30 January 2020

Preparing for the future with a visualization system that grows with you

The times are changing, and they’re changing in industrial settings with unbelievable speed. Today we’re experiencing an immense increase in production data and interactions, and this will intensify in the coming years. To stay ahead of the competition, the process and discrete industries need devices and systems that can handle this flood of information.
But which ones to choose? The decision can be crucial to a smooth transition into the digitalization of production processes – especially in an era when technology is outdated the moment it’s installed.
What’s needed are future-proof systems and devices that help companies develop in any direction they want. Systems that can manage both the small and large scale, that will be flexible enough to connect with future systems yet to be developed, and that run on devices that are as easy to use as a smartphone.
Systems like SIMATIC WinCC Unified and devices like the SIMATIC HMI Unified Comfort Panels.

Rethinking visualization

HMIs are crucial to the management of machines and processes. Until now, HMIs could visualize processes and machine status to a certain degree, depending on the software and IT systems used. Solutions like the SIMATIC WinCC Unified System open up new possibilities that make things easier in the future.
Siemens took the well-known SIMATIC WinCC software and gave it a new spin to meet the challenges of digitalization. Launched at the SPS 2019 in Nuremberg, SIMATIC WinCC Unified System offers a functional combination of software and hardware: The visualization software is now based on native web technology – HTML 5, SVG, JavaScript – and therefore access to the visualization is device-independent. Isn’t that cool?
But it’s not just software: The new Unified Comfort Panels offer a typical multitouch surface. The underlying technology allows their functionality to be extended and customized with the help of apps. Smartphone technology has finally arrived at the shop floor.

The same challenges for different businesses

The industry is experiencing a complete transformation in customer demands. No matter a company’s size, it has to be more and more flexible. Businesses need to continuously adapt their production processes to customer requirements and to new technologies and trends.
Businesses with small machines or applications might be flexible enough to handle this new situation with additional tools or in-house workarounds. But sooner or later even they will reach the end of the line. Not to mention large companies with enormous shopfloors that need to be managed by a control center in order to execute adapting, renewing, and streamlining workflows. So, no matter how big, every business can benefit from an intelligent flexible solution.

Seamless workflow guaranteed

Deciding on new hardware is easy: The SIMATIC WinCC Unified Comfort Panel comes in six formats from seven to 22 inches with a capacitive multitouch technology offering the same functionality in all displays. But it’s the software that counts.
I recommend SIMATIC WinCC Unified software as a tool for businesses of any size because it’s a scalable and very flexible solution: Its visualization ability extends from applications based on operating panels directly at the machine to complex SCADA applications based on PC-systems.

Times are changing – and with the right system, they’re changing for the better.

All you need to access the visualization is a modern Web browser regardless if the device you use is a PC or a smartphone. A seamless workflow is guaranteed: The engineering is done in the TIA Portal only once. Afterwards you can access the results on every device, and as all systems use the same controls, you find the same functionality everywhere.

Combining OT with IT

Until now, IT and OT had completely different areas of responsibility. OT managed the automation of production plants and everything needed to provide full availability. IT handled all software-related systems required to manage plant and data, e.g. ordering systems like SAP.
The IIoT requires that these two departments work together – and SIMATIC WinCC Unified is a practicable platform for doing it successfully. As an integration platform for all means related to the digital factory it connects data from the shopfloor with the IT level systems. This is made possible by open interfaces as well as new program options for WinCC Unified that can be employed to create value out of data, e. g. calculate KPIs.
This opens up many new opportunities for seamless embedding in the TIA Portal, your gateway to automation in the Digital Enterprise. With its integration platform and its open architecture, SIMATIC WinCC Unified also enables data transfer from the shopfloor to many other programs for analysis: for example, SAP, warehouse management, and logistics. This creates a unified operating system that leads to successful workflows, optimized processes, predictive maintenance, and a lot more.

Ralf Schmidt talking about SIMATIC WinCC Unified

Bringing the future to the shopfloor

What’s really exciting: the next step toward the future is already here: Edge computing. It’s the answer to the ever-growing flood of data that’s overrunning companies now and in the coming years. Data won’t have to be sent to a cloud, transferred to a faraway IT department, and then finally be analyzed. They’ll be acquired and analyzed directly from the machine in question. Then the data can be customized and fed back for machine optimization. All provided that the machine’s HMI is an Edge device.
The SIMATIC HMI Unified Comfort Panels are future-ready because they’re Edge-enabled. Analysis happens on-site in real time on the panel, with or without the cloud, depending on your preference and your security measures. If a broader range of functions is needed, the panels allow the installation of apps for unlimited possibilities.
Times are changing – and with the right system, they’re changing for the better.

Teaser Photo by Zak Sakata on Unsplash

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