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Innovative evolution

Joerg Orth and Gerhard Brandt, ABB, Mannheim, Germany

ABB’s Industrial IT extended automation system 800xA extends the company’s present power and utility industry process control systems with an all-encompassing operational control platform that takes monitoring and visualization systems to the next level.

Some say that power and utility industry installations in Europe are past their prime. At the same time the present political environment in many countries, for example, regarding large fossil fired power stations, requires that their life be extended until 2020. Although the design-life of process and electrical components can usually accommodate these requirements, the lifecycle of control systems, particularly operating and monitoring systems, is considerably shorter and they may be replaced manifold over the plant lifecycle. In today’s competitive market, there is a need for modular, scalable solutions that maximize the extent to which existing technology can be reused. At the same time, older installations must be integrated into the enterprise-wide information and management systems for resource planning, trading, maintenance management and other systems to enable real-time information and decision support.


Utilities require a fully integrated system with a single user interface
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ABB’s new Industrial IT extended automation system 800xA offers the power and utility industry customers a fully integrated system that covers the entire spectrum of required functionality via a single user interface.

The functions offered extend far beyond conventional operating and monitoring systems, integrating areas such as information management, engineering, maintenance activities and documentation as well as providing new capabilities such as asset monitoring and optimization. Users have direct context-related access to plant- and enterprise-wide data, thus ensuring that they can see and act upon the right information at the right time. System 800xA keeps one consistent set of data for use throughout the plant increasing the user’s efficiency through reuse of their best practices and providing a single point of change for all system information. In order to meet the requirements of different operations, ABB offers a customized system that is geared to the needs of the utilities. This system has an integrated, sector-specific operating and monitoring interface that can also be used to systematically develop and enhance proven operating procedures.

The Industrial IT automation system 800xA was conceived as a functional extension to the world’s largest installed base of process control systems. System 800xA was developed using Microsoft technologies to the extent possible. The system integrates traditional, present-day and future ABB control technology, making it an ideal platform for conversions, retrofits and new installations. The system 800xA supports current automation solutions like Symphony, Procontrol P14, AC 800M and others.

Continuous development

With its 800xA system, ABB has developed a technology that allows users to keep the greater part of their existing ABB installations and upgrade them by using a new, extended operating and monitoring system that is able to integrate enterprise-wide IT solutions. Existing engineering data and processes are automatically integrated and reused as objects in the 800xA system.


Industrial IT System 800xA core system design concept
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Customers also have the option of installing the current systems technology when expanding their plants and to operate them in parallel with existing systems. At the same time this gives users the opportunity to apply the latest technologies, such as OPC and fieldbus technology like profibus. Equipment specific control technology, such as turbine controllers or boiler protection systems, can be integrated. System 800xA enables subsequent seamless integration of industrial certified components, such as the intelligent ABB transformer or intelligent ABB switchgear. With the click of a mouse, context sensitive diagnostic information can be displayed on an operator screen.

System 800xA’s multi-faceted integration capability makes it an ideal platform for consolidating different control consoles that use a wide variety of control equipment types. In a power plant with multiple units, 800xA is the platform to reduce and integrate the number of existing control rooms into one, allowing customers to optimize the operation cost. It can also be used to combine control desks for different process applications, e.g., power and heat generation, water and gas supply systems and industrial plants. As a result, a uniform, plant or even enterprise-wide operating and monitoring philosophy can be achieved, contributing to simplified and efficient operation, reduced training cost and higher operational safety for the operator.

The key to integrate underlying systems lies in the development of connectivity servers, which in contrast to pure OPC interfaces, allow that the full functionality of the operating and monitoring control of the underlying system is preserved. With respect to diagnostics and maintenance, system 800xA allows the operator to consistently maintain engineering data for control, operating and monitoring systems using a single point of entry. When using standard OPC interfaces, any configuration change made using the control system engineering tool requires that the operating system database is also manually reconfigured.

In contrast, 800xA connectivity ensures that whenever any changes are made, both the control system configuration and associated body of 800xA parameters are created or updated simultaneously. An example of a new drive that is to be tied into a melody process control system follows. The drive is configured using the composer engineering tool and the controller is used to configure the I/O interconnections. System 800xA then automatically saves the drive as an object in the 800xA database, including all its aspects and interconnections. Connections to third party systems are made using standard industrial interfaces, preferably OPC.

Operation and monitoring

The system allows comprehensive information management that was not possible. It has the functionality of conventional applications such as information management systems (history, archiving, reporting, calculations) that were often only available as stand-alone tools and integrates additional applications such as solutions for combustion optimization, process data validation, maintenance and resource planning. System 800xA is based on ABB’s aspect object technology, which enables the configuration of any type of object. This ends painstaking searches for data that are distributed across various locations, computers and applications.

It enables context sensitive and object-oriented access to data not offered by traditional technology. Examples include maintenance data and specifications, planning data, ERP systems as well as optimization and management systems. System 800xA is an integration platform and data repository than can be applied between the control systems and the enterprise level.

System 800xA becomes the operating and data environment for operations, maintenance, engineering, optimization and management. In order to accommodate the different views and information requirements of these users, the system allows the creation of personalized, role-based workplaces, where each user receives only the information that is absolutely necessary for his work and in a form that is most meaningful to the user.


Examples of process and enterprise management information integration
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Classic operating and monitoring systems usually provide only fixed presentations that have been optimized for a particular job function. If other users want to use the same data, they can only use the given presentation or switch to stand-alone systems. Depending on the users’ assignments, they often needed supplementary computer workstations and associated software packages with various operating and user input requirements in addition to the standard HSI and information system. With 800xA, activity- and task-based desktops can be defined, e.g., an operator station, a management or maintenance portal, all with dedicated displays in a system environment that uses a consistent operating interface and navigation.

Information access

System 800xA supports the use of thin clients, which enable the access to the information repository from almost any standard PC. This is achieved by integrating the “de-facto” standard citrix metaframe technology for server-based computing into the 800xA. These thin clients can be used to perform all functions (operation, engineering, diagnostic, etc.) from within the plant or a remote, enterprise level. Plant data in a role-based presentation can be made available for analysis and evaluation to corporate functions. Or remote specialist support and guidance for operation and maintenance staff form a central facility can be set up by using these features.

When control and enterprise management systems are seamlessly integrated, users are in a position to access context sensitive information from other systems, such as CAD/CAE, CMMS, ERP, and so on. The 800xA system establishes a familiar and consistent environment that provides direct access to this data. Take, for example, a feed pump. By clicking on the right mouse button, a plant technician can bring maintenance advisories for this pump to his desktop, check the status of maintenance orders in the respective ERP system, or can directly access the spare parts list and equipment related drawings.

Users have access to virtually any information that can be stored electronically by clicking on the right mouse button. And in order to ensure that users work efficiently, the system has activity-based filters that can be configured according to customer needs. Therefore, users need only to manage the data that relates to their own job assignment. In addition to having access to the usual process related systems data, a user can also obtain information from so-called P&I diagrams, 3-D layout drawings, an electronic shift log, operating instructions, calculated parameters, long-term trends, the status of ongoing work orders and similar data. This access to real time information supports a user’s enhanced decision making process.

Asset optimization

Optimizing power plant operation is a continuous activity. Plant maintenance primary is a cost factor in the power generation industry. While the emphasis has been on maximum availability of the plant in the past, the deregulated market situation now calls for maximum availability at times when a maximum price can be achieved and possibly a somewhat reduced power output at times when prices are low. With regard to maintenance, this creates new requirements. Maintenance schedules need to be flexible and co-ordinated with supply contracts.


Accessing context-sensitive asset status from the display screen
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Forecasts of capacities must be reliable. This also requires the concept of maintenance migrates from fixed time intervals to condition-based or performance-based maintenance, including forecasts of upcoming maintenance activities. It is therefore necessary to establish a communication link between the control system and the maintenance system.

Continuous monitoring of process related, control-related and electrical equipment via asset monitors is an integral part of the 800xA. Asset monitors condense and filter maintenance related data for a piece of equipment online in real time. The system generates an overview of the condition of plant assets using this information. If it determines that equipment conditions call for maintenance or other actions, a message or alarm is sent and additional steps such as a maintenance messages in an CMMS can be initiated directly. Asset monitors support a transition to condition-based maintenance and present the relevant information required for equipment optimization at the plant and enterprise levels by drawing on these capabilities. The integration of control systems and their data repository forms a vital pre-requisite for the successful implementation of advanced maintenance strategies, as these largely depend on the availability of relevant equipment status information and related process data in the CMMS.

Aspect objects technology The basis of universal information transparency in a modern automation and operating system is a data and processing model that intelligently organizes all types of information and makes it accessible in a uniform environment with consistent navigation tools. ABB developed the aspect objects concept to address these information-centric demands. An aspect object is a data related model of an asset. In the real world, these objects represent, for example, a valve or a pump, but they may also represent combinations of hardware modules or even entire systems. The object-based concept allows all relevant system data to be continuously accessed and managed. An aspect object is like a file folder that contains all the data related to a system component and is used to save all relevant information over its entire lifecycle.

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