A unique technology in constant evolution

by Dario Cozzi

Massimo Danieli, responsabile globale attività strumentazione e controllo, Business Unit Power Generation ABB
“No other supplier has made such a move so far”. In a sector as complex and globalized as the energy market, such a statement could sound a bit hasty. And yet - talking about DCS systems - some can afford it. ABB announced in fact in the past months its commitment to develop without temporal limits the Symphony platform. Unique in its sector. Massimo Danieli, global responsible for instrumentation and control (I&C) for the BU Power Generation of ABB, explains the main features of such innovation.

Evolution without obsolescence is the slogan you chose to promote this initiative. How would you summarize in a few lines the value of such message?
**A plant automation system is a complex whole of hardware and software where the platform hosts control, automation and protection applications of the process. The platform tends to obsolescence in time as hardware and software technologies evolve. On the other side, the real asset for plant managers lies in the know-how of the applications themselves.
The ABB strategy consists of integrating hardware and software technologies within the platform, in order to grant constant update and the introduction of new functionalities - made possible by evolving technologies - by granting at the same time a compatibility of applications. This way, the whole system never gets “old”.

Which are the tangible advantages?
**The real benefits for the customer are the reduction of total costs of ownership, a simpler planning of the update of the plant automation technologies, and the opportunity of maintaining a state-of-the-art technology without running into long and complex replacement activities within the system, which would also require a plant shutdown.

Which are the plus sides of your offer if compared to competitors’?
**We deem ABB a front runner in the field, to which other Companies will refer. The recent announcement supports a strategy and commitment towards the customers rooting in the past. As a matter of fact, the majority of automation and control technologies introduced simultaneously to the Symphony systems were considered obsolete long ago, thus being substituted by solutions which were not compatible with the former ones.
On the contrary, Symphony continued evolving in the past, and this is why it can now boast - probably - the widest installed base. Many of the plants dating back to the ‘80s and ‘90s were updated to state-of-the-art conditions. ABB’s renewed commitment in continuing to develop such technologies will allow us to supply a unique service to the industry sector per intensity and time length.

The closer sectors to DCS systems are generation and water treatment. Other possible applications?
**All process industries in general, mainly those entailing complex processes and big plants; think for instance to the petrochemical sector.

Smart grids and renewable energies could also be key sectors?
**Certainly! Renewable energies are constantly growing and such plants present automation and control issues also, although with their own specificities. In this direction, ABB - strongly involved in the development of solar, hydro and biomass plants - confirmed its commitment to develop Symphony technologies in the future in order to fully take in the renewable sector needs. Including the integration of generation plants with smart grids.

The Symphony set development will entail a strong research commitment. Where will this be done?
**ABB is a global company and so is our R&D range of activities. For what concerns the development of Symphony technologies four different centers will be operative: United States, Germany, Italy and India. Each center has a specific responsibility according to the technology area covered, while global coordination is granted by an international management team.

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