Leveraging New Automation Approaches Across the Plant Lifecycle

Author photo: Larry O'Brien
ByLarry O'Brien

Many of the new technologies offered by the process automation suppliers focus on reducing the cost and complexity of automation projects. Technologies like intelligent, single-point I/O; virtualization; cloud-based l1.JPGengineering; and integration of automation systems with power and energy management systems can have a huge impact on reducing the upfront project costs. But what about ongoing lifecycle costs and operational excellence?

Many end users view the basic process automation system as a necessary commodity, rather than a value-adding asset that can provide significant return on investment after installation. But, in fact, while new forms of I/O and system engineering can greatly reduce the cost and complexity of a project, the new generation of systems can also offer significant return throughout the plant lifecycle.

Honeywell recently briefed ARC Advisory Group on the company’s new LEAP for Operations solution, which takes many of the new technologies and features developed for LEAP and extends their value across the plant lifecycle. Honeywell’s three-pronged approach for LEAP for Operations includes: cloud-enabled execution of many level 2 and 3 applications, edge device integration, and integration of connected assets such as SCADA system RTUs and electrical assets via the IEC 61850 standard.

From Project Solutions to Operational Solutions
Driven by end user demand to reduce project cycle times and get automation off the critical path, Honeywell’s original Lean Execution of Automation Projects (LEAP) strategy LEAP combined three key elements: cloud-based engineering, virtualization, and “universal technology.” The latter element refers to Honeywell’s new universal configurable I/O and standard control cabinets. This helped shave up to six months off automation projects according to Honeywell. Engineers can work concurrently on a project in the engineering cloud and design a system that can be created virtually, then loaded into the physical system infrastructure right before deployment. ARC refers to this concept as late binding.

Certainly, significant benefits can be had during the project phase and through system startup. But what about the much longer operational phases of the plant and the system? ARC’s rule of thumb is that the operational cost of a process automation can be three times (or more) of its installed cost. ARC feels strongly that the process automation system should be viewed as an enabler for operational excellence; one that provides a platform for risk management, avoiding unplanned downtime, and reducing maintenance and other operational costs.

l2.JPGLifecycle Focus
Honeywell’s LEAP for Operations strategy leverages many of the same newer technologies in process automation, but with a focus on reducing lifecycle costs and increasing reliability.

Cybersecurity is pervasive throughout LEAP for Operations and Honeywell employs secure-by-design concepts as well as layers of protection (including industrial-strength firewalls).

In addition to cybersecurity, LEAP for Operations rests on cloud-based execution, edge device integration, and integration of what Honeywell calls Universal Connected Assets, which include other subsystems and assets in the plant like electrical products, SCADA RTUs, and skid-mounted, OEM equipment.

Cybersecurity by Design
With Honeywell’s secure-by-design approach, many cybersecurity-related features and functions are built in. LEAP for Operations focuses on four primary domains of network security: conformance to cybersecurity standards (like ISA 99 and IEC 62443), access control, and its Risk Manager application. Network security includes Honeywell’s own Control Firewall product, a standard Experion system offering. The company also supports third-party and corporate network firewalls.

Conformance to Cybersecurity Standards
The ISA Security Compliance Institute (ISCI), a neutral, not-for-profit consortium manages the ISASecure certification process. Honeywell Experion C300, Safety Manager, and FIM controllers are certified ISASecure Level I. In January of 2017, Honeywell also received ISASecure SDLA lifecycle certification, which independently confirms that Honeywell’s development processes comply with the security development lifecycle requirements of the ISASecure Security Development Lifecycle Assurance (SDLA) certification, which is based upon the IEC 62443 industrial cybersecurity standard.

Risk Manager: A Single Portal for Cybersecurity with Contextual Dashboards
Honeywell’s Industrial Cyber Security Risk Manager application addresses some of the biggest roadblocks to effective cybersecurity management. It ensures that operators are always aware of their cyber risks and can direct cyber resources to areas that require immediate attention. Risk Manager collects information in a similar manner to traditional security information and event management (SIEM) products, but then converts this information into something that’s easy for operators to understand and act upon. This includes notifications and alerts whenever security risk issues arise, plus a dashboard that helps operators understand the extent of these risks and the actions required. Drill down capabilities help operators and cybersecurity personnel quickly isolate risks to specific devices.

Cloud-Enabled Execution Environment
ARC research indicates that an increasing number of end users are deploying their level 3 (MES) applications in the cloud. Compare to solutions deployed on site, cloud-based solutions can reduce the risk and cost of deploying and maintaining applications. End users are using various “flavors” of the cloud to implement these solutions today. Most prefer private clouds (remote or on-site), rather than the public cloud, since these offer deeper security. LEAP for Operations’ cloud enabled execution environment is available in these various cloud configurations. The Honeywell LEAP for Operations cloud environment, called Experion Elevate, is based on Microsoft Azure.


The first tier of the cloud-based execution environment supports locally hosted visualization platforms and “local clouds”, also known as a “fog computing” approach. Tier 2 supplements this approach while accommodating virtualization on a wider scale with Honeywell’s next-generation Virtual Engineering Platform (Open VEP), originally developed for internal use at Honeywell, but now also offered commercially. This allows end users to build and test control strategies, display, alarms, and more in a virtual, cloud-hosted environment to enable concurrent engineering and virtual factory acceptance testing (FAT).

Tier 3 supports virtualized servers in a public cloud, with no physical hardware on site. This configuration is good for controlling geographically dispersed assets and can be a useful and cost-effective configuration for oil and gas, SCADA, and other remote applications.

Edge Device Integration
LEAP for Operations edge device integration includes advanced functions for automated device commissioning, support of multiple wireless networks for process field devices, integration of fire and gas systems, and integration of skid-mounted devices.

Automated Device Commissioning
Honeywell offers SmartLine transmitters for a variety of standard industrial field networks including both HART and FOUNDATION fieldbus. For wireless devices, Honeywell OneWireless devices now offer full support for both WirelessHART and ISA 100.11 wireless protocols.

What’s more, the same late binding approaches mentioned previously, in which the software aspects of a process automation system can be merged with its actual physical hardware at the latest possible moment, allows end users to install and commission field devices before the actual control system software is deployed. Honeywell has taken additional steps to automate both intelligent field device commissioning and the subsequent testing and documentation stages, which appear to be unique capabilities for device configuration solutions today.


Experion I/O automatically queries all I/O channels to determine if a device is connected. Intelligent transmitters are recognized automatically by the I/O. The software configuration of the system is matched up to the intelligent device automatically and the configuration updated automatically. Other information resident in the system software configuration, such as transmitter range, alarm setting, and so forth can be updated to the intelligent transmitter in the field.

With the Experion R500 release, Honeywell is introducing new testing and documentation capabilities for intelligent devices. These eliminate the need for paper-based tests, allowing for automated or guided testing procedures. For example, different percentages of range can be calibrated automatically using HART commands. In R500, all test results are also automatically documented and a total cabinet printout report is available, which can eliminate the need for a device loop sheet. In an automated device commissioning scenario with devices recognized automatically and their configurations updated remotely, the entire device commissioning process can be reduced to a couple of minutes, versus a couple of hours.

Universal Connected Assets
LEAP FOR OPERATIONS provides better connectivity to assets in the plant outside of the process automation system. These include electrical systems, SCADA RTUs, third-party PLCs, and skid-mounted OEM equipment. Central to this strategy is the Ethernet Interface Module (EIM), which provides connectivity to a wide range of Ethernet-based networks, from IEC 61850 for electrical products and energy management systems to devices like Rockwell Automation PLCs on Ethernet/IP networks. Ethernet/IP integration also greatly eases the task of integrating skid-l5.JPGmounted equipment, which is predominantly controlled by PLCs and can represent up to 50 percent of the I/O in a process plant.

Honeywell also has its own ControlEdge PLCs and ControlEdge RTUs (formerly known as RTU 2020). Both products have autorecognition features that can significantly reduce the amount of time required to configure these devices or update their control strategies. ControlEdge devices can automatically populate relevant associated diagnostic points into the HMI graphics of the overall system.

While new forms of I/O and new ways of completing automation projects have already proven to help reduce overall project cost and complexity, suppliers are expanding these new approaches to provide a better value throughout the system lifecycle, greatly reducing maintenance costs and total cost of ownership. Honeywell’s LEAP for Operations approach, for example, features an expanded focus on cybersecurity, cloud-based execution, better integration with intelligent field devices and other edge devices, and better integration of subsystems and Ethernet-based networks.

In ARC’s view, this is a good strategy that will benefit both end users and Honeywell. LEAP for Operations is also an example of Honeywell’s successful transition from a traditional controls and automation supplier to one that is focused on next generation software and services for industry. ARC also expects a lot of this thinking to go into the company’s other businesses, such as infrastructure and smart cities.

ARC Advisory Group clients can view the complete report at ARC Client Portal on Office 365 or Box.com or New Client Portal on this website

If you would like to buy this report or obtain information about how to become a client, please Contact Us

Keywords: Operational Excellence, Cloud, Virtualization, Operations Management, Field Commissioning, Lean Execution, Automation Projects, LEAP, Cybersecurity, Honeywell, ARC Advisory Group.

Engage with ARC Advisory Group

Representative End User Clients
Representative Automation Clients
Representative Software Clients