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Modular automation: ABB leading in the MTP development

Positive customer feedback from pilot project for ABB’s modularization solution based on ABB AbilityTM System 800xA

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Large-scale automation systems have been at the heart of production line control for decades. Now, driven by changes in consumer demands, an alternative plug and produce modular automation approach is emerging. For many production lines, particularly in the pharmaceutical, fine chemical and food processing sectors, modular-enabled automation could be the cornerstone of bringing to life the concepts embodied in the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. Modularization of process automation systems will help reduce time to market, increase automation efficiency and improve production flexibility. Modular Automation is the right solution for process industries that are facing market requirements such as more customized products, shorter delivery times and smaller batch series down to batch size 1.

In the publicly-funded ENPRO 2.0 ORCA project, ABB has joined forces together with 8 partners such as plant operators, automation vendors, module manufacturers, system integrators, universities and authorities to derive integrating concepts for modular, intelligent and flexible production plants. In several pilot installations at the project partners Evonik, Merck, TU Dresden and TU Dortmund, the basic feasibility of the module concept is developed for orchestration, authority engineering and virtual commissioning of modular systems. As a result, the interfaces and information models developed in the project are actively incorporated into current standardization work at NAMUR, ProcessNet, ZVEI, GMA and DKE.

Two pilot plants with project partner Evonik have used the ABB Orchestration Designer together with ABB Ability™ System 800xA as Process Orchestration Layer (POL) prototype to operate the process and orchestrate the intelligent modules: a membrane test plant with three automation modules automated with WAGO controllers, and a reaction pilot plant with six automation modules automated with PHOENIX controllers, which is likely to be the largest modular pilot plant in the market today.

Evonik tested and evaluated the ABB Process Orchestration Layer prototype and saw a great potential regarding to services handling and recipe based on services among and would like to continue the collaboration with ABB in a future research project.

“Evonik believes in MTP and the Modular Plants concept as a future standard and potential game changer for the process industry, addressing time-to-market and flexibility challenges. We invest in the standardization of MTP as well as in various applications realized with different partners, among them ABB. In two different pilot plants, Evonik and ABB jointly demonstrated that the orchestration of modules using MTP is working technically. Within this cooperation, ABB proved to be leading in the MTP development, implementing the latest standards in its prototype in an extremely fast manner including a recipe engine which is based on the service concept as well as process orchestration for modules from different suppliers. We will be pleased to work with ABB on further projects and to collaborate on improving MTP technology.”
Igor Stolz, Head of electrical and process controls, Evonik Operations GmbH

Customizing of both the products made and the production quantities brings major competitive advantages for plant owners in terms of flexibility and time to market. The concept also allows rapid changes in deployment of production assets, to make specific product types and volumes when and where needed.

ABB is continuing to lead the implementation of Modular Automation technology: based on ABB AbilityTM System 800xA as a solution for world-scale production, the technology is now enabled to interface with smaller, independent modules providing the building block approach which defines modular automation. The new solution also offers seamless integration with many existing systems, offering less downtime during implementation. The result is less support and troubleshooting and an improvement of run-time within the plant.

Igor Stolz, Head of electrical and process controls, Evonik Operations GmbH

"Within this cooperation, ABB proved to be leading in the MTP development, implementing the latest standards in its prototype in an extremely fast manner..."

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