 19+ taking engineering courses”. This combined with many sites that have a 10-12 year gap between their new hires and their next youngest group of experienced engineers is causing a growing concern throughout EMEA across all industrial sectors. One customer even indicated that a technical job posting went two years without anyone even applying. This creates challenges for training younger engineers and transferring knowledge to the next generation of employees while also putting a broader scope of responsibility on each of the remaining employees.
Honeywell emphasized two network-oriented technology areas to help fill the gaps – virtualization and wireless. Honeywell touted both virtual plant scenario training as well as virtualization of systems, running DCS systems in a virtual PC environment and field wireless solutions. Cisco and Honeywell partnered to announce that Cisco will be launching a new industrial access points (AP) – a combination of the Cisco Aironet series industrial Wi-Fi AP and Honeywell’s ISA100-based sensor network radio. The solution provides wireless coverage for both Wi-Fi applications and ISA100.11a field instruments under a single infrastructure to minimize total cost of ownership while providing more information (not just data) to guide and help environmental and process awareness for operators.
A strong theme emerged – convergence of IT and Process enterprise-wide solutions are playing a larger role and being leveraged with the goal of gaining better business performance and improving regulatory compliance. Plans have been made to move the TDC to Fault Tolerant Ethernet (FTE) with the eUCN and eHPM nodes that will replicate HPM and NIM functionality and communicate as a peer to the C-series controllers. This continual move to Ethernet-based nodes along with heavy emphasis on Operator Effectiveness and operator-centric advanced solutions such as procedural operations, alarm management, mobile operator/mobile productivity, remote sensing and control, process performance, asset management solutions, operator training simulator, virtualization, virtual plant and integration of networked systems shows how OEMs and customers are leveraging modern Ethernet technology to do more with less people, comply with more regulation, and improve reliability. Wireless and remote networking technology enables more effective collaboration among a few specialists and the many generalists through remote communications and remote access to systems. This technology combined with modern DCS systems capability of embedding knowledge into the systems enables customers to protect their investment in their systems. They can now capture retiring experience before it is lost and protect their intellectual property by embedding it in the system.
These solutions underscore the cyber security and Architecture planning gap. Customers stated that they were thirsty for an unbiased body to publish a security benchmark and have competent experts collaborate with their plants to meet their coming challenges.