Do you want tighter control of your production lines, but can’t afford to install a controller for every line? Wish you could gather more data on your manufacturing process or integrate remote process data with on-site real-time feedback? PLC controls, combined with real-time Ethernet, networking, and distributed controls are breaking down barriers and increasing your possibilities.
Control Engineering explores what this means for manufacturers in this article about the expanded capabilities of PLC Controls. If you have the bandwidth, PLC’s can be used to increase connectivity between ERP’s, MES, and plant operations by supporting multiple protocols. Network availability becomes the paramount factor to maintain these capabilities. Data protection and transmission, quick recovery, and redundancy must be carefully planned for.
How To Achieve Expanded PLC Controls Capabilities
Distributed PLC helps reduce the required number of components, making it more cost effective, and allows various form factors to be used on one system. A modular design to PLC controls provides a quick, flexible solution that can be easily expanded in the future. Standardization is not lost, because the same PLC can be used to control the automation.
Demand on the PLC is actually reduced in this setup by distributing I/O across the plant on-machine or in-cabinet, which in turn reduces network traffic. The distributed controls can handle many common requests without having to contact the PLC. This control set up can also be applied to remote sites, avoiding the potential pitfalls of hard-wiring.
So what does this all mean for manufacturers? It means being able to monitor more technologies (i.e. RFID, SSID) and having better data logging, code identification systems, analog signal processing, and machine vision systems, all communicating through one central PLC hub. In other words, instead of having to integrate the systems multiple times, PLC’s can be used to communicate with all of them.