Keywords: Automation Systems, Reliability, EAM, PAM, APM,
ARC has given high marks to ABB's series of software acquisitions that began with Ventyx in May, 2010. Since then ABB has acquired a second large enterprise asset management (EAM) firm, Mincom, along with several smaller complementary software firms including Insert Key Solutions (IKS) and Obvient. These acquisitions undoubtedly bolster ABB in the power generation and mining industries. But other ABB business units are focused elsewhere. How will these acquisitions impact ABB in areas such as oil & gas and petrochemicals? Recently some Ventyx executives briefed ARC about their plans to grow in these process industries.
Ventyx EAM Plus
The Ventyx and Mincom solutions are complementary both in terms of industry coverage and functional capabilities. ABB's product strategy will retain both products (Mincom Ellipse and Ventyx Asset Suite). Mincom's applications for MRO inventory optimization and electronic parts book will be extended on an opportunity basis to support Ventyx customers. The Obvient and IKS products will also be extended on an opportunity basis to support Mincom customers.
A big factor in this software suite is its high level of maturity. For example the Ventyx electronic shift operations management suite ("eSOMS") has been used as a primary operations support tool in nuclear power for many years. While nuclear power is a very insular industry, it is also an industry obsessed with operations management in the broadest sense. Nuclear plants are licensed to operate almost like finite state machines (refueling, cold shutdown, startup, power operation, hot shutdown, etc.) with a myriad of operational and maintenance procedures being required for the unit to either remain in its present state or transition to another. Many owner-operators use eSOMS to manage these operations. While process industries could benefit from this tool, Ventyx (before ABB) had neither the resources nor the domain expertise to attack another industry. Now they have both. ARC sees this as part of a trend in the process industries to integrate EAM, PAM, reliability, and control systems for improved asset performance management (APM).
Going forward we expect ABB to leverage its new software capabilities within its automation products as well. The products at level 3-4 in the diagram (below) can be thought of as a grey area at the IT/OT boundary. We see no reason why some of this capability should not be assessable or even embedded within ABB's automation systems.
In terms of differentiation, ABB believes that its software suites have advantages stemming from the offerings' roots on the OT side of the IT/OT border. One characteristic ABB claims pretty much across the board is more rapid deployment than IT-centric business intelligence (BI), compliance, and business process management (BPM) tools. In addition, the acquired companies have many years of application experience and best practices, which can be translated into hydrocarbon processing industry applications via ABB's extensive industry experience. ABB also believes that its tradition of R&D investment will be able to utilize these new capabilities to create new solutions outside of its previously served industries.
Ventyx Software Products in the Context of the Purdue Reference Model
Another strong focus in the nuclear industry is equipment and system reliability. Ventyx gave ARC a fascinating example of how its reliability software tools can improve online analyzer performance in hydrocarbon processing. Reducing process variability and quality giveaway is the driver behind today's increased use of analyzers. Particularly in petroleum refining and petrochemicals, gas chromatography (GC) is a valuable analytic because GCs can quickly and accurately perform multi-component analyses of complex chemical separations. Their disadvantage is their unreliability and tendency to be maintenance intensive. Yet present day analyzers offer little information regarding their own health. ABB plans to change that with an analyzer information management system (AIMS) for monitoring, evaluating, and improving online analyzer performance. Using real-time data from the analyzer itself, the system infers analyzer performance and supports maintenance activities.
Another plant system frequently overlooked in terms of asset performance management is safety shutdown systems (also called safety instrumented systems or SIS). Having a safety system in place is not enough. Safety systems must be tested periodically to verify operation. ABB's Safety/SIF (Safety Integrated Functions) Asset Health solution is a mash-up of ABB's expertise in SIS and Ventyx's APM and operations management capabilities. ABB's TRAC/TRAM software assesses safety instrumented systems against IEC61511 requirements and manages the system, while eSOMS helps ensure safe and reliable operation of the safety-related assets.
This new process industry initiative is in addition to Ventyx's continued drive into power generation. Obviously, the initiative represents both new capability and new revenues for ABB. More than just a matter of revenue, these capabilities enable ABB to engage its customers at a much more strategic level as well as at major customer pain points. What ARC heard further convinces us that the company's acquisitions of Ventyx, Mincom, et. al., were not only well thought out, but are being well executed.
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