The benefits of adopting an all-in-one automation engineering platform
To unlock engineering efficiency, combining platforms streamlines and adds consistency
- Learn how integrating engineering systems for collaboration increases efficiency and competitiveness.
- Understand how vast amounts of data create a challenge in integrating systems and doing decision-making analysis.
- Gain insights on why IT/OT integration is important for security as well as collaboration and data analysis.
- By linking platforms, manufacturing and industrial plants can use one consistent data platform.
- Integration of data from different systems allows for easier and more efficient use.
Agile data analysis and simulation for the design and operation of new lines is a requirement for manufacturers to stay competitive. Advantages can be found in implementing one common engineering platform for all life cycle phases of adding new lines or expanding existing ones: machine design, planning, engineering, commissioning and service.
A common engineering platform offers uniform usability, data consistency and transparency within all disciplines. This combination requires the integration of databases and systems that have traditionally been isolated.
How does unifying engineering platforms increase engineering efficiency?
A common engineering platform conveys significant competitive advantages for operations and maintenance as well as the implementation of new machines. One platform for all engineering tasks intrinsically links programmable logic controllers (PLCs), networks, input/output (IO) devices, human machine interfaces (HMIs), drives, safety, communication and peripheral devices, and provides one consistent data platform with open interfaces to collaboration platforms.
This allows the parallelization of engineering processes, including standardized exchange formats and a common database, minimizing the need for the extraneous coordination efforts found with multiple platforms. A unified platform should be designed for fully automated workflows, including automated PLC code generation and automated HMI visualization generation, and allow automation of the repetitive tasks in an engineering workflow.
A shared platform for all stages of the machine life cycle facilitates the creation of a standardized library of reusable software components that ensure software quality, promote efficient design and support modular, flexible machines. New features can be added as modules without risk to existing functionality. Open interfaces for data import and export ensure visibility into all levels of operation and the use of edge data analytics on the plant floor for agile decision-making.
Standards-compliant programming (e.g., PLCopen, International Electrotechnical Commission) and automation markup language allow the reuse of configuration data across tools during the planning process across engineering departments. User management and the library and versioning mechanisms support clear code structuring and accountability, while namespaces avoid troubles with projectwide duplicated naming.
Support for fail-safe programming ensures that proven, tested safety code can be applied seamlessly to new machines. Integrated testing and simulation within a scalable environment provide integrated logic testing and automated testing via continuous integration approaches, delivering consistent, reliable diagnostics with automatically generated system diagnostics.
Integrating massive volumes of siloed data
Modern equipment generates immense amounts of real-time data: operations parameters, machine logs, sensor data, output efficiency data, energy consumption data, user access information and more. Often these different critical databases are siloed, making holistic analysis difficult. Effective analysis and decision-making require vertical data integration, contextualization and data model synchronization. Implementing systems that reach across business and production and through all life cycles of adding or expanding new lines is critical to staying competitive but can be complex.
This complexity can be approached more readily by edge devices at the machine level. Machine-level analytics, data “tagging,” and live exporting of data to unified cloud reporting systems can all be automated through edge devices. By leveraging real-time insights delivered by robust operational technology (OT) edge computing solutions, manufacturers have access to the analytics to streamline supply chain operations, implement proactive maintenance strategies, enhance quality control, optimize energy consumption and enable agile decision-making. By doing some data processing at the machine level, both analysis and better integration with information technology (IT) systems can be achieved, as well as directly feeding plant- and companywide reporting.
OT data delivers invaluable insights, making agile decision-making, process optimization and predictive maintenance possible. Edge computing enables direct analysis and visualization of operational data on the plant floor, ensuring that operators and plant managers can make the critical decisions needed to meet production needs. By harnessing the power of real-time analytics, manufacturers can reduce costs and enhance their competitive advantage through improved decision-making.
To do this, they need robust edge computing solutions on the plant floor that can analyze data in real time on the plant floor and then properly tag and categorize it before storing it in the cloud for high-level reporting. According to Dresner Advisory Services, 89% of manufacturers with analytics and business intelligence initiatives consider them successful, outpacing their peers in comparable industries.
OT/IT integration and multiuser engineering
Poor connectivity between IT and OT systems makes data visibility and decision-making difficult. Lack of adequate data-sharing between IT and OT can lead to duplication, inconsistencies or potential data loss, harming decision-making.
OT/IT integration and securing data are critical aspects of the modern industrial workplace. When implementing a unified platform to increase efficiency, it must be designed to support multiuser engineering, enabling simple collaboration and tracking on the project server and facilitating multiuser commissioning. Asynchronous commissioning supports the download of PLCs, including safety applications and access protection. This shortens time-to-market by allowing cooperation on a multiuser project during the engineering and commissioning phases. Parallel working on the project server is empowered by simple code merging, which automates marking modified objects and update notifications. Tracking of changes and the possibility of rolling back are critical features for efficient collaboration.
With a project server in a central data center with worldwide access, IT can link to the company’s existing user administration (e.g., Windows Active Directory). In this way, projects, libraries and groups can be assigned to individual users or groups for access protection. OT/IT integration is the basis for the efficient administration of personalized security in the system, allowing open communication standards (e.g., OPC unified architecture) protected by state-of-the-art security (transport layer security) and central user management (universal message authentication code, user master catalog).
IT can define project users and roles and assign them, permitting project-independent setups and enabling maintenance of users only once for the system, ending the reproduction of work across projects and ensuring secure processing of automation data.
Efficiency and collaboration are necessities in today’s business environment. An all-in-one engineering platform enables efficient collaboration, shortens time to market and reduces the need to duplicate tasks and processes that increase costs. Understanding the key features of a unified platform is important so that increased efficiency and data visibility do not come at the cost of security.
As plants adapt to shifting demands and unexpected supply chain challenges, agility and efficiency go hand in hand. To effectively meet the challenges seen by manufacturers, decision-makers need to ensure that their teams can work together seamlessly to deliver the best results.