GAM keynote by Ford Powertrain highlights importance of standardization in manufacturing

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA, October 11th 2012: The 18th General Assembly Meeting (GAM) of PI North America, which took place September 26-27th 2012, benefited from “one of the most impressive PROFINET presentations I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to,” according to Executive Director Michael J Bryant. The keynote, delivered by Mike Bastian, Global Controls Manager of Ford Powertrain, described how, over the past five years, he has led his company towards far greater standardization of automation systems in its assembly lines.

 PROFINET communications are at the heart of our efforts, Bastian said: The robustness and speed of PROFINET brings many benefits, one example being a "virtual RFID system" based around a high-availability, redundant PLC system that has enabled Ford Powertrain to dispense with parts tagging. Bastian added that his company is now achieving ‘world class’ production standards to match any in the industry.

“Taking ownership of both hardware and software is another part of the process,” he said. “With "ownership" comes responsibility, which makes people nervous. But it’s the right thing to do because it brings better control, closer integration with IT, improved throughput and better diagnostics."  Bastian commented that his department is now looking towards better energy management, where “we believe a lot of work can be done." Many of Bastian’s initiatives are now rolling out across other Ford plants.

 In his opening address, Executive Director Bryant spoke of PI’s other technology, PROFIBUS: “The PROFIBUS market is expected to grow in 2012 by a further 4 million nodes, to reach a total of about 44 million," he said. “It’s reassuring that PROFIBUS continues to flourish even as PROFINET is escalating its market share. However, he believes that the greater flexibility, higher performance and greater versatility of PROFINET will increasingly take precedence. "Today, every 5th device sold is for PROFINET compared to some years ago when it was 1 in 15," he concluded.

 Bryant also reported that the membership of PI North America had passed 150 and that a new web site is under construction integrating the previously-separate "All Things PROFINET" site into a re-designed   

PROFINET also featured in a presentation by Stefan Gallmann, Head of Industry Management, Windenergy, Phoenix Contact. He explained how it’s used to integrate the control systems of wind turbines. It’s supporting safety too, he said. Implementing PROFINET greatly simplifies the network architecture of a typical wind turbine park, he added.

 Day 2 of the GAM saw the focus turn to process automation. Hunter Harrington from the PROFI Interface Centre in Johnson City – a North American PI Competence Centre – described the PROFINET proxy solution that allows sub-networks such as PROFIBUS PA, HART and FOUNDATION Fieldbus to be connected to PROFINET. Later, PI Chairman Karsten Schneider explained the 3.02 Profile for PROFIBUS PA which defines process-specific functionality such as device exchange similar to 4-20mA by automatic ident. number adaption, simplified but powerful diagnostics and faster parameter transmission.

The process theme was later emphasized by Jim Simmons from DuPont who described the fieldbus "learning curve" that was triggered by his company’s purchase of a PCS7 control system. “Through that project I have become a fieldbus proselytizer within DuPont,” he said, adding “I believe any new control system installation should hav