The Profibus International Conference and Exhibition at Coombe Abbey, Coventry, UK, in June 2007 was an excellent reflection of the mood of the industry, with delegates carefully planning the implementation of up-coming Profibus projects, keen to hear about previous experiences and asking serious questions. The many delegates mainly from the user community spent two days in discussions with speakers and exhibitors, and attending technical presentations or workshops to describe the practical aspects of Profibus and Profinet, and the training on offer from the recognised Profibus Competency Centres.
As a design and build process and automation contractor with a track record on both water industry and industrial installations of Profibus systems, the Enpure keynote presentations were well attended, and their advice keenly sought. For Enpure, some of their first/early installations had provided a steep learning curve, experiencing some patchy vendor support, and with imposed installation contractors not knowledgeable about Profibus cabling: both these have now been addressed, particularly by the Profibus training initiatives outlined and demonstrated in the workshops by the Profibus Competency Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University. Five years has also seen Enpure develop its documentation techniques and version control records for software and hardware to enable continuing support for installed systems.
South West Water is operating several of the Enpure Profibus based installations, and Robin Lennox of SWW was keen to attend this year's conference to learn more of the system capabilities and training now available. However, his experience so far with these Profibus plants is that reliability is excellent and his maintenance engineers have been deprived of any opportunities to solve problems! Robin Lennox, with Ian Moss of AstraZeneca, another user of an Enpure Profibus-based system, volunteered for the Profibus UK Steering Committee, which will bring valuable user input into the Profibus and Profinet future direction and support activity.
Another discussion topic at the conference was the growing capability of field devices and automation systems to monitor unusual conditions or faults on process equipment, diagnose the problem, and automatically raise maintenance/repair orders within a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). Direct connections from automation systems like the ABB System 800xA into CMMS like MRO Maximo and SAP PM were demonstrated. The importance of the intelligence now available is that the alarm signal no longer expects an engineer to analyse the data, or visit the machine, the specific repair order can be routed through the CMMS to the maintenance staff, without his involvement. Gareth Johnston from ABB, in his presentation, illustrated the importance of this link with some recent quotations on the costs of plant maintenance; these can be equivalent to 67 per cent of net profit, according to DuPont, or just the unnecessary work carried out on plant can be the same as the net profit, according to Dow Chemical.
As always the Exhibition highlighted the many products now available to provide support on all aspects of Profibus plant operation, as well as showcasing some of the major system vendors products. Siemens presented delegates with a copy of the 'Pocket Guide to Profibus', the little red book published by the ISA. Other vendors provided product proposals for on-site troubleshooting analysers, operator field displays of the measured variables and radio data links for extending Profibus links over wide areas, to detail just a few.
Bob Squirrell, UK Profibus Chairman, reminded the conference that there are over 20million Profibus nodes operating around the world, and 2.8million Profibus-enabled devices on water treatment plants, chemical plants and process and hybrid-industry installations. The investments made in Profibus will be supported, and the capabilities enhanced by the additional products and facilities introduced, and the simple interfacing with Profinet and other information systems. Conferences like this International User Meeting are there to reinforce and build on the support network available, to enable ever more efficient use of the technology.
As usual, a prize draw was held for book prizes as well as two Certified Profibus Installer courses generously donated by Andy Verwer of the Profibus International Competence Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University. Winners of book prizes were Patrick Bradley, Yorkshire Water; Robin Lennox, South West Water; Simon Robinson, LaFarge Cement; Graeme Nairns, a student with Siemens. The two training courses were won by Andy Stanley of Dunlop Oil and Brian Humphries of Yorkshire Water.