Digital commissioning of automation

In our X-Pact® Plug & Work integration tests we utilize the concept of a digital twin of the plant to simulate all automation processes. We run extensive tests and optimize the automation as well as the related production processes even before the plant is assembled and in operation. Each plant simulation is unique and takes into account the special technological features of the plant. For the operator in the test field it feels like working on the real plant, because all operating modes and processes are simulated in real time and visualized accordingly in 3D.

Developed by SMS group, this concept of integration testing allows digital commissioning of automation under realistic conditions and significantly shortens commissioning times. For each SMS group project - both new plants and modernizations – the new automation system is completely installed, tested and pre-optimized in our test fields worldwide.

We focus on aspects such as quality, time, efficiency and safety. Every customer project at SMS group enjoys the following benefits, which are important for getting equipment quickly on stream and thus achieving a rapid return on investment.

Benefits for projects
  • Testing the original equipment

    In order to perform the integration test, we install the entire automation system for the customer-specific plant in our test fields and connect it to the plant and production simulation. This includes a simulation of the kinematic and dynamic behavior of all plant elements by means of mathematical-physical and real-time.

    We employ X-Pact® Plug & Work not only for cold commissioning projects but also for virtual hot commissioning. The procedure for checking the drive interfaces, measuring systems, or the interfaces with all other packages is the same as that used on site. Once the individual plant modules have been tested, these are combined to create an integrated system, and the interaction between them is checked.

    In this way, we save valuable time, which means our customer saves money. Compared to the conventional procedure, the time required for commissioning can be reduced by up to 30 percent with Plug & Work.

  • Training the operating and maintenance personnel

    We attach a great deal of importance to training our customer's employees under realistic conditions in our close partnership with the customers themselves. During training, for example, employees have the opportunity of contributing their own ideas and feedback. This ensures the customer's team is fully integrated into the commissioning process, so this practice-oriented approach enables them to actively assist with getting the plant on stream quickly.

  • Virtual customer training

    The motto here is simple: If the customer can't come to the test field, the test field goes to the customer! Training usually takes place during the "face to face" integration test. Due to the travel restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, we developed an alternative training method – remote-supported operator training in the integration test field.

    Our solution is to transmit the entire simulation to the customer and to allow him remote access to the control units, including the virtualized control stations and local panels as well as the HMI system. The training takes place completely virtually. The customer operates the plant from his office. Trainers from SMS are on hand in a parallel video conference to answer any questions.

  • Pre-optimization of the process and virtual production

    If the basic availability of the integrated system’s functions is confirmed, the automation system of the customer’s plant is then pre-optimized in a third test phase by means of a virtual production test.

    The virtual production tests are then carried out based on the production schedule for the customer's plant.  The production reports and IBA-PDA data generated in this way with Plug & Work are evaluated jointly with SMS group's technology before the plant is delivered.

    The digital twin of the integrated plant, created in parallel to the engineering, can already be brought to life for testing purposes during the Plug & Work test by enriching it with the simulation data. The digital twin is subsequently further enriched with online data from the real plant in order to increase its value.

  • Remote service during and after commissioning

    With X-Pact® Service we have a perfect infrastructure for remote support during and after commissioning. As a general rule, we supply the technical option of remote support with every new plant. We use AR glasses at the equipment via a secure X-Pact® Service Portal connection that allows us to interact directly with the customer's experts via chat, audio, video or whiteboard functions. 

    A mobile version of the X-Pact® Service Portal enables the customer's staff to initiate a service call directly from their smartphone. In this way, any unclear issues can be resolved straight away. This reduces overall costs and boosts the plant's performance.

"Plug & Work gave us the chance to test all of the automation systems together – offline. That way, when everything got here, it just worked."

Ben Williams, Electrical Engineer and Project Manager, Nucor Steel Gallatin

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