According to Mike Abbott from Siemens Industry Automation, assessing primary and secondary processes from a single perspective and finding a common    automation technology platform can drive down costs and increase operational efficiencies

Despite some thoughts to the contrary, most manufacturing plants are ‘hybrid’ by nature as they often run both primary and secondary processes.  In the food and beverage sector, for example, manufacturing operations will require process and machine operations to both create the product and then to ensure it is safely constructed and packaged for the end consumer. Likewise, in the pharmaceutical industry the primary process will generate the active ingredients, but then the pill-making and packaging machinery processes are required to finish the process prior to shipment.

However, despite the clearly linked status of both processes, manufacturing companies have often followed a traditional approach that views the automation platforms for each part of the primary and secondary processes as separate. This has led in many cases to duplication in cost, time as well as reduced efficiencies as companies adopt a silo mentality for two elements of what is, in effect, a continuous production whole. This cannot be the most effective way of improving operational control across an enterprise, especially as alternative methods are readily available.

A holistic standpoint

Looking at the issue from a holistic standpoint, and viewing the manufacturing process as a continuum, adopting a common automation platform will reap rewards in operational areas such as expenditure savings for spares inventories, more efficient use of training man hours and reduced production downtime.

For example, in the secondary processes associated with machine automation on filling or packing lines, PLCs have dominated. However, it is possible to also utilise the same units for distributed process control purposes at the same plant – supplied from a single supplier source.

In the past, PLCs have been specified for applications where logic and fast response were the main requirements, and looking at automation solutions for continuous control would highlight problems such as avoiding race conditions and correct implementation of PID terms regarding sampling rates and integral de-saturation.  But today, with advances in the flexibility and operational performance of automation technology, a homogenous solution for control ensures that integration across primary and secondary processes is possible.  Backed with a common operator and engineer interface and simplified upgrades, the use of common technology across production can deliver business value to manufacturers.

Flexible redundancy options

In addition to the benefits of a single enterprise wide automation platform, an integrated approach offers flexible redundancy options which can  impact on downtime incidents and enable plant engineers to get production moving again without delay – despite the issue originating in either the primary or secondary process phase.  Whatever the manufacturing process in place, be they batch, continuous or discrete operations, they can all benefit from a consistent and common automation platform that supports the whole manufacturing enterprise.

With legacy packages of plant often having their own automation platforms, by necessity they will have to be integrated into a plant-wide ‘backbone’ system.  However, the provision of standard, proven interfaces, and the possibility of using a common, scalable platform, means end-users can  reduce the special engineering requirements for isolated plant automation packages. It would also lessen the potential for contractual conflicts between different suppliers and the time-consuming pressures this brings.

Single technology, single source

For life cycle support, bringing primary and secondary automation platforms together under a single technology from a single source can drive value into a business.  Complete solutions over total operating periods of up to ten years or more can be provided. This includes service support, periodic training for engineers and  operators, upgrades to the automation platform as required and peace of mind for spares fulfilment.

The Industry Library of Simatic PCS 7 Version 8 enhances the integration of Siemens based package plant into the overall plant automation solution.  Secondary processes based on the Simatic S7-300 controller can be easily integrated into the wider process. The integration of both the primary and secondary processes is now further increased and provides the end user with more control over their plant and its lifecycle. This provides greater standardisation for the secondary processes and improves visualisation of the full plant locally at the HMI level and within the central control room.

The advantages of viewing the total manufacturing process from a joined-up perspective, opens the door to the value added potential delivered by adopting an integrated automation technology platform across the entire manufacturing enterprise.  By linking primary and secondary processes at hybrid plants under a single automation technology solution from a single vendor,  hard-pressed manufacturing businesses can aim to improve their competitive advantage.

Siemens Industry Automation

T: 0161 446 6400