PI North America meeting: Profinet growth, Ford Powertrain integration

Ford Powertrain expanded standardization of automation systems over the past five years; greater Profinet communications were part of the mix, said Mike Bastian, global controls manager of Ford Powertrain at the 18th General Assembly Meeting (GAM) of PI North America.


Greater standardization of automation systems in Ford Powertrain assembly lines over five years and continued expansion of Profinet in North America were among highlights at the 18th General Assembly Meeting (GAM) of PI North America, Sept. 26-27, 2012, according to PI North America’s executive director, Michael J Bryant. The keynote presentation, delivered by Mike Bastian, global controls manager of Ford Powertrain, described how, over the past five years, Ford Powertrain expanded automation standardization.

Profinet, an industrial Ethernet protocol, is at the heart of the efforts, Bastian said. 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. Bryant said Bastian gave “one of the most impressive Profinet presentations I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to.”

In his opening address, Bryant also spoke of PI’s 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, Bryant expects that the greater flexibility, higher performance, and greater versatility of Profinet will increasingly take precedence. "Today, every fifth device sold is for Profinet compared to some years ago when it was 1 in 15," he said.

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 us.profinet.com.  

Profinet also featured in a presentation by Stefan Gallmann, head of industry management, Windenergy, Phoenix Contact. He explained how Profinet is 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.

The second day 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. PI Chairman Karsten Schneider also explained the 3.02 Profile for Profibus PA, which defines process-specific functionality such as device exchange similar to 4-20mA by automatic identification 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 have to justify NOT using fieldbus technology."

PI North American board of directors

In July, PI North America announced appointment of Michael Rothwell, Director of Controls and Industry Solutions (CIS) for Phoenix Contact, to its Board of Directors. Rothwell joined other board members Raj Batra of Siemens Industry, Bernie Anger of GE Intelligent Platforms, Jason Knuteson of Endress+Hauser, and Bryant. The Board met on Sept. 25, 2012, before the PI North America annual General Assembly Meeting, in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Read more PI North America news from that organization.


- Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering and mhoske@cfemedia.com.

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