Users get more accurate specific alarms, consistently to the local PLC Display, the HMI, plus the Engineering Software Tools, and remotely via Web.
Small breakdowns and outages happen at any plant—they’re part of manufacturing life. But when they happen often and without providing valid diagnostic information, the costs and delays add up quickly.
Diagnostics have improved significantly in recent years, making it much simpler for operators and maintenance technicians to quickly understand what’s causing problems and get equipment back up and running quickly. Newer controls and software provide critical diagnostic information for efficient fault analysis, quick troubleshooting, faster commissioning times and minimal production downtime. That’s in addition to the improved performance that comes with new products.
Older controllers do not have the ability to inform users about current or potential issues, raising the specter of longer than expected shutdowns or delays. Many managers feel that it will be difficult to program new equipment to perform tasks like diagnostics, but that’s not necessarily true. In a webinar entitled “Integrated System Diagnostics,” John DeTellem, Product Manager for Siemens TIA Portal engineering platform, demonstrates simple steps that can help companies improve efficiency by reducing downtime. Integrated system diagnostics that are automatically pre-configured within the PLC reduce the engineering development costs and eliminate the programming errors or typos that can cause confusion and frustration. Ultimately, integrated system diagnostics can ensure a reduction of downtime.
The Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) Portal running V.14 software is highlighted in the Webinar. The TIA Portal addresses the complete automated environment, including networks, drives, HMIs and controls as well as integrated safety and motion. It also provides backwards compatibility with a number of Siemens tools, making it easy for companies to gain benefits like improved diagnostics.
Integrated system diagnostics utilize the PLC to provide a diagnostic framework for the entire system. Unlike many other diagnostic systems, the TIA Portal’s tools let users see diagnostic information even when the PLC is in stop mode, for example when it is being commissioned in startup.
Once the components are all connected, operators can publish diagnostic alerts and information to many different places, including the PLC’s front panel, the HMI and to web-enabled devices including other 3rd party remote products. The ability to send alerts to a Web browser that can be viewed from any site provides more freedom for technicians, letting them analyze faults without traveling to a facility. This can lay the groundwork for companies that want to embrace the Internet of Things movement.
Data viewed on a Web browser holds a lot of information. Information on diagnostic buffers, diagnostics of the PLC, tables and topology traces are available, as is memory usage.
Regardless of where the data is displayed, a critical factor is that maintenance technicians can now view a wealth of diagnostic information without grabbing a laptop preconfigured with the engineering software. It’s much more effective to troubleshoot PLCs and related equipment using information provided by the HMI or another display that’s tied directly to the PLC. That ensures that troubleshooters are getting valid information, which helps them shorten downtimes.
It’s easy to set up the alarms and alerts. Operators and programmers can set limits for alarms and determine how they will be displayed. Some can be primarily text warnings, while others can provide graphics and links.
It’s even possible to configure an HMI to show alerts for a PLC that is not in the same project. A device proxy can be set up to import the PLC, giving a technician all the information needed to see what’s wrong.
In the Webinar, DeTellem provided an example of a maintenance technician that enabled a drive, but didn’t have a release for the related conveyor. In the past, the only way the technician could troubleshoot the issue was to get online to the PLC and access the program logic and troubleshoot the ladder logic.
“Now, technicians can see the problem directly on the HMI. They don’t need to access the PLC or get into the ladder logic,” he said.
These integrated system diagnostic capabilities aren’t new to the TIA Portal. They were offered within the SIEMENS TIA solution with the predecessor S7-300/400 hardware platform and Simatic Manager programming. However, framework advances now include features such as always-enabled, increased configurability, inclusion of additional automation devices and the availability of the system diagnostics even when the PLC is in the STOP mode.
These features and integrated diagnostics will be enhanced in future releases. In the fairly near term, Siemens plans to roll out a TIA Portal service pack that lets operators add comments. These comments can provide a wealth of information for those tasked with interpreting alarms and resolving the issues.
Another forthcoming feature, Snapshot, will let technicians see the actual condition or errors that occurred to drive the fault. This additional insight can help prevent recurrences of problems.
There are few companies that can’t benefit from reducing long shutdowns caused by unexpected faults. And fewer still that aren’t searching for ways to reduce downtime. Integrated automatically generated system diagnostics can help companies run plants more efficiently, increasing production with little cost or additional effort.
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