Yokogawa invests into Silicon Valley fog computing

 

Yokogawa Electric Corporation announces that it has invested in FogHorn Systems Inc, a Silicon Valley start-up that is a leading developer of fog computing* technology. Yokogawa aims to foster development of fog computing technology through its investment in this company. In so doing, Yokogawa hopes to expand the range of solutions that it provides.

Due to the continued growth of cloud computing services and the huge number of devices that have access to cloud resources, there is a growing concern over issues such as network congestion and data processing delays. Fog computing is gaining traction as a technology solution to this problem.

Co-Investors with Yokogawa

FogHorn Systems, a pioneer in the development of software for fog computing applications with outstanding expertise in this field, has attracted the interest of various companies that are promoting IoT. Led by March Capital and GE Ventures, the company has succeeded in raising $12 million in funding from multiple investors, including Yokogawa, Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH, and Darling Ventures. There is also a group of investors who invested in the company prior to this round of fundraising. Yokogawa’s stake in the company is worth $900,000.

Yokogawa offers a wide range of control solutions that help its customers improve the safety and efficiency of their operations and make the most effective use of their assets. These solutions include field instruments, control systems, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and management information systems. Industrial IoT (IIoT) technology is making rapid inroads in the control field, and it is expected that fog computing’s enablement of real-time and distributed processing in edge computing applications will significantly accelerate its adoption.

Through this investment in FogHorn Systems, Yokogawa will gain access to the latest fog computing technologies and will also make available its knowledge and expertise in process control and plant operations that will help this company further refine its fog computing technology. Yokogawa aims to make use of fog computing to strengthen the solutions that it provides.

‘Process Co-Innovation’ from Yokogawa

Yokogawa has drawn up a long-term business framework and formulated a vision statement that reads: “Through ‘Process Co-Innovation’ Yokogawa creates new value with our clients for a brighter future. ‘Process Co-Innovation’ is a concept for an automation business that will utilize all of Yokogawa’s measurement, control and information technologies. Accordingly, Yokogawa will seek not only to optimize production processes but also the flow of material and information within and between companies, including their value and supply chains”.

Yokogawa is committed to working with customers to create value through the effective use of IIoT, a key to ‘Process Co-Innovation’. Tsuyoshi Abe, Yokogawa vice president and head of the company’s Marketing Headquarters, said of this investment: “Highly reliable and stable communications are an essential requirement in manufacturing and many other fields. Fog computing is a breakthrough that helps to enhance the use of cloud resources. It is also expected to provide Yokogawa many more opportunities to utilize IIoT in its control business. In line with our corporate brand slogan of ‘Co-innovating tomorrow’, Yokogawa will use FogHorn’s technology to develop new solutions and create new value in collaboration with its customers and partners.”

* Fog computing:

Fog computing is an architectural concept for the realization of edge intelligence and the suppression of communications with the cloud by establishing a ‘fog’ distributed computing layer between the cloud and devices in the field. Fog computing eliminates communications delays and fluctuations by locating the processing of certain data near the field devices that generate the data and sending only essential information to the cloud. As such, there are high expectations that this technology will lead to a number of new IoT applications.

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The Yokogawa User Group conference in Budapest

The “User Group” conferences, which provide a meeting place for automation and control managers and engineers from different companies and industries to meet and share their operational experience, started in the USA, and have blossomed in Europe in the last few years. Usually hosted by a major supplier, they encourage their clients to come together in a way that is more cost effective, for them, than a standard commercial exhibition and conference. But they always gather their normal specialist sub-suppliers as partners, to also show and talk about their products, and explain how they can interface together to create a total plant system, in the mini-exhibition running alongside meal and coffee breaks.

IMG_20160523_214347932   DSCN3364

The conference dinner was held in the Hungarian National Gallery, by the side of the Danube 

The Yokogawa European User Group meeting took place this May in Budapest. It attracted around 200 engineers and interested editors from all around Europe: from Spain to Norway, from the UK to Turkey, to hear about recent new applications, and the latest product developments.

 

“Transformation 2017” is the current Yokogawa business plan, covering the three years from 2015-17: the year 2015 also happened to be the 100th year since the foundation of the company. So their anniversary year plan focuses on customer interfacing and “Co-Innovation”, which was the main conference theme for the presentations.

Yokogawa appears to have developed a different approach recently, and have become keen to bring in ideas, products and even make acquisitions to broaden their expertise base. They did this previously, but there is a greater emphasis now, it seems. They are also the ISA100 wireless sensor technology leader, amongst the main automation companies, and are helping more small sensor manufacturers to develop this capability.

Wireless sensors to ISA100

Yokogawa have produced wireless versions of their own temperature and pressure transmitters, as you would expect, plus have the routers and base stations necessary to complete the site system. More interesting, they have developed a wireless module, which can be integrated with other (third party supplier) sensors, to create a new wireless measurement sensor. They also have a battery pack that can be exchanged in a hazardous area, when needed, often only after ten years, but maybe after two years if that battery also powers a third party sensor and needs a fast data response time.

In a presentation about a Richter Gedeon Group pharmaceutical plant in Romania, Yokogawa described a wireless sensor installation that monitored the groundwater levels around the site, in 20 wells over an area 1500m x 600m, with some wells actually outside the factory fence. The historic weekly manual monitoring was not felt to be sufficiently frequent, and current environmental standards required an improvement, to at least 4 times a day. Standard HART submersible pressure sensors were used for the level measurement, powered by the battery pack in the Yokogawa wireless module, which communicated digitally with the sensors and then sent the data over ISA100 links. This provides hourly reporting data from each well, and allows the sensor to be put into sleep mode between readings.

The large area of the site, the topography and pipe bridges, provided a challenge for the wireless links. To achieve the transmission distances involved, Yokogawa planned the site layout with four of their independent wireless Routers, to gather data from the local sensors at the extreme distances, and then use the superior range achievable from the Router to the base station to deliver the data. This was then displayed by the pre-existing site ABB 800XA control system, to present any alarm data to the operators, and archive the records.

The IIOT and “Sushi Sensors”

Yokogawa say they have been working on the development of low-cost, small, battery operated wireless sensors, perhaps aptly named as “Sushi Sensors”, for ten years, as well as learning what associated data analysis is required to come to a meaningful conclusion about what the data – “Big Data” – is saying. So it was good to see their Sushi sensors on display, in different colours (as you might expect: blue, yellow/gold, and silver) – all with a little stub aerial. But turn these little bugs over and there was an empty shell – nothing there yet! Nevertheless, the work is going on, initially to produce temperature sensor systems: watch that space.

On other stands the GasSecure GS01 hydrocarbon gas detector was on show, which is another ISA100 wireless sensor from Dräger, marketed by Yokogawa for LNG and oil and gas facilities.

STAPS

Spirax Sarco STAPS

Next, Spirax Sarco presented their latest wireless sensor, used for monitoring steam traps on petrochemical plants. Available only recently, from March 2016, this sensor uses the standard ISA100 system, and is called STAPS (which stands for Spirax Total Acoustic Performance Solutions). The acoustic sensing uses a PZT sensor clamped to the outside of the steam line, alongside the trap, and can indicate when the trap is blocked, and when it has failed open, and is leaking live steam. Not only does the STAPS sensor calculate and transmit the rate of steam loss, so the operator can assess the cost and therefore the urgency needed to make a repair, it can analyse the actual type of trap failure. This is done within the sensor electronics, by measuring the emitted acoustic signatures in multiple bands between 5 and 40kHz, to suggest whether the problem is dirt, or a sticky valve, or a damaged valve seat. The STAPS sensor is available intrinsically safe, for petrochemical applications: Spirax previously offered a different wireless sensor for standard industrial plants and boiler rooms, which used a Zigbee communications link.

Customer software and Co-Innovation

There have been two Yokogawa acquisitions in the field of ‘management’ software, which are focused on making the computer based control systems supplied by Yokogawa for plant and process control provide the overview data required by management, improving the connectivity between plant and office, and optimising business operations. First they acquired Industrial Evolution Inc, in January 2016, who provide cloud-based plant data sharing services, or DaaS (Data-as-a-Service). Yokogawa renamed this business Industrial Knowledge: this service has been used in a broad variety of applications such as the sharing of data on oil and gas field operations among authorized users at multiple companies, and the real-time sharing of data with investors on facilities that are operated by third parties. For example when an oilfield is jointly owned by three oil companies, but only one of them acts as the main operator.

Then in April Yokogawa acquired KBC Technologies, a successful provider of software and consultancy focused on achieving operational excellence and improving profitability for both the upstream (oil production) and downstream (oil refineries and petrochemicals production) segments – advanced software for process optimisation and simulation. Originating with three process engineers who started life at the Exxon Fawley refinery, KBC also now incorporates the original Honeywell HPS reactor technology expertise, acquired in 1998, and the chemicals processing technology developed at Infochem, acquired in 2012.

Combining KBC and Industrial Evolution into their Industrial Knowledge business, Yokogawa is expanding its advanced solutions service business by engaging with its customers in a co-innovation process, to add value, using company-wide optimisation of the business operations.

Co-innovation with the specialists

Oil fiscal metering using specialist skids at oil tanker batch shipping terminals is a major application area for Coriolis meters. Yokogawa have just upgraded their Coriolis product line to improve their performance, using modern electronics and sensor technology. The pressure drop for a given flow rate has been greatly reduced, and on-site accuracy enhanced to meet the laboratory tested specifications. Also tube condition monitoring enables on-site checks to confirm that the process conditions have not affected the measurement tubes.

mf_header_skid

M+F skids in use at a tanker terminal

Unlike other Coriolis suppliers, Yokogawa do not offer an in-house fiscal metering skid production facility, but rely on the knowledge of their specialist customers to achieve the total package offer. So via their chosen skid supplier customer, M+F Technologies of Hamburg, they have supplied meters for terminal management systems, tank truck loading systems, aircraft and ship supply across the world. The M+F MFX4 batch flow computer has been supplied for blending, leak detection and terminal operations in Latin America, Russia, EU, and Cuba. The latest Yokogawa Coriolis meters, the TI product range, has enabled M+F to reduce the size of the gas separators involved, reducing the skid footprint, and also M+F have reduced the maintenance costs associated. Using TCP/IP communications the system has 24/7 remote maintenance available, essential for 24 hour terminal operations.

Conclusion

The two or three conference days crammed in a lot more than was described above: the delegate just chooses the topics of major interest on his plant. Further announcements showed that Yokogawa is to now construct complete Analyser house systems in Spain, in addition to their existing facilities in Singapore and USA, to serve the European market primarily. Here they act as the site systems supplier, perhaps in contrast to their approach to fiscal metering described above. Yokogawa are also collaborating with Cisco Systems over the Shell SecurePlant initiative, which is to be rolled out over 50 Shell plants, and have developed an interesting collaboration with StatOil, to use wireless sensors to monitor the on-site sound noise level on offshore oil platforms, to ensure personnel safety and monitoring.

YokogawaASICenterEurope_01 (1)

An Analyser house supplied by Yokogawa

The next Yokogawa User Group meeting will be in South Africa in October, for three days in Johannesburg, which should be well worth attending.

New ultra-miniature downhole transducer

Over the years you might have read about strain gauge based pressure transducers, and wondered why the major pressure transmitter firms never really went down that simple line for submersible gauge or absolute pressure transmitters. In the UK, Druck created a major business from this technology, and were eventually absorbed into GE, which basically ensured they remained a niche supplier. Another specialist, and niche supplier of such transducers, was Paine Electronics in the US. Originally established in 1951, they moved into strain gauge transducers in around 1968. In 2001 the company was acquired from the original owner, Bill Paine, and moved to Washington: but in 2013 it became employee owned, and proud of that fact.

On the original Paine website it still says “We believe our employees should share in the success of our company in a tangible way”, and this is signed off as “Paine Electronics – an employee owned company”. But with 100+ employees the business was still relatively small, even though it supplied pressure transducers to subsea and satellite/space vehicle applications, as well as to the aerospace industry. So the tangible benefit to employees came fairly quickly, with another change of ownership.

At the end of 2014, in November, Emerson acquired “substantially all of the assets of Paine Electronics”. Reporting into the Emerson Rosemount operation, Paine was seen as “Extending their leadership in providing measurement technologies for the oil and gas industry with expanded upstream capabilities in subsea and downhole drilling operations”. This would also complement the business of a previous Emerson acquisition, Roxar, who supply products used on subsea oil & gas operations. But maybe because it is a small operation, only now do we have some follow-up news, in the shape of a new product release from Emerson, describing a new Paine transducer for downhole pressure and temperature measurement. Size is critical in downhole operations, so this transducer, described as ultra-miniature, has an OD of 0.93cms (or 0.37 inches in US units). It is the Paine 310-38-0050, still labelled like that, and was actually launched on the Paine website back in February 2016.

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The Paine 310-38-0050 transducer provides both temperature and pressure measurements in the smallest and most rugged form factor possible. It provides pressure measurements up to 25kpsi (1723 Bar) and withstands and monitors temperatures up to 425F (218C) to cover the wide range of conditions experienced in downhole operating environments, just behind the drill bit. The unit is also built to withstand the corrosive drilling fluids and high vibration levels normal in these applications.

© ProcessingTalk.info

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Cascade Technologies: the background…

From the Insider Newsletter files: this is a background commentary article on the Emerson acquisition of Cascade Technologies, written back in December 2014. This article was published in the INSIDER Newsletter (www.iainsider.com) in January 2015.

TXT 3 Cascade logo

Cascade Technologies is a leading Scottish manufacturer of gas analysers and monitoring systems using their own Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) technology, which can measure multiple gas compositions simultaneously. Their products help improve industrial emissions monitoring, production efficiencies and environmental compliance in various industries – such as petrochemical, food and beverage, marine, automotive and pharmaceutical.

The acquisition will expand the Emerson analytical monitoring capabilities by adding this innovative laser technology to its Rosemount Analytical gas analysis portfolio.  Tom Moser, group vice president of the Emerson Process Management measurement and analytical businesses, said “The acquisition of Cascade Technologies is an exciting step as we further strengthen our gas analysis portfolio. Customers depend upon Emerson to solve their toughest analytical measurement problems. We are now better positioned to serve that need.” Emerson considers that QCL technology has introduced a step change in gas analyser performance through its increased sensitivity, speed of response, and fingerprinting capability.

Dr. Iain Howieson, chief executive officer of Cascade Technologies, added: “Joining a global leader like Emerson represents an incredible opportunity for business growth. The Emerson global presence and market leadership will have an immediate impact on the adoption of our cutting edge QCL gas analysers and monitoring systems.”

The growth of Cascade Technology

Cascade Technologies is now based in Stirling in Scotland, and was established in Glasgow in 2003, based on their novel technology. They appear to employ over 40 people, and have over 500 analysers in the field. Initially the product was targeted at marine emission monitoring analysis for the monitoring and control of flue gases and emissions, to meet MARPOL and EPA regulations: by 2009 their product was established in this application and sales supply agreements were signed with both a partner covering the marine emissions monitoring market, and another covering flue gas setting analysers for domestic boiler production. The next year saw the start of sales of their aerosol leak detection system, and an exclusive supply agreement with a supplier of automotive test equipment. The CT3000 multi-component gas analyser for automotive emissions testing achieved sales of 200 units within 24 months

TXT 3 CT2100 on-stack gas analyser

Cascade CT2100 on-stack gas analyser

The last three years have seen rapid acceptance of the QCL technology in the pharmaceutical leak detection market, and the process industry, with the first process analytics QCL analyser at an ethylene production plant in the UK. This has also been used for natural gas moisture measurement applications. The analyser is also used for Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) for industrial gaseous effluent emissions: for example they consider that typically there would be 15 CEMS on each refinery in the USA. The whole installation of a single CEMS would cost $200k-400k, and 30% of this historically has been for the analyser.

Cascade appear to have several boom areas for the application of their technologies.

Cascade QCL technology

The Cascade technology is based on a principle called Tunable Diode Laser Absorption Spectroscopy (TDLAS), which can measure the concentration of gas species in gaseous mixtures, using light from tunable diode lasers and laser spectrometry to make measurements of the absorption at various wavelengths. In comparison to other analytical techniques such as paramagnetic detectors (PMD) and chemi-luminescence, TDLAS offers multi-element capabilities, high accuracy with a wide dynamic range, low maintenance, and a long life cycle. Lasers offer high resolution spectroscopy: QCL techniques offer use of the valuable mid infrared (MIR) part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The advantage of QCL is that it avoids any need for cryogenic cooling and gas lasers. QCL uses semiconductor materials having a series of quantum wells, so that higher power emission can be produced. In addition the lasing wavelength is not determined by the material itself, but by the physical thickness of the semiconductor layers. The patented Cascade Laser CHIRP technique enables the detector to work in the MHz region, with high speed room temperature detectors.

The result is a solid state compact design, giving reliability and easy integration: the technique competes strongly with gas chromatography, ion mobility spectrometry, and mass sensitive detector techniques. The Cascade development of multi-component TDLAS analyser platforms (capable of measuring up to 20 different gases in one instrument), allows a single multi-component analyser to replace multiple analysers in the field (for example those previously based on NDIR, chemi-luminescence). The QCL technology provides significant advantages in production throughput, accuracy and cost.

Emerson Enardo relief valves get WirelessHART communications

Emerson acquired Enardo, a manufacturer of pressure and vacuum relief valves based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in late 2013. This week saw the launch of a new wireless enabled version of the Enardo pressure and vacuum relief and safety valve used on storage tanks in the oil and gas, petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries.

Enardo_950_w-bracket

By adding the Smart Wireless monitoring system operating over the Emerson WirelessHART network, the safety valves, normally located on the top of large storage tanks, can easily signal to operators in the control room that they have been triggered to either relieve a pressure or vacuum condition. Such situations can arise as a result of changes in temperature, liquid level, or both, and relief valves are essential to prevent tank over or under-pressure conditions that could lead to structural failure. Enardo pipe-away, vent-to-atmosphere, in-line and end-of-line relief valves are typically installed on storage tanks to control evaporation and fugitive emission losses that result from flammable and hazardous petroleum vapour-producing products. Knowledge of the actuation of such a safety valve enables an immediate response, where needed, to prevent problems which can be related to safety, emissions, and the quality of a tank’s content.

Steve Attri, product manager at Emerson for the Enardo valves, commented: “Until now, PVRVs have remained un-monitored, with none of the feedback loops commonly seen in other pressure control devices. As the tank’s primary pressure control device, this wirelessly-monitored solution can be invaluable.”

Enardo manufactures tank and terminal safety equipment, including hatches, vent, pressure and vacuum relief valves and flame arrestors used in the oil and gas, petrochemical, chemical and other industries. Enardo in-line and stack vent valves have been the oilfield industry standard for more than 80 years.

Prior to the acquisition by Emerson, Enardo had sales of $65m a year, and employed 140 people. It now operates within the Regulator Technologies business, previously known as Fisher Regulators, within Emerson Process Management.

© Nick Denbow ProcessingTalk.info

@ProcessingTalk

Rockwell expands in conveying systems

Rockwell Automation is to purchase MagneMotion, a US-based manufacturer of intelligent conveying systems. MagneMotion systems are used across a broad range of industrial applications including automotive and general assembly, packaging and materials handling. This acquisition will complement the recently acquired iTrak technology from Jacobs Automation, to create the broadest portfolio of independent ‘cart’ solutions in this emerging technology area.

“This acquisition continues our strategy to build a portfolio of smart manufacturing technologies that brings next generation performance to our customers today,” said Marco Wishart, vp and gm of the Rockwell Automation motion control business. “MagneMotion expands our existing capabilities in independent cart technology. Our recent acquisition of Jacobs Automation and its iTrak technology is complementary to MagneMotion’s portfolio. We see a future where the transportation of products within the factory, whether inside of a particular machine or between machines, will be fully controlled to optimise the productivity and flexibility of the entire process.”

“This deal is the logical next step in the evolution of our business, and a welcome development for MagneMotion,” said Todd Weber, president and CEO of MagneMotion. “The leading position of Rockwell Automation in plant-wide controls and industrial automation gives us the best opportunity to introduce this technology to customers. As the market continues to realize the benefits of applying independent cart technology, the global Rockwell organisation will be a tremendous asset.”

MagneMotion is based in Devens, Massachusetts.

Aveva 3D adopted by Statoil: Schneider and Aveva stop merger/acquisition talks.

The news that Statoil has signed a multi-year agreement with Aveva to use Aveva 3D as its strategic 3D design software platform, as an upgrade to its existing Aveva PDMS design system, reminds us that there has been an on-going discussion about a deal between Schneider Software, through many of its acquired Invensys businesses, and Aveva. This possible deal was announced last June, and featured in the INSIDER Newsletter in July last year. It involves the bringing together of these software businesses into an enlarged Aveva Group, which would be effectively majority owned by Schneider.

Seamless integration of Laser scan data in the AVEVA Everything3D BubbleView

Seamless integration of Laser scan data in the AVEVA Everything3D BubbleView

Statoil is currently quoted to be using Aveva software on 52 Brownfield and 7 Greenfield models, plus the new Johan Sverdrup field development project that today consists of 7 models. Older plants such as the Snøhvit LNG Plant in the Barents Sea, the refineries at Mongstad in Norway and Kalundborg in Denmark, and the gas treatment facility at Kårstø have been converted to Aveva PDMS. So the opportunity for deeper involvement by a partner of Aveva, like Schneider, in all these major refurbishments and new projects, gives a wide opening for an expanded role in the design and automation of these projects.

This was reflected in the statement that Statoil’s new strategy (to standardise on Aveva E3D) offers the potential for significant project efficiencies in the design, operation and revamp of all Statoil facilities in the future. Executive Vice President for Sales in AVEVA, Helmut Schuller, said that “Statoil has selected Aveva E3D as its 3D solution of choice for both its greenfield and brownfield complex plant design projects”, and that Aveva 3D offers “[A] multitude of benefits without the normal risks associated with new projects and long-term operations”.

Aveva 3D offers simple migration from Aveva PDMS, and Statoil has been a strategic user of Aveva PDMS and Aveva Global for more than 15 years. They acknowledge the value this software has brought when executing field development, maintenance and modification projects as well as during the operation and revamp of its portfolio of facilities.

Those acquisition discussions – November

In November 2015, Aveva provided an update on the Schneider Software acquisition discussions, that were undergoing due diligence studies.

The combined company was seen by Aveva in their November update as potentially one of the world’s leading industrial software companies, with an unmatched breadth of product offering covering all aspects of the digital asset including process simulation and optimization, detailed engineering design, operations and asset lifecycle management and supervisory control. One key benefit for Aveva would be a better, bigger presence in North America, and a significant presence amongst owner operator customers. They then went on to report on the Schneider Software H1 figures for 2015, which was decent of them, if not a little surprising! This perhaps reflected an Aveva belief that they were the acquiring party, picking up some Invensys businesses that Schneider did not want any more?

The quoted Schneider results showed a 7% drop in sales, driven by a -7% FX translation effect. Maintenance revenue increased by a high single digit figure, YOY. EBITA was in line with the previous year on a constant currency basis.

The conclusion – in December

Then a statement came on December 15 that the Schneider – Aveva talks had been unable to reach any agreement on the terms of the transaction. The Aveva statement suggested that “During the due diligence process significant integration challenges were identified that could not be overcome without considerable additional risk and cost. This was exacerbated by the highly complex structure of the proposed transaction.”

Meanwhile the Aveva interim/half year results showed a drop of 5% in revenue compared to 2014, and a drop of 50% in the profit and earnings after adjustments to the basic figures, to account for some amortisation and exceptional items. Without the adjustments, Aveva showed a small loss.

The Aveva Board confirms that Aveva trading has continued in line with the Board’s expectations and the Board’s view on the outlook for the full year remains unchanged. The future strategy and expansion plans might need a little change however….

Last July, the rumours had been that Emerson, GE and Siemens were all measuring Aveva up for a bid, so the business is back in the melting pot: although Schneider obviously has significantly more information than the rest.

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(c) Nick Denbow  – Processingtalk.info