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Automation Technologies 4/2016

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Automation Technologies 4/2016

Plants at the press of a

Plants at the press of a button? About Aucotec COMPONENTS AND SOFTWARE Due to the rapidly growing complexity of process engineering plants, their planning and design require intelligent methods which are also easy to use. With its Advanced Typical Manager, the software developer Aucotec has created a tool that optimises the savings potential in configuring with simple and clear handling of variants and options. Simply copying a previous entire project and adapting it to individual customer requirements is still a widespread practice. However, all errors that were eliminated during commissioning are copied again as a result. The documentation of already delivered projects is often only incompletely revised. Improvements are lost in the process. On the other hand, tested standard modules combined with an easy-to-use option and variant management can significantly reduce project lead times and increase the quality of plants at the same time. “Furthermore, ready-made modules safeguard important expertise, which would otherwise remain only in the minds of professionals,” explains Norbert Ott, product manager at Aucotec. With quality-tested modules, it is even possible to configure plants without detailed knowledge of electrical engineering, also with external configurators or, for example, from SAP. The individual components are only designed once, usually by the development team, and are then kept in the modular engineering system for multiple reuse. Changes have only to be entered once, and the next user can be sure of obtaining the latest version. Thus the design department has more capacity for the rapid processing of actual projects. Aucotec AG in Hanover has been developing engineering software for 30 years for the entire life-cycle of machines, plants and equipment and mobile systems. The solutions extend from the process flow chart via process control technology and electronic technology into large plant and equipment up to the modular on-board power supply in the automobile industry. The company now employs over 220 people world-wide, their global market turnover for the financial year 2014/15 was € 36 million. Function-oriented modules instead of 1 000 of sheets The designing of large plants is an enormous challenge. Thousands of devices are connected to each other and are designed to transform defined requirements into actual plant performance. The system developer Aucotec uses these requirements as a structuring aid. Its database-driven software platform Engineering Base (EB) relies on the functional view where such requirements as gripping, transporting or heating are combined into functional modules. This may be, for example, a gripper including the control, mechanical and hydraulic engineering and software programming, but a module can also represent smaller units such as circuit components. “A pump or PLC also has a function of course, but it is unsuitable as an organising factor. If looked at in the correct light, the functional view enormously facilitates rapid implementation of the requirements of the plant in accordance with the order,” explains Ott. The plant structure can be clearly designed with ready-made function modules. Functions group modules comprehensively. They can be actually ordered and their distribution can be easily and clearly traced via management and from all users to the customer. Thus clients and contractors speak the same language from the outset on the subject of the order. This saves a lot of time and effort spent on corrections, and reduces misunderstandings. AUTOMATION TECHNOLOGIES 4/2016

Updating effort minimised With a function orientation where the modules do not consist of individual devices, the configuration is based on a level higher than the sheet level. Norbert Ott: “A function is documented in a qualitytested template in EB. This typical contains the associated sheets, devices, cables and wires which are handled “as a whole” in their functional context. This significantly minimises the number of typicals and saves you from copying a project consisting of thousands of independent single sheets which cannot be continuously maintained.” In addition, the unavoidable changes which arise in the development process can be incorporated at any time without having to undo the customizations that were already created up to that point. Mastering innumerable variants and options Convenient variant and option management is essential in order to be able to configure really efficiently, and not too roughly or in too much detail. Options, thus possible extensions of a standard module, can be stored separately as circuit components in EB using the Advanced Typical Manager, for example, a backward circuit for a conveyor belt or a frequency converter for variable speed. The otherwise necessary variants of sheets with all possible combinations of options for one engine are thus a thing of the past. In the event of changes, you swap only the optional circuit component instead of “drowning” in variants and options. Everything under control Variants are the feasible combinations of options. They can be stored as separate templates in EB’s database. This allows you to avoid the still common, but impractical defining of complicated sets of rules as to which combinations are possible or permitted. “In automotive engineering, for example, it makes no sense to maintain the “sunroof” option for the “convertible” variant. Instead of explaining something like this extensively and hoping for compliance with the rules, there are simply no such variants in EB,” says Product Manager Ott. Variants can also result from different dimensions or The individual components are only projected once, usually from the development and are then kept in the “building block” of the engineering systems for the large number of re-uses. Changes only need to be input once and the next user safely receives information in its latest status. In this way the construction division keeps more capacity free for the speedy completion of real projects. Norbert Ott, Product Manager, Aucotec Convenient variant and option management is essential in order to be able to configure really efficiently: all logic is stored in the respective typicals in the Advanced Typical Manager manufacturers and are also available as quality-tested modules in EB. All logic is also stored in the respective typicals in the Advanced Typical Manager. Documentation at the press of a button Plant engineers are free to choose their own method because the module allows both the creation of a basic maximum project according to the entire design space concept, and the additive approach where a plant is in principle unlimited and can be gradually extended and become more detailed. The entire design space concept makes sense, for example, for an extensively well-defined The idea of configuring is a decisive step towards more efficiency in engineering standard machine. A plant with conveyor belts that can be virtually expanded at will would be typical of the additive approach. Even combinations of both approaches are possible with this databasedriven engineering system and its Typical Manager if, for example, a common module is added to several rows of standard machines. The type and structuring level of the typicals can be freely selected, depending on the complexity of the project. Whether “heating” or “measuring” is involved, the difference is only in its complexity, and EB gives the user free rein. Regardless of the method used, the module significantly reduces the number of typicals. “Customers who already use it say they are reduced by at least one-third,” reports Norbert Ott. According to him, control costs and errors are thus also minimised, and document quality is improved significantly. If all functions which can be ordered are preconfigured in the EB database, Ott is of the opinion that the Advanced Typical Manager will provide yet another level of configuration: based on the functions requested by the customer, which are perfectly comprehensible, it enables the documentation of the entire plant virtually at the press of a button - without detailed knowledge of electrical engineering. Photographs: teaser fotolia, others aucotec www.aucotec.com AUTOMATION TECHNOLOGIES 4/2016