With field devices getting smarter and controllers more sophisticated, the operational networking layers that keep plants running have more things to do. This is where SCADA systems function; their responsibilities are growing as manufacturing processes become more sophisticated.
Today’s global marketplace is increasingly competitive for manufacturers. To remain competitive—and profitable—in this challenging and constantly changing commercial landscape, companies must drive efficiency relentlessly, take advantage of every possible opportunity to remove cost from products, shorten time to market for new product development, and enhance production flexibility. Automation can be a major contributor to such efforts, but it has to be approached in a way that is, in itself, efficient. To fully leverage its benefits, automation must be fully integrated.
How Automation Should Proceed
First, consider the lifecycle of a product:
- Product design
- Production planning
- Production engineering
- Product execution
These steps typically follow a predictable path, one after the other, moving from department to department. A new product’s requirements are defined: what it needs to do and the attributes necessary to be competitive. The product is then designed in a way to fill as many of those provisions as possible. The production planning group makes sure it can be built as required and it works with production engineering to consider the actual manufacturing steps (i.e., what can be done in-house vs. what should be farmed out, what new manufacturing processes might be needed). Prototypes might be made and sent back to the earlier stages for evaluation, and other iterations might be needed with various compromises before everyone is satisfied. Then actual manufacturing begins that might involve another design tweak or two. Once units are in the field, service comes into the picture.
The process is predictably and sometimes painfully slow. Steps happen in a serial manner and sometimes move backward as much as forward. But there is an alternative: virtual development.
Not merely 3-D modeling, virtual design and development involve a much wider range of product characteristics and attributes. The essence is collaboration, where all manufacturing departments can participate in the process at the same time, examining the product on the screen without having to produce prototypes. Each department can make comments at this point.
These discussions should happen at the same time so that the first prototype produced is much closer to the ideal envisioned at the outset. Once the product has moved into full-scale manufacturing, production happens in a predictable way because all the aspects of the product were anticipated. The design process considers the available manufacturing capabilities and constraints, even down to cycle times and production rates.
The Importance of Information Flow
In manufacturing environments, the biggest concern historically has been material flow; but as manufacturing has evolved, information flow has become equally if not more important. Controllers and field devices have grown in sophistication, increasing their capabilities and ability to generate data. Getting that data to the parts of the process or people that can use it can be challenging, and how an enterprise meets that challenge can make or break the value of automation.
The levels of communication in most manufacturing environments break down into five divisions from the top down:
- Field Devices
Traditionally, while control efforts flow down, information flows up. Each level gathers data from the level below, combines and perhaps interprets it, then moves it up to the next level. But that structure is changing. More intelligence is being pushed down so lower levels have to be more sophisticated. This puts more pressure on the middle—the operations level—and makes its function increasingly important. This is where supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems do their work, and the nature of that work is changing.
The New Role of SCADA
With the proliferation of data coming from the plant floor, the question is how to make it into smart data and use it to create smart reports. Much of that processing takes place at the operations level by the SCADA system. Among the functions SCADA performs:
- Bringing data from multiple sources to one place in real time, avoiding lags and clumps of information isolated around a plant
- Interfacing with control platforms from various manufacturers in process or factory automation environments
- Scaling easily with requirements
- Providing visualization, control, alarming, messaging, trending, and archiving of all plant-level data
SIMATIC WinCC is Siemens’ SCADA system that includes a family of products, each with its own capabilities and applications. With all its parts working together, WinCC is the glue that joins all the different parts of the manufacturing process into one effective whole, supporting efficiency from engineering to operations.
WinCC is a family of products that can be fitted and assembled to provide the capabilities needed for any specific situation:
- WinCC V7.3 is the main platform and has been evolving over the past two decades. Most recent refinements have been additions to make it function seamlessly with TIA Portal. It is suitable for most applications, but has a maximum limit of 256,000 tags. Multiple engineers can work on the same project at the same time, using many of the same techniques of familiar software platforms such as Microsoft Excel.
- WinCC OA (Open Architecture) is particularly suited for widely distributed applications scattered over large geographic areas, or those with thousands of servers and millions of tags.
- WinCC Runtime Professional supports HMI applications when all equipment is close together, and can even run a single packaging line or machine when a full SCADA system is not necessary.
- SIMATIC Process Historian can collect any data imaginable about a process and make it accessible for analysis and report writing.
- SIMATIC Information Server interfaces with WinCC and Process Historian to create reports. It uses an Internet interface with a reporting framework and mechanisms to create a variety of formats.
- WinCC Performance Monitor is a data analysis and reporting tool that helps users monitor production capabilities, establish baselines, and break through bottlenecks. It uses diagnostics from field devices to help identify constraints that might be slowing production or locates where problems are developing with machinery before an outage disrupts production.
- WinCC Web Navigator and WinCC WebUX provide remote information access. Web Navigator is the earlier platform and interfaces using Microsoft Internet Explorer. It permits mobile control along with data analysis. WebUX (User Experience) is a newer tool more aimed at reporting. It can operate with any browser and any type of device using HTML 5.
All SIMATIC WinCC parts are designed to work together seamlessly using a high level of consistency for functions and look and feel. Operator familiarity with one part of the system will support new parts, minimizing the need for training. These elements also interface with TIA Portal and can be integrated into larger complex automation systems, even across multiple plants.
Supporting the Digital Factory
Digital factory technology is bringing new capabilities to manufacturers in all industries, allowing them to increase efficiencies, reduce costs, and shorten design times for new products. The combination of smart devices with sophisticated controllers all working together under a SCADA system that can support and integrate the highest functionalities can unleash a higher level of manufacturing potential for any facility.
Siemens can provide the full range of products, from digital design platforms to all the equipment necessary to automate manufacturing processes. Built on one common and thoroughly integrated platform, it shortens the path to a new manufacturing environment.Have an Inquiry for Siemens about this article? Click Here >>