Design is a fleeting but important period in the life of an automation system, and with every new innovation, it’s an ever-changing landscape.
It takes a diverse team, from OEMs to system integrators to engineers, working together to solve the difficult problems and guide a new idea along its journey to final product.
During my recent talk at RSTechED in Orlando, Fla., this week, I shared some thoughts with our customers and partners about how they can revolutionize the design journey by taking advantage of several collaboration capabilities that lead to improved Automation Productivity, which is a comprehensive approach to integrated control system design, operations and maintenance that extends the capabilities of an information-enabled environment.
Control systems are evolving to help you and your teams collaborate more effectively, with new workflows and high-level capabilities in control system software that can help you accomplish more in less time.
You need scalable, cost-effective ways to address increasingly complex product designs and related processes. It’s all about efficiency, and control system users can better align their systems with how they actually design, operate and maintain their manufacturing applications.
And let’s face it, control design without clear organization can cause significant challenges later – especially for complex applications.
One way to address this challenge is by taking advantage of modular design – a system that’s not modularly designed takes longer to integrate, troubleshoot and maintain. Investment in good, systematic design pays dividends for the long haul – and that’s the case whether you’re an end user, OEM or system integrator.
Today’s managed computer languages use object-oriented programming to simplify complex applications. That same breakdown into modular objects and defined interfaces is now being leveraged in contemporary automation platforms.
With a modular approach, both the functional expert writing the detailed code and the application expert using the code library to design a project can interface with the control environment in a logical, productive way.
Functional experts today do a great job writing code and building systems – but when it comes to organizational structure, current automation environments often fall short. Modularity provides the basis for efficient design – and optimal ways to write, test and organize code.
On the other hand, application experts simply want to view the design environment in a way that makes sense from the perspective of the application. To meet this need, modular capabilities and good system organization are leveraged to provide an interface that is visually aligned with the process, production line and/or machine. This role-based interface allows application experts to design their system in line with how the machine or line is actually laid out.
Modularity supports better control system organization – and delivers benefits during operations and maintenance cycles as well. Providing contextualized information when users need it is more efficient. It allows end users to logically find what they need, troubleshoot code – and recover more quickly from downtime. It improves production throughput and lowers total cost of ownership.
For OEMs and system integrators, this means not only faster design and development cycles – but also machines and systems that deliver better, more predictable performance and are easier to use and maintain. When a machine or system is based on modular design, it is inherently more productive and cost-effective throughout its operating life.
Good modular design breaks down code to its most simplistic form – to modular objects that can also be easily stored and reused. And reusable objects are valuable intellectual property. Extending the use of these objects is becoming increasingly important to automation system users industry wide.
Modular object capabilities make the initial design process more efficient – and combined with effective content management and workflows – enable the duplication of those objects.
Being able to repurpose modular objects means users can duplicate a system, line or machine – or add to it – more quickly. Reusing objects also drives standardization and can reduce project risk.
And when collaborative engineering supports good modular design and system organization, applications that are more intuitive to operate and maintain are the result.
For more information about modular design and other automation productivity strategies, you can learn more about our Studio 5000® automation and engineering design environment. To find more about what’s going on at RSTechED, visit our event web site.