Process Control Process Control Remotely Accessed
Inprotec manufactures high-quality powders and granulates using continuous fluidized bed granulation and spray drying processes. The company relies on advanced technologies and constantly tries out new production possibilities. This innovative spirit is also reflected in the process control and remote access technology employed.
From detergent additives to feedstuffs, from laboratory batches of 100 grams up to campaigns of 10,000 tons — flexibility is one of the strengths of Inprotec. The company develops and produces high-quality powders and granulates to customer specifications at three locations. It often takes less than six months from the initial idea, through the feasibility study, up to technical implementation. The company has laboratory, pilot and production facilities with an annual production capacity of over 100,000 tons. Inprotec manages the contract manufacturing process as an integrated service approach with a focus on customers and their products. Together, ideas are developed and then quickly and reliably realized based on the company’s wealth of experience.
In addition to its headquarters in Heitersheim, Inprotec also operates plants in Leverkusen and Genthin, all in Germany. The multi-purpose facilities, spray granulators and spray drying towers are specially adapted for the specific contract manufacturing task — and optimally matched to the corresponding product by the in-house workshops. As the head of the “Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems” department, Uwe Kirschner is responsible for all of the electrical and electronic systems in the Genthin factory. He is also responsible for the control technology in both Genthin and Leverkusen. “Depending on the campaign, we change over our fluidized bed granulators five to six times a year,” explains Kirschner. “Our trained personnel carry out all the necessary work — from converting the machine through the electrics up to the process control technology.” Kirschner is responsible for planning, engineering and commissioning the entire automation.
Even before Inprotec took over the Genthin site in 2009, the Simatic PCS 7 process control system from Siemens was used to control and monitor the granulators. It was introduced as early as 2001 by the owner of the factory at that time, the Henkel Group. With the takeover, the automation systems were systematically expanded, based on Siemens technology. Kirschner accompanied the individual steps from the beginning: “We started with Simatic S5 controllers and version 5.1 of Simatic PCS 7. Now we have redundant OS servers, a web and a process historian server as well as eleven clients in Genthin.” The entire production, including energy management, is now integrated into Simatic PCS 7. Thanks to the redundant OS servers, controller programs can be modified without incurring any standstill. “And with the current order situation, we also cannot afford interruptions,” adds Kirschner.
Efficient Engineering Due to Standardized Software
Efficiency is just as important as flexibility in contract manufacturing. The Genthin and Leverkusen factories are therefore always kept at the same version level with regard to process control. “This significantly simplifies planning at both plants, especially when taking into consideration the frequent conversions,” explains Kirschner. The standard “Advanced Process Library (APL)”, introduced with version 7 of the Siemens process control system, also ensures efficient engineering and operation. With regard to automation technology, each Inprotec plant is implemented using this block library. Standardized software functions are available for all process engineering tasks. These function blocks facilitate easy and reliable engineering, and form the basis for uniform process control and visualization across all sites. Especially when it comes to the flexibility demanded and the frequent campaign changes, this form of standardization is an important lever to achieve a high efficiency — and a factor that contributes to implementing customer requirements in a short period of time.
At the individual sites, powders or granulates are manufactured from solid, liquid, paste-like or dusty raw materials — either continuously or batch-wise using various methods. The properties of the end products depend on the methods used. To obtain an optimal yield at the highest product quality, the plant operators monitor and control the processes using Siemens control technology. Thanks to regularly performed system updates, Inprotec benefits from new possibilities. “Since version 8.2, we have been using trend curves, which can be called up directly from the process image for each measuring point. Based on these the trend curves, our plant operators can derive the next process sequences at any time and, if necessary, proactively adjust it by hand,” states an appreciative Kirschner. This function is used by the operators just as much as the commenting function, which allows notes to be entered across shifts directly at the measuring point.