Optimization of Process Integration (OPI™)

Despite wider acceptance and use of Ethernet and IP technologies in process automation, there are still gaps between the field, control and enterprise levels. Plus, different control systems favor different fieldbuses. Optimization of Process Integration (OPI™) will ease this situation by providing users with a unified communication solution that includes the information and communication standards for the objects, services and profiles needed.

Realization of OPI requires a three-pronged approach to common use cases in automation for process industries: (1) field device to ICS integration; (2) field device to Plant Asset Management (PAM) communication integration; and (3) a seamless, holistic field-to-enterprise communication architecture. ODVA’s approach for OPI is based on natural solution groupings for these use cases and originates from a four-part working hypothesis: 

  1. Use of industrial Ethernet in process plants is growing and will accelerate, first with its use as the backbone for control systems and then expanding to new field devices. Ultimately it will converge multiple, diverse networks and simplify the automation architecture. 

  2. At the field level, industrial Ethernet will first be applied to devices with larger data exchange requirements, such as flow meters, which contain instrumentation data (e.g., mass flow, viscosity) or control valves, which contain process data (e.g., travel distance, stiction). In the longer term, devices with smaller data exchange requirements, such as simple sensors and actuators, will follow as has been seen in hybrid industries. 

  3. The scale of process automation control systems, in terms of number of devices and control loops, as well as geographic distribution of the overall system, tends to be larger than in hybrid and discrete production plants. This distribution calls for a network with a scalable architecture that can support a large number of devices and a peer-to-peer or distributed control architecture. 

  4. The useful life of plant and equipment in automation applications in process industries will continue to be much longer than in hybrid and discrete industries. Thus, users in the process industries will need a retrofit approach to the optimization of plant integration that accommodates an automation architecture that blends the old with the new.


Use Case Type 1:  Field Device-to-ICS Integration

Field device-to-ICS integration is the foundation of OPI. Integration of field devices into ICS incorporates the communication requirements for existing field devices on specialty fieldbuses, along with the communication improvements for new field devices on industrial Ethernet, such as enhanced diagnostics and instrumentation data. It also includes physical layer options such as Power-over-Ethernet and will conform to emerging standards for intrinsically safe Ethernet. 

Use Case Type 2:  Field Device-to-PAM Integration

Field device-to-PAM integration is the accelerant for OPI. It seeks to ensure that the field device provides optimal performance at all stages in its life cycle, from commissioning and operation to calibration and maintenance. PAM is particularly important in process applications where installations are expected to operate for long periods of time without shutdown.  

Use Case Type 3:  Holistic Field-to-Enterprise Communication Architecture

A holistic field-to-enterprise communication architecture is the integrator for OPI. It supports optimization of process integration by enabling the paradigm shift from the classical, restrictive automation pyramid toward a flatter and more inclusive distributed network architecture. With a single, converged and transparent enterprise-wide communication architecture, it can provide full access between the automation and enterprise resource planning systems. The result is a unified communication solution that allows virtually unlimited access to data — anywhere, any time. OPI will allow users to update and improve the performance and serviceability of field installations as well the integration of process applications with the overall enterprise in a safe and secure manner. To gain a more complete understanding of ODVA’s vision of OMI, read Optimization of Process Integration: ODVA’s Vision of a Unified Communication Solution for the Process Industries