SCADA 50% cost claim causes a stir at Drives & Controls exhibition…

P4A MD Paul Hurst and MMI solutions MD Dennis Price were causing some consternation at the Drives & Controls exhibition held at the NEC last week, by asking visitors the question “Are you paying too much for your SCADA?” the answer it seems is a resounding ‘Yes!’

Both Paul and Dennis are intent on transforming the SCADA software market in the UK by breaking what they see as an unfair price premium being paid currently for SCADA software and integrator support. Everyone it seems who was questioned at the show, and many that offered their opinion having seen the banner on the exhibition stand and on the company website at www.products4automation.com agreed – many citing examples of far lower quoted prices in other European markets. For the background and inside story to this see the Industrial Automation INSIDER June 2010 issue, available on subscription via www.iainsider.co.uk!

The cure for this market imbalance is being supplied via an exclusive sales, distribution and support deal with leading Italian market SCADA provider Progea. Not previously available in the UK the Progea product is branded as Movicon 11 SCADA, the package costs on average 50% less than equivalent systems from competitive suppliers, whilst offering comparable or superior levels of functionality, scaleability and connectivity.

“To date SCADA systems have been more expensive in the UK than anywhere else; restricted licences, rising development costs and yearly system integrator fees all add up to mean that SCADA as a whole hasn’t been a great deal for UK buyers,” comments Paul Hurst. “We booked the exhibition stand at Drives & Controls with the intent of delivering a bold statement, and ruffle some feathers because we know we can back that statement up, and supply a genuine alternative without the premium cost, we now offer users of mainstream SCADA systems all the functionality, of their existing systems, but at a price on average 50% less. What’s more we are offering unlimited free development licences for users and system integrators and asking the question; are you paying too much for your SCADA?”

With no legacy code platform (unlike some other well-known market players) Movicon 11 is the only SCADA/HMI platform completely based on XML and Web Services technologies, Vista XP CE and soon WINDOWS 7 making configuration easier and quicker than any comparable product. The openness and flexibility of the Movicon architecture makes it the perfect SCADA/HMI supervision solution for modern applications, and is easily applied to any sector that employs a basic level of automation.

Movicon 11 also provides integrated connectivity at the Web level, its innovative architecture is based on JAVA (Integrating easily with XML, SVG, Web Services technologies), allowing server access using internet browsers in any platform (Windows™, Linux, Palm, PocketPC and Javaphones telephones (thanks to J2ME). Servers can be both Windows Vista/XP and Windows CE.

Movicon 11 has many improvements over legacy SCADA products but two specific advantages are the implementation of an “open database” enabling the user to specify the form of data storage e.g SQL, mySQL, etc. and secondly the inclusion of a full report generator, negating the need for a separate add on historian or reporting package often costing thousands of pound each.

Progea started in 1990 in response to the strong demands for software and services in the automation field. Experience gained through the years by collaborating with leading companies has helped formed the foundations on which the Movicon SCADA platform is based. Progea’s SCADA product Movicon is now in its 11th generation, having completely re-developed the software platform, to keep pace with the latest database and software protocols, unlike many other well known branded SCADA products that rely on older database formats such as DOS.

Nexans make cables – automation cables

Nexans make cables, electric cables, Euro 5bn worth in 2009. Of these, 2.5bn are for electricity infrastructure – power, railways etc, but 1bn are Automation cables – for oil, gas, petrochem, wind turbines, photo-voltaics, aeronautics, automotive and true automation – robots and handling machines. A typical contract is the Frame Agreement with BP, to supply their deepwater umbilical projects in the Gulf of Mexico – delivering power and communications to 5000 ft below the sea surface. Nexans are the cables that enable undersea control of robots, and video feeds to the surface. Nexans claim to be #1 in automation cables – maybe the name Alcatel would be more familiar: that company became Nexans in 2000.

There are no standards for automation cables, the industry moves too fast. Nexans maintain their position by working to develop and test custom cables to meet their client’s specs. But the robot market hit a crisis in 2009 – with production almost halved from 2008, when 113,000 robots were produced. Interestingly, in this market, Japan leads the way with 295 robot type units sold per 10,000 workers, and Singapore, Korea and Germany follow in second place with around 160 units. The US market was particularly low in 2008, mainly based on recession in the automotive industry, at 80 units, and Europe in general averaged 50 units.  But these are robot user figures, for Nexans the relevant robot and machine tool manufacturers are concentrated in Germany and Italy, with 33% of the world market, followed by Japan with 19%: USA is down at 4% of the market. Sales of the robot producers are not expected to recover to these 2008 levels till around 2012.

Nexans have now rebranded their automation cables as Motionline, anticipating a major turnaround in their market – which is mainly with the German and Italian robot and machine builders.

At the First Friday Club presentation in London this month, Giuseppe Di Lorenzo, Commercial Director for Automation, commented that any standards for automation cable would “Impose a constraint on the development of automation cable systems”, and implied that it might slow things down so much that the competitors might be able to catch up! Currently the cables can achieve a bend radius of 7x the OD and can be supplied with a defined “No Failure” life expectancy. Nexans have produced a video to show their extensive testing facilities for cables in repeated automation movement applications, see http://www.nexans.com/eservice/Corporate-en/navigateref_236084/Testing_the_cables_under_real_life_conditions.html