Why Use a Fieldbus?

“Why Use a Fieldbus?” The number one reason people don’t use a fieldbus is that they don’t know about them. Most likely they haven’t been told of the benefits. This White Paper remedies that!

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For those of us who have spent the last 20 years promoting the use of digital communications (fieldbus) in the process industries it comes as a surprise to find that barely 15% of users have made the transition. OK, HART is responsible for some of that, (though HART is not a fieldbus and does not provide the same wiring and other savings) but nevertheless we might have expected a bit more progress.

Does it mean we have failed? No! It’s partly because the process industries are reluctant to take too many steps into the future too quickly – and there are many good reasons for that. It’s also due to many plants having a life cycle of decades, so there’s limited opportunity for change. Nor has the economic situation been very favorable.

But there are many positives, as the new end-user adoption survey from Boston-based analysts ARC clearly demonstrates. More people than ever are turning to fieldbus to support new projects they conclude. Their report compared the results of a similar survey 2 years ago with responses to similar questions today. “One of the primary points that emerged,” they say “was the increased acceptance of process fieldbus technologies among major end-user companies. Fieldbus is being deployed in more and more large plant and critical applications.” So fieldbus is finally on the agenda big time.

40% Cost Savings and More

If we go back to the beginning, fieldbus is basically a way of connecting multiple field instruments to a single cable or network. That means it eliminates a lot of copper and hard labor. Many plants report up to 40% savings during the initial phases of plant installation and although some of this is offset by higher prices, immediate financial gains are available.

Configuring a fieldbus network is easy too. It can be done from a central operator station sited remotely from the PC, with full engineering and diagnostic facilities at your fingertips. Batching instructions and recipe building can be proven off-line and invoked as necessary.

Often, this is a good enough reason for converting, but it’s in the operational stages of a plant’s life that even bigger gains take hold. For example, all-digital technology means more accurate measurements leading to better control strategies and tighter quality control. It also means better trending and historian capability, which adds to the improvements in operational control. Later changes to fine tune the process simple as well, with central audit trails, trending and historian functions enabling you to keep an accurate record of what’s going on.

With fieldbus, more data is available on a continuous basis, which means that management level systems can be fed with better information and there’s huge potential for improved plant management by means of diagnostics, Preventive Maintenance techniques, and Asset Management software. Diagnostics becomes easier because of centralized access, which means engineers rarely have to struggle out in the field to find a fault. With fieldbus, the fault can usually be located remotely, meaning replacement parts can be obtained and fitted much faster.

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