Process know-how – always included

In collaboration with Siemens, the machine and plant manufacturer GEA is working on a standardized machine-platform communication. That helps integrate components and plants into higher-level systems with practically no effort or expense in the future. Thanks to a common “language,” centrifuges for instance will have the necessary process know-how ex-works.

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For a machine and plant manufacturer like GEA, modularization is a familiar topic. “Modular products are a self-evident part of our plant and component planning. For example, when we supply a separator to a brewery, this module is integrated into the overall plant and often into the higher-level control system or SCADA as well,” says Matthias Wiemann, head of Automation and Controls for GEA separators and also in charge of customer project business.

 

EA supplies a “skid,” which is a plant section with a defined function for a specific process step. Modularization therefore meets the same needs today as it did 20 years ago by providing greater flexibility, simple scalability, and the associated planning reliability.

Communication as a challenge

The challenge so far: Plants in the pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries often use skids from different manufacturers. This means that when systems are integrated, environments quickly come into conflict. Among other things, each module has a manufacturer-specific logic, programming, and operation. In addition to transmission protocols, the alarms and notifications generated by the skids must also be properly integrated into the control system. The same applies to the visualization of all the control parameters.

 

In many cases, this results in the mechanical integration of the modules proceeding much more quickly than their integration into the automation technology. “In the future, it will be even more important for us on the industry side to agree on standards for how machines communicate with one another. This is a key requirement for speedily advancing the implementation of Industrie 4.0,” says Wiemann.

In the future, it will be even more important for us on the industry side to agree on standards for how machines communicate with one another. This is a key requirement for speedily advancing the Industrie 4.0 concept.
Matthias Wiemann, head of Automation and Controls for GEA separators

Engineering modules and automation system “speak” MTP

Standardization is the key to open and flexible automation concepts. This is where the module type package (MTP) comes into play. It provides the common “language” for describing the properties of process modules independent of manufacturer and technology. This functional description based on automation markup language (AML) is generated from the module automation engineering data. It makes it possible for any higher-level automation system that “speaks” MTP to accurately control a specific module, whether it’s a centrifuge, granulator, or homogenizer.

 

Even operating screens are interpreted and displayed correctly in the higher-level control system. “In the future, Module Type Package will make a lot of things easier,” predicts Patrick Eickhoff, project manager of software development at GEA. “In the past, our skids were delivered with a mile-long data exchange list and hardware contact description. We had to train each system integrator to model it in the higher-level system. Naturally, this often led to reduced efficiency.”

Standardized transfer of process know-how

With MTP, GEA is now using a description standard that permits machine builders to transfer all the necessary information, module properties, status descriptions, interfaces, and even the position, color, and size information for operating screen elements in a standardized form. The process knowledge that GEA has already been integrating into individual modules for years is now supplied in a standardized form and is ready for transfer to a higher-level system.

 

“In addition to the mechanical factory acceptance test, in the future we’ll also be able to record how notifications and alarms appear on our test beds. This will allow end users to benefit from our process and engineering knowledge directly. The result is reduced effort and expenditure and greater planning reliability,” explains Eickhoff.

In the future, Module Type Package will make a lot of things easier.
Patrick Eickhoff, project manager for software development at GEA

Uniformly orchestrated modules

“As a system manufacturer, we’re extremely pleased to have found in GEA a partner with whom we can demonstrate the benefits of MTP for others,” says Uwe Börner, Siemens’ Global Account Manager for GEA.

 

And the benefits for end users are numerous. MTP enables uniform, plant-wide visualization and automation, even when using modules from different manufacturers. The operator control and monitoring interface can also be uniformly generated according to the user’s own specifications. Plus the higher-level system orchestrates the individual components used. The modules make their process engineering function available as a service, and the control system accesses this service as a function of the overall process.

End customers benefit from both increased flexibility and a substantial reduction in time and costs spent on engineering and commissioning or on production or process adjustments.
Uwe Börner, Siemens Global Account Manager for GEA

Benefitting from greater flexibility

This interaction opens up brand-new dimensions in flexibility. Depending on market demand, process sequences can be changed with little engineering effort. And, according to Börner, production quantities can be quickly and efficiently adapted by adding or eliminating modules: “End customers benefit from both increased flexibility and a substantial reduction in time and costs spent on engineering and commissioning or on production or process adjustments.”

October 2019

Picture credits: Siemens AG / Ch. Heidemanns

 

The GEA “plug & win” separator skid is a multifunctional, compact system designed for annual production quantities of 1,000 to 100,000 hectoliters and is therefore especially interesting to craft brewers. It reduces production time by up to 30 percent, with an approximately ten percent higher yield in one brew. With just one machine, brewers can perform five processes, which is a genuine bonus in terms of cost-effectiveness and efficiency. This also applies to integration into a higher-level system: All the separator properties are present in the form of a standardized functional MTP description.

GEA is one of the largest suppliers to the food processing industry and a wide range of other industries that generated consolidated revenues of approximately €4.6 billion in 2017. The international technology group focuses on process technology, components, and sustainable energy solutions for sophisticated production processes in various end-user markets.

 

The group generates about 70 percent of its revenue in the food and beverage sector, which enjoys long-term sustainable growth. As of December 31, 2017, the company employed about 18,000 people worldwide.

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