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Trinseo Digitizes Control System Migration Projects to Achieve Fast ROI

By ABB Limited |

While every control system migration project should be viewed as a step toward operational excellence, companies rarely achieve a fast return on investment for these projects. However, by eliminating unnecessary steps and customization, automating many tasks, and simultaneously creating reusable templates for engineering and configuration, companies can achieve relatively fast ROI.

Recently, ARC Advisory Group spoke with automation supplier, ABB, and end user, Trinseo (formerly Styron), about the company’s use of ABB’s CAFÉ suite of engineering tools. These were combined with the ABB 800xA process automation system and advanced P&ID engineering applications. CAFÉ is used to automatically reverse-engineer functional specifications from legacy systems, as well as forward-engineer functional specifications.

Trinseo uses the forward-engineered functional specs in CAFÉ to create standard, repeatable unit libraries and code for 800xA. The company then uses intelligent P&ID data, the ABB simulation library, and a separate Trinseo-developed-and-owned tool to automate the creation of level 3 and 4 HMI graphics and, more importantly, a high-fidelity simulation model.

Trinseo’s overall strategy is to generate as much data automatically and as early in the migration project as possible to avoid the need for costly “clerical” work for automation engineers. This allows engineers to focus on value-added automation functions.

The process industries need to eliminate customization and repeated effort. In migration projects, end users need ways to preserve the considerable investment they have made in their existing software as they migrate to new systems. ABB CAFÉ software, a powerful new tool, can be applied to both new and modernization projects, allowing users to realize much faster ROI for both. CAFÉ is one of the few commercial offerings available today that can automate and remove many of the steps needed to convert legacy code, create an effective functional specification, and configure the process automation system.

Trinseo’s Migration from MOD 5 to ABB 800xA
Formerly called Styron, the company adopted the Trinseo name in 2015 for all its businesses. Today, these encompass plastics, latex binders, and synthetic rubber. Because of its history, Trinseo has a large installed base of legacy MOD 5 process automation systems. As a completely proprietary control system migration trin2.JPGsystem developed by Dow, MOD 5 had its own programming language (DOWTRAN), plus hardware and software with many features that reflected Dow’s operating philosophy. Unique functional capabilities include procedural automation, abnormal situation management, and very-high-availability control, all also key elements of Trinseo’s own operating philosophy. Both philosophies also embrace today’s leading industry standards like the ISA 106 standard for procedural automation and state-based control, ISA 84/IEC 61508/61511 safety standards, and the ISA 101 standard for operator graphics.

The installed base of first-generation distributed control systems, including proprietary systems like MOD 5, face the challenges of ongoing support with regard to skilled resources and hardware. This has accelerated the need to modernize old DCSs installed around the world. In in its own modernization efforts, Trinseo faced a dilemma. The company had previously invested a considerable amount of money and engineering effort in its control system software. It needed a way to mine that software to preserve the best features and functions, while easing the migration process. Traditional code-conversion processes and replication of existing functionality did not make sense.

Matching Trinseo Engineering Principles
Trinseo’s sophisticated vision for control systems focuses on software, which the company views as a “long-lived and persistent” investment. The company believes software has a huge impact on productivity; cost; quality; and health, safety, and environment (HSE).

Trinseo’s well-defined vision to reduce its total cost of ownership incorporates architectural principles, methods, tools, quality software, and work processes. Key architectural principles include the use of procedural automation; object-oriented software; standard work processes; a model-driven, standards-based approach; and abnormal situation management. These are also all key aspects of ARC’s own evolving Collaborative Process Automation System (CPAS) model.

Trinseo Vision control system trin3.JPG


CAFÉ Creates Dynamic Functional Specs for Migration and Greenfield Applications
Many tools are available for migrating systems at the hardware layer. These include custom wiring harnesses, gateways, and other products to reduce the labor intensity of doing point-to-point wiring and replacing old controllers, I/O, and marshalling hardware. Not many tools, however, are available on the software side of the equation where the investment and risk are much greater. A handful of suppliers offer application and code conversion kits, but these often have only limited functionality.

ABB collaborated with Trinseo and its installed base to create CAFÉ software, a key part of Trinseo’s toolbox for migrating from existing MOD 5 systems to ABB 800xA process automation systems. CAFÉ automates the process of building a Microsoft Excel-based functional specification for new or migration projects. CAFÉ uses a procedural automation-based control philosophy to turn functional specifications into control applications in ABB 800xA. This powerful tool creates a reverse-engineered functional specification from the object-based legacy code.

trin4.JPGCAFÉ is used both to implement the control system and maintain the control application over its lifecycle by providing an updated, as-built functional specification. After plant startup, CAFÉ can be used to maintain code and provide updated design documents throughout the plant lifecycle. The reverse-engineered functional spec, for example, can ensure that all control functions, state-based alarming/interlocking, and device controls are accounted for.

CAFÉ has two main functions: design and build. The design function provides a user interface to build the functional specification. CAFÉ allows the user to import and export the functional specification from/into the database to support the bulk editing and review process. The build function is designed to work with 800xA, an object-based process automation system with an object-oriented database. Objects in CAFÉ can be created from Code Accounting (CA) Tool legacy objects created from reverse-engineered legacy control logic. The build function converts the object’s functional specification to a fully configured object within the 800xA control system. The build function also guides the user to update the data needed for first converting and then importing into the 800xA system.

CAFÉ as a Path to Standardization and Reusability
Using CAFÉ to automate converting the legacy code into standard functional specifications, Trinseo also anticipates that the tool can provide an easy way to create standard templates for functional specifications for processing units that are widely used within the company. Once the company has created and tested a forward-engineered functional specification (FS), it creates a unit-based FS template that could be reused in multiple projects with similar processes, with minimal reengineering required.

trin5.JPGWith CAFÉ, the FS automatically produces detailed code, which saves many hours of coding. DCS batch code can also be created through the FS, allowing rapid creation of batch units and the attendant phases and phase parameter lists. Trinseo also uses the reverse-engineered FS as a code function checklist to make sure all key functions are duplicated or carried forward. Some custom engineering may be required for the unique aspects of each unit, but the effort is minimal compared to the old way of doing things.

Speeding Development of High-Fidelity Simulation
Trinseo’s goal is to use simulation for:

  • Testing: Both individual unit testing and full plant testing of all the functional spec functions (alarms, interlocks, device actions, state-based code, calculations, operator controls, and batch interactions).

  • Operator Training: Simulation uses the same graphics as the operator, so there is minimal difference between operator training and reality.

  • Management of Change across the Plant Lifecycle: Trinseo uses the simulation to proof test all important future changes in control code or batch code before loading to the plant.

With conventional simulation solutions, it can take months to build a good model. By combining information in the 800Xa system with intelligent P&ID data, Trinseo can build a model in minutes. For each P&ID-tagged device, the company has a matching simulation library object built using good engineering first principles. With each P&ID generating a modular piece of the simulation, the various modules can be combined to create a total picture of the plant and a unified, modular simulation model in a fraction of the time.

Trinseo derives great value from these simulation models, which enable the company to find leaks, check the directionality of all control loops, test alarm limits and tank material balances, and many more functions that would not be possible with simpler simulations. Significantly, the simulator and control system also both run in a common environment.

Auto-generating HMI Graphics
ARC has previously written about the potential benefits of auto-generating HMI graphics by combining the capabilities of modern DCSs with intelligent P&ID engineering applications. Trinseo automates creation of many of its graphics using this approach. Basically, when the P&IDs are created, much of the engineering information required to develop process graphics (and even high-fidelity simulations) is also created, and in an automated fashion. Some human intervention may be required but, for the most part, the processes of creating both P&ID-style graphics (also known as level 3 or 4 displays) and the simulation model are automated by using the information created by CAFÉ tools and intelligent P&IDs.


Clearly, ABB’s CAFÉ software helps eliminate many layers of customization and associated effort for both system migration and new automation projects. Trinseo’s intelligent application of advanced P&ID engineering capabilities in conjunction with the CAFÉ tools and 800xA control system has resulted in some very impressive reductions in CapEx for its migration projects, removing many repetitive, low-value tasks along the way.

The full cost savings and migration efficiency improvements in Trinseo’s more complex batch systems have yet to be fully shown and validated. However, this case study is one of the most impressive that ARC has seen in terms of automating key tasks like converting legacy control code, generating HMI graphics, and generating medium- to high-fidelity simulation models.

The savings are likely to become even more pronounced when Trinseo starts using standard, repeatable templates for similar units across the company. This high level of reusability would reduce total lifecycle cost with each progressive project, as it eliminates repeat work. Trinseo itself expects a more than 50 percent reduction in total lifecycle cost of ownership for its application software by employing these new approaches. Training and management of change are also vastly improved in the new system.

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