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With the PlantPAx DCS as a Higher-Level Process Control System, a "Smart Factory" Has Been Realized

PlantPAx DCS enables diagnosis and engineering-friendly operation of a ZIPPE batch plant

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  • Erection and commissioning of a high-availability and extremely powerful batch plant within the timespan of only one year
  • Connection of external systems such as a special electronic weighing system and barcode readers
  • Setting up of a fully redundant system



  • Cross-discipline solution
  • Integration
  • Simple and quick implementation of external systems
  • High availability
  • Simple scalability

Within the international glass industry, ZIPPE is renowned as the contact of choice for batch and cullet plants. Owner-operated in its fourth generation, the company was formed in 1920 and supplies everything from one source – from planning up to commissioning. 45 experienced individuals are responsible for the realization of modern, high-performance automation and control systems at ZIPPE.

"Within our industry, successfully completed reference projects are frequently the deciding factor for being awarded an order… or not. It is therefore imperative that we deliver systems with a high level of availability, and which are efficient and easy to operate," states Department Head Joachim Ullrich, who places great value in selecting suitable hardware and software solutions.

Glass production plants usually remain in operation for ten, twelve years – without interruption. And even if the plant "only" has to run for 16 of 24 hours, longer shutdown periods are still not an option.

"A maximum of three hours, then production has to continue," confirms Joachim Ullrich, explaining that reliably functioning systems are one of the main requirements of the glass industry, especially as the ZIPPE plants are directly connected with the center of the entire production system: the glass melting furnace.

"We take care of everything that has to happen prior to this step, from the delivery of the raw materials to their dosage and weighing, in some cases requiring precision to the exact gram," describes the Head of the Electrical Engineering and Process Automation Department.

Across the almost 100 year corporate history, a total of approximately 600 batch plants as well as more than 1,000 cullet plants have been designed and implemented by ZIPPE in accordance with customer requirements.


ZIPPE is globally renowned for a wide range of skills. The ability to modernize existing plants during continuous operation is one of the major strengths of the Wertheim-based company. Plant designs, which provide precisely what the final customer envisages, are another "specialty of the house."

In the course of a "Greenfield project" in France, ZIPPE was contracted to deliver a batch plant with mechanical conveyor technology and a cullet return system. With regard to execution of this project, the following requirements had to be met: the plant should be designed to supply two furnaces with a total of 130 tonnes of mixture in 16 hours.

Output reserves were requested and the facility should allow three different types of feeding – Big-Bag filling, filling with silo trucks and mechanical loading. The plant had to be erected within one year and put into operation with the supreme satisfaction of the final customer.

Last but not least, the utilization of the PlantPAx DCS as a higher-level process control system was demanded.This should ensure a uniform look and feel at all operating and monitoring stations of the entire factory.


The PlantPAx system is virtually predestined for sensitive applications, in which reliable around-the-clock operation is a requirement. This is due to the fact that this process control solution not only guarantees a high level of availability via the redundancy of system components, but also by means of a device level ring topology in the EtherNet/IP network.

"The major advantage of PlantPAx is that it acts across different disciplines and combines the different areas – i.e. the continuous furnace control and the batch plant – into a joint network. And devices that actually communicate over a different protocol, such as the electronic systems for weighing or the barcode reader, can also be easily integrated into the higher-level process control system," states Joachim Ullrich, visibly satisfied with an engineering-friendly solution which enabled ZIPPE to make an entire batch plant with mechanical equipment, conveyor belts, feed units, motors, worm drives, a large 4,000 liter mixer, and the entire automation technology, including control cabinets, fully operational in only one year.

"Shortly after we were awarded the order, Rockwell was there and actively supported us in the selection of the appropriate components and in the design of the plant network," remembers the Head of the Electrical Engineering and Process Automation Department at ZIPPE. "The final customer is very satisfied with what we have realized together," he adds, especially because enough reserves were planned and included on the system.

The first small expansion, to integrate an additional raw material weighing system into the PlantPAx, has already been implemented.


The pre-furnace silo, that is, the silo upstream of the glass melting furnace, demands replenishment in a fully automated manner if a certain threshold value has been on the batch plant. The supplies of sand, soda and chalk are generally among the most important ingredients found in the production of glass and must be 100 percent according to the recipe.

The ZIPPE batch plants, however, need to potentially also weigh other ingredients – in some cases with to-the-gram precision. "Every single one of our customers has his own special and secret recipe, i.e. in which mixing ratio the raw materials are contained in his glass. The important thing is that the individual components are weighed most precisely and within a certain period.

This enables, for example, a new batch to be produced every four minutes," explains Joachim Ullrich. Consequently, in addition to the "calling signal" of the pre-furnace silo, the weight signal of the weighing vessel is one of the most important pieces of information processed by the PlantPAx distributed control system.

Furthermore, this higher-level intelligence ensures that the silos are loaded correctly. "With technical aids we exclude, for example, that sand ends up in the soda silo. By scanning the barcodes on the delivered raw materials, the control system sets the correct path. A wrong selection is then no longer possible," emphasizes the ZIPPE department head, highlighting a valuable feature that helps the final user avoid errors.

The PlantPAx DCS also shows itself to be very user-friendly when it comes to monitoring adjustable frequency drives. Drives are displayed on the visualization stations by means of icons and faceplates and managed on the asset management level.

In addition, disaster recovery functionality enables the system to automatically backup and restore the drive configuration as well as logging of changes. Extensive diagnostic information is delivered directly to the user on the HMI level.

The major advantage of PlantPAx is that it acts across different disciplines and combines the different areas – i.e. the continuous furnace control and the batch plant – into a joint network

"The PlantPAx Process Library contains ready-to-use control and diagnostic objects. This allows the entire production process to be easily monitored. Thanks to a seamless EtherNet/IP network structure, the technicians can route through right up to the variable frequency drives to retrieve individual variables or current signal states," says Joachim Ullrich, stating the benefits of the PlantPAx faceplates for diagnostics and maintenance. Alarm indication and parameterization are also simplified by the Process Library.

By utilizing PlantPAx as a higher-level process control system, a modern "Smart Factory" for the production of brown glass bottles and ampoules has been erected in France.

It is intelligently and redundantly networked via EtherNet/IP and offers real-time visibility on all the currently running production processes. It is simple to expand and offers a wide range of connection options. Thanks to PlantPAx, all operating stations exhibit a uniform look and feel and standardized icons for visualization purposes.

This reference project has entered into operation as scheduled. "We generally want to ensure that our customers can get started with the plants supplied by us as soon as possible. This is why we test all control systems in detail before they leave the company. We work with virtual production data, enter different recipes, produce thousands of batches and simulate, for example, an entire monthly production in order to avoid any ambiguities or errors in advance," reveals the Head of the Electrical Engineering and Process Automation Department at ZIPPE.

Well, PlantPAx has passed these tests with exceptional results. It is therefore no wonder that Joachim Ullrich is thinking of increasingly utilizing this process automation solution in ZIPPE's batch and cullet plants.

Allen-Bradley and PlantPAx are trademarks of Rockwell Automation Inc.


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