Process technology industry management at Beckhoff
Much of today’s process technology equipment is still automated centrally. Not only is this kind of solution the most familiar to many users, but there is also a view that it is the most straightforward, as it allows all the field devices in the process control system (DCS) to be monitored and controlled from a single location with a clear overview. As a Bavarian refinery discovered in 2018, however, a setup like this can present issues if the processing unit fails or requires an emergency shutdown. In this particular case, a damaged reactor had caused an explosion – and among the problems this brought to light was the fact that all of the plant’s control process were housed centrally near the reactor. As a result, the entire plant had to be shut down immediately. During the reconstruction work, the refinery opted for a decentralized automation system to prevent the same scenario arising again.
Another challenge increasingly faced by many sectors of the process industry is the fluctuating nature of markets, something that in turn demands faster product development. Plant design also requires more efficiency and flexibility so that small batches can be custom-produced and time to market is kept short. An increasingly popular solution is modular plant engineering, which involves breaking down the plant’s entire process into individual sub-processes and mapping them using modules. With a separate, decentralized controller for each module, complete modularity is achieved. In the final stage, the individual modules are connected to the DCS, providing a complete view of the entire process. As a result, the development work shifts from plant engineering to module engineering, enabling the plant to be flexibly modified to suit the applicable requirements with little effort.
There are, however, other problems that a solution like this presents. Decentralization and modularity increase the number of controllers that need to be connected to the DCS, and more engineering work is required if the controllers come from a range of different manufacturers – meaning less of that much sought-after flexibility.
Beckhoff integrates MTP concept in TwinCAT
One solution that can be used to reduce the amount of work involved in a system is the manufacturer-independent standard for describing process modules: the NAMUR Module Type Package (MTP). The MTP contains all the information necessary to integrate a process module into a modular plant, including functions in the form of services, communication, and an HMI template. Interfaces defined in the MTP guideline enable plug-and-produce behavior, keeping the amount of additional engineering work required to a minimum. Modules are developed only once and can then be integrated into plants independently of the controller manufacturer and the DCS. Beckhoff integrates the MTP concept into the TwinCAT development environment, providing module manufacturers with support thanks to automatic code generation during programming and automatic MTP generation.
The MTP as a cornerstone of development
The MTP is a concept that is capable of allowing process technology plants to leverage maximum potential across the board, from the planning phase through to operation. This makes it a crucial component in the development of future-proof automation systems for the process industry.