Investment in skills required to support Fieldbus systems

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An advocate for fieldbus process control systems in Australia says it’s time for industry to re-shape the way it thinks about the technology.

Rafael Koenig (pictured alongside), who heads the Process Control & Automation Division and PI Competence Centre at Tyco Flow Control, says the potential benefits from installing fieldbus often outweigh the goals many project managers set.

In a white paper presented to the Ninth International Alumina Quality Workshop in Perth, Koenig says the value of fieldbus in process industries is not limited to obvious benefits like high efficiencies and low installation costs.

“Industry must look at broader benefits, such as enabling sophisticated tools like predictive maintenance for intelligent asset management,” Koenig said.

A lack of training, experience and support were holding back the technology, he added.

“We need to overcome a shortage of skilled engineering resources in process control and automation,” Koenig said.

“Intelligently applying diagnostic and monitoring technology can help – but a real cure will only come through investing in skills development.

“Traditional process control technologies cause a dilemma for designers and operators of modern facilities because they have major inefficiencies.

With about 40 million devices installed globally, Profibus is considered the most successful fieldbus system on the market.

Koenig cited a cost comparison between a conventional installation based on 4-20mA technology and a Profibus fieldbus installation at a chemical process plant.

“Despite a 15 per cent higher cost for system devices, reduced cabling and wiring costs plus significantly shortened engineering times from using Profibus brought an overall saving of 31 per cent,” Koenig explained.

Technologies like Profibus and Foundation Fieldbus offered comprehensive communication, application profiles, system integration and engineering solutions.

“When there are problems with Profibus networks, device connection issues cause 90 per cent of issues,” Koenig said.

“When failure occurs, it clearly highlights a lack of qualified engineering, operating and maintenance resources.

“Australia does not have the same level of knowledge and experience as overseas manufacturers of fieldbus.

“We need to regard human resources and technology related capability development as equally important.”