In any industry, modernisation should always be seen as a massive opportunity, as opposed to an industry-mandated or legislation-driven trend.
This is especially true in the chemicals industry, where older technology reduces flexibility, gives limited access and visibility to vital, real-time processing and manufacturing data and does not offer any form of contemporary standardisation for both legislative purposes and future upgrades.
An upwards evolution from less capable legacy hardware – and in some cases paper-based reporting solutions – can deliver almost instantaneous benefits, including improved flexibility, greater process agility, more streamlined and cost efficient operations and of course, the all-important ability to collect and act upon both real-time and historical manufacturing data.
The same argument can be made for processes running so-called black box solutions, which may have reached the end of their useful life, facing obsolescence and spare part issues or are simply not capable of addressing the demands of modern consumers and contemporary market forces.
As a result, whether launching a new plant or revitalising an aging plant, chemical producers must prioritise investments around the technologies that deliver the best ROI to solve their most pressing business challenges.
One company facing this legacy-technology situation specialises in the development, production and marketing of adhesives, cladding, sealing and insulation solutions, epoxy, decorative paints and coatings and acrylic adhesives. The company realised that it had to update its process and automation solutions in order to maintain its position in a competitive market.
In light of this realisation, it employed the services of Tomatic Ltd., an Israeli system integrator that specialises in the field of process automation and the management of production systems for industrial plants. Tomatic, in turn, presented a solution that was supplied and supported by Rockwell Automation.
Together with the end customer, they worked towards the development and deployment of a full Rockwell Automation® Digital Process control system that would give the customer the ability to leverage the benefits of The Connected Enterprise, which provides all the necessary hardware, software and connectivity capabilities to create an Industrie 4.0-compatible solution.
The first challenge the company was facing was its use of obsolete hardware, which was already presenting risks due to the unavailability of spares. In addition, its SCADA solution was based on Windows XP, which was no longer receiving security updates. Finally, its batch control solution was primarily based on manual inputs, using legacy, tailor-made software and programming. Not only did this present flexibility issues, but it was difficult to export parameters in order to generate reports and spot trends. The customer also had very limited capabilities to create new recipes.