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Industrial Digitalization

The next phase of industrialisation is here, or that is what they say atleast. Is industry 4.0 really this important for process automation? And what can it do for my company? These might be the questions you have when reading about industry 4.0. Lets see how this whole digitalization concept works and what that part of industry 4.0 can do for your site.

The basics of plant digitalization

When we look at the basics of engineering, often the engineer will receive data and enter it into his own engineering tool. This can then be made into a be a P&ID, a load list, software designs or construction drawings depending on the engineers task. When something in the  changes after an engineer has done some work, the engineer will need to redo that part of his work to incorporate the changes. This could then lead to other engineers having to redo their work. 

This could all change when using engineering is done using a digitalization tool. But the engineering advantages are not the only advantages you can gain from using digitalization tools. More advantages come from as-built documentation updates and work processes that can be carried out through an up to date state of the plant.

Using digitalization in the engineering process

When using digitalization in the engineering process, the effect of using an engineering database is almost always seen as a limitation by the engineering staff. This is because the engineers will be required to work using a common interface and understanding of concepts. At first this is difficult because it requires change, but the benefits will far outweigh the difficulties.

Engineering documentation is one of the first thing to benefit from using digitalization. Because the documents are generated from the engineering database, whenever an object needs to change, the documentation is automatically updated. The documents that can be linked are usually the following:

  • P&ID
  • Cabinet design
  • Load Lists
  • FEED
  • Order lists
  • Equipment lists
  • Instrumentation lists
  • Software license lists
  • All other E&I documentation

The added benefit of integrated(database driven) engineering is that the objects are linked throughout all the documents. Which means that if you have a digital document the objects are linked to all the other documents in the system. The added benefit being, you can easily navigate from from the object drawn on one document to its representation on all other documents.

COMOS Documentation

COMOS Engineering

How does it work?

When creating documents or other output data from a database driven engineering tool, first of all you will need to create a project in the database. To that project you can then add the individual components that make up the project. These object come in their final element name, like a pump or valve. To these elements you can then add any engineering data or physical data you would like to associate with the object. When that is all entered into the database, engineers can start doing their work.

When an engineer then select a pump that he ordered base on the specs in the database, he can add the data from the actual pump into the database. The information will belong to that pump object, and all engineers using that pump object in their work will see the changes made to it.

So when an electrical engineer has created a circuit diagram, he will immediately see the new pump appear on his circuit diagram if it was already added to the diagram. The object can be linked to a power source in the circuit diagram, upon doing that the interconnection information is also update in the database. So when the cabling list is created it now can determine the length of cable needed, and what number the cable has. 

When the cabinet is now drawn, and the engineer hooks the pump controls up to a particular motor drive unit, the system save that data in the database. Because the database now has the information on which motor is connected to which DU, when generating the software, the software now automatically gets the symbol information on the particular DU. This means the software engineer no longer has to add the symbols for channels. When the data now changes, all drawings and data is automatically changed with it. So no engineer has to redo work, they just need to check the changes and approve.

What about the software engineering?

Software engineering is based on typicals ans logic constructions. The first side of this arrangement is a pure database driven assignment. When creating the elements in the database, all the elements have their software representation already built into the prototype. This means that when a base pump is added to the database, a link to the software generation system is added. It will now tell the software generation tool to generate a particular pump typical to the software.

Logic can also be generated from the database, but it is more of an engineering document. So a step/transition plan can be created in the database, this way we can add logical step and link the elements that  have to execute tasks to it. So in fact, when using database driven engineering, 90% of the software can be generated from the database.

Which benefits are there for a site?

When this project goes to site, all the engineering data is in the database. On commissioning things will often change, and so the documentation needs to change as well. With the database, you can also decide to complete commissioning and load all the data back to the database. The documentation will now automatically be updated, so a reprint will make all the documents as-built.

When a site would like to use the system, there can be a lot more benefits, like maintenance systems and training systems. Because all the location data is entered in the database, a 3d picture can be generated. With certain tools, you can then use Virtual Reality to create an interactive training system for maintenance engineers. They can now practice replacing certain parts onsite without actually having to be onsite.

So database driven projects really are the future, it makes life easier for all people involved. Industrial digitalization is one of the key concepts of Industry 4.0, and will really make a difference.


iAUTOMATION is een automatiseringsspecialist die zich richt op industriële automatisering, ICT en de koppelingen tussen deze twee werkvelden. Met vele jaren ervaring in de industriële automatisering en ICT wereld is iAUTOMATION een volwassen partner waar u wat aan heeft.

iAUTOMATION verzorgt complete projecten voor de industriële automatiseringswereld met een specialiteit in PCS 7 consultancy en engineering. Maar ook andere systemen zijn bij ons bekend en kunnen door iAUTOMATION geïmplementeerd worden. 

Met kennis van virtualisatie, netwerken, domeinen en ICT beheer is iAUTOMATION ook een zeer geschikte partner voor al uw ICT vragen en projecten. Wij zullen u altijd met veel enthousiasme en kennis bijstaan in uw projecten, en proberen onze klant te ontzorgen door pro actief en positief uw project aan te pakken.

    About the author

    Dennis is Technical Director at iAUTOMATION, where he is responsible for all the technical queries and technical solutions that iAUTOMATION provide. Dennis also helps customers and the iAUTOMATION consultants with the technical side of projects and designs. Dennis has a lot of experience with process control systems and IT infrastructure, this is why his experience is key in projects that include both these areas of expertise like MES, virtualization and process automation projects.

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