Networking dominates Emerson Users Exchange


By Ken Schnepf

Oct 03, 2007

The market is now ready to deploy higher-performance wireless plant networks and the applications that run them, says John Berra, president, Emerson Process Management, one of the keynote speakers at the Emerson Global Users Exchange held September 10-14 in Grapevine, Texas.

“I’m sensing a big change here,” says Berra. “I’m sensing the companies you work for see automation as a huge value.”

Berra says we are at the brink of another era of automation. The newly approved wireless HART standards are an important step to making wireless more useful to everyone. “This standard works,” he says. It’s a wireless open standard designed to meet the needs of the process control industry.

Approximately 20 million HART devices are installed throughout the world, Berra estimates. However, most users can’t access the diagnostics within those devices.

“Now we can unlock those diagnostics and free them in your plant. This isn’t Emerson’s standard, it’s the industry’s standard.”

Berra provided examples of wireless being used to solve real plant problems:

  • PPG Lake Charles, La., uses a smart wireless network coexisting with other wireless systems. The network was applied to temperature profiling of plant steam headers, redundant level measurement on caustic tanks, and vibration monitoring of brine centrifuges.
  • Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel improved productivity by as much as 10% and virtually eliminated downtime by monitoring and diagnosing troublesome secondary systems. Wireless was applied to monitor cooling water flow and grease system health in a hot strip mill, and cooling water flow to work rolls in a roughing mill.
  • A North American pulp and paper mill placed wireless temperature transmitters 180° apart at the mid-zone of a kiln to get the insight needed to solve a mill bottleneck.

“These are real. They’re all up and running and they all have happened in the past year,” says Berra. “I am so excited about it and you should be too.”

Later during the conference, Emerson Process Management announced a partnership with Cisco to offer open-standard solutions for wireless process and plant management applications that install easily and operate reliably in the challenging process manufacturing environment. Emerson’s process automation and Cisco’s IT networking expertise will target a complete solution that improves productivity, safety and operational efficiency for manufacturing customers.

Emerson’s wireless process applications use self-organizing field networks for increased monitoring of plant data for control and asset optimization; they also offer mobile operator and maintenance worker applications. Cisco wireless plant networks offer applications including those for worker mobility, voice-over-IP communications, tracking of personnel and assets, and video applications.

“Since introducing Smart Wireless field networks a year ago, we’ve been excited at the high customer interest and their quickly realized business results,” says Berra, president of Emerson Process Management.

“Networks and mobility are dramatically transforming our customers businesses and in-plant processes,” says Maciej Kranz, Cisco vice president of product marketing for its Wireless Business Unit. “By delivering a combined wireless architecture from Emerson and Cisco, we’re enabling our manufacturing process customers to deploy flexible, scalable and safe wireless solutions and mobility applications in rugged plant environments.”

Emerson will project-manage and deliver the wireless solution to customers by working with Cisco and taking advantage of their joint expertise. Emerson and Cisco have developed a services plan to design, specify, install and support wireless solutions for customers worldwide. These customized solutions are to provide end users with a competitive edge through open-standards wireless technology and a complete network platform that ensures they can start with any application and easily expand as the technology evolves.

Emerson’s wireless platform will extend the Smart Wireless capabilities of PlantWeb digital plant architecture to include wireless plant networks, Emerson says. The networks use the Cisco Unified Wireless Architecture, offering including industrial-class wireless access points, controllers and network management software, and plant applications such as communication, tracking and worker mobility tools.

Emerson will use the Cisco Unified Wireless Architecture to provide ubiquitous, highly secure wireless LAN coverage and integration within the plant’s existing IT infrastructure; this integration eliminates the need for a complex wireless overlay network. Cisco’s Wireless Control System will centralize the configuration and management of the plant’s WiFi network, reducing overall cost of ownership.