Case Study: Creating a Better User Experience using PlantPAx

At times, we work with partner engineering firms to help them with projects that may be outside of their normal scope of offerings. Here’s how Matrix Technologies successfully helped a small engineering firm move a manual process to a fully-automated process using PlantPAx.

The Problem

When a latex carpet company needed help moving their manual chemical mixing process to a fully-automated process control system, they approached another Midwest engineering firm (an original equipment manufacturer) for help. While this OEM was able to help the company with some of their needs, creating a chemical mixing process using PlantPax (a Rockwell ControlLogix Platform requested by the customer) was a task slightly outside of their normal scope of operations. So, the OEM engaged Matrix Technologies for our PLC/HMI and automation expertise.

Because Matrix was not dealing directly with the chemical company, our team faced many challenges, including:

• A condensed schedule (about 50-75% of the time we would normally need to complete the project)

• A poorly defined process with no existing PLC program or HMI application

• Disorganized IO (input/output) from the customer

To get started, the engineering firm sent our team the electrical drawings, device lists, and piping and instrumentation diagrams they had put together. They also gave our team a basic description of the different sequences that would need to be run in the system. However, because they had put together each document at a different part in their process, some of the information was not updated properly. In order to continue on to the programming stage, our team had to first create consistency among these documents, which required a lot of back-and-forth conversations (not only with the client but also between our Maumee, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis locations) to update all the drawings. This process, of course, further complicated our short timeline.

Once we had completed and updated all of the drawings, lists, and diagrams, the customer asked our team to program all the devices and add specific automated sequences into the program. With no existing PLC program or HMI application, this meant creating a new program from scratch, which can be quite time-consuming. Plus, when writing entirely original code, it is possible to create a process that is disjointed with variable inputs, which can be confusing for the end user.

Fortunately, we have the expertise to save time creating the program, do it well, and make the entire program easy for the end user to understand and execute. In this case, our expertise in PlantPAx was an incredibly valuable asset for this job.

The Solution: PlantPAx

Creating the program using PlantPAx provided us the best results in the shortest amount of time. PlantPAx is a library of control objects developed by Rockwell Automation that is most commonly used to integrate process-based control systems. With the pre-made, segmented code provided by the PlantPAx Process Library, our team could start programming PlantPAx templates for each device and link up inputs and outputs to this code.

Using these PlantPax templates, we created code to control each device. Once the control code for each device was in place, we created automated sequence code to run the process automatically. Our next step was to write simulation code that would make the HMI screens imitate what the end user would view during normal process operation. We conducted some quick testing in the office and ran a FAT (factory acceptance task) at the OEM office with the end user customer to ensure everything was working properly and acceptably. The customers (end users) at the chemical company loved the look and feel of the screen interactions as well as the functionality PlantPAx provided.

Why PlantPAx?

As is demonstrated in this chemical company case, PlantPAx can help process-based clients standardize their controls system. The advantage for the programmer is that PlantPAx standardizes the code, reduces troubleshooting, and minimizes the time to create control code. For the client, the advantage is that the standardized system makes it easier to understand and control all parts of the system and reduces maintenance and troubleshooting time. The end product is a system with high functionality and smooth interactions that leave the customer satisfied and confident that their systems are under control.

Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about what our process engineers can do for you, contact Tom Hudson, Engineer 4, (419) 897-7200 x 345.

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