What is PLC-Easy?
PLC-Easy is a function block library that turns a Modicon M580/M340 PLC into a no nonsense, no frills and
low/no code DCS solution that has been nick named "the DCS for dummies" by Schneider Electric SME's.
By utilizing an unconventional and innovative PLC software architecture, it reduces the amount of software in an application with at least 30% by eliminating over 50% of the complexity found in conventional PLC-SCADA and DCS solutions.
PLC-Easy combines the advantages of a DCS (consistency, re-usability, scalability etc.) with the endless possibilities of a PLC-SCADA system. It does so without the costs, vendor locking and other restrictions that a DCS imposes, whilst eliminating the risk of spaghetti software, inconsistencies and complexities often encountered in a PLC application.
Every good idea starts with a question, for the PLC-Easy solution this question is:
Why is control software often so complex, and can this be simplified?
We believe that creating control software should be simple and fast like creating a Power Point presentation. Further we believe that people that have in depth knowledge of a process should be empowered to translate that knowledge into control software.
Empower people with limited programming skills to develop, maintain and troubleshoot the more complex control functionalities and MES like features in a timely manner.
Below a 10 minute presentation outlining the principles and benefits of the PLC-Easy solution
Mission - Vision
PLC-Easy addresses a number of common challenges that are experienced by people in different positions/involvement with control systems and MES systems e.g.
- An operator who does not know what state a sequence is in or why it is not progressing.
- A maintenance engineer is not aware of a hardware issue that will cause an unplanned shutdown in the next hours.
- A system integrator who is confronted with additional work as the existing application is convoluted (spaghetti code) or who's code change causes unforeseen side effects with an unplanned shutdown.
- A project engineer or manager who is unable to estimate and plan the duration of a functional change of an application. Or worse, who is consistently overcharged because the application is unreadable to others (vendor locking).
- An application that was created by code generation and now cannot be read or altered without an up to date code generator and the (rare) combination expertise that encompasses the code generator as well as the control platform and application.
- MES features and optimizations that require IT infrastructure integration, increases complexity, introduce cyber security challenges and require more subject matter expertise.
Most of these challenges stem from software complexity which leads to the question:
The complexity in conventional PLC and DCS applications is caused predominately by software functionalities that claim or are claimed by other software functionalities (e.g. sequencing, routing, group control, clean in place (CIP) etc.) and by alarm management (warnings, alarms and notifications).
PLC-Easy addresses this by simplifying the application's architecture through standardizing functionalities that cause complexity. This allows for a "Lego brick building" like software development/architecture.
What Causes Complexity?
Differentiating control features of PLC-Easy that provide a low/no code environment:
- Standardized sequencing: (No SFC or sequence engine programming)
- Standardized Group Control (linked modules to create functionality)
- Standardized functional redundancy: (including operator notifications)
- Standardized CIP control (no programming of phases etc. required)
- Standardized safe shut down management (drying towers, oil&gas etc.)
- Standardized alarm management (PLC based, not SCADA based)
MES like features of PLC-Easy (PLC based):
- Energy monitoring & control: (no IT infrastructure required)
- Rudimentary waste monitoring
- Performance: root cause analysis, device failure notification
- Rudimentary CIP optimization
- Predictive valve failure notification
- OEE information
The 20 minute demonstration in the video below shows some of the main features and the reduction of code and complexity.