Value-driven automation systems without sacrificing performance

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This article explains how machine builders can create automation systems that are both fit for purpose and excellent value in terms of purchase price, running costs, return on investment and whole-life costs.

Value-driven automation systems without sacrificing performanceRockwell Automation believes that recent significant enhancements to its midrange portfolio in the form of its Allen-Bradley CompactLogix programmable automation controllers (PACs) enable machine builders to benefit from a comprehensive system for automation, motion, safety and process control. Moreover, thanks to its integrated, single-platform environment, this is said to offer users the best possible value for their automation investment, with value being defined as performance and functionality versus all possible costs associated with the project.

These new CompactLogix PACs are based on the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture concept that utilises a single network, a single programming environment and a single automation ‘engine’. It is this standardisation, coupled with the performance of the PACs, that helps to deliver the system’s true value. Indeed, standardisation has long been recognised as a way to streamline processes, reduce costs at all stages and make the best possible use of any deployed assets.

When working within defined parameters, a control system assembled using hardware and software from multiple suppliers, and running over a variety of networks, may well fulfil the fit-for-purpose criteria; but from a holistic perspective it almost certainly does not offer the best value. If you consider the early phases of the project, the design engineers had to account for a variety of protocols and their interactions. Communication wiring and hubs also have to be considered, which can be problematic when non-standard protocols are used. Programming will have been just as intensive, as multiple packages define the same parameters in many different ways. Finally the designers had to establish the best way to get all the components and subsystems to communicate each other, with minimal impact on the operation of the machine, cell or line. Maintenance of such a control system can also be difficult, as maintenance engineers will have to be conversant with multiple systems or rely on costly specialists to do work they should be capable of undertaking.

However, with the single network, single programming environment and single automation engine of Rockwell Automation’s Integrated Architecture, significant costs can be removed from many different types of automation, motion, process and safety control system. But cost reduction does not require performance to be compromised.

Single network

Through the use of EtherNet/IP, which is a standard, unmodified industrial Ethernet protocol, data can be transferred seamlessly from point to point, whether this is simple component-level I/O or anything else up to and including the overarching company MES (manufacturing execution system). With EtherNet/IP providing the link between discrete control, process, safety, automation and motion, the investment in training, software licenses, machine design, programming, parts management and data handling can be reduced significantly. With the single-network approach utilising Integrated Architecture, the sharing of data, from high-level programmes all the way down to simple on/off signals, is made very simple.

Single programming environment

With RSLogix 5000, machine builders can enjoy benefits that are broad and far-reaching. Users only need one scalable development tool that can address and configure midrange, CompactLogix-driven applications up to the most complex whole-factory systems driven by the company's ControlLogix PACs. Indeed the programming can be migrated (scaled) between these controllers with negligible additional effort.

With RSLogix, users can optimise their productivity and react quickly to the needs of the market and their business thanks to faster start-ups and reduced commissioning times. Lower total cost of ownership is also a major target of all industries; RSLogix 5000 can help companies achieve this thanks to reduced programming, deployment, maintenance and training costs.

Single engine

By bringing the ControlLogix L7 engine into the CompactLogix form factor, Rockwell Automation can provide value-driven machine builders with performance features such as Integrated CIP Motion over EtherNet/IP – for both servo drives and AC drives – at a much lower price-point. This gives users one network, a single development environment and a full, integrated axis portfolio.

Machine builders can therefore bypass lengthy control selection processes, better accommodate changing design parameters or expansion of the end customer’s application needs, and dedicate more engineering resources to machine innovation. If a machine builder motivates the majority of its customers to standardise on a single control platform, the machine builder can also streamline its support and maintenance efforts.

Because engineers would only need to be trained on one platform, the machine builder can provide more focused support while saving on overall training costs. With more engineers and staff fluent on a given control architecture, the consistency and quality of customer support also improves. Finally, standardising on a single control platform enables a machine builder to stock fewer parts while improving overall part availability.

Fitness for purpose should still be the primary aim of any automation investment decision, but machine builders need to consider value as well. Thanks to the integrated approach within its midrange portfolio, Rockwell Automation says it gives engineers the best of both worlds: a best-fit offering that does exactly what is needed, coupled with far less engineering effort and, consequently, cost savings. In addition, machine builders can benefit from seamless interaction with existing IT assets and a worldwide support programme that is available to themselves and their customers.

Follow the link for more information about the midrange portfolio of Allen-Bradley CompactLogix programmable automation controllers for automation, motion, safety and process control.

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