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Software workstations replace PLCs in ‘breakthrough’

08 May, 2024

At the Automate 2024 show in the US, Siemens has unveiled a “breakthrough” software-based workstation technology that is designed to replace traditional hardware PLCs, HMIs and edge devices. The company is hailing its Simatic Workstation as a “breakthrough in the longstanding challenge of closely managing numerous hardware control points throughout the factory”. The technology ushers IT workflows into OT (operational technology) environments, it adds.

The car-maker Ford will be the first customer to deploy and scale the new technology at several of its manufacturing sites.

The Workstation can be viewed and managed from a central point, with programming, updates and patches all being deployed to an entire fleet in parallel, ensuring that shopfloors remain in synch. Siemens compares this to traditional approach based on hardware PLCs which are scattered across plants, with each one requiring individual programming to keep it current, secure and aligned with the other PLCs.

One example of the potential benefits of the new technology will be when a facility needs to ramp up or down production rapidly in response to fluctuating demand. Manufacturers will no longer be tied to shopfloor boxes and will be able to reprogram an installation speedily to suit the new demand.

The Workstation uses Siemens’ industrial edge technology to deliver high data throughputs with the low latency that will allow manufacturers to run a variety of modular applications. This applies not only to traditional automation tasks such as motion control, sequencing and safety, but will also become a platform for future, novel automation tasks incorporating industrial AI-in-the-control-loop – such as visual inspection, and robotic grasping and placing.

“In times of volatility in demand and supply, manufacturers can no longer be tied to boxes on the floor that need to be updated individually – and manually,” explains Del Costy, president and managing director of Siemens Digital Industries in the US. “Centralised management is the best option for increasing visibility and security for manufacturers managing a high number of automation control points. This makes automation highly scalable and changes the game for how factories can be managed.

Ford will be the first user to deploy and scale the new Simatic Workstation technology
Image: Ford

“We have arrived at a moment where we are only limited by our imaginations,” he adds.

The Simatic Workstation is the newest addition to the Siemens Xcelerator digital business platform and will be adapted to serve other industries and customers.

Siemens:  Twitter  LinkedIn  Facebook




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