As the world becomes more connected and digital platforms become more sophisticated, many business models have managed to create a central infrastructure that allows interactions between producers, consumers and the entire value chain in an automated and efficient manner. This more open and networked flow of value is affecting the ways of production and taking it to a new level.
These platforms allow much smaller companies to participate in global trade without having to invest in infrastructure around the world and in their own supply chains. But to achieve this, a high level of control and automation is needed throughout the production chain and how can this be achieved?
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Local and isolated platforms
What do they consist of?
Local platforms usually consist of a PLC (Power Line Communications) that acts as a programmable logic controller in conjunction with other data processing tools (such as SCADAS or MES).
PLC is a digitally operated device, which uses memory for internal storage of instructions to implement specific functions for control through digital and analog inputs/outputs of equipment and processes.
However, the PLC itself is able to automate only because it is programmed instructions. What really adds value and makes efficient control possible are independent solutions in the form of tools, also usually local, which are connected to PCRs to collect information and transform it into automation.
How do they work?
PLC, as an engineering component to program the system is independent and operates centrally to develop logic through instructions. It works in a sequential and cyclical, which means that once the complete path of the program, begins to execute its first instruction.
Working in conjunction with a supervision and data acquisition tool, such as SCADA, which acts as the ‘brain’ of the system, and with an HMI (human-machine interface), these solutions are capable of analyzing information, recording data and performing tasks with minimal human assistance, in other words, in an automated manner.
Global and integrated platforms
What do they consist of?
The traditional Distributed Control Systems (DCS) were formed by decentralised control elements and with each component or sub-system supervised by one or more controllers. Their limitations and inability to achieve advanced analytics have meant that they are increasingly out of use.
Global platforms such as Cloud onitoring or Big Data and/or IoT platforms have taken over and positioned themselves as one of the most sophisticated forms of production control and automation.
These solutions integrate real-time machine data and factory performance data into manufacturing process decision making.
How do they work?
Direct data transmission from the factory allows integrated analysis to measure the status of equipment and production based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), creating an accurate visual representation and therefore an unprecedented level of visibility and control.
Up-to-date production status is immediately available so that managers, machine operators and floor supervisors are always up to date and can understand operations from a holistic point of view and knowledge.
Local vs Global systems
Advantages and disadvantages of local platforms
- Local and isolated platforms have a much lower implementation and start-up cost, and are therefore more viable for small-scale industrial systems.
- Their redundancy and limited scalability make them mainly suitable for controlling discrete manufacturing processes and independent equipment.
- These expert systems are robust and reliable, so they often meet expectations and add value to the control process.
- They are isolated systems with no approved interconnection, so communication between different parties is less effective and information tends to be unstructured.
- As there are many interlocutors, there is difficulty in interacting with other platforms and exchanging / sharing information.
- It is a much more inflexible type of system in terms of frequent changes and adjustments. It is not suitable for complex processes since maintenance is much more complex and expensive.
- Integrations with other equipment must be manual and require specific technical support.
Advantages and disadvantages of global platforms
- Although they usually represent a cost saving in the medium and long term, these platforms are more expensive to implement and can be a barrier for small companies.
- It is a more sophisticated type of system that requires integrating all data sources and functionalities to avoid replication, which is time consuming and complex.
- The quality of the supplier support, the ease of navigation and the user interface have become critical factors for the correct control of the processes and for the correct use of the platform.
- They are highly scalable systems and most of them are quick to implement. The sophistication of their analytical processing offers great vision and capacity for growth.
- These systems are modular and have the facility to integrate large volumes of assets, always remaining linked to the productive reality and there is total accessibility of data.
- They have tools for the management of plant information, integrating it vertically to the decision-making chain and allowing the supervision, control and operation of all plants and assets to be carried out from a single operating environment.
- Its programming is multi-user so that several programmers can work simultaneously. Its flexibility in terms of operating environments allows information to be shared among the different profiles of the organization.
Which control model should you choose?
It all depends on the needs, and above all, on the size of the companies. For small companies where the production systems are not very complex and do not need many adjustments or changes, local systems such as PLC and SCADA together can solve their needs. These systems are mainly used to control discrete manufacturing processes and stand-alone equipment.
For all those processes that are more complex and require advanced control measures and more frequent adjustments or changes, the solution is global control systems such as Cloud Monitoring. These types of systems are used to control more complex processes and integrated control, facilitating interactions between all the different parties involved in production.
Control your operations with Nexus Integra
Nexus Integra is the integrated operations platform for the massive integration of information from all industrial processes and information sources such as existing applications (MES, GIS, SAP…)
It offers 100% flexibility and personalisation) in the configuration of any of its native applications. Thus, it is not necessary to resort to expert engineers in automation or programmers for their preparation and design of the screens of the SCADAS, Dashboards, reports.
Another important feature is the ease of access and sharing of all elements of information generated. It is a tool designed for the total integration of all sources of information in the organization, not just a simple local control system. Manage and exploit your company’s data yourself from a single centralized platform with web access.