Honeywell User Group Conference Focuses on “Connected Plant”

Author photo: Mark Sen Gupta, Craig Resnick, and Larry O'Brien
By Mark Sen Gupta, Craig Resnick, and Larry O'Brien


ARC Advisory Group recently attended the 43rd annual Honeywell Users’ Group (HUG) Americas conference in San Antonio, Texas.  Conference attendance and energy alike were strong, with over 1,300 attendees from 32 countries. This year, Honeywell focused on project standardization, msglocr1.PNG“infinite longevity,” and connecting data to knowledge.  A key theme of the event was the Honeywell Connected Plant, which involves seamlessly integrating process, assets, and people and providing insight into the enterprise while deploying the latest in cybersecurity technology. 

Like last year, Honeywell used the event to introduce several new solutions.  These solutions included both hardware and software, but software dominated the event again.

Key takeaways include:

  • Honeywell expands Connected Plant solutions to solve customers’ business problems
  • Customers of legacy equipment have a nearly painless migration path
  • The company continues to expand cybersecurity services and products
  • We’ll see more focus on batch process industries

Getting Connected 

The recently announced President of Honeywell Process Solutions, John Rudolph, presented the company’s automation vision and perspective.  “Digital transformation has to be about more than just moving data into the cloud,” he said. “It ultimately has to be about the outcomes, including driving increased productivity and savings for our customers while allowing them to increase knowledge capture, knowledge sharing, and knowledge retention among their employees.”

He shared some of the lessons learned from years spent visiting customer sites and implementing new technologies. He emphasized several key themes around cybersecurity, digital transformation, and the impact on business, training, new types of business engagement, and the increasing speed of business. He also encouraged HUG attendees to embrace digitalization now, A Theme Slide from HUG Americas - connected plant msglocr2.PNGlest they get left behind. Software changes the business processes and businesses must change to receive the full value. Organizations need to validate and question their business processes and optimize them where applicable.

He also presented some thoughts on the future of how Honeywell could engage its customers, with the idea being that roles in the digitization world could change. One thought involved leasing equipment. He stated that what we are witnessing in other industries will impact the process industries as well and floated the idea of “control as a service.”  He also mentioned that the company is renewing its focus on pharma and specialty chemicals.

“Going forward, I want to change the norm,” he added. “I want to share risk and reward, and I want to be challenged. Share your objectives for safety, yield, energy, and the environment with us and we’ll partner with you to achieve them.”

The Connected Plant

According to Honeywell’s Jason Urso, vice president and chief technology officer, companies that are just now focusing on digitalization and Industrie 4.0 are behind their peers, and not just a little late. “We’re on a 50-year journey of digitalization,” he said, “from TDC 2000, through the integrated operator console, software tools for advanced control and optimization, alarm management, and operator training—always enabling greater throughput, higher reliability and improved safety.”

Mr. Urso remarked that the fourth generation of process control is bringing new benefits in three ways: capital projects are moving toward greater standardization with more efficient, automated engineering tools and systems; infinite longevity is replacing rip-and-replace with upgrade-in-place, protecting intellectual property while enabling great new capabilities; and connecting data to knowledge providing new, more effective ways to sustain maximum throughput. Honeywell is expanding and supporting each of these three areas with new solutions and enhancements.

Facilitating the New Reality in Capital Projects

Honeywell’s LEAP (Lean Execution of Automation Projects) methodology began five years ago with the company’s Universal I/O offering, facilitating the move from customized cabinets to standard, modular cabinets. This allowed the design process to be front-loaded and reduced the impact of late changes on project milestones. Building on this, the C300 controller virtualization allows systems to be hosted in a cloud for design flexibility and remote access, and the S300 SIL3 safety logic solver utilizes software from Safety Manager so engineers can design and validate safety systems without physical hardware.

Experion has been virtualized.  According to the company, this reduces server hardware needs by a factor of 10, enables less frequent updates, and eases migration. Now, instead of sending staff on-site for a year or more to work on physical equipment, Honeywell technology facilitates engineering in the cloud.  In this manner, a digital, cloud-based version of the system can be hosted in a data center, enabling it to be worked on from anywhere in the world.

Honeywell is addressing the factory acceptance test (FAT) by standardizing it using digital twins of control, safety, and edge PLCs. To support virtual FAT, customers can connect the virtualized system into a simulation to validate the entire system, using people located anywhere. Afterwards, the user can download the system and do a final test.

The virtual engineering platform also provides the customer with a digital copy for application engineering and control improvements. Customers do not need to manage physical apps, hardware, or site upgrades. They can use the simulator, test the virtual system, and load it to the live system afterwards.

“The Last Migration”

Mr. Urso then addressed legacy Honeywell migration.  He stated that the Experion Local Control Network (ELCN) has “infinite longevity,” which addresses the pain and risk associated with migration. All the legacy hardware is gone, and the end user’s intellectual property is preserved. ELCN emulates the remaining legacy hardware with software, eliminating component obsolescence and using software versions that run on any platform. A standard migration strategy involves removing and replacing controllers, requiring recreating the control strategies. Honeywell’s solution is to plug in EHPM modules and run the same strategies. Even the displays can be brought forward because ELCN will preserve it all, and end users can evolve and update only the ones that are really used.  This reduces the risk and downtime that rip and replace typically entails, plus the cost and effort to retrain operators. Mr. Urso added, “Rip and replace costs 10 to 20 times as much, with no quantifiable benefit.”

ExxonMobil Collaborates on Migration

As a follow-up, ExxonMobil’s David Patin, distinguished engineering associate – control systems, presented on the challenge ExxonMobil presented Honeywell to develop and prove a method to migrate TDC.  The two companies assembled a team to address the problem. The wish list of deliverables included avoiding wholesale system replacement; preserving the company’s intellectual property investment; allowing for on-process migration of system components (meaning without shutting down the process); enabling new capabilities not currently possible with TDC; and unifying TDC with Honeywell’s current Experion platform.

According to Mr. Patin, virtualization of the TDC environment brought additional benefits, including the ability to use Honeywell’s cloud-based Open Virtual Engineering Platform to engineer TDC solutions; lower cost, smaller footprint training simulators; peer-to-peer integration of virtualized HPM controller nodes with current-generation C300/ACE nodes; support for OneWireless (ISA 100 and WirelessHART) connectivity; and integration with ControlEdge and Unit Operations Controllers. Other benefits include a drastic reduction of spare parts, as well as reductions in cabinet space requirements.

Mr. Patin gave high marks to the Honeywell team for its response to ExxonMobil’s needs. “The challenge was met and expectations exceeded,” he said. “The need to replace an entire system is eliminated, future component issues are virtually eliminated (pun intended), intellectual property is preserved and on process migration is supported.”

Empowered Operations

Last year, Honeywell executive, Vimal Kapur mentioned that we often have better access to technology and information in our personal lives than in our manufacturing facilities. Industry needs to convert the siloed and hidden data locked in spreadsheets, systems, and employees into readily available and easily accessible forms.  According to the company, Honeywell Connected Plant allows end users to integrate process, assets, and people to enable every employee to be an expert at increasing productivity, reliability, and process safety and thus “make every day your best day of production.”

Mr. Urso provided the example of Honeywell’s Profit Suite.  This software can reduce variability, but benefits tend to decline over time as plant conditions change. Honeywell Connected Plant uses data to identify deviations and can apply UOP process expertise and experience to identify business opportunities. A new Unit Performance Monitor describes these opportunities in economic terms, helping personnel prioritize and act on recommendations.

A new Asset Performance Dashboard provides insight for a unit, a plant or an enterprise, giving performance in context of the process. Using expertise from Honeywell and the customer, the asset performance management system compares expected to actual performance, identifies faults, and provides detailed views to allow personnel to identify the problem. Operators can connect to experts, share information inside and outside the company, and issue a work order directly from the Orion console.

Honeywell announced part of its immersive competency efforts earlier this year, and Mr. Urso also highlighted its importance to the Connected Plant. On-demand, virtual reality (VR) training can provide “immersive competency” to get field work done right the first time. Technicians can use VR to train in a timely manner, practicing a job they’re about to do, and then use it to guide and verify the work as it’s performed.

Expanded Cybersecurity Business

A year after acquiring secure remote access solution provider, NextNine, Honeywell Process Solutions now has a considerably expanded suite of cybersecurity offerings. HUG featured a much greater focus on cybersecurity this year with a series of new and upgraded offerings from secure remote access to managed services for overall cybersecurity operations.

With its existing client relationships still in place, NextNine technology has over 6,000 installations worldwide and its expertise expands the number of opportunities for Honeywell in cybersecurity. With the NextNine business fully integrated into Honeywell Process Solutions, the company unveiled its ICS Shield solution. More than just a solution for secure remote access, ICS Shield provides a top-down OT security management platform for securing connected industrial control system (ICS)/SCADA environments. ICS Shield secures remote field assets from a single security and operations center and can automate deployment and enforcement of plant-wide security policies.

CyberVantage: Managed Services for Cybersecurity

Just as Honeywell is moving to outcome-based solutions and services with its Assurance 360 program for operations, the company is also looking at providing complete managed cybersecurity services under the CyberVantage brand. HPS currently has 407 sites subscribing to this managed cybersecurity service, and it’s expanding rapidly because many end users in Honeywell’s customer base simply don’t have the resources to address cybersecurity effectively on their own. CyberVantage promises improved visibility into potential threats and offers threat detection and vulnerability identification, extended multivendor support, and access to Honeywell CyberVantage security operations centers (SOCs) located in Singapore, Bucharest, and Houston. In addition to CyberVantage, Honeywell featured its other cybersecurity service offerings such as site assessment, segmentation, penetration, and advanced cybersecurity development strategies.

SMX and ATIX:  A Secure Environment for USB in OT Environments

USB technology remains a cyber-attack vector into the ICS/SCADA world. While some organizations have banned the use of USB technology, managing USB in OT environments will continue to be a challenge.  HPS featured Secure Media Exchange (SMX) technology at HUG.  This is designed to provide a secure environment for using USB technology OT/ICS/SCADA environments. SMX delivers vendor-agnostic ICS threat updates, continuous monitoring of USB ports, logging capabilities, and more.  SMX allows end users to plug in and check devices for approved use in the facility. Contractors “check-in” their USB drive by plugging it into an SMX Intelligence Gateway. The ruggedized industrial device analyzes files using a variety of techniques included with Honeywell’s Advanced Threat Intelligence Exchange (ATIX), a secure, hybrid-cloud threat analysis service.

Honeywell Industrial Security Risk Manager: Performance Management for Cybersecurity

Risk Manager cybersecurity software was also featured.  This provides a single platform for msglocr3.PNGmeasuring and managing OT cybersecurity risk.  Risk Manager collects information on installed assets and collects status and security events from applications and all major network infrastructure devices including Intel Security, Cisco, and others.   Risk Manager serves all this information up in a single environment with advanced dashboards and visualization tools to provide information in context for cybersecurity personnel.


Honeywell went out of its way to emphasize its new batch visualization offering. The company is known for its presence in refining and bulk chemical, but its products have also been controlling batch processes for over thirty years.  The recently released batch visualization solution is the result of working with twenty-five individual firms.  It features time-based visualization, allowing operators to view the batch in terms of what is happening now and what will happen.  A “golden batch” comparison alerts operators when the batch is delayed.  Honeywell has put together a video providing more detail.

Since Experion Batch hosts the batch in the controllers, a batch server is not required.  This eliminates the need for server maintenance like patching and updating.  Furthermore, Honeywell’s ControlEdge UOC (Unit Operations Controller) introduced last year has a virtual UOC for simulation and validation.  This has allowed pharmaceutical companies to gather the necessary data required for licensing in less time and with less investment. The UOC offers optional redundancy, embedded firewall, redundant power supplies, Ethernet communications and seven rack options. It’s rated to 60°C and can work with both classical and Universal I/O from Honeywell.


Across the user presentations, roadmaps, and product showcase at HUG, Honeywell continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to its installed base.  The emergence of the digital transformation of the process industries is shifting the source of competitive advantage away from physical machinery and toward information. ARC is glad to see that Honeywell is leveraging its Connected Plant to integrate process, assets, and people to help its users digitalize their legacy hardware to software, especially its large base of TDC3000 DCS users. Most process plants want to deploy digital transformation, but often need guidance as where to start.  By deploying these technologies, its users will be well-positioned to begin or continue their journey towards digital transformation.

There’s a lot going on at Honeywell and almost all of it software based. Is hardware dead? Not likely.  At some point real work must be done, but the innovation is coming mostly from software, and it’s coming fast. Digitalizing isn’t about the latest technological fad, it’s about keeping up.  End users need to rethink their business models and rethink them quickly.

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Keywords: Honeywell, Process Automation, HUG, IIoT, Cloud, PLC, DCS, LEAP, UOP, Digital Transformation, ControlEdge, Connected Plant, Cybersecurity, ExxonMobil, Migration, ARC Advisory Group.

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