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PHASED Modernization

(Sidebar to "Technology Upgrades Boost Plant Performance" from the August 2007 issue of Automation World)

The National Starch and Chemical Co. plant in Salisbury, N.C., wanted to reduce time-to-market and unscheduled downtime in order to stay competitive. The company produces crack-resistant adhesive resins that are used with semiconductors in the highly competitive cell phone market. “Reliability is our highest priority,” says Jeff Mueller, a National Starch engineering manager. “Unplanned shutdowns can easily add up to millions in losses very quickly and result in our customers finding another supplier.”


As well as cutting downtime and improving time-to-market, managers wanted to extend the lifecycle of the installed hardware at the company’s chemicals manufacturing facility. During the first stage of an upgrade, plant managers decided to swap out the legacy control platform with models 545 and 505 controllers from Siemens Energy and Automation Inc., Alpharetta, Ga. “The migration to the 545 controllers allowed us to standardize on PLCs and then evaluate the options going forward,” says Mueller. “The goal was to utilize existing installed hardware in the new system.”

The second stage of upgrade focused on adding a new reactor train at the company’s organic chemicals plant. The goal was to gain experience working with Siemens’ PCS 7 distributed control system and a Profibus communications network to connect with measurement and control devices. “We minimized the risk of disrupting production by starting on a low-risk project,” says Mueller. “That allowed us to implement programming blocks to use as a template for future systems. It was also a stepping stone to batch recipe management.”

A third stage involved migrating the automation hardware and software to the PCS 7 one reactor at a time. That ensured that production was not interrupted. Mueller says he was able to develop standard function blocks and control modules that could support batch recipe capabilities and serve as templates for future systems. The final result of the three stages of upgrades was improved product reproducibility and lower manufacturing costs.


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