Industrial users all seem to have unique environments, even plants within environments like food processing or component manufacturing have requirements and processes that vary widely. But throughout the individual enterprises, there are usually many machines that are run using the same setup.
That’s a vexing challenge for original equipment makers who supply manufacturing control systems to customers who now compete in a world that puts more emphasis on mass customization than mass production. It’s fairly easy to create hardware that works in many different environments, but software has to be flexible so plant managers can continuously alter their production runs to meet demands that seem to change constantly.
To meet the demands of mass customization, users need to be able to write applications that are tightly focused on their applications. They must also to be able to reuse this software once it’s written. That makes it easier to set up facilities that produce the same results regardless of where they’re located.
Siemens Industry is addressing this challenging issue with its Totally Integrated Automation Portal, which unifies all automation software tools within a single development environment. The TIA Portal is an engineering software environment that includes a range of tools that simplify programming by providing a broad range of tools within an integrated platform. This engineering framework is based on the core intelligence used in more than 100,000 automation products over 15 years.
One of the TIA Portal’s most important components is the Libraries concept. It addresses the challenge of providing software that can be reused throughout a company’s facilities.
The concept is proving to be very beneficial to customers who credit the TIA Portal with significant engineering time savings. Many of them cite the Libraries concept as a big part of the reason for these gains. In particular was Hurst Boiler, who stated that they saved up to 40% in engineering time savings due largely to their extensive use of this feature.
With this software, users can create their own libraries, containing many various parts of the engineering objects. These software modules can be easily reused in other projects.
For example, complete configurations of various machines and plants can be centrally saved on one server. Fully developed components, tried-and-tested project data and projects from earlier versions can be reused at any time. Established engineering quality is transferred from the first tested program to all future projects.
With a Library of fully developed components, it becomes much easier for the OEM to customize machines based on customer needs. For example an OEM may offer a small, medium and large version of a machine, but there may be parts of that machine that are common across all three product lines. Therefore once the library component is developed and tested, it can be easily reused and such a feature can significantly reduce the OEMs engineering time.
The strength of the Libraries concept within the TIA Portal lies in the mix of objects that can be placed in a library folder itself. STEP 7 and WinCC elements of an automation project can be stored in local or global libraries, and can be stored with the exact parameterization that was done in the original project. The following objects can be stored inside a Library folder:
– Program blocks
– HMI screens
– Graphic objects from HMI screens
– Configured I/O or Analog modules (Standard or Failsafe)
– Complete stations
Therefore for an OEM that has sections of a machine that are common across a company’s product line, he can now place the PLC blocks, HMI screens, tags and configured I/O modules for that machine section into a Library folder. A simple drag and drop from the global library allows these objects to be reused on other projects. The global library can be set up in any folder of the Windows® file system. The user can compress this folder and store it on a server or send it by e-mail, for example, around the world. The local library is saved together with the automation project.
A Library folder consists of a “Master Copy” folder and a “Types” folder. Objects that are to be reused in other projects are copied into the “Master Copy” folder. The “Types” folder is quite different in that it allows the user to create a HMI faceplate or HMI user data type (UDT) within the Libraries itself. Once the faceplate or UDT is created and used in the project, they can then be very easily updated and redeployed from the central Libraries location. All references in the HMI program to any usages of the faceplate or UDT are automatically updated with a single click.
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