Düsseldorf, August 02, 2017

Next generation plant automation

With the new X-Pact® Process Guidance, SMS group is offering a task-specific HMI.

Big Data, Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things are just examples of key words that have driven innovations in the mechanical and plant engineering sectors. They all call for a complete rethinking in the design of software and automation architectures. In view of this, SMS group realized the need to develop an new, future-proof software architecture from scratch. The result is the new X-Pact® Process Guidance system, a basic automation system for future needs jointly developed by a team of experts.

The first step in developing X-Pact® Process Guidance was to change the perspective. Previously, the focus had been on individual systems, such as Level 1, Level 2, etc., primarily built on the existing software basis and the skills of the developers. Since IT has been making its way into plant automation, this is no longer the case. X-Pact® Process Guidance primarily caters to the different requirements of data users and data consumers. The central element is the HMI (X-Pact® Vision), a unique interface designed to provide seamless interaction between the user and X-Pact® Process Guidance. The display will automatically adapt its content to the needs of each individual process step. The operator interface follows the process and switches to the relevant page. During operation, the operator receives a display of the automatically executed process steps, previously set up by the responsible metallurgists using the same interface. The operator can browse through the process – through past process steps, the current status and future steps – with a process slider. By moving the slider, the operator can move along the time axis. X-Pact® Vision provides four different views: 

  • Operator view
  • Maintenance view
  • Process specialist / Metallurgist view
  • Management view
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This change in perspectives has also been transferred to the new internal naming standard:

The software architecture has been fundamentally modernized and the interfaces completely redesigned so as to achieve uniform communication. The avoidance of data redundancies achieves maximized data storage efficiency.The data are stored in the Private Cloud with universal database access. The architecture is component-oriented and can be extended by addition further modules and applications.It is extremely easy to add data.

The first implementation step was to redesign the interface between the process control system and X-Pact® Process Guidance. The task was to develop a uniform image oft he process control system which was to be available within the complete X-Pact® Process Guidance system. The mechanisms had to be implemented in such a way that different interfaces (OPC or Database Connector) to the plant components would be available for adding, changing or deleting variables. This process image is called the DataCloud of the X-Pact® Process Guidance system. 

Easily scalable

Each steel plant is unique, consisting of different facilities and functionalities. As also new functions need to be added,any future-proof system must be scalable. To ensure this,each module of X-Pact® Process Guidance is designed separate from the other. Since the DataCloud provides isolation between data providers and data consumers, modularity and scalability is guaranteed. The X-Pact® Vision HMI combines data clarity with ergonomic screen functionalities.

The X-Pact® Process Guidance provides for easy Industry4.0 integration by allowing cyber physical devices to connect to any type of devices. It provides a platform for cloud services like SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) or IaaS (Infrastructure asa Service). The modularity also allows legacy systems to be integrated directly into the system.X-Pact® Process Guidance sets new efficiency and reliability standards for the automatic control of complex plants. Operation is process-oriented, ergonomic and simple.Last but not least, X-Pact® Process Guidance owes its attractiveness to its high transparency and scalability.The modular architecture and universal interfaces make it future-proof. In this context, Cloud computing and digitalization will play a crucial role.