The art of recycled systems

Automatic automation based on reusable engineering

A couple of weeks ago, I was describing the advantages of evolution in a distributed control system to a customer interested in a new human-machine interface. He was enlightened with the tools available to migrate from one version of a system to another, which would also reduce migration time and possibility of human error. Interestingly, the conversation turned into a general discussion about the importance of engineering tools that reuse proven configurations and solutions shared within a company, regardless of geographical boundaries and time differences.

Imagine how many engineering hours spent on system design and configuration could be saved if a thorough application of the reuse engineering principle was applied to every similar project. The essence of automation is to improve the quality, accuracy and precision of a process in a way that delivers predictable results independent of mistake-prone human intervention. This is true for automation systems in power and water applications, but to what extent can we expect our design and engineering processes to take advantage of reuse engineering? Is it realistic to fully  reuse the design of one project in another? More than once while talking to the engineers in charge of delivering a power plant DCS, I was told that no two plants are the same, even if the customer and technology are, and all major  equipment comes from the same manufacturer.  So can we ever reach a stage where the complete DCS design and configuration can be automatically executed? Could we possibly come up with a tool to automate the development of automation systems? In short, can we automate automation?

I believe the answer is yes, based on the global availability of standard ABB solutions, products, services, libraries and configuration.  With the exception of a few pioneering initiatives, I believe that most DCS and automation projects can and will take advantage not only of previous experience, but also of specific documents and software that have already been designed and tested. But I also think the concept of reuse is not only valid for engineering, but can be extended across the entire value chain of our business. From sales to tendering, from project execution to service, the goal of efficiency should be guiding our daily activities. Unfortunately, most of us are so busy delivering commitments using available tools and following known pathways that we forget to pause and ask ourselves, “let’s see if somebody else has already done it.”

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About the author

Enrico Mantero

I am the local product group manager of ABB`s Automation and Service business in Singapore. I have worked for 14 years in various roles with ABB`s power generation business in Europe, the Middle East and now Asia. I believe that infusing a team with energy and enthusiasm and then seeing the results driven by teamwork is the most interesting and rewarding part of a manager's job.
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