Continuous Integration with TIA Portal
Improve software quality and reduce engineering costs in automation
In the IT sector, there are many methods and processes for optimizing software development while also improving the quality of the results. One such process is Continuous Integration, which can also be applied to engineering in automation projects with TIA Portal and offers numerous benefits.
Multiuser engineering and agile development in automationTo reduce engineering effort and speed up the development of new machines, more and more companies are relying on Multiuser Engineering in TIA Portal as well as on agile development methods like those typically used in IT.
Multiple programmers work together as a team on one TIA Portal project. All developers process the software modules specifically assigned to them based on a standardized programming guide. Thanks to integrated workflows, TIA Portal systematically supports collaboration and increases the transparency of software changes.
Version management serves to record changes to software objects and documents throughout the machine lifecycle. The most important benefits include the coordination of joint access to objects by multiple developers, transparency over changes, and the simultaneous processing of a project via several development branches.
A Continuous Integration server can automatically generate a build from the individual software modules and automatically test the software functions. The results of the test are fed back to the programmers as a report so that they can perform any corrections that may be necessary.
Inspiration meets automation: Software development with TIA Portal
Great features in the TIA Portal were inspired by the IT world: Software development teams have long worked in seamless collaboration. The solution for that is Continuous Integration - which basically means "Continuous Optimization of Software Development".
Stefan Kläber, Marketing Manager Automation Software and SIMATIC
Your path to Continuous IntegrationYour path to Continuous Integration is based on standardization, joint engineering in teams, software change management with versioning, and Continuous Integration via a cycle comprising project generation, software testing, and results evaluation.
Four steps to a continuous workflow
At a time when machines are becoming increasingly complex and requirements are constantly growing, it’s all the more important to optimize software development in automation. In many cases, machine programmers aren’t engaged until far into the development process – sometimes shortly before on-site commissioning, without a final code. This can result in faults that are time-consuming and often expensive. Methods like standardization, automated workflows, and function tests integrated into the development process can help to overcome the growing challenges.
Integrated workflows for all disciplines
Programmers often work independently of other work processes and usually start working at the end of the machine development process. As a result, the PLC code often isn’t tested until late in a machine’s development phase, despite the fact that the later a fault is detected, the more complex it is to correct. When several developers work on one project, there’s frequently a lack of transparency when it comes to changes. That’s why development has to be standardized for the purpose of creating a uniform database, seamlessly linked workflows, and integrated interfaces. This allows all disciplines to work efficiently, simultaneously, and reliably on a joint automation project.
Distributed working in teams
Complex automation projects are best implemented on the basis of efficient teamwork. Engineering time is substantially reduced and coordination effort minimized, thanks to the system-supported management of project versions on centralized storage and perfect collaboration in both engineering and commissioning. All this is made possible by the new TIA Portal project server and the TIA Portal Multiuser function, which already benefit small automation teams and can also be deployed companywide.
Versioning of software changes
In order to maintain an overview during the development process, software changes have to be comprehensively documented. The automation team must have transparency over the entire machine lifecycle and software changes must be traceable. Versioning can be highly complex and user-dependent. Options range from manual administration via TIA Portal libraries to external repositories that can be accessed via the user interface in TIA Portal using the new Version Control Interface in TIA Portal V16.
Optimal software function tests
To ensure optimal software quality, the function test should be an essential component in the development process. Thanks to system-supported application and unit tests, faults can be identified at an early stage in development. The function tests are based on SIMATIC hardware and watch tables. This works better with PLCSIM Advanced. The Digital Twin of the S7-1500 controller enables a large number of applications without the necessity of SIMATIC hardware. This means that function tests can also be performed in the team without actual hardware at the particular workstation. With the TIA Portal Test Suite, test cases can be created on the TIA Portal user interface and then applied to the specific application. Virtual commissioning is made possible by additionally simulating machine behavior with the aid of SIMIT and, for example, NX MCD.