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The IoT, edge computing, and enhanced data analytics have accelerated the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). For process-intensive industries, particularly those utilizing complex batch-production processes like manufacturers of chemicals or paints and coatings, this fusion of digital information with physical operations unlocks opportunities to plant operations previously unimaginable.
By better analyzing complex system data, paints and coatings manufacturers can gain critical process visibility to extract more value from existing production assets.
Ideally, with an integrated IT/OT process control system (PCS), personnel can:
- Collaborate more effectively over the whole value chain
- Make smarter decisions to achieve operational excellence
- Trim downtime and optimize changeover times
- Perform jobs more safely and efficiently
- Reduce resource waste and costs
- Boost operational flexibility
- Enhance business agility
However, the paints and coating manufacturing process is complex in terms of logistics, with challenges from inputs and recipe mix variability. Selecting a smart factory integration solution optimized for this industry’s unique production environment is critically important.
Seamless control and automation system orchestration is key
Paints and coating businesses must balance stringent regulations, traceability requirements, sustainability prerequisites, and plant utilization goals. To do this means they need to be uncommonly agile to remain competitive tomorrow.
The holistic implementation of highly automated but modular processes – from raw material receiving to process technology, filling, and packaging – is one way paint and coatings manufacturers are trying to digitize their processes to optimize them. Orchestration is a must to ensure transparency and perfectly coordinated partial processes.
Conventional automation solutions, on the other hand, often lack the essential control functions that operators of process-intensive batch-controlled operations need to make fast and efficient production changes.
While standard industrial process automation represents a decentralized way of driving and operating the plant, integrated solutions with orchestration use the strategy that all processes and thus all subordinated systems, if any, are managed and synchronized in an orchestrated manner.
This ensures that the production processes – whether automated or manual – for paints and coatings are coordinated seamlessly and efficiently.
The advantages of orchestration are as follows:
- Unites disparate automation environments
- Integrates manual business processes
- Synchronizes workflows
- Builds bridges between automation islands
Integrated process control systems (PCS) also help manufacturers achieve industry-specific digitization goals such as tracking, traceability, and paperless production.
A comprehensive solution to create a fully orchestrated production facility
One state-of-the-art PCS that leverages IT and OT convergence to optimize operational efficiency is Plant iT, from ProLeiT by Schneider Electric. The software suite is an IT solution for the paint and coatings industry that integrates operations ‘from shop floor to top floor.’
Unlike conventional PCSs, Plant iT is a modular system that delivers holistic integration with Manufacturing Execution System (MES) functionalities for all process areas in the paint and coatings industry. Optimized for both greenfield installations and retrofits of 3rd party systems, Plant iT provides users with six significant advantages compared to conventional PCSs:
- Adjustable and scalable – flexible Plant iT provides automation to an entire operation or individual processes and offers powerful add-ons engineered specifically for paints and coating operations.
- Complete process chain visibility – the integrated MES offers visibility into the entire process chain, from delivering raw materials to the packaged product, helping improve product quality, energy efficiency, raw material utilization, and production asset uptime.
- Shorter downtimes and deeper integration – object-oriented software approach, combined with the modeling of a digital twin and the deep technical know-how of delivery units, enables smooth PCS retrofits, plus short turnaround and shutdown times for brownfield application.
- Hardware agnostic – compatible with third-party PLCs to help eliminate data siloes and improve cross-device communication.
- Powerful orchestration – Plant iT helps manufacturers unite automation islands by integrating production data and processes orchestration to optimize operational efficiency.
- Best-in-class cybersecurity – a holistic approach to system-wide cybersecurity limits weak points and opportunities for unauthorized access to complex networks.
The convergence of IT with OT has allowed paints and coating businesses to rethink how fully integrated and orchestrated process control can improve the flexibility of their manufacturing processes and create an agile production environment over the life of their factories. Download our brochure to learn more about Plant iT for paints and coatings.