An HMI for today and (beyond) tomorrow
GALVA Anlagen-Technik: Hot dip galvanizing plants with SIMATIC WinCC Unified
The travel units are neatly lined up and waiting for their big assignment. They will be delivered to a hot-dip galvanizing plant in Italy. On board is a new visualization system based on SIMATIC WinCC Unified – "because we are already thinking about the future today," explains Bernhard Planer, Senior Software Engineer at GALVA Anlagen-Technik GmbH.
With just five employees, GALVA Anlagen-Technik GmbH develops and produces customized solutions for transport systems. From Falkenstein in Germany's Vogtland region, the company serves galvanizing plants in particular throughout Europe. "There are currently around 25 systems in use at our customers – and they have been there for many years," continues Bernhard Planer. "We built some of these plants 20 or even 25 years ago. So it is also our business to regularly update these plants to the latest state of the art. We also develop new plants where we always use the latest technology – after all, these plants will also be in operation for well over 20 years."
GALVA Anlagen-Technik GmbH
GALVA Anlagen-Technik GmbH provides customized individual solutions for galvanizing plants and other transport technology applications. In addition to the project business, the company focuses in particular on the support and service of the installed systems. Among other things, GALVA retrofits existing plants, bringing systems up to the current state of the art. The plants have a service life of many years; therefore the latest technology is also a must here.
Investment protection as the basis for all projects
The aspect of longevity and future security is a necessity at GALVA Anlagen-Technik GmbH even from the point of view of the process. The environmental conditions in hot-dip galvanizing are harsher than in almost any other industry. "Many parts on our travel units are exposed to high temperatures, aggressive media and mechanical loads as well. Our equipment therefore needs to be absolutely robust," explains Bernhard Planer. For example, the travel units, which are each used in pairs to transport the workpieces within the galvanizing plant, are linked via radio instead of a rigid connection. This reduces the mechanical load on the chains and bearings, and also eliminates all mechanical and electrical connections, which are also subject to heavy stress. As a result, the systems from Falkenstein are considerably more reliable and require much less maintenance than other solutions. Nevertheless, at least three plants are also due for modernization every year – and then GLAVA always uses the latest technology here as well. "Our approach with every modernization is that we do not simply port the existing solution, but always offer the customer the progress that's been made in systems components," says Planer.
New visualization with future-oriented technologies
This is currently particularly evident in the human-machine interface. "We also used the changeover to WinCC Unified to completely revamp our visualization. This means that our users can now operate the plants using a user-friendly and modern interface – and still have the familiar logic and haptics. The two travel units are controlled from a central, stationary panel as master, via which the operator can control all functions and view all the information about the process. One of the travel units has another 7" panel that is primarily used for maintenance. The second travel unit in turn is the slave to the first travel unit," says Bernhard Planer, explaining the basic setup. The recipes for the process are managed locally via WinCC Unified Parameter Control in the main computer.
The entire architecture is now based on SIMATIC HMI Unified Comfort Panels and a higher-level SIMATIC Industrial PC with SIMATIC WinCC Unified. An important aspect for Bernhard Planer in selecting this solution was that WinCC Unified uses modern and future-oriented technologies throughout. Now we have the possibility to build a fully web-enabled visualization solution. This also allows our users to easily monitor their plants via a web client, for example, to simply see the status of the plant from any terminal device using a standard browser. This immediately improves plant visibility for the decision-making level." As a senior software developer, however, the benefits of Unified for development and engineering were also critical for Bernhard Planer. "We develop plants of widely varying sizes, from a single travel unit to solutions with well over 20 travel units, each consisting of two units. Even on the large 22" screen of the industrial PC, things get crowded. On top of that, our operators also need detailed views, windows with additional information – all this meant that I had to create numerous individual operating screens, each with its own templates. Making changes in each instance took a considerable amount of time and effort as well."
With SIMATIC WinCC Unified, I'm four to five times faster engineering the visualization.Bernhard Planer, Senior Software Engineer, GALVA Anlagen-Technik GmbH
Four to five times faster to the finished visualization
Now, a new visualization is ready almost in the blink of an eye: "I draw an object once in the overview, and then this object is dynamically generated for all other visualizations. Changes are also applied automatically to all the screens." Admittedly, the changeover initially meant a certain amount of work for Bernhard Planer. "In the beginning we invested 3 or 4 months of development time for this – but a lot of things work automatically now. All in all, I'm four to five times faster in engineering alone as a result." The advantages in development also carry over to acceptance, commissioning and service. Bernhard Planer's conclusion is correspondingly positive. "Of course, as with any new system, you first have to get the hang of it, so to speak – but then project configuration with WinCC Unified is easy. I really enjoy working with it."
More options for more convenience and efficiency
GALVA Anlagen-Technik also benefits from the seamless interaction of all automation components. Bernhard Planer can configure all functions in the TIA Portal, all automation is based on SIMATIC components, and safety-related functions are also implemented with Siemens components via Profisafe and Industrial Wireless LAN. "This provides us a single point of contact for every aspect of our plant automation, and we are always well served for components and spare parts as well as technical issues," Bernhard Planer confirms.
This year, GALVA will complete two more plants – and Bernhard Planer is already working on new options at the same time. We would like to integrate a scalable 3D representation of each plant into the visualization, which, as a kind of expert system, will visually support the user in handling malfunctions and localizing faults. As a result, the plant will be ready again for operation more quickly." This, too, can be easily implemented in SIMATIC WinCC Unified using SVG graphics – and underscores the importance of modern, user-friendly visualization. As Bernhard Planer says, "After all, a picture is worth a thousand words."
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