Benefits of DCS for Hybrid Industries versus Conventional PLC Approach: Your questions answered

Webcast presenters Jerry Espy, Frank Prendergast, and Jerry Bartlemay answered questions about topics such as cybersecurity risk, the emergency of the IIoT, and component and module integration.
By Jerry Espy, Frank Prendergast, Jerry Bartlemay, Schneider Electric August 13, 2018

The "Benefits of DCS for Hybrid Industries versus Conventional PLC Approach?" webcast was presented live on Aug. 7, 2018, by Jerry Espy, Frank Prendergast, and Jerry Bartlemay from Schneider Electric. The webcast can be found here. They supplied written answers to some of those questions that weren’t addressed from the webcast attendees:

Jerry Espy, U.S. Product Marketing Manager, Schneider Electric. Courtesy: Schneider ElectricFrank Prendergast, System Architect, Schneider Electric. Courtesy: Schneider ElectricJerry Bartlemay, System and Architecture Expert, Schneider Electric. Courtesy: Schneider Electric

Question: When will we see an industrial PC (IPC) play important role in industrial automation?

Answer: IPCs are designed to live in the same rugged environment as programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and programmable automation controllers (PACs) and provide higher reliability and availability than commercial PCs.

Webcast presenters Jerry Espy, Frank Prendergast, and Jerry Bartlemay answered questions about topics such as cybersecurity risk, the emergency of the IIoT, and component and module integration. Courtesy: Schneider ElectricQ: The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is going to be implemented in sensors and transducers and will overtake wired components. So far, we didn’t see a common standard. How can vendors, integrators, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) avoid a mess?

A: IIoT is an emerging technology. As with any newer technology, standards are all over the map. As vendors and users collaborate over time these standards will coalesce into a less confusing set that will make it easier to define proper architectures.

Q: You mentioned peer-to-peer for moving controls over the controllers. But do you have ability to assign input/output (I/O) from one controller to another?

A: Not directly, but it is certainly not difficult to read and write I/O states between controllers.

Q: What if you have components that are not made by Schneider?

A: As long as third-party devices use an open protocol hybrid distributed control system (HDCS) will be able to communicate with it and integrate its data into the control system. A user or developer could develop standard object templates to interface with commonly used devices.

Q: What is the level and risk for cybersecurity today?

A: Cybersecurity is becoming as important topic as the control system itself. Schneider Electric takes cybersecurity down to the controller level with features such as encrypted firmware, IPSec communications, IP access control, protocol limiting, password protection at the controller and others. Above the controller, industrial firewalls can provide a high degree of protection. Schneider Electric can also provide a large number of cybersecurity consultancy services to assess customers systems and make recommendations for continuous improvement.

Q: Can I use this in existing 4-20mA output instruments?

A: Certainly. That is the standard for the most part, though we are also seeing intelligent sensors on Ethernet, HART, or Profibus that we also interface with.

Q: Can older imported programs be utilized? Concept, Proworx, etc…

A: EcoStruxure HDCS can import a Unity Pro project resident on a Quantum, M340 or M580 controller. Legacy programs can be migrated to Unity Pro and then integrated into HDCS. HDCS supports LL984 as a native language, so program conversion of ProWORX or Modsoft programs into IEC ladder logic is not necessary. Once imported, Unity Pro from with the HDCS engineering client can be used to maintain those programs, and new objects can be added as part of the HDCS architecture.

Q: How do the Unity, Citect, and PES development teams relate to one another? Do they have a joint long term product road map?

A: Unity Pro and Citect are integral components of EcoStruxure HDCS. The development teams work hand in hand to provide HDCS the features it needs to advance its technology. Of course, this means the standalone versions of Unity Pro and Citect supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) also benefit from these new features.

Q: Is PlantStruxure part of HDCS and how does it differ from EcoStruxure?

A: EcoStruxure was introduced as an architecture in 2010. Its philosophy was to tie together all the disparate businesses of Schneider Electric such as the power, IT, buildings, and industrial businesses, each with their own protocols and business models. PlantStruxure was the subset of EcoStruxure that focused on the industrial business. EcoStuxure HDCS was originally called Plant Struxure Process Expert System, or PES for short. To keep the EcoStruxure philosophy in the forefront, we have rebranded our software products to include the EcoStruxure name.

Q: Can i upload the PLC program to the DCS system? Or does it need full reconfiguration?

A: Not directly. Schneider Electric Services has a program to translate PLC programs into Unity Pro, and quick wiring adapters for several systems to allow the installer to use the original terminal blocks with field wiring attached so no rewiring is necessary when converting to Modicon I/O. If you want to leave the original controller in place, HDCS can certainly communicate with it to read and write data to integrate it into the control scheme.

Q: What operating systems (OS) are supported?

A: EcoStruxure HDCS is supported on Microsoft Windows 7 64 bit, Windows 8.1 64 bit, Windows 10 64 bit and Windows Server 2012 R2.