Over the last 100 years or so technology has been gradually eliminating the boring, tedious parts of our jobs that most of us don’t want to do, making them more efficient. These technical advancements have even affected industrial control system engineering, reducing many of the non-value-added tasks so designers can focus on the more important (and more fun) parts of their job.
Engineering efficiency is one of the game-changing benefits of Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Automation Expert. This radically new automation platform dramatically cuts the amount of time it takes to design and implement industrial automation systems.
Why engineering efficiency matters for industrial automation
Engineering efficiency comes down to two things: programming and commissioning. Most automation systems involve hours of repetitive, time-consuming coding. I’d hazard to guess most engineers don’t consider this to be one of the most fun parts of their job. And like all human tasks it’s prone to errors. Often bugs are only discovered during commissioning on site, also a time consuming and costly exercise. Engineers can’t move on to new projects until de-bug and commissioning is complete and there are travel costs to cover. Customers can’t begin production until everything is working. It can be a stressful time for everyone to say the least. EcoStruxure Automation Expert cuts out a lot of this non-value-added work and helps with the drive towards 100% engineering efficiency.
- Building a project from templates: what flat pack furniture and object-based control systems have in common
EcoStruxure Automation Expert is based on the IEC 61499 standard so instead of programming automation systems, engineers configure them with proven libraries of asset centric objects using a drag and drop approach. Think of it like flat pack furniture. Once you have the design, all you need to do is assemble all the different parts. Admittedly, you will need more than an Allen key for an automation system. But the point is, building furniture from a template is much more efficient, ultimately making it more affordable and accessible for manufacturers and consumers alike. Universal automation brings these same benefits to industrial automation customers in similar ways.
- Simulation technology makes virtual commissioning a reality
Thanks to native simulation technology embedded in EcoStruxure Automation Expert, the entire design can be virtually validated and tested before it even gets to a customer facility, which further reduces errors and commissioning time. This is good for both the engineer and the customer. For the engineering company it can help them take on more projects and increase profitability. For the end user it can help reduce time to market, while delivering more agility when changes need to be made to respond to market forces.
Engineering efficiency in practice – success story
Master Systèmes successfully used these engineering approaches in a recent project with their customer Sophim. Sophim is a manufacturer of ingredients for high-end cosmetic products in France. A family run company, they’re currently experiencing strong growth, and therefore need to upgrade existing machines simply and quickly.
Master Systèmes is a member of Schneider Electric’s Alliance network, which brings together recognized and certified system integrators who are experts in connected industry, improving productivity and the flexibility of production systems. They were looking for an engineering platform with the flexibility and scalability that would allow them to modernize their client’s plant without investing significant time and cost.
Thanks to EcoStruxure Automation Expert they were able implement a solution that ticked all the boxes. On top of this, they made full use of the simulation software to test the new system before installing it onsite. The solution also makes it easier to access operating data so it can be used to manage the entire Sophim ecosystem. Future Insights from this data will give them even greater scope for optimization, allowing them to perform predictive maintenance more easily, for example.
The next generation of automation won’t take away the need for engineering work altogether. What it will do is eliminate a lot of the boring parts, leaving more of the fun parts. So the engineers can get on with innovation and helping to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. Something I think we could all agree that the world needs.