Seamless integration from plant design, engineering, simulation, and automation to operations ensures that companies gain the maximum out of their plants, thus becoming faster, more efficient, and more competitive. Let's explore some use cases where a comprehensive solution concept in the software landscape for Process Industries can guarantee success.
Times are changing for the Process Industry – and they are growing more challenging. Understandably, companies think twice about whether investing in new technologies makes sense for them, since, after all, their process plants have been in operation for decades already. It is therefore essential to have such investments secured and future-proof. However, in an effort to stay competitive, mastering those challenges and growing in a healthy way as a company, investments in digitalization and automation technologies remain inevitable. It is safe to say that closed automation systems which run for years without change are and will remain a thing of the past, while companies pursuing this strategy will arguably fail to keep their competitiveness for much longer.
What can companies in Process Industry do to stay ahead of the curve and improve their business? The first step is finding a strong industry partner with relevant expertise in the field, and a portfolio dedicated to Process Industries. A holistic portfolio that covers, amongst other areas, intelligent field devices and analyzers, a robust automation platform, digital and on-site services, or an end-to-end software landscape that includes cloud-based applications is imperative. In addition, this allows for an open portfolio, connectable to 3rd party systems designed to exchange information or data in the most effective ways.
Gaining a competitive edge by accelerating plant design, engineering, and commissioning
There are numerous phases and tasks along a plant’s lifecycle that present engineers and operators with a specific set of challenges.
Process design and plant engineering include the creation of process flow diagrams, process instrumentation diagrams, analyzers planning, wiring, function charts and many more. In this early phase, the so called Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) phase already 80% of the later costs are defined. Already here an integrated software landscape can provide various benefits. For example if the behavior of the material flows or process steams inside the process equipment (e.g. pipes, valves) can already be simulated and imported by the press of a button into the engineering tool, it is much more effectively possible to find the best possible plant layout at an early stage!
Nonetheless, there are more factors to consider after the engineering phase. The physical plant itself is equipped with a variety of hardware that needs to be configured and properly engineered into automation systems. The biggest advantage here is that information from the engineering can be reused for the process control systems (DCS) engineering – meaning that the automation engineer gets a head start on his or her DCS configuration, with the plant structure already being available. Customer examples show potential for saving up to 20%, and in some cases even more time on this process.
The easiest way to support testing of the later plant behavior – before commissioning and the start of operation – is defined by virtual commissioning via simulation. By using information from process engineering and automation, a virtual image of the actual plant – the Digital Twin – can be created. Virtual commissioning can accelerate the on-site commissioning by 30% and more, while helping lower costs by 15%.
Once the new or modified plant is ready for deployment, plant operators require training in order to successfully interact with the control system and the involved processes. Simulation system used for the virtual commissioning can also be used as an operator training platform, for the control room operators. Field operators and maintenance staff can also be trained using a 3D VR immersive training simulator which employs information from the Digital Twin, enriched with real-time data from the DCS at a later stage. As a result, time-to-production can be significantly reduced, and on-site safety improved.
Optimizing plant operation
Once the plant is in operation, it is important to keep the availability of all assets at an optimal level. If equipment or even a part of the plant breaks down, the company loses not only valuable time and budget, but the impact on personnel and environment can be just as significant! In this case, an app-based asset management solution that supports predictive maintenance can help to achieve high reliability and efficiency for all plant assets with the application of artificial intelligence.
The process control system (DCS) is ensuring this availability and keeps the plant operator well informed at all times. In order to prevent unplanned downtimes or even incidents and accidents, examples such as smart condition-monitoring solutions can generate valuable asset information. Availability in both greenfield or brownfield plants is increased by providing vibration and temperature data from IIoT sensors placed directly on critical mechanical or rotating plant components. Machine learning applications enable reliable anomaly detection by alerting users to deviations in the machine’s behavior. With minimal setup, machine failures and unexpected plant shutdowns can be successfully prevented.
When it comes to predictive maintenance, plant operators need to work closely with the field staff. By equipping them with mobile devices and by using innovative technologies (like AR), all the required information is available at any location in real time. This not only makes maintenance much faster, but also more reliable and secure. A combination of easy-to-implement intuitive applications and innovative technologies such as AI will provide you with valuable insights into plants and their processes, by delivering information that was previously inaccessible with traditional automation systems. Impending plant failures can be detected much faster, and predictive maintenance can be enabled quicker to effectively prevent plant downtime.
This will ultimately result in higher uptime thanks to optimized processes, greater sustainability, optimized product quality, and lower accumulation of spare parts.
Added value thanks to digitalization
Connecting multiple data sources in real time enables rapid decision making. After deviations have been recognized, plants and equipment can be optimized worldwide. Model-based solutions we know from engineering will support a continuous optimization of process flows and ensure that the assets’ lifecycles are maximized. Companies are often faced with the challenge of requiring process data from widely distributed or remote measuring points. Digital solutions for acquiring distributed (remote) measurements or remote maintenance help to react quickly from anywhere, thus reducing much of required travelling, and subsequently saving company time and resources while making processes faster, safer and more efficient. Even in plants with already deployed automation systems, digital solutions make remote working possible, which notably helps detect unwanted plant states and quickly identify suboptimal conditions beforehand.
Today’s production processes face challenges like fast-changing products, shrinking batch sizes and fluctuations in demand, meaning that plants require adaptation to new production processes quickly and with little or no downtime. This is made easy by modular production with support of the industry standard Module Type Package (MTP). The standard is based on NAMUR recommendation – an international User Association of Automation Technology in Process Industries. Implementation of plug-and-produce systems with preconfigured modules can thus be easily integrated into existing production plants, and orchestrated by an overarching process control system (like the completely web-based SIMATIC PCS neo). This helps decrease time-to-market, increase flexibility, and reduce costs.
Every challenge has a solution
As an experienced industry partner, Siemens provides companies in the Process Industry with a comprehensive portfolio landscape of integrated solutions that enable digitalization with added value for existing and future plants of any size. Smart interaction of digital services coupled with an extensive application portfolio (Apps) provides complete transparency over the entire plant lifecycle. Thanks to the modular approach, companies can start wherever it makes sense and scale up based on their needs.
The aim of Siemens is to provide companies operating in the Process Industry with a complete digital twin of their plants, integrated in a cloud, with an aim to consolidate plant assets, equipment and information from all lifecycle phases and tools. But the digital twin is not there to serve its own purpose; It helps companies to take the right decisions faster, improve their competitiveness and make sure they meet regulatory requirements at all times. Starting with a Digital twin does not require a full-blown solution. Best way is to begin with dedicated use-cases and scale them up accordingly.