Understanding the OPAF Initiative

By Sharada Prahladrao

Technology Trends

The Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) initiative was discussed in-depth by ARC’s Harry Forbes, Research Director, Automation, and Mark Taft, Group Vice President, ABB at the ARC Industry Forum in Orlando.  This blog captures the key points and quotes of the interview.  You can watch this here and/or on YouTube.

ABB and the OPAF Initiative

Explaining ABB’s perspective on the OPAF being an important initiative, Mark said, “first and foremost, it's a customer-driven initiative.”  In over 35 years of industry experience, he has seen many vendor-prepared and driven initiatives; and then they try to pull in the customers.   But, the OPAF is different as this is driven from the ground up by customers.  What the customer wants - reducing lifecycle costs of automation and making it easier to adopt new technologies incrementally – is consistent with what ABB is aiming for.  “This provides the opportunity to get direct customer input into our activities that are driving that direction,” said Mark.  And when the customer’s voice is heard, the company is assured that the new technology will be adopted.

How the OPAF Initiative Differs

Harry stated that in the last three decades there have been many such initiatives in the manufacturing automation space, most of which have failed.  He asked how the OPAF differs and why the odds are better in this case.

“As explained earlier, it's driven by customers,” said Mark.  There’s a confluence of these types of customer initiatives in today’s automation landscape, such as NAMUR Open Architecture and MTP/Modular Automation.  “Also, what these customers are trying to achieve are pretty complementary,” said Mark.  In Mark’s opinion, this is a natural evolution of what needs to take place in automation.

Next, if you consider ABB’s customers and companies, “there’s going to be a generation change,” he said.  In this context, he explained that the inertia or resistance to change will be reduced, and the people who enter the workplace will embrace the next generation of technologies and take advantage of the developments in this space.  So, it’s the coming together, the combination of all these factors.

Future Role of ABB

Besides being a product company, ABB is also a system integrator company, said Mark.  Customers today are sourcing pieces and parts from different vendors and combining them to get the best-in-class solutions.  However, to do this they require partners.  And that is where ABB as a system integrator steps in.  ABB provides integrated solutions that span across the various disciplines that are necessary in process manufacturing, and that will continue.  Expanding further, Mark explained that ABB “will not supply everything,” but has a large role to play in integrating technologies in a way that is easier to support going forward.  The coming together of those two aspects (product and system integration) are “very complementary for the way we want to do our business,” said Mark.

Engage with ARC Advisory Group