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Industrie 4.0 in the process industry: gaining new perspectives
The process industry is optimistic about the future: The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs forecasts potential growth of around 30 billion Euros by 2020. Fraunhofer expects 30 percent additional added value for the chemical industry over the next ten years.What if we could use that potential today?
As optimistic as Fraunhofer is about the future, the research organization is also realistic about the status quo, it states: “Industrie 4.0 is still in its infancy in the process industry. There are only sporadic research projects. This is why many companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical, steel and cement industries as well as their suppliers fear falling somewhat behind in technological development.”
Stumbling blocks on the path to Industrie 4.0
The requirements for process industry plants are continuously increasing – they should be scalable, flexible, continuously available and secure. Automation, in particular, plays a decisive role as the heart of the plant engineering and operations. A lot of valuable time is lost, for example, in the troubleshooting of process plants, in gathering relevant information, documents and precisely locating the error. Fundamentally, the topic of knowledge management is one of the biggest challenges of all. Experienced employees leave companies and cannot pass on their knowledge to the next generation as it’s either insufficiently documented or not documented at all. Not only for safety reasons, but also for cost-effectiveness it would be important to rely on this knowledge at all times to ensure safe system operation. Process industry plant lifecycles of up to thirty years also require future security and investment protection. This applies in particular to so-called brownfield projects, which now account for almost 90 percent of total plant projects in Europe. The term refers to plants that have been in operation for some time, and that need to be constantly modernized and upgraded/retrofitted, in order to meet the growing demands of market conditions and Industrie 4.0. How can the process industry remove these stumbling blocks and use the full growth potential?
Digitalization: “High on the agenda“
The key, of course, lies in digitalization: It enables a new level of productivity, efficiency and flexibility while providing a shorter time-to-market. Workflows can be increasingly parallelized. This saves valuable time and costs from the very beginning. But there’s still a long way to go for brownfield projects before they can reach their full potential. All analog components and processes need to be digitalized – from paper-based communication to a paperless office with the networking of machines, people and materials. As such, a digital twin must create a consistent data basis – a virtual copy of the plant. Based on that, modernization can be planned effectively and “transmission errors” can be avoided.
“Digitalization is high on all of our customers’ agendas,” says Dr. Jürgen Brandes, CEO of the Process Industries and Drives Division at Siemens. “Everyone is trying to find their own way into this technology. The road is different for large operators than for SMEs, and it is different for process OEMs and EPCs as well. That’s why it’s so important that open and scalable systems make the process industry more efficient and more competitive.”
Room for new perspectives
With the SIMATIC PCS 7 V9.0, we come one step closer to meeting the demand for digitalization. The latest version of the process control system brings digitalization down to the field level and effectively uses the comprehensive possibilities offered by the open communication standard PROFINET. Particularly in the case of brownfield projects, it’s important to react quickly to new requirements and to be able to plan and implement/execute modernization and upgrades at short notice. As PROFINET creates highly scalable and particularly flexible network structures, as well as enabling high-performance communication, it raises the bar for plant operators in this respect. With version 9.0 of the proven SIMATIC PCS 7 process control system, it gains the perfect “counterpart” in automation.
With hardware and software innovations, the new version brings growth perspectives within reach. The hardware focuses on the future-oriented possibilities of PROFINET, for example regarding availability. At the same time, it’s robust enough for outdoor use and impresses with its extremely compact design. As such, system extensions can be implemented efficiently without additional space requirements. Two examples: With the new remote IO, SIMATIC ET 200SP HA, more signals can be processed in a standard control cabinet than previously possible, and new, flexible standardized cabinet concepts can be implemented. The intelligent field distributor SIMATIC Compact Field Unit (CFU) brings digitalization down to the field level via a decentralized approach which enables the simple integration of field devices practically at the touch of a button via Plug and Produce.
Growing safely and predictably
In the field of software, the control system offers new functions that provides fresh impetus from engineering through commissioning to ongoing system operation. In this way, the future engineering of batch processes can be adapted individually to meet customer needs, and can be made significantly more efficient. Important areas in the context of the above-mentioned plant extensions/modernizations – such as (re)commissioning and FAT (Factory Acceptance Test) – can be carried out much faster and documented consistently at any time, which significantly increases security. And last but not least, the plant operators’ and maintenance staff’s work is made much easier thanks to integrated solutions and consistent communication from the field level to the control room. Customized lifecycle services make it simpler for the client to plan costs more precisely, and thus contribute to the future-proofing of plant operation.
Exploiting full growth potential? With the right system, digitalization can already be reliably advanced at all levels with increased added value – step by step. As such, the process industry is optimistic about the future.