Most plant engineers have experienced the problem, probably more times than they care to admit. Some kind of glitch has shut down production and nobody on site has the expertise to troubleshoot the problem. It may be 3 a.m., or maybe you're having a much-needed weekend break with family or friends, but it's up to you to head in to the plant and remedy the situation.
Imagine instead, if you could simply find an Internet connection, log into the affected controller from your remote location, giving yourself immediate access to all the same diagnostic data as if you had a cable directly attached and were standing right in front of it. With the ability to remotely access diagnostics and the status of pre-configured variables in the controller's program, you can quickly get to the root of the problem and fix it. Now you can get back to enjoying yourself without heading into the plant.
Well, you can shake yourself out of your fantasy because this is now quite possible. Various SIMATIC controller models feature an integrated Web server function that engineers can enable with a single click. Users have access to hardware and controller diagnostics remotely from any location via their Intranet or the Internet using only a standard web browser. There is no special application software required on the remote end. Screens are optimized for standard displays, multi-panels, or handheld PDAs. This time saving webserver feature is not only useful for local plant operators, but it is also extremely beneficial for OEMs that need to maintain equipment at remote customer installations. OEMs can easily help their End User customers correct automation problems, dramatically reducing unplanned downtime and saving both of them money. With so many OEMs conducting business over long distances and even overseas, it's much more cost effective to "Use the Net instead of taking a Jet."
"Oh no! Bill Smith is gone. NOW what do we do?"
It seems the likelihood of some component on the line going down is directly proportional to the unavailability of your in-plant expert or the "Start-Up Guy" from your local System Integrator. With SIMATIC controllers with built-in web servers, worries over the graveyard shift, missing a training class, vacations, key team members being gone, and other routine changes can be a thing of the past. By knowing the IP address of the affected controller, your experts can type it into any standard Internet browser and securely view diagnostics and register memory to assist others in resuming production. Using the controller webserver connectivity can further enhance typical service contracts between plant management and the local Systems Integrator. This will enable quicker diagnosis of automation problems and fewer onsite visits.
Simple to enable and use. Cost-effective to buy
Web server functionality is built right into all current PROFINET integrated CPUs in the S7-400, S7-300, and ET 200 controller families. Turning the feature on is as simple as clicking a box in the CPU hardware configuration setup screen. One more click to select designated Variable Address Tables (VAT) enables you to view them remotely as well. These are the same variable address tables that Siemens has supported for years with its STEP 7 software, and they are also the same tables you have probably already configured for many of your controllers. With the VATs enabled, you'll be able to quickly troubleshoot many problems even if you don't happen to be on site.
Indeed, with the ability to remotely tap diagnostic information, you'll be able to easily tackle problems common to most any plant environment. That includes helping out new employees and having your "A" team immediately available even when they're not in the plant. The result will be reduced downtime in your production facility. And, you know how much that's worth.
Quit dreaming! It's built right in. Great screen views, too
There is a growing trend in the automation marketplace toward using more Ethernet based communication for various levels of the plant floor architecture. Building PROFINET and web server functionality directly onboard the controller supports this trend, allowing a simple diagnostic view as a standard integrated tool.
What makes the SIMATIC Controller different?
Most competitive controllers offer similar functionality, however, you need to purchase a separate communication card, and it is not integrated into the CPU itself. Although Siemens offers this function on a separate communication card as well, we also integrate this function right into the CPU to eliminate the extra cost and space of the communication card. So Siemens gives you the choice: "integrated" or "not integrated". The other guys: "not integrated" only.
For more information on SIMATIC Controllers, click here.
Click here for a sample of the web server utility.
Would you like a Siemens Technical Specialist to contact you for a Free Automation Assessment and discuss cost savings for your application? Click here.