Validate and reconcile with each other the values most useful in defining the operational status of the plant.
Deliver the subset of data most relevant to strategic production management at critical times and in specified formats.
At a higher PIMS level, operative process management software made up of a series of applications helps supervise operations, checks the progress of the production plan, manages maintenance and explores any margins for improvement in the production cycle. Last, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems perform business-cycle management. These systems integrate the information related to plant status, obtained from suitably reconciled data, with data from other production sites, financial data and market opportunity data. It is at this level that the whole supply chain is managed.
The execution capability
The computer infrastructure is the channel through which the transactional level is kept informed about the status of the plant and logistics, thus enabling context-sensitive production plans. Similar attention must be paid to optimization of the channel through which the flow of orders is implemented. See Fig. 2.
Figure 2. The Three Main Contributions to Process Automation
Plants must aim to optimize the channel through which the flow of orders is implemented.
To use an image familiar in the world of automation, the equivalent of a control loop is created: The plant's execution capability corresponds to the actuator's action, and the monitoring performed by the PIMS is the feedback channel (the controller would be the strategic company management). As any control engineer knows, no control loop can work properly if either one of these two channels is not up to the task.
Here too, the greater the involvement of the company in the world of e-commerce, the greater the demands for performance from the order implementation system. Chemical plants have to work in available-to-promise (ATP) and/or capable-to-promise (CTP) modes to seize transitory trade opportunities such as the purchase of raw materials at reverse auctions or an unrepeatable opportunity to satisfy the short-term needs of customers.
The need to increasingly enlarge the execution capability of the process is driving companies to embrace sophisticated process optimization and control techniques. It is now widely held that the most effective control and optimization strategies must incorporate active working knowledge of the process.
Applying advanced automation and control
Part One of this article looked at some of the process control and automation challenges faced by the chemical industry, as well as some prerequisites for meeting these challenges. Part Two (January 2003) will provide some specific plant application examples of how properly planned and implemented solutions improved plants' bottom lines. CP
Bonavita is manager of ABB's International Advanced Process Control Group, and Martini is the manager of Advanced Process Control group with ABB in Italy. They can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively. The authors also would like to thank Mr. Eugenio Sciallero of ABB Solutions, whose contributions to this article were of great value.