The next step towards the control system of the future

Siemens | June 2022

Extremely long life cycles are typical for many plants in the process industry. With the new version 3.1 of Simatic PCS neo, Siemens has completely rethought the plant life cycles in the process industry and, in addition to a variety of new functions, the completely web-based process control system shows how the challenges of long life cycles will be mastered in the future. Users of all process technology sectors already benefit from it today.

 

Introduced in 2019, the system software Simatic PCS neo uses the hardware portfolio and application architecture of the proven process control system Simatic PCS 7. With this step, Siemens ensures its customers a long-term risk-free switch to the other system software and thereby provides the biggest possible investment protection. This unique and sustainable market approach offers know-how safety for all customers and ensures that Siemens is always the right choice as a partner – no matter what the future holds. As Simatic PCS neo consequently counts on modern web technologies, a classic installation on operating computers is no longer necessary. The web client only requires Windows 10 and a HTML5-capable web browser. All project information is stored on servers, on which the licenses and security mechanisms are also centrally installed and managed. This saves time and money: upgrades are simply loaded on server level, functions such as monitoring and control, engineering, etc. are provided via lean web clients. Thanks to the web technology, flexibility and scalability in process control technology also increase. Additional control stations can be added within a few minutes. Users can then comfortably and securely access the needed information via different types of devices, regardless of their location. Web-based means, Simatic PCS neo uses the latest IT technology, including required functions for secure authentication and communication. At the same time, users can operate the system completely on-premises without direct access to the internet and without any restrictions on functionality.

The challenges of long life cycles

The new system software not only has to seamlessly integrate future innovations, but also protect investments as well as help to solve notorious challenges in the process industry. Due to long plant life times of 20, 30, and more years, operating companies often face a patchwork of partly modernized plants, extensions, different hard-, soft-, and firmware statuses, etc. Most of us know the consequence: system upgrades mean an intense planning effort, extensive shutdowns, production downtimes, and sometimes unpleasant surprises. With its latest release, Siemens introduced the suitable solution for these life cycle challenges to the market:  a combination of innovative technical features and a completely rethought software maintenance concept. This benefits both plants that must always be state of the art as well as plants that are to be operated over a long period of time without major changes and maintenance. 

 

In addition to the used web technology, the prerequisite for this is that Simatic PCS neo distinguishes between three layers: the system, the library, and the project layer. Hardware signals arrive at the system layer, which is separated from the other layers by the Signal Abstraction Layer (SAL). This means, changes to the plant configuration and communication no longer affect the process engineering project planning.Due to this, maintenance, changes to the project planning, system extension, and, above all, system updates and upgrades are very simple and the operation of such a system is extremely flexible over many years – in line with the individual requirements and software maintenance strategies of the particular plant operator. Changes to the system or project planning can be made independently and decoupled from each other in terms of time.One part of the library layer is the Advanced Process Library (APL). It is suitable for 99% of all plant types and applications and significantly improves the engineering efficiency. What makes it special: is the project planning of the system done with APL, it is upwards compatible.

 

Simatic PCS neo allows the flexible creation of engineering templates, which, thanks to the layer concept, can be reused independently of plant configuration and hardware – even cross-plant. Pre-tested engineering templates increase the efficiency in engineering, reduce error sources, and are therefore also an enormous advantage for commissioning.

Instead of using conventional hardware drivers, devices in Simatic PCS neo are implemented as Device Types. Once added, they always stay up to date. Also, the integration of third party devices has become more flexible and ensures compatibility throughout the whole life cycle of the plant. This shows: it is part of Simatic PCS neo’s DNA that Siemens has completely rethought plant life cycles in the process industry. Simatic PCS neo offers all technical requirements for a long-standing plant life cycle in the process industry. The new software maintenance concept is also aligned to this. Depending on customer desires, the plants and system functions can always be kept up to date with the latest technology, or, thanks to the long-term support concept, it can run over long periods with minimal maintenance effort. Customers are provided with precisely those updates, such as security updates, that are necessary for long-term operation.

 

Scalable and secure

In version 3.1, Simatic PCS neo is suitable for large plants with up to 32,000 process objects. But also the smallest plants, which have not been a use case for process control systems up to now, can be efficiently automated due to easy engineering with reusable engineering templates and a scalable system architecture. In addition to the high scalability, Simatic PCS neo has gotten even more secure due to the “Security by Default” approach. Pre-installed security steps ensure plant security, system integrity, and network safety. Additionally, the process control system uses the superior Defense-in-Depth strategy of Siemens as a standard and ensures a multi-layer protection of the plant. It meets all IACS security requirements and offers network and system security. Thanks to location- and role-based access management, intellectual properties are protected against unauthorized access.

 

In version 3.1, a system version of Simatic PCS neo is available that can be used in all process industries with continuous processes. The control system already excites well-known companies with worldwide, secure, and direct access via various devices, multi-user engineering with consistent data thanks to object orientation, and the ongoing implementation of the Module Type Package (MTP) guideline, which allows the flexible integration of modular subsystems into the control system. The new version already meets the published MTP guidelines and is prepared for all further publications.