Batch Process, Standardization, Flexibility

Batch Process, Standardization, Flexibility

20. October 2016

Pick the odd one out:

Answer: ……………………………………………………..

“a person or thing that is different from or kept apart from others that form a group or set” is the definition given by Cambridge dictionary for ‘the odd one out’.

I would pick Flexibility, because standardization and Batch process goes hand in hand whereas Flexibility and Standardization in most cases are opposite poles. It is a general belief among Automation engineers that Batch process automation is complex and involves lots time and effort. This is from engineering point of view. What is it from the customer’s point of view? With the new developments in the Automation such as Modular Automation along with initiatives like Namur MTP we are looking in to a future where Automation modules are to be handled like an USB device. “Plug & Play” analogies from IT industry can be heard everywhere. So how flexible should our engineering environment be to adapt to such developments?

Is the solution End-User Development (EUD) or End-User programming (EUP) giving the end-user themself the flexibility to modify their own plant by visual programming methods? A simple example is Lego Mindstroms, connect blocks together, drag and drop objects in the software, program them and download to hardware. F3Batch is such a conceptual software idea aiming towards such level of flexibility to customers.

Where are we now?

Solution to such questions is addressed by Modular Automation and various standardization procedures of the engineering workflow.

Modular Automation is a key part of the solution. Building components of the process as modules or Templates or Library component with Generic variables and then instantiating them is the new trend in not only the automation industry but also in the process industry. The concept might not be new but the capabilities of the Modular Automation are being experimented by lots of us now and are in constant development. I had an interesting conversation with an experienced fellow vendor during a meeting, he explained me his version of Modular automation using advancements in other industries like IT, If he buys a new printer or a new USB device, he is able to connect it to his computer, install the driver, the device is recognized automatically and he is able to use the device immediately. This for him should be the future in our automation industry and I believe that the first step towards such development is Namur MTP.

Regarding Standardization of work process my personal opinion is that creating a sample for an engineer to blindly follow will not solve the problem rather they should act as guidelines to help the engineer throughout the engineering process hence reducing errors and resulting in the best possible outcome for every situation. Initiatives like VP Batch Template are aiming towards achieving this

What’s missing? Flexibility?!?!

Now let’s go one step outwards from the solutions and think where the flexibility factor which is addressed in the title comes in. Which kind of flexibility we have? Let’s say a manufacturer wants a new unit in their process to increase production, with Modular Automation the customer can integrate the new unit with just few clicks in the system or like a customer of ours create a whole new plant with just “one click”. This level of flexibility is at this moment is achievable in our industry.

What should we aim for? Let’s say the unit is completely different from existing, we still have to start from the modeling process, which in turn starts requires the vendor to change or create new modules defeating the purpose making “Flexibility ” as the grey member of the group. We should search for the solution from the modeling process and to reduce engineering the module itself, we should be able to create a module based on a model where I can already start my standardization/Compliance process. How to do this modeling? Where to do this modeling? How can I make it flexible for a small/medium scale manufacturer without any complex programming?

Here comes End-User Development (EUD) or End-User programming (EUP) comes into play, with which a customer should be able to have to ability to change or create a new unit, modify his procedure and recipes without complex programming. This is what Yokogawa is experimenting on with our “F3 Batch Concept” trying to give the customers full authority with maximum flexibility over their process.

Now you can ask me at this point “Where are we going with this?” Well we are just trying to understand how to solve a situation where in a process change is a normal everyday operation. After all as Heraclitus said “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change”.

Are there already some industries with this kind of processes? What are the present situations and solutions? Share with me your thoughts and opinions. Leave a comment.

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