Collaborative Standardization Guides Digital Transformation
EP Editorial Staff | May 1, 2021
Growing user expectations require consistent machine operation experiences and integrated automation suites are helping manufacturers manage the standardization required to deliver these benefits.
By John DeTellem, Siemens Industry
As companies globally adopt and leverage digital transformation, they are implementing smart systems and adding connectivity to data sources to improve their operations and empower their workforce. Simultaneously, modern machines enable high throughput and increasingly efficient production but keeping up with user expectations is a challenge for many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
It is easy to be overwhelmed if strategies are not established to manage an abundance of moving parts through system development and deployment. Furthermore, engineers must maintain alignment across disciplines—electrical, mechanical, and control systems—throughout machine design lifecycles.
To address these and other issues, OEMs are embracing integrated automation software suites. This type of software helps manufacturers improve the design process, increase data availability across a plant floor and enterprise, and reduce downtime risks—all by implementing standards from engineering to delivery.
While OEMs have built machines according to standards for decades, today’s challenge is evolving the standards to meet complex end-user requirements, including:
• integrating machine data with plant lifecycle management,
• offering machine control to operators through intuitive graphical interfaces,
• providing avenues for virtual commissioning,
• fitting into existing plant asset-management strategies.
While OEMs in the past could get by with refining their methods for product development and machine control in a vacuum, standardization now requires in-depth collaboration with end-user operations and engineering teams. Through this dialogue, OEMs are finding ways to improve customer relations and develop features their end-user customers rely on, while maintaining competitive time-to-market schedules.
Manage Standardization with Software
Intelligent use of the right tools is essential throughout standardization in this complex landscape. With the right software, OEMs can import and export electrical and mechanical drawings within the automation software suite to automatically update system control and maintain design consistency across all engineering disciplines. This saves time spent in coordination efforts and speeds commissioning. In addition, integrated automation suites enable OEMs to develop and maintain standardized automation program libraries, with direct links between hardware components and their software instructions.
Several of these automation objects are built into the software suite and pre-verified, resulting in less time spent testing and troubleshooting. Developers can also create new objects and test their functionality through virtual commissioning or digital-twin simulation.
All automation objects can be reused throughout a single project or across multiple projects, reducing development time and ensuring consistent functionality every time a particular hardware component is used. With production engineering configurations and the proper connectivity, automation projects can also be configured to perform automatic object updates based on the master library. This creates consistency during development and in the operating experience across end-user enterprises, saving personnel time troubleshooting complicated issues and leading to higher-quality production.
Another tool provided by modern integrated-automation suites is the automatic generation of PLC code and simple HMI layouts, including data views and dashboard configurations. This makes program development reliable and rapid, while providing end users with easily understood operational procedures and visualization components to monitor production efficiency.
Typically, in plant environments, a machine interface from one OEM looks different than that from another. Even when two dissimilar machines are integrated and synchronized at an automation level, human visual confusion and incongruent operation between the two can remain. Moreover, differing machines often complicate data-exchange routines by requiring unit conversions and other data manipulations when exchanging information.
In a standardized environment, where equipment adheres to an end user’s established requirements, machines from different OEMs communicate more easily because each is built using plant-wide principles. Additionally, graphical interfaces carry a similar look and feel across the production line, enhancing the operator experience and reducing confusion-induced errors.
A maker of high-efficiency stamping presses—previously burdened by delays caused by inadequate engineering software—revamped their manufacturing and development processes by redesigning their machines with Siemens PLC, HMI, and automation software components.
To offer a cost-competitive press and speed time to market, the control system needed to leverage the years of software development used in the high-end presses. By deploying an S7-1500 PLC, SIMATIC HMI Comfort Panel, ET200SP I/O, and performing all software development in the TIA Portal environment, the press maker reduced development time by 30%. Additionally, the use of standard automation objects throughout the application translated to a more reliable product for their end user customers.
Another manufacturer—a maker of prefab pharmaceutical clean rooms—was plagued by outdated controls and automation components, plus time-consuming fabrication cycles. It enhanced operational productivity by updating its automation hardware and standardizing on Siemens TIA portfolio of highly integrated components. Using S7-1500 and ET200SP PLCs, SIMATIC HMI Comfort Panels, SIMATIC WinCC SCADA, and TIA Portal integrated automation development software, the manufacturer’s engineering manager estimated hardware cost savings and programming time reduction of more than 50%.
The TIA Portal’s graphical interface makes it easy for newly minted developers to assemble projects, and the automation object library facilitates pre-verified code reuse on multiple projects with minimal testing. This ensures consistency in operational procedures and graphical interfaces for its end user customers.
Standardization advantages with an integrated automation suite for OEMs include:
• Software becomes more transparent for end users and thus more marketable.
• Software quality is increased, improving reliability and maintainability.
• Development time and costs are reduced, and engineering efficiency increased.
• Reputation in industry is bolstered by collaborative standardization with end users.
• Errors are significantly reduced because automation programs use pre-verified automation components.
• Expenditures for service and warranty claims are reduced.
• Diagnostics and troubleshooting are simplified, resulting in fewer support calls.
• Training is simplified.
• Managing multiple machine variants and documentation is easier.
All combined, standardization through an integrated automation suite enables parallelization of work steps, reducing total development and commissioning time.
The collaborative nature of standardization also provides OEMs with important opportunities to interface with and gain the trust of end users in the industrial-automation community. While creating and maintaining standards can be a herculean task, modern integrated automation software notably eases the process, providing organizations with head starts, with support available along the way.
John DeTellem is the TIA Portal manager for Siemens Industry, Washington DC (new.siemens.com). He started his career more than 30 years ago as an automation project engineer/project manager. DeTellem has been with Siemens 14 years.