The right PLC solution has massive impact

Consumer demands are putting extra pressure on manufacturers to respond with mass customisation, increasingly higher throughputs to expand output.

Manufacturers who work on scalable application are well-aware that PLCs for automation and control are critical. The PLC systems need to be flexible, reliable and include strong security feature when connecting to Industry 4.0 enterprises.

To stay competitive, OEMs and plant operators need a controller that keeps pace with the increase in customer requirements, functional complexity, and time-to-market demands.

In the process of looking to replace end-of-life PLCs with more advanced and modern alternatives, six critical elements need to be considered.

These elements are around design, integrated safety and security, efficient and integrated technology, integrated diagnostics and maintenance, industrial IoT connectivity, and responsive global support.

The Siemens SIMATIC S7-1200, stocked and distributed in Australia by APS Industrial, is one such PLC.

The SIMATIC S7-1200 offers all six of the above criteria, critically important to APS, when developing the newest evolution of the technology.

SIMATIC S7-1200 controllers are an ideal choice when it comes to flexibly and efficiently performing automation tasks in the lower to medium performance range.

Features include a comprehensive range of technological functions, integrated communication, as well as an especially compact and space-saving design.

The scalable SIMATIC S7-1200 controllers have integrated inputs and outputs, along with communication options, and are modularly expandable.

With integrated technologies such as high-speed counters, pulse width modulation, pulse sequence outputs, speed control and positioning, SIMATIC S7-1200 controllers are suitable for temperature control, pump and fan control, convey or technology, and even packaging machines.

OEMs and operators should consider basic PLCs, that are compact and modular, with plug-and-play interoperability across multiple devices. Additionally, the PLC selected should have the flexibility to expand using plug-in signal modules that can simplify wiring and servicing tasks.

Steven Sischy, APS Industrial’s Automation and Drives Business Development Manager, reported that it was understandable that some plant owners might be hesitant to upgrade existing operational technology, resulting in falling behind the competition.

Advanced automation and control technology offers higher throughput rates, simplified and more visible operations, reduced maintenance and repair costs, and accelerated times to market.

In short, a delay would result in decreased industry performance benchmarks and being behind the competition.

Sischy states that the APS and Siemens offerings help stakeholders looking to upgrade PLC solutions, and to those feeling somewhat hesitant, realise the benefits.

“We have two technologies, an IT network and an OT network, bridging the two” he said.

“Due to secure technologies, within the background, it prevents us speaking to the IT company or the IT infrastructure people and providing that connectivity and integration of networks.

“If you look at cloud connectivity using AWS or MindSphere, also using underlying technologies which fundamentally is a secure technology means we can connect anywhere, remotely, anywhere in the world.”

Remote connectivity presents a host of advantages for the user, previously unavailable, particularly around skills shortages.

“If you look at it, especially in the Australian market, we are struggling to find people, with these skill sets” he said.

“Working remotely means updates and configuration changes can be done and new firmware can be deployed. If there is a stoppage for any reason, an email or SMS can be sent and effectively the production efficiency will improve with minimised downtime.”

Concerns around security of remote technology such as this is also addressed, with the core DNA of Siemens’ PLC solutions security enabled.

“We create a secure connection between the device and limit who can have access,” said Sischy.

“If you have an operator panel connected to this, we can limit what the operator can do, or give full access. That’s depending on how you configure the Totally Integrated Automation.”

“Siemens look at expandability and depending on which CPU you have, there are also expansion capabilities with additional safety modules as we need them.”

There are also extended communication modules, the product has integrated switches which APS can add onto the device. If you want remote connectivity, a 4G or LTE connection for the device, can be used. It is completely scalable and open to the architecture, so you aren’t limited.

“These are usually expected in large CPUs but now they are moving into compact CPUs. Around the world Siemens is a leader in this field” Sischy added.

“When you get into the extended temperature range, it is further enhanced.”

The PLC solution also provides methods to monitor and reduce energy consumption, which is becoming increasingly important as new sustainability and efficiency targets get closer.

“If the machine is not in use, it can go into standby mode, limiting its energy consumption,” said Sischy.

“We also have an energy measurement module that leads into your energy efficiency software, monitoring the current peak demand and seeing if we meet it. Minimising overshoots also reduces energy use.”

Digitisation and sustainability continue to be key areas of focus for both companies.

“Along with curving greenhouse emissions, sustainable supply chain is a very big part of this. Remote maintenance is a massive point with this product too. All energy management rolls into it,” said Sischy.

“We have been working very hard to get supply and demand back to normal.”

Sischy said that despite supply chain issues delivery times were improving. APS already has this Siemens product in stock, resulting in both the company and their customers being in a strong position.

A further benefit of the increased remote connectivity centres around firmware updates can result in a new feature being deployed down the line” said Sischy.

“Energy switch is an example and there is the opportunity to upgrade to new firmware.

“Anything that gets added on in a firmware update can be automatically upgraded in the device.”

Sischy said despite the protections, put in place, it was still up to the operator to ensure they enabled the security features correctly.

“People need to be mindful not to disable any of the security features. Siemens regularly monitors and continuously looks at improving security “he said.

Overall, Sischy said, the advantages of this PLC solutions from Siemens were many, benefiting every aspect of the process, reducing energy consumption, and downtime. In addition, it gives up to date data.

“I think going forward the CEO doesn’t want to know the breakdown, but they want know efficiency, revenue, output and so forth. Dashboard connectivity provides that,” said Sischy.

Today’s manufacturing transformation is being driven, by consumer-centric market forces and powerful technologies, that are also defining the new landscape of globalization that manufacturers must compete in.

To support the highly connected global manufacturing supply chains that feed consumer demands, OEMs and plant operators should give serious consideration to the new generation of PLCs and automation, to keep pace with the increase in customer requirements, functional complexity, and time-to-market demands that have emerged as a result.

The good news is that upgrading automation and control systems can be done with little to no production disruptions, and many plant operators will find these upgrades pay for themselves within a very short time. TIA programming software includes PLCSim which gives the user the ability to fully test the application before it is deployed in the field and further reduce commissioning time onsite.

“Siemens is a brand synonymous with quality, and we at APS are proud to announce, the S7-1200, comes with three years manufacturer’s warranty.”

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