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Making Plant-Floor Process Applications and Their Enterprise Levels More Efficient

Jan. 5, 2015
Improved enterprise connectivity solutions bring process applications closer to upper-level systems and enable faster, better decisions and more efficient operations.
About the Author:
Jim Montague is the Executive Editor at Control, Control Design and Industrial Networking magazines. Jim has spent the last 13 years as an editor and brings a wealth of automation and controls knowledge to the position. For the past eight years, Jim worked at Reed Business Information as News Editor for Control Engineering magazine. Jim has a BA in English from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and lives in Skokie, Illinois.

Just as the express train is faster than the local, and taking an elevator is quicker than climbing stairs, several new methods and tools are shortening and speeding up trips between plant-floor process applications and their enterprise levels—often with help from cloud-based services. Formerly separate software and programming areas that divided these functional realms and required multiple steps to travel from one to the other are steadily consolidating and enabling even small process control applications to benefit from closer ties with their upper levels, just as their larger counterparts do.

For instance, Coca-Cola Refreshments in Atlanta has been using GE Intelligent Platforms' Proficy HMI/SCADA software for many years, but recently revamped it at 70 manufacturing facilities. "We focused on reducing complexity in our supply chain, pushed back against inefficient customization, did a lot of root cause analysis and concentrated on useful action," says Ioan Batran, automation engineering director at Coca-Cola, who presented at GE's 2014 User Summit this past October. "In our line information systems (LISs), we sought to better track line assets, increase efficiency, reduce equipment losses and downtime, and improve our decisions. Our LISs basically tell us if we're meeting our promises."

Batran adds that all levels at Coca-Cola's production facilities need data from their LISs, so simplifying their software and standardizing their control architectures makes them easier to deploy and support. This 70-plant renovation began by updating the LIS server at each facility with Proficy Historian, iFix HMI SCADA and Portal dashboard software. These solutions allow each LIS to deliver real-time and historical data, and then push reported KPIs to an SQL enterprise database via Sync Agent software and Microsoft Azure to Coca-Cola's cloud-based server.

"We started this program last year, and now we can compare the performance of plants, lines and even individual machines," explains Batran. "LIS management routines and practices measure and manage our manufacturing processes to maintain and improve performance. We're also implementing paperless guidance, so we can further un-cloud our crystal ball and focus our decisions more precisely on what we need to do."

These improvements enable the LISs to generate tactical reviews that let users respond to specific operational events, and produce strategic reviews that let them address continuous improvement efforts by identifying trends, patterns and root causes. "The reviews help us implement better management routines, which need to be backed up by appropriate levels of change management," adds Batran. "You also have to secure leadership support and stakeholder buy-in."

Views available on Coca-Cola's LIS-based system include plant overviews, production line layouts, historical machine status, short-interval control reports, enterprise-level displays and others. These displays can be presented on PCs, tablet PCs and smart phones. "The enterprise LIS even lets us see selected KPIs on multiple lines, so we can compare the performance of different machines," adds Batran. "Next steps include implementing more paperless capabilities and autopilot management routines, as well as improving overall management routines, coaching and auditing."

Simpler Steps to New Projects

Besides reducing steps in existing facilities, integrating enterprise and plant-floor applications more closely can be especially useful when implementing new processes.

Figure 1: Eye on Ore

Assmang's Khumani iron ore mine in South Africa's Northern Cape province drills, blasts, hauls, crushes, washes, grades and ships about 34 million tons of ore per year with help from Wonderware's
[PHOTO CREDIT: Assmang and Invensys]

For example, Assmang Ltd.'s Khumani iron ore mine near Sishen in South Africa's Northern Cape province drills, blasts, hauls, crushes, washes, grades and ships about 34 million tons of ore per year from a series of open pits (Figure 1). The operation includes eight Geoscan online analyzers to monitor the ore's chemical composition in real time, so immediate remedial action can begin if the ore deviates from grade requirements. To improve monitoring and operations, Assmang worked with contractor DRA Mineral Projects and system integrator Iriton to implement Wonderware ActiveFactory and real-time Historian software, Information Server web portal, InTouch HMI and Wonderware System Platform based on ArchestrA service-oriented platform from Schneider Electric and the ISA-95 standard.

“The SCADA/HMI applications serve some 44,000 I/O tags,” says Johann Pienaar, Iriton's director. “Also, we used Topserver I/O servers from Software Toolbox  to communicate between the PLCs and the system platform as well as MDT Software’s AutoSave for the change control management of all 63 Allen-Bradley ControlLogix PLCs.”

Marius Malan, Assmang's control systems supervisor, adds, “These solutions give us comprehensive data analysis, so we can check production status and identify potential problems at any time. We also need continuous operation without loss of control or data, as well as web access facilities and links to our planning and ERP systems. Most importantly, it all has to work through a user-friendly and intuitive operator interface. This is a new mine with a long future, so we'll need to adapt production to meet with market demands, expand the system as required, and do it quickly and at minimal cost. Also, the ISA-95 standard was implemented and adhered to throughout the project and will greatly facilitate integrating the mine system’s data with Assmang’s planning and ERP systems.”

Plenar adds, “For us, the most significant aspect of this project was that ArchestrA gave us a multi-user development environment that allowed us to design, develop, implement and maintain a large project in one year. This development environment gave us the tools to develop complex applications without bothering unnecessarily about the details of interfacing with PLCs at one end of the spectrum and ERP systems at the other, while providing the functionality to do both.”

Similarly, engineers at Ypé Quimica Amparo in Sao Paulo, Brazil, recently helped build their new factory in just 12 months in Anapolis, which is located about 600 miles north of its headquarters, and produces liquid detergents and fabric softeners. Founded in 1950, Ypé also makes bar soap, powdered detergents, steel-wool pads, multi-surface cleaners and scrubbing sponges. Ypé recently integrated the Anapolis plant's operations with its SAP-based enterprise system by implementing PlantPAx process automation system with help from Iastech, a system integrator and Rockwell Automation Solution Partner.

"Our innovation department focuses on engineering Ypé's manufacturing execution system (MES), instrumentation, mechatronics and automation," says Cláudio Fernando de Jesus, Ypé's innovation manager, who presented at Rockwell's Process Solutions User Group this past November. "We research and build new technological models; approach, integrate, facilitate and connect people to processes and equipment; research new technologies and techniques; carry out development projects; and look to the future to realize these dreams. In the department's 14 years, we've developed and built more than 200 projects, including 115 specialized machines and 10 factories. For the new plant in Anapolis, we needed a main core that integrated our MES and the plant's operation and centralized SCADA system. PlantPAx gave us an all-integrated solution that shortened our development time and gave us much better production."

The Anapolis plant's MES manages its raw material storage, dishwashing liquid detergent and warehousing functions, while its SCADA system runs its utilities, liquid softener, IT and SAP tasks. The dishwashing liquid detergent and liquid softener areas consists of separate dosing units, mixer units, storage and filler lines, while its utilities area includes air, water treatment and steam equipment. The factory's organizational levels include Level 4 with its corporate management and SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, while Level 3 has the MES with its Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Hyper V and five physical HP Proliant BL460C computers and nine virtual computers. They run Microsoft SQL Server software and Rockwell Automation's FactoryTalk Directory, Transaction Manager, ViewPoint, HMI Server, Data Server, Redundant HMI/Data Server, Engineering FactoryTalk View Studio and other software. Level 2 is occupied by automation processing function, and Level 1 is the plant floor.

"PlantPAx helps integrate all four of these levels," says de Jesus.

The plant also uses two ControlLogix 5562 PLCs for overall control, five CompactLogix L35E PLCs to automate its filling lines, and a dozen Powerflex 40 motion controllers to run its conveyors and other equipment. Plant-floor devices are networked with a combination of 10 DeviceNet networks and three ControlNet networks, while the upper-level enterprise systems are networked with Ethernet. The facility's total I/O points consists of 1,032 digital inputs, 792 digital outputs, 92 analog inputs, 160 analog inputs running HART and 60 analog outputs.

Figure 2: Seeing Soap

Operators and managers at Ypé's liquid detergent and fabric softener plant in Anapolis, Brazil, use FactoryTalk View Site Edition software to view screen shots on PCs and smart phones of their production lines, quickly generate production and OEE reports, and even take orders right from SAP, immediately input them into the production system, and discharge raw materials needed for production. [PHOTO CREDIT: Ypé and Rockwell Automation]

"We also use FactoryTalk View Site Edition Server 100 Display with RSLinx and 11 clients," added de Jesus. "This lets us view screen shots of our liquid detergent preparations, storage tank, demineralized water, integrated filler lines and other processes, quickly generate production and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) reports and even view them on our smart phones (Figure 2). And, our close integration between MES and controls means we can view and take orders right from SAP, immediately input them right into the production system, and discharge the raw materials needed to produce them. PlantPAx's full integration with SAP means greater system reliability and better control over our orders and production.

Doug Weber, business manager for remote monitoring services at Rockwell Automation, adds, "We've spend the past few years investing in a cloud platform based on Microsoft Azure and ported our VantagePoint solution to the cloud, so users can store dashboards in the cloud and get to them from anywhere with little capital investment. The beauty of the cloud is that Microsoft maintains it, and we're comfortable putting our data on it because they work hard to secure data moving from the plant to the cloud. They encrypting all of it and only allow data to be transmitted one way."

More Cloud Cover

Beyond reducing and simplifying steps between the plant floor and the enterprise, virtualized computing and cloud-based data processing and storage services also are bringing operations and management closer together.

For instance, the specialty chemicals division of Amsterdam-based Akzo Nobel has long used remote monitoring and operations to bring it closer to its end users, but its chemical manufacturing division recently also rolled out a manufacturing execution system (MES) to 30 remote plants in just 12 months, and relied on cloud services and GE Intelligent Platforms to do it, according to Stefan Malmsten, Akzo Nobel's global industrial IT leader. The specialty chemicals division, where it's implementing cloud-enabled MES, delivers performance based on sustainable chemical platforms, driving profitable growth in selected markets, and it also relies on social media-based networking by its personnel.

"We maintain a social manufacturing network worldwide that enables both our people and their devices to interact with each other, and we're building solutions that let them talk about important things and share best practices, especially over long distances and worldwide " says Malmsten, who also presented at GE's users event. "We started bringing people together using remote technologies in 2000. We use a lot of GE's Proficy software, and so we've gained a lot of experience over that time. Now, our MES and private cloud server is located at our Amsterdam headquarters, so it's our responsibility to take ownership of the applications we provide to our users. At the same time, we'd also like to see more dynamic networks, plants and users, and it's starting to happen by using more of these tools in the cloud. This is a very sound way they can all be more competitive, but they need a common language among people at different sites."

Consequently, AkzoNobel worked with Proficy along with solutions from Accenture and SAP to develop its Enterprise Process Information (epi) Connected program, which it's been implementing at more than 100 of its own customers' sites that include about 2,000 global users and billions of daily data transactions. "Working with an external partner, we host epi on one central server," explained Malmsten. "This is much simpler than the four or five servers per site that we used to have to handle. We just need two or three clicks, and we can move from a chemical manufacturing plant in Canada to a paper factory in Italy. With epi, we can examine their supply, production, distribution and usage steps, as well as the buying power, agile operations and supplier power between each.

Likewise, Malmsten reports that Akzo Nobel even uses epi and the cloud to help run a partially unmanned hydrogen peroxide plant in Norway from its office in Sweden about 500 kilometers away. "This plant runs 24/7, but we only have staff there on weekday," said Malmsten. "They run and prepare operations, and then it runs unmanned on nights and weekends. It's been doing this for more than 10 years, but we can still deploy experts when needed."

Finally, because it used a Global MES Template (GMT) to roll out its new MES to its initial 30 facilities, AkzoNobel is planning to add another 10 sites this coming year. "These cloud-based tools give us numerous benefits, including reduced production and delivery expenses, and also lessen the costs of using our products," added Malmsten. "However, all these efforts start and stop with having the right people."

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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