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PLC-Easy is selected by the U.S. Department Of Energy for the "Better Plants" initiative to advance automation in U.S. industries and to reduce their carbon footprint.
What is PLC-Easy?
PLC-Easy is a function block library for Schneider M340/580 PLCs.
The PLC-Easy library provides a low/no code solution that allows for extremely fast development, commissioning and troubleshooting of PLC software.
Its' ease and simplicity earned PLC-Easy the nick name: "The DCS for dummies".
Fast, Simple & Economic
PLC-Easy breaks with current PLC/DCS programming paradigms whilst complying with ISA guidelines (88, 106 & 18.2).
By using a simplified PLC software architecture, more than 80% of a PLC-Easy application consists of standard software modules reducing software complexity by at least 50%.
PLC-Easy makes creating PLC software much simpler and at least 30% faster.
Energy Monitoring & Saving
PLC-Easy integrates energy monitoring with PLC control.
PLC-Easy utilizes the PLC and SCADA system for energy monitoring and energy reduction so energy savings can be achieved with minimal cost using existing infrastructures and skill sets.
PLC-Easy integrates MES features such as performance monitoring, root cause analysis, routing, hardware diagnostics etc.
Individual objects, grouped objects, process area's etc. natively record utilization time, actuations etc. An end user can easily create OEE reports from this information.
Automated root cause analysis and hardware diagnostics (vendor agnostic) is a standard feature that allows an operator to instantly determine the state of a process, equipment, hardware etc.
Robust, Less Risks
"Performance is the by product of a simple design".
A PLC-Easy application consists predominately of standard tested software modules, this drastically reduces complexity in the PLC software.
"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away".
Eliminating "spaghetti" code enhances performance and significantly reduces the risk of unplanned downtime and subsequent production losses.
PLC-Easy is simply un-mazing automation
PLC-Easy utilizes Schneider & Aveva development tools, eliminating the need for additional skillsets and software tools.
PLC-Easy does not only empowers an engineer to deliver quality PLC software significantly faster but also:
- an operator to accurately diagnose issues and emancipate to process manager,
- a project manager to accurately calculate development time and costs,
- a process engineer to convert process knowledge into process control software.
IEC61499 & "The Future"
IEC61499 has two major objectives, to further distribute controls and to create an environment where IT software and program methodologies can integrate with industrial controls.
PLC-Easy is the next generation DCS that bridges the gap between conventional hardware - programming and the future as it can be implemented in both conventional IEC61131 and IEC61499 develop environments.
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 a PLC 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.
All PLC-Easy software modules have a standard interface with only 8 parameters. An application is created by linking modules together via these 8 parameters, this applies to all layers in the software architecture (ISA88 physical model).
This makes PLC-Easy a low/no code environment with the following differentiating features:
MES like features of PLC-Easy (PLC based):
Below a 10 minute presentation outlining the principles and benefits of the PLC-Easy solution
The complexity in conventional PLC and DCS applications is predominately caused by software functionalities that claim or are claimed by other software functionalities. For example sequencing, routing, clean in place (CIP) software modules will a claim valve control software module and also one another. This requires detailed coordination that often results in a spaghetti structure of interdependencies between these software modules. For this reason the application is organized in phases, operations and procedures that exchange control signals through unique and often complex interfaces.
As result, design, development, commissioning and troubleshooting is very time consuming and requires subject matter expertise and skillsets that are not always readily available.
In addition to software complexity, alarm management (warnings, alarms and notifications) is a source of complexity, inefficiencies and subsequent production losses. Alarm management and alarm rationalization is not only a development effort, but an ongoing effort that is mostly neglected once a plant is operational. Per definition this will lead to ineffective alarming and this has proven time after time to lead to unplanned downtime, production losses, higher energy consumption and worse, accidents.
PLC-Easy addresses software complexity by standardizing common occurring process control functionalities that cause complexity (see paragraph "differentiating features"). By standardizing common functionalities, spaghetti structures of interdependencies are eliminated and the need for subject matter expertise is drastically reduced. This standardization creates a "Lego brick" like low/no code environment where the need for unique software and programming is almost completely eliminated.
PLC-Easy also addresses complexity associated with providing accurate operator information by using the PLC for automating alarm management and operator notifications. In conventional PLC-SCADA and DCS solutions, a condition in the PLC/controller triggers a pre-configured operator message/alarm in the SCADA system. In the PLC-Easy solution, alarms, warnings, process status and hardware diagnostic messages are dynamically created in the PLC and shown on the SCADA graphic. As a PLC is an automation platform, PLC-Easy uses the PLC to automate operator information messages (alarms, process status, hardware diagnostics, energy consumption etc.). This eliminates the need for engineering efforts, maintenance efforts and time associated with alarm management, significantly reducing costs. Read More
Capex vs. Opex
Investments in a plant's process control system (PLC-SCADA or DCS) are predominately evaluated against the initial purchasing costs. These costs are the proverbial tip of the iceberg as the biggest costs are the operational costs.
When a process control system performs poorly, this results in variations of production quality, unplanned down time, wastage of energy and raw materials etc. etc. The performance of a process control system is mostly determined by the application/software and minorly by the hardware. Throughout the lifetime of an installation, the operational cost will be a multitude of the initial investment, higher operational costs due to poor performing process control increase the overall cost substantially.
Due to the simplification of the PLC application, PLC-Easy will reduce the development and commissioning time/costs by at least 30%. This time/cost reduction can be calculated for the development phase, however it will be difficult to calculate/estimate the opex savings as this depends on many factors (production schedules, lifetime of the plant, type of product, scale of production etc. etc.). However, the simplicity of the PLC-Easy solution reduces fault susceptibility, provides robust performance, reduces the risk of unplanned downtime and subsequently will reduce operational costs significantly.
PLC-Easy provides operators with very accurate process status information, hardware failure information, root cause information and enhanced alarming. With the PLC-Easy solution, the operator is capable of diagnosing problems that would normally require a specialist/SME. This does not only reduces the need for specialized skill sets, but significantly reduces troubleshooting time (down time) as a root cause is instantly provided to the operator.
In addition to process control and alarming, the PLC-Easy solution provides basic MES functionalities such as performance/OEE information and energy monitoring, this reduces the need for IT-OT integrations, associated costs, cyber security risks and subject matter expertise.
Performance is a by product of a simple design, the simplicity of the PLC-Easy solution significantly reduces both development and operational costs.
PLC-Easy integrates energy monitoring with PLC control providing a cost effective energy reduction solution.
As energy monitoring is PLC based, energy reduction control schemes can be implemented as integrated part of the plant's process control software. By using existing infrastructure and skill sets, energy monitoring and energy cost savings can be achieved easy, fast and economically, giving a higher return on investment.
Energy consumption values can either come from a field instrument or from a calculation in the PLC (pump flow curves at certain speeds etc.). With energy values as input to PLC-Easy function blocks, the simple software architecture of PLC-Easy allows energy consumption to be shown on the SCADA HMI at every level of the process hierarchy (ISA88 physical model of the process). This gives an operator an instant overview of the total energy consumption and how this is made up down to the individual consumer.
The possibility to use the existing historian to historize energy values in addition to process values and operator actions, allows analysis/identifying of correlations between operator actions, process behaviour and energy consumption.
With PLC-Easy, energy monitoring can be implemented fast, easily and empowers the end user to optimize energy consumption, reducing energy costs and carbon footprint with very little investment.
The 20 minute demonstration in the video below shows some of the main features of PLC-Easy.
An equation that describes PLC-Easy well is:
Innovation + Disruption = Empowerment
PLC-Easy is a disruptive solution as its' simplicity allows people with limited programming skills to convert their process knowledge into process control software, it allows management of an automation project without having in-depth programming knowledge, it allows troubleshooting without subject matter expertise, it allows energy monitoring without IT infrastructures and IT expertise etc. etc.
PLC-Easy is a truly innovative solution as it uses existing automation platforms and programming methodologies in an enhanced and simpler way. The skillset acquired for current systems can be directly applied for PLC-Easy and the intuitive interface and ways of working will allow people to "hit the floor running".
- Standardized sequencing: (no SFC or sequence engine programming)
- Standardized Group Control (grouped equipment - machine 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)
- Standardized hardware diagnostics (manufacturer agnostic)
- Energy monitoring & control: (no IT infrastructure required)
- Rudimentary waste monitoring
- Performance: root cause analysis, device failure notification
- Rudimentary CIP optimization
- Predictive valve failure notification
- Performance/OEE information