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Software for Data Control and Integration in Continuous Manufacturing Processes

Although Automation applied to the Control of Continuous Processes is already a mature market, with standard solutions in hardware and software, advances in technology and the need for flexible, fast, accurate information have resulted in a new market with excellent possibilities for expansion: the control of process data and how it ties in with the company's general data processing system. This level of information and management is included in what is known as MES (Manufacturing Execution System) and fills the gap between ERP and plant control and supervision systems.

Once the process is controlled, the technological level available opens up a series of possibilities that are already becoming a necessity for manufacturing companies:

  • Real-time connection with the company's ERP software to receive manufacturing orders, formulations, etc. and to send results, status reports, raw material consumption etc. making it possible to do everything from calculating the value of assets to automatically updating stocks of raw material, semifinished and manufactured goods.
  • Real-time connection to laboratory systems so that production and quality data can be stored in a single database.
  • Need for a reliable way of measuring production.
  • Need to relate quality and production data within the concept of traceability.
  • Possibility of providing process data over the Internet so that it can be consulted anywhere or used to centralise information from different production plants in company headquarters.

To achieve these objectives, it is necessary to have a real-time database and specific tools for:

  • Collecting all relevant data continuously or by event (bearing in mind that there are very many different types of plant systems).
  • Supply to all the users (Production and Corporate) all the information recorded in the Database ordered and filtered.
  • Uploading and downloading the required data from the ERP.
  • Uploading the pertinent data to the Internet using a web server.

The application has been designed in five modules:

SpinDB. The heart of the system. This is a database in real time that centralises and coordinates data from the ERP system as well as from PLC's and control units.

Spin DataCollector. The basis for communication with control and supervisory systems. This permits bi-directional communication between a PLC and any type of database.

Spin ERPBridge. The basis of communication with corporate ERP systems. This works in a similar fashion to the Spin DataCollector, but it incorporates a stable link with SAP or Navision.

Spin DataManager. Makes it possible to generate all specific database applications. This is a tool for database management: data maintenance, specific operations, reports, data export and import, etc...

Spin WebBridge. This module allows real-time process data to be viewed in HTML.

It is, therefore, a software application with the following characteristics:

  • Based on the latest .NET technology and client-server architecture.
  • Uses OPC and XML technologies.
  • Can be used with most of the control packages (SCADA) on the market, such as: InTouch, RsView, iFIX, WinCC, Citect etc. and also with DCS by Siemens, ABB, Honeywell, Yokogawa and others.
  • Communicates with the most popular controllers on the market: Rockwell, Siemens S7 and PCS7, Schneider, Honeywell, ABB, etc.
  • Should be modular to make it possible to use the modules required in each specific case.

Several of the important functions of MES systems, especially useful for quality and production departments, are related to accessing process logs:

  • process variables
  • alarms
  • events
  • operations

The fact that it is possible to link these log files with manufacturing batches and that the data are available for a long period of time (sometimes for years), either for queries or for export to data analysis applications, means that these are very useful tools for process industry.

Very few products available on the market today have all these functions, and, in any case, there are considerable technical and financial hurdles making them inaccessible to the majority of applications.

In the case of DCS by SIEMENS, PCS7, and SCADA WinCC, SpinDataCollector's” drivers make it possible to extract log files directly from the database so that they can be saved in the SpinDB”.

In cases where this access is not possible, SpinDataCollector is also a DataLogger (for process variables) and EventLogger (for Alarms, Events and Operations). All this data can be later processed from SpinDataManager©, using which it is possible to select a range of data to be presented by using a selection of filter criteria and format, either as a directly printable document (PDF) or for exporting to other tools (for example, a spreadsheet.)