The INSIDER Newsletter for February 2011

From the INSIDER newsletter issue for February, the following abstracts show the main stories presented. Others, such as the UPS systems available from Chloride, the analysis of the differences between the collaborations developed between Rockwell and Endress + Hauser, Honeywell and Krohne, and the many January acquisitions in the industry, have already been the subject of other stories within this blog. However to see the full stories behind these further topics, why not take out a subscription to the full 12 page newsletter? For further information see www.iainsider.co.uk .

Rockwell Micro 800 PLC targets OEMs and machine builders.

Rockwell Automation have always insisted that their promotion programme would still be focused on process OEMs and skid builders. Som Chakraborti, process business director for Rockwell, commented: “Users spend a significant amount of their engineering time – up to 60 percent in some cases – integrating equipment from various vendors into their DCS. PlantPAx System Release 2.0 helps customers reduce this non-value add expense. It introduces a set of architectures and efficiency tools to help equipment manufacturers deliver their scope quicker, and offers end-users simpler integration to their process automation system.” This same approach is now evident in the latest Rockwell product, the Micro 800 PLC family, aimed at the other end of the spectrum from PlantPAx, and particularly targeted at smaller OEMs.

Steve Pethick, Rockwell director of components and safety business for EMEA, explains: “With this new line, we are delivering the functionality and flexibility of a micro PLC for the price of a smart relay. The greatest value of the new Micro800 family is the simplicity and convenience it offers users – namely, that it provides ‘just enough control’… users will only pay for what they need.”

The software for the Micro 800 series uses the Rockwell ‘Connected Components Workbench’. Following established IEC-61131 standards – supporting ladder diagram, function block diagram and structured text – ‘Connected Components Workbench’ is a single package operating across all the Micro 800 range that is quoted as easy to acquire, install and update. The same software can also be used by machine builders to configure other devices in the system, including PowerFlex variable speed drives and PanelView Component HMI display products. So one standard programming environment covers all products, right down to the smart relay, which is not the case with any other product ranges from other suppliers.

European oil refineries all face fall in demand

During 2010 it was reported that several European oil and chemical firms have been looking to sell domestic refineries, as demand for fuels and petrochemical products has fallen more sharply in Europe than elsewhere, hitting profit margins. The Ineos Grangemouth refinery in Scotland is one of the major UK refineries: Ineos this month signed a deal that will create a joint venture between Ineos and the Chinese oil giant PetroChina, to jointly own two refineries – Grangemouth and Lavéra, near Marseille in France. As a consequence of the deal, Ineos gets all important market support in China, the most important petrochemical markets in the world.

High growth in inverters for solar power plants

Dave Baston, general manager of Control Techniques, a company within Emerson Industrial Automation, recently presented an introduction to their current business developments in the area of PV (photo-voltaic) solar power energy generation systems. Their first SPV solar power utility scale inverter system, with a 2MVA peak power capability, was installed in Germany in 2007: over the last 15 months the total capacity installed has been 200MVA peak, in Germany, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Belgium and Greece. The business growth has been rather fast, moving from GBP0.5m, to 1.0m, to 40million in the last 3 years, but production of the inverter modules is still in the UK, with the final mechanical assembly in Romania.

Hidden hazards for equipment builders

Legislation changes are introducing potential trade and competition problems for European manufacturers of equipment containing electric motors, warns Baldor. The Energy Independence and Security Act in the USA, effective since 19 December, means that all new motors sold after this date (from 1-200HP) must deliver the mandated new ‘NEMA Premium’ higher efficiency levels.

What Baldor are highlighting is that the recent changes to the USA rules have effectively introduced the IE3 level of efficiency already, because the USA ‘NEMA Premium’ motor is equivalent to the EU IE3 standard: and any equipment imported into the USA already requires any built-in motors to be of this IE3 standard! Equipment not conforming will not be allowed in, or if it does get in, the manufacturer/importer will face a fine, as did Haier Refrigeration, who were apparently subjected to a $150k fine in 2010.

Premature start-up led to Bayer explosion

In the USA, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has issued the results of its findings in relation to the August 2008 explosion at a Bayer CropScience pesticide manufacturing unit in Institute, West Virginia, that killed two workers and injured eight others. The CSB report states: “The accident occurred during the start-up of the methomyl unit, following a lengthy period of maintenance. The CSB found the start-up was begun prematurely, a result of pressures to resume production, and took place before valve line-ups, equipment check-outs, a pre-start-up safety review, and computer calibration were complete. CSB investigators also found the company failed to perform a thorough Process Hazard Analysis, or PHA, as required by regulation.”

Virtual exhibition  presentations on the web

The concept of using a video presentation of a product range or new product launch, as it would be seen at an exhibition, has been developed by a new website, http://www.engineeringexpo.net, recently launched by Mark Simms, also editor of the UK magazine Industrial Technology. The website presents itself as a virtual exhibition, so there are the booth displays presenting overall company capability; seminars to explain different aspects of technology; new product launch presentations, and so on.

Automation survey by USA stock analysts Longbow

Longbow Research is an institutional equity research organization: they produce in depth research on a short list of companies for investors. In January they issued an Automation Survey, looking at several USA-based companies operating in this area, defined as “industrial technology”. Whilst not a cross section of the automation industry, the depth of the research into these companies makes the comments interesting. Longbow Research makes these comments to assess the future share price performance expected.

ABB bolsters the Ventyx strength –twice over

ABB has strengthened their recently acquired Ventyx business with two further acquisitions of specialist software companies. Firstly in December it was Insert Key Solutions (IKS), a privately owned specialist software provider employing 50 and based near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Then, in January, Obvient Strategies Inc, a specialist software provider employing 40 and based near Atlanta, Georgia was

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