Posts Tagged ‘security’

New ABB data recorder puts your process at your fingertips

March 26, 2014

We are delighted to announce the launch of ABB’s new RVG200 paperless data recorder incorporates a number of advanced features giving operators slick, easy and secure access to process data.

A key feature is the RVG200’s use of touchscreen technology. By using the device’s intuitive icon-based menus or ‘swiping’ through the screens, operators can rapidly find the data they need. This data can be viewed in a variety of formats, including individual or grouped data in chart, bar graph or digital indicator displays.

Up to 24 universal analog inputs enable direct connection of mA, mV, TC, RTD, voltage and digital signals. Coupled with a 125mS sample rate and 500V galvanic channel to channel isolation, these inputs deliver reliable, highly accurate, data from connected process instruments.

The high specification of the process inputs ensure they are AMS2750E compliant, making the RVG200 suitable for temperature recording in aerospace and automotive heat treatment processes.

Another new feature is the inclusion of front and rear USB ports. Users can connect a variety of peripheral devices, such as a USB memory drive, enabling archived process data to be transferred from the RVG200 to ABB’s DataManager Pro software for analysis.

For batch applications, attaching a USB barcode scanner provides a quick way of adding information including batch numbers to batch records and eliminates the risk of typographical errors that can occur during manual entry.

Integrating the RVG200 into a plant network is made straightforward by the inclusion of a 100Mbit Ethernet connection, giving remote operators access to a range of features and functions. The RVG200’s integrated webserver enables remote access from a PC, tablet or smartphone, providing a true anytime, anyplace overview of both the current status of the RVG200 and the process it is monitoring.

Keeping up to date with the latest process alarms or critical process events is made possible by email notifications which can be automatically sent to an operator’s PC or smartphone. Alternatively, the RVG200 can be configured to routinely email summary reports of process conditions.

Real-time process data can be communicated to and from the RVG200 using MODBUS over Ethernet or RS485, providing an excellent way to integrate the RVG200 in to a control or PLC system so that it can perform secure data recording and visualisation duties. Capable of acting in master (client) mode, the RVG200 can be used to collect data from other devices, which can be displayed on screen and archived alongside process signals directly connected to the RVG200.

As with all devices in the ScreenMaster paperless recorder range, the RVG200 features extensive security measures to protect against unauthorised tampering with process data, compliant with FDA 21 CFR Part 11 requirements. Standard security features include the ability to configure and allocate multiple users with individual password and access rights. All recorded data is also securely stored by the RVG200’s 256Mb of internal flash memory, which can be expanded to 2Gb if required.

A further protection feature is the inclusion of a lock fitted to the media door, preventing unauthorised access to the memory card and front USB port. In addition, the RVG200’s configuration and field terminals can be sealed with a tamper-evident security seal, ideal for regulatory controlled processes.

Data integrity is protected by an internal audit trail, which logs any configuration changes made and records who made the changes and when, as well as the details of all datafiles created and many other events key to process data security, such as calibration changes.

Why it pays to pay more for safety (Part 2)

February 19, 2014

In our last blog, we looked at the real costs that can arise where safety takes a back seat and explained some of the factors behind the higher costs of specialised instrumentation and control equipment for safety applications.

In this blog, we’ll be looking at the parameters that define the overall effectiveness of a safety loop and will show why opting for higher integrity equipment can save money in the long term.

Let’s start by looking at the required Safety Integrity Level (SIL), as defined by IEC 61508. IEC 61508 is the “mother” standard that spawned corresponding “daughter” standards for the process industries (IEC 61511), nuclear facilities (IEC 61513) and machinery (IEC 62061). It is not a legal requirement for British businesses, but HSE accepts it as good practice.

Confusion can often arise when it comes to designing a safety system as it’s not as simple as just applying a blanket SIL to cover an entire process. Instead, operators must first consider the individual safety instrumented functions (SIF) within a process, these being the functions of a given device that are necessary to protect against a hazardous event. This can then be used as the basis for designing and engineering the safety system solution, consisting of the inputs, the logic solver and the final elements, including instrumentation.

As a general rule, it is almost always better to design risk out of a process before installing specialised systems to control it. This will often reduce the required SIL and therefore the cost of the safety systems needed to deliver it.

Next is the average probability of failure on demand (PFD). The acceptable PFD of a system varies depending on the required SIL as well as the required mode of operation of the safety instrumented function, which is the frequency with which a safety instrumented system will be used. For a safety function operating in a low demand mode of operation, the PFD ranges from ≥10-2 to ≥10-1 for SIL1 to ≥10-5 to ≥10-4 for SIL4.

The overall PFD is calculated by combining the PFDs of all the individual components in the loop. For example, a transmitter designed for safety will typically offer a lower PFD than a standard transmitter, bringing down the overall PFD of the system and potentially raising the SIL.

Other factors that determine whether an individual instrument is suitable for a particular SIL are the safe failure fraction (SFF) and the hardware fault tolerance (HFT).

The SFF is a function of the number of safe failures, the number of dangerous undetected failures and the number of otherwise dangerous failures that can be rendered safe by being detected, for example, by installing self-diagnostic capabilities.

The HFT indicates the number of faults that need to crop up within a device before a safety failure occurs. For instance, the failure of a standard transmitter might result in the output from a transmitter freezing on its last setting, but a transmitter designed for safety might revert to a prearranged fault setting, which could in turn trigger an alarm. Built-in redundancy can also raise the HFT from 0 to 1.

The integrity level provided by a given combination of SFF and HFT varies depending on whether the overall safety system is a well-proven Type A or less well-understood Type B, according to the IEC 61508 standard. The other key factor to be considered is the systematic capability. This relates to factors such as the methodology, techniques, measures and procedures used in the design and engineering of the element itself and the integration of elements to form the safety system.

The other thing to look out for is the quality of documentation available from the equipment supplier. Are their instruments certified by independent testing bodies? Have they got a sufficiently strong track record for the user to be confident that the equipment is “proven in use”?

Savings soon add up

Independent tests and extra paperwork may not sound like a cheap option, but there are several ways in which opting for higher integrity equipment can save money in the long term.

The first is that the safety systems do not need testing as often to check that they are still working properly. The required proof test interval can be extended significantly if equipment can demonstrate a higher HTF and a lower frequency of dangerous undetected failures. This will deliver lower operating costs for any user, but the difference is likely to be especially significant in industries such as offshore or nuclear, where gaining access to the systems can be difficult and expensive. It might, for example, mean the difference between sending inspectors out to an oilrig by helicopter every three months or once a year.

The second area where savings can be made is in insurance. In fact, some insurers now insist on complying with particular safety integrity levels before they will agree to provide cover.

However, it is the prevention of accidents that still offers the biggest potential financial savings, not just in terms of financial penalties, but also the impact that an accident or incident can have on a company’s share price and reputation. Add to this the imperative to protect personnel and be a good neighbour to the surrounding community and the case for excellence in safety systems is compelling – whatever the state of the economy.

Why it pays to pay more for safety (Part 1)

February 10, 2014

Quite apart from any moral considerations, skimping on safety can be an expensive mistake. The right safety instrumentation can deliver long-term security and a lower life-time cost.

If the Buncefield and Deepwater Horizon disasters prove anything, it’s that safety can never be taken for granted. Aside from the devastation they caused to their surrounding environments, both disasters also resulted in multi-million dollar damages for the operators involved.

While most industrial safety breaches have less spectacular and expensive consequences, they are sadly all too common. The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted 973 offences in 2013 and achieved 849 convictions. The firms in question collectively received fines of £12.9 million, equating to an average fine of £15,153.

When it comes to safety, fines are just one aspect of the costs of getting it wrong. Material damage, personal injury claims and the damage to a company’s reputation and subsequent sales can all send the price of poor safety sky high.

With companies facing considerable pressure to cut costs in every possible area, even areas as critical as safety find themselves subject to tightening budgets. Moreover, as the standards currently accepted as good practice are not actually legal requirements, there is an obvious temptation to skimp on safety systems. As can be seen from the potential consequences of failure mentioned above though, this is unlikely to prove a cost-effective strategy in the long run.

Higher standards

When it comes to specialised instrumentation and control equipment for safety applications, it’s true to say that you get what you pay for.

Compared to a normal process control loop that is operating most of the time, a safety system will typically kick in only when there is a problem. This sporadic operation means it’s quite possible for a transmitter or other component within the safety loop to malfunction without being detected. However, if it fails when needed then the consequences can be dire.

Making sure a safety system doesn’t fail demands good quality equipment that has been extensively tested and analysed. It may also mean building in a level of redundancy and a self-diagnostic capability far outstripping that required for non-critical systems. All this pushes up the price.

The second point is that safety is a niche application. A refinery might easily have 900 control loops distributed around the site but fewer than 100 safety loops. This more specialised market for safety equipment simply doesn’t benefit from the same economies of scale as the mass-market in standard controls.

Lifetime savings

Rather than looking for the cheapest option, it’s important to look for instruments and systems offering the optimum combination of security and cost-effectiveness over their lifetime. It’s a complex area, and users hoping to find the best solution can benefit from getting to grips with some of the terminology surrounding safety.

In our next blog, we’ll explain the parameters that define the overall effectiveness of a safety loop and will show why opting for higher integrity equipment can save money in the long term. Look out for it this time next week. If you can’t wait that long, then please email for the full article, ref. ‘The price of safety’.