New Invensys APC product improves plant performance

Karen McCandless
Karen McCandless
By Karen McCandless on 19 March 2014
New Invensys APC product improves plant performance

Invensys unveiled a new version of its advanced process control software at the annual ARC Industry Forum in Orlando Florida in February. Karen McCandless finds out more.

In today’s climate, manufacturers need to squeeze every dollar from their profit through improving plant efficiency, operations and performance. Advanced process control (APC) can help manufacturers do this but, according to Tom Kinney, vice president of Invensys’ optimisation business, while it is not a new concept in the industry it has been previously overlooked because of perceived complexity.

“APC is one area where manufacturers can gain enormous benefits,” he told Prime. “But the software was historically aimed at scientific and specialist users and for that reason was only deployed for projects that were seen as urgent or business critical. At Invensys, we are trying to make the ease of use factor high enough so that any engineer and controller can use the software without having to bring a specialist.”

Kinney believes that manufacturers can gain a raft of business benefits implementing APC software, including a reduction in energy usage, increasing throughput and improving product quality. “This is because APC software allows controllers and engineers to reduce variations in the operating process,” he said.

Two years ago, Invensys began renovating its APC offering, Connoisseur, to meet the needs of the next generation workforce. The result is SimSci APC 2014, which retains Connoisseur’s calculation engine but also adds a new graphical user interface.

“Manufacturers have an increasingly aging workforce and many of these workers are set to retire within the next few years,” said Kinney. “The new generation that are replacing the baby boomer generation on the plant floor have high expectations of the technology they will be using at work. In their home life, they use touch-centric mobile devices, which are easy to use and intuitive. They expect this intuitive user experience to continue with the technology they use at work and they don’t want to have to go through months or years of training to get up to speed.”

To meet these needs, Invensys completely redesigned the interface of its SimSci offering to reduce the need for training and replace the long and complex manuals in use at some manufacturers.

“With SimSci 2014, we have created a modern and intuitive user interface that is tablet ready,” said Kinney “This means we can empower the next generation of engineers and operators to be more productive in this area as they need virtually no training. As it can work on any tablet or mobile device, operators can walk around the plant floor using the software or can access it on the go, instead of being tied to their desks.”

Another major enhancement in SimSci 2014 is a new feature called Director. “This is a calculation language that means APC can be reconfigured on the fly,” said Kinney. “With this feature, control engineers can build custom calculations or add custom supporting controller functions that improve the experience for the user. It also allows engineers to add custom supporting functions to cope with changing process conditions or states. We are not aware of any other product on the market that has this functionality.”

Other enhancements include a built-in auto discovery wizard, which reduces project configuration time and allows users to get information out of the system quickly. With natural workflows, engineers can build, configure and deploy models much more quickly than before. There is also new click-and drag functionality, which means that operators can select the models they need from a range of different scenarios. “This functionality was born out of feedback from our users who said they wanted to get non-relevant information out of the way quickly,” said Kinney. “We also introduced automated step testing for creating models and have incorporated full support for cases and scenarios. We believe that SimSci APC 2014 can cut implementation and commissioning time by up to 50% compared to other APC products.”

Schneider Electric completed the acquisition of Invensys in January 2014.

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