Nobody wants to be operating process plants manually and reading measured values on-site in the manner employed in the first half of the 20th Century. And fortunately industry is also beyond the phase that began in the 1960s, where pneumatic or electrical control equipment measured certain values electrically and transmitted them to a predecessor of the modern control room.
The introduction of the microcontroller 10 years later meant that it was possible to automate processes for the first time. A central control unit was able to perform actions autonomously, for example by evaluating certain process states and then initiating the appropriate measures.
Distributed systems then followed a few years later. Together with its customers, over recent decades Siemens has developed process control systems into central and fundamentally important data and information hubs within production, as well as between production sites and various enterprise levels.
High system availability, few unscheduled downtimes, easy maintenance and above all, investment protection – these are the key ingredients to ensure that production is profitable, innovative and fit for the future. Siemens offers customers in all areas of the process industry a broad product portfolio, which is of course modified and extended over time and adapted to the growing challenges of the industry.
Leading the way
The focus is now on the digitalisation of the industry and use of the digital twin as a lever for increased productivity and added value. At the same time, Siemens is ensuring easy plant operation, fast and secure data access; flexibility, scalability, a high level of process safety and short response and failure times.
For all of these tasks, the ideal control technology is supplied in the form of the Simatic PCS 7 process control system, currently on version 9. Through the continuous expansion of the system and the integration of solutions such as Comos in plant engineering, Simit for simulations and the implementation of the digital twin, Siemens is ensuring that Simatic PCS 7 remains a leading process control system.
Reliable communication using Profinet supports the integrated diagnostics, monitoring and evaluation of process-related data, which is essential for plant operators in the era of big data. Automatically initialised field devices and highly scaleable peripherals complete the Simatic PCS 7 range.
The next question is what the future holds for process control. The trend is towards disruptive ecosystems and networked platforms, which ensure reliable data exchange and protected access to plants worldwide. Siemens is ready to support this development on the one hand with the latest version of Simatic PCS 7, which is sure to be around for many years.
On the other hand, with Simatic PCS neo the company has introduced a system software that offers companies in the process industry distinct opportunities in the age of digitalisation; a fully HTML5-based (and therefore web-based) control system with integrated multi-user capabilities.
The completely web-based system and the multi-user concept for engineering and operations offers customers an innovative, efficient way of working. Via a protected internet connection, users have direct and secure access to all relevant information, making it possible for them to work in parallel on projects worldwide. A central, object-oriented data management solution guarantees data consistency and fast, secure decision making. With a single workbench for all disciplines and its intuitive GUI, Simatic PCS neo can also be operated easily on mobile devices.
Thanks to flexible scaleability, it is suitable for the smallest applications as well as for world-scale plants. Process modules can also be integrated efficiently into existing systems. With its flexible licence model, Simatic PCS neo offers additional transparency and cost-effectiveness and reflects the latest standards for modern software licensing. This is supported by the ‘my Simatic PCS neo’ web platform, which offers another world of information management for the entire project and plant life cycle.
What do these developments mean for users and for the future of process control? On the one hand, the systems are scaleable and expandable; on the other hand, customers choose. The choice of process control system is left to the user, depending on their specific conditions and issues.
For example, is it a greenfield or brownfield approach? Which system does the user already have? What plans – including in terms of investment – does the user have for the future? Siemens been supporting customers for over 20 years, guiding them through the digital transformation and will remain by their side in the future, meeting all possible challenges with appropriate innovations.