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Best Practices for Virtualization in Process Automation

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The aspect of remote access also plays a role in the chemical industry, e.g. in “unmanned” air separation plants, which are remotely monitored and operated from a central control room. The special features here are:

  • compact, economical and energy-saving design of the individual plants each in a virtual environment;
  • secure monitoring of numerous plants from the central remote operation center (ROC) by means of a remote protocol on the individual (unmanned) plants;
  • local availability of all control system functions when work is performed on site.

Real vs Virtual Plant – Benefits and Risks

Virtualization is an innovative technology used to implement user requirements in modern control system structures. However, it is not a panacea and it cannot be used effectively in all environments and in all situations. The most important requirements for operating a process control system in a virtual environment are a good IT infrastructure and suitably trained personnel.

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This means that although the initial investment is higher, only project-specific benefits are gained in the short term. In the long run, however, the investment pays off in many cases over the life cycle of the plant due to reduced operating costs. The mechanisms of the real world have to be transferred carefully to the virtual environment, because a real plant is running with real consequences in the background.

In short, today’s answer to the question is not “real or virtual,” but rather “real and virtual”.

* The authors are Marketing Managers Simatic PCS 7, Siemens Industry Sector, Karlsruhe/Germany.

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