The importance of an open systems architecture for the Burner Management Systems (BMS) industry

The importance of an open systems architecture for the Burner Management Systems (BMS) industry

Flame detection and burner management systems are essential for safe and efficient burner operation. As burner management technology and processes have evolved, many industry leaders providing burner management systems have ensured that as advancements in technology were made, their systems required full upgrades instead of allowing customization or modification. Purge timing changes, for example, would require new componentsincreased profits for the sellerand create delays if not ordered in advance, instead of just allowing on-site software-level modifications and customization.

These “hard-wired” system components are not inherently more efficient; this system was created to limit the ability of factory experts to make changes or customizations to sell more additional components per year. Coupled with a closed, proprietary system design, many times factories have found themselves with few options other than purchasing more hardware each time a change is needed. To accommodate these new products, base units may need to be modified or upgraded. New bases may be compatible with some of the old add-ons, but not all, while newer add-ons will not adapt to old base units. This means more hardware purchases to make sure all upgrades and add-ons are compatible. These same manufacturers have resisted the safety certifications of competing programmable burner management systems that would offer open and flexible system architectures.

What’s the deal with closed proprietary systems?

There is nothing wrong with technology in these closed systemshe does his job. The problem with closed systems is at the enterprise and industry level. Businesses are leaner than ever, and working with vendors that offer little compatibility with third-party vendors involves significant risk. Supply chain issues, changes to a vendor’s product line, or unforeseen costs associated with new hardware or upgrades due to the design of the system all pose substantial risks to any business.

As an industry, high switching costs for a factory mean significant barriers to true open competition between systems and technologies. The construction of proprietary systems that do not allow wide compatibility between component suppliers and the customization of software by factory experts reinforce these barriers to competition. Vigorous competition results in superior quality and innovation at all levels. Open systems, programmable and designed for wide compatibility, offer lower risk to the customer and stimulate competition among BMS vendorscreate a stronger burner management industry.

How do factories avoid risk with open architecture burner management systems?

There are many situations in which a plant can be at risk if it is tied to a closed proprietary system. In a scenario where a large vendor acquires a smaller vendor and discontinues support for that product line, customers of the smaller vendor will find it increasingly difficult to obtain spare parts and support. With the costs of downtime alone, factories could lose millions of dollars a day simply from missing a key component from a single supplier. A similar situation occurs when a vendor obsolete a product line, ending product support and forcing customers to switch to a new solution for upgrades or new components. Cutting corners as parts become scarce for the existing system can lead to an unoptimized system and all the risks associated with burner management – the risks that a BMS is designed to avoid in the first place: explosions, production unintentional carbon monoxide, or even a simple ‘nuisance tripping’ where the flame is present, but the furnace shuts down, which can lead to batch failure, restart costs or other shutdown costs, depending on the application.

Avoiding single source risk should be part of the executive planning of any plant in today’s economy. For BMS, a customizable “open source” programmable logic controller (PLC) system is the basis of a multi-vendor compatible factory ecosystem. PLC-based panels are available, designed to be independent of flame detection systems and compatible with many flame detection technologies and vendors, allowing factories to make the best component choices for their applications and equipment. Instead of forcing factories to choose a specific solution native to a specific vendor, using customizable and widely compatible solutions helps reduce downtime and ensure availability of components and spare parts.

When choosing a technology platform, understanding which solutions are designed with compatibility and customization as central principles can be crucial in mitigating risk down the line. As factory decision-makers choose solutions that offer broad compatibility and reduced long-term costs, suppliers find that operating within their own closed ecosystem is not what is best for their customers or customers. industry as a whole. Their customers are looking for ways to reduce costs and risk, and staying in a closed ecosystem means that vendors who don’t scale will be left behind.

About the Author


Ron Sustich, consultant at BMS systems – Siemens, has 45 years of experience in the field of combustion. Ron (pictured above) has co-authored chapters for ASM’s Metals Handbook, The Tool and Machinery Engineers Handbook, and has written and presented articles for Industrial Heating Magazine and the American Institute of Steel Engineers .


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