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Process Manufacturing

Siemens, Dow partner on process production test bed

The many uses of the digital twins in process automation

By Kevin Parker August 2, 2021
Dow and Siemens demonstrated operation of a process production test bed at MxD, an advanced manufacturing institute and innovation center near downtown Chicago. Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology

In collaboration with Dow, Siemens recently demonstrated operation of a process production test bed at MxD, an advanced manufacturing institute and innovation center near downtown Chicago.

The test bed showcased how innovative software and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) come together with hardware to accelerate digitalization for the process industries. Innovations incorporated in the testbed include that any web browser supporting device can be used to access process-relevant data, such as temperature, level and pressure in near real time, as well as historical information.

The test bed is also meant to demonstrate the efficacy of digital twins. While engineers and others have long used process representations to manage production, the digital twin is a “collaborative representation” that serves as a real-time counterpart of a physical process or object.

“What’s innovative about the test bed is that it demonstrates that integration can be achieved in a uniform way across process operations, but also extending to the enterprise level,” said Iiro Esko, chemical industries manager for Siemens Digital Industries Software.

According to Siemens, most of the process industry operates today on methods and workflows that have remained relatively untouched for the last 30 years. From web-based process control on the plant floor with a tablet, to global collaboration in real time and integrated modular automation, digitalizing the process industries will continue to blur the lines between the digital and real worlds. For the connected mobile worker, augmented reality glasses and tablets can offer digitalized documentation for quicker and easier access to safety manuals and maintenance forms that can boost productivity, R&D and compliance.

As a leading automation supplier, Siemens says it has mastered the digital plant. However, no single solution could possibly provide all that is needed. It therefore offers an eco-system of solutions and systems. What’s key is that all work together to establish a single source of truth for collaboration across the enterprise.

Select automation technology helped Siemens bring the test bed to life. SIMATIC PCS neo process control technology, Siemens’ distributed control system (DCS), provides operators simple and secure access, making remote operation easier than ever before.

Maintenance teams benefit from device-independent access, with actionable diagnostic and maintenance information accessible from tablets, laptops, or multi-monitor stations.

For engineering, efficient web-based collaboration opens new possibilities by allowing the relevant engineering disciplines to work in parallel. Whether it is hardware planning, control logic, or operator displays, all tasks can be engineered in any workflow with flexibility that not only adapts to the availability of staff, but to the location as well.

Integrated into SIMATIC PCS neo, Siemens’ smart field instrumentation oversees the operation of the process and provides advanced health, operation, as well as diagnostic data to ensure reliable and safe operation.

The Siemens Xcelerator portfolio of software and services provides the digital fabric that enabled the test bed design, and in real-world operations things like simulation, virtual commissioning, process operations and planning, quality, as well as analysis of IoT data.


Kevin Parker
Author Bio: Senior contributing editor, CFE Media