In recent times, process industries such as chemical manufacturing are facing many of the same challenges as those in the discrete manufacturing space. Increasingly stringent competitive pressures require them to be ever-more flexible, even with the cost of feedstocks, energy, and labor potentially rising. For instance, pharmaceutical manufacturers using specialty chemical inputs are tasked with achieving faster time-to-market for smaller batches of more customized products, as personalized medicine and self-administration of treatment become more common.
For many companies, including specialty chemical provider Evonik, modular production may provide a solution to these challenges. Modularization of process automation systems entails the replacement of large-scale plant infrastructure oriented toward producing a single product with a series of distributed or modularized productions cells capable of producing multiple customized products.
Recently, Evonik adopted automation technology supplier Siemens’ web-based Simatic PCS Neo process control system to aid in its shift to a more modular production environment. The Simatic PCS Neo allows multiple users across the globe to collaborate on projects simultaneously by granting them visibility and insight into plant sections at various locations. Following from this, the commissioning of projects has been made more efficient, as production can be more intelligently allocated across an array of available assets.
“Generally speaking, we’re seeing a clear trend in the market toward shorter innovation cycles and more specific adaptations of product portfolios. This also applies to our plant. That’s why we wanted to implement a plant concept that would allow us to quickly and easily prepare and expand plant sections for a new test,” said Stefan Handel, project manager at Evonik.
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Simatic PCS Neo’s process historian also enables centralized archiving of all process data so that daily reports for plant sections and plants as a whole can be generated automatically. Moreover, new plant sections can be connected to Simatic via plug-and-play functionality with few mechanical modifications.
According to Handel, Module Type Package (MTP) protocols were a prerequisite for integrating Evonik’s various plant assets into Simatic. These protocols provide standardized definitions of all information assets required to communicate to higher-level systems, increasing interoperability and allowing individual process modules to be added and removed without excessive reconfiguration.
“MTP enables us to structure sections in the plant as modules with their own intelligence,” Handel said. “The intelligent modules are combined in an overall process and managed, monitored, and controlled in the central control system, which allows us to configure our processes even more flexibly.”
Evonik’s first modular plant section began production on schedule in February 2020, just three months after the project was launched. Since that time, several other Evonik plants have been successfully converted as well.
|Read about another use case for Siemens' Simatic PCS Neo.|