June 2012

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A Customer Focused Approach

to Delivering Open Building Automation Systems
Steve Jones

Steven E Jones
Managing Partner,
The S4 Group, Inc

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Facility Managers, Building Owners and public utilities see the value in open building automation systems. There is a groundswell of information and technology available. The economic success stories are increasing and building owners and managers are pushing for adoption of open systems. Even though the majority of them agree that open systems are a good idea, few are familiar with all of the tools and options available to create an open building automation system. Even fewer can agree on a uniform definition of what an open system is.

As facility managers and building owners become more educated about open systems, they become more sophisticated and verbal about what they need. In turn, they become empowered to have the final say in the selection of an upgraded system and not at the mercy of their budget to keep the current technology.  Increasingly, building owners and managers are also evaluating the service and supports offered by their service providers and insist on seeing a long-term record of excellence in this area. As we have discussed in previous articles we consider Open to be a way of doing business that starts out with the technology but also embraces service, support, training and the business practices of the BAS provider towards the building owner. To be successful, the technology provider becomes a partner in the long-range future of the building.

This change in the balance of power is fueled, in part, by the introduction of BAS gateway products. The purpose of the gateway is to allow the proprietary system and the data from the system to interact bi-directionally with open systems such as BACnet, OPC, LON or PROFI bus/PROFI net, among others, while maintaining the full functionality of both the open system and the legacy proprietary system. We have seen cases where this approach eliminates the upfront costs by as much as 90%. With these changes, the customer has a free choice of operator workstations, energy monitoring applications, data collection trending and analysis services, cloud based continuous commissioning services, and other front end applications that that allow more access to real time data in a building and can make adjustments that net better building operations and cost savings. The money saved can fund a continuation of the change within the building over a planned period of years.

A perfect example of a success story that demonstrates multiple approaches to achieving open systems is Mitsubishi Chemicals Infonics Pte Ltd. Established in 1995 in Singapore; the company prides itself on being the first in Asian company to undertake the production of Optical Disc Storage Media and Organic Photoconductor Drums in one plant. Mitsubishi Chemicals Infonics is the Technology Center of Mitsubishi Kagaku Media, a leader in the optical data-storage media industry.

Mitsubishi needed better control of their clean room environments, and better visibility to the status of the rooms that was not possible with their aging MetasysŪ equipment without prohibitively expensive upgrades. These improvements were needed in order to maintain the product quality they are known for and to keep the manufacturing yields at an optimum level. The S4 Group Integration Partner VACE Technology took the challenge to devise a plan to solve Mitsubishi’s building automation issue. The combination of the of the VACE team experience with Johnson Controls MetasysŪ system, and their detailed understanding of the process control requirements in the Mitsubishi manufacturing plant, made it easy for Mitsubishi to entrust the project to them. The financial commitment to completely replace the MetasysŪ equipment with open technology almost caused them to decide to defer upgrading their building until VACE proposed this innovative solution.

contemporary The Mitsubishi Chemical Infonics Pte Ltd factory in Singapore has 10K square feet of clean rooms. The factory had 2 wings with 1 Johnson Controls MetasysŪ NCU in each wing and 70 DX9100/DC9100 controllers in both wings combined. VACE executive Mr. See explained Mitsubishi’s requirements. “After many years of being locked into the proprietary MetasysŪ system, the customer was relieved to be introduced to Reliable Controls, an open system that operates on BACnet and Modbus. Reliable technology opened the possibility of interfacing to their power meters, machines that operate on Modbus, and future integration with BACnet devices.” With their budget constraints, utilizing a combination of integration with the S4 Open: BACnet-N2 Router and upgrading a portion of the building with Reliable Controls technology made the project viable.

VACE executed the project in 2 phases, one wing at a time. For the first phase, they replaced one NCU and 40 DX9100/DC9100 with Reliable Controls controllers. They implemented RC Studio as the web based user interface. The owner had significant budget constraints so for phase 2 they replaced the other wing NCU with the S4 Open: BACnet-N2 Router, which allowed them to utilize the balance of 30 DX-9100/DC-9100 controllers as a part of the solution. The previous RC Studio installation provided the user interface for this wing. The field controllers were working fine so the integration process was completed with no down time and no lost productivity. In the future, Mitsubishi will have the choice of maintaining the MetasysŪ DX-9100/DC-9100 field devices as long as that approach is cost effective. At the point in time that this is no longer practical, these devices also will be converted to Reliable Controls technology.

The customer is very satisfied with the way the project went and especially with the smooth transition, and cost effectiveness of utilizing the S4 Open: BACnet-N2 Router for integration of the legacy MetasysŪ field devices to the Reliable Controls system. The owners are very happy that the changes were done with minimum downtime and without any technical issues. The migration was smooth and easy to Reliable Controls. The project moved Mitsubishi to an Open environment while solving technical, support, and business relationship issues and building a strong long-term mutually beneficial partnership with VACE.


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