classic | mobile


SA Instrumentation & Control Buyers' Guide

Technews Industry Guide - IIoT 2018

Technews Industry Guide - Maintenance, Reliability & Asset Optimisation


From the editor's desk: Open process automation and digital twins
June 2018, News

The ideas of The Open Process Automation Initiative first challenged traditional process control thinking at the ARC Industry Forum in 2016. The drive began within the ExxonMobil Corporation where a large number of older DCS installations (measured in hundreds not tens) were coming due for replacement as they approached obsolescence. Faced with this critical investment dilemma, the company’s engineering and managerial decision-makers resolved to think outside the box. All ideas associated with existing control platforms were thrown out of the window. Instead, they dreamed of a new class of automation solutions that would improve and simplify production processes in the future.

What ExxonMobil’s executives hope to crack is the problem of typical DCS retrofits. They generally agree that the newer control platforms do offer value, but the primary obstacle is the cost of transferring thirty years’ worth of hard-won process intelligence from one proprietary control system to another. As other end-users identified with this conundrum, the initiative gained momentum. The result today is the definitional work for a new class of automation solutions being conducted by The Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) and by NAMUR. The scope of their programme is broad and covers all the process control operations traditionally performed by the DCS, PLC, APC and HMI, as well as the tools that support the design and engineering of these functions.

At ARC’s 2018 industry event, this coordinated effort finally paid dividends as ExxonMobil unveiled the first public presentation of its proof of concept project.

Designed to demonstrate an architecture that can deliver the required level of vendor interoperability through standards, the proof of concept showed how components may be freely interchanged between vendors without having to modify the underlying logic, or resort to the use of gateways and translators.

The next step is to move to an on-process pilot project later this year. ExxonMobil has already identified an internal site for this with the final goal to initiate field trials of pioneer applications in 2020 and achieve full technical readiness in 2021. See ‘Open Process Automation moves to the proof of concept stage’ for more on this ground-breaking initiative which threatens to disrupt the established market for process control solutions.

Digital twins

Speaking of disruption, one of the more abstract ideas introduced by Industrie 4.0 is that of the digital twin. Actually, the idea of the twin has been around since NASA introduced the first virtual environment as a way to optimise the performance of assets too far away to manage by conventional methods. For instance, when disaster struck Apollo 13, it was the innovation of mirrored systems here on earth that allowed engineers and astronauts to determine how they could rescue the mission.

However, it is through the IIoT that the technology became cost-effective to industry. A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical object. In the case of manufacturing, this would usually be a process, or even an entire plant. The digital twin then acts as a bridge between the physical and virtual worlds.

The physical plant (or process) is linked to its digital counterpart through smart sensors, which means that the virtual model contains all the information that could be gained through inspection of its real counterpart. A common use of the twin technology is digital prototyping, which allows equipment to be designed and tested in the virtual environment before anything physical is ever built. Another powerful application is the use of equipment monitoring to implement a predictive maintenance strategy.

The snag is that a digital twin is not a product that one can go out and buy. Constructing a digital twin is a journey that requires the continuous implementation of platforms, capabilities, processes and human interfaces. Understanding the organisation’s business strategy and how this new IIoT technology can support it is fundamental to why a digital twin is needed in the first place. If the prospect of implementing a twin seems overwhelming at this point, contributing editor Gavin Halse’s article on ‘Digital twins, science-fiction or reality?’ may just help to get you started.

Steven Meyer

Editor: SA Instrumentation & Control

Supplied By: Technews Publishing (SA Instrumentation & Control)
Tel: +27 11 543 5800
Fax: +27 11 787 8052
Share via email     Share via LinkedIn   Print this page

Further reading:

  • From the editor’s desk: Digital transformation includes people, and services
    October 2018, Technews Publishing (SA Instrumentation & Control), News
    Digital transformation, according to Microsoft, is about reimagining how we bring together people, data and processes to create value for customers and maintain a competitive advantage in a digital-first ...
  • SA researchers tune CERN’s computers for Higgs experiments
    October 2018, News
    The global CERN collaboration in Switzerland has found a missing piece in the enduring puzzle known as the Standard Model in Physics. Observation of the Higgs boson’s decay to bottom quarks marks an event ...
  • Yokogawa wins metering valve orders for oil fields off the Norwegian coast
    October 2018, Yokogawa South Africa, News
    Yokogawa Electric Corporation has received orders to provide 59 high-performance FluidCom chemical injection metering valves for two offshore oil fields that are being developed by Equinor ASA, a Norwegian ...
  • Festo opens first North American Festo Experience Centre
    October 2018, Festo, News
    Festo has opened its first North American Festo Experience Centre in the heart of Silicon Valley. With the ever-increasing linkages between making things and controlling processes through cloud computing ...
  • Fashion and data combine to create iconic African designs
    October 2018, Siemens Digital Factory & Process Indust. & Drives, News
    The power of technology and fashion has combined in a thought-provoking project that demonstrates how data can transform African cities. Technology leader Siemens used data from the cities of Lagos, Nairobi ...
  • Emerson opens flow calibration centre for Middle East and Africa
    October 2018, Emerson Automation Solutions, News
    Emerson has recently opened the Middle East and Africa Flow Service Centre at its Dubai campus. The facility will operate as a service centre for customers in the Middle East and Africa, offering internationally ...
  • Omron innovation
    October 2018, Omron Electronics, News
    At Omron’s recent Innovation Conference held at the CSIR Conference Centre, delegates were briefed on the latest developments in IIoT and the Smart Factory, and the benefits of Omron’s new i-Automation ...
  • NI continues local operations through Test Dynamics
    October 2018, Test Dynamics, News
    Following a review of the business model, National Instruments South Africa closed its doors for the last time in early 2018 as it had decided it could better serve the local market through a distribution ...
  • Comtest to represent ISC
    October 2018, Comtest, News
    Comtest has announced that it now represents Industrial Scientific Corporation (ISC), a leading global provider of gas solutions. ISC develops, manufactures and services fixed and portable gas detection ...
  • Extensive range of automation components available through Metal Work Pneumatic South Africa
    October 2018, Metal Work Pneumatic South Africa, News
    Metal Work Pneumatic S.p.a. Italy was, for many years, represented by various companies in South Africa. Recognising the need to consolidate its efforts and offer the local market a common point of contact, ...
  • SKF provides technical acumen as sponsor of the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge
    October 2018, SKF South Africa, News
    SKF was a proud sponsor of the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge (SSC). The eight-day solar journey kicked off in Pretoria on 22 September, finished in Stellenbosch on 29 September. This biennial competition ...
  • IoT.nxt joins leading companies as a Linux Foundation silver partner
    October 2018, IoT.nxt, News
    During June, South African IoT technology and strategy innovator, IoT.nxt, joined a community of global companies as a silver partner of The Linux Foundation. “There are great opportunities to use open ...

Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd
1st Floor, Stabilitas House
265 Kent Ave, Randburg, 2194
South Africa
Publications by Technews
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology
Electronic Buyers Guide (EBG)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Business Directory

Motion Control in Southern Africa
Motion Control Buyers’ Guide (MCBG)

South African Instrumentation & Control
South African Instrumentation & Control Buyers’ Guide (IBG)
Terms & conditions of use, including privacy policy
PAIA Manual


    classic | mobile

Copyright © Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.