Hard-wired electronic control versus full automation
Yesterday is the time for PLCs in electronic control
The industrial world has significantly advanced by leveraging computer power for automation today. However, some still opine that electronic controls for industrial-mechanical applications should remain “hard-wired.” They believe that harvesting the power of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and integrated, expandable automation control related to its use should not be employed when it comes to certain types of machinery and equipment. This argument primarily comes from those experienced with traditional control systems. They are used to working with dials, buttons, and analog readout instruments. Unfamiliar with the power of a fully automated PLC solution and HMI readout, they stress simplicity. Yet, the growing demand for complex processes in turn requires modern automation technology that can handle them. The PLC-based solution for automation control, well-tested now over time, provides numerous benefits in terms of innovation, risk management, and increased efficiency.
Simpler paths to let the PLC centrally handle complexity
A more traditional electronic control system, unable to rely on the central processing power of a PLC, can require far more materials and work. More relays, controllers, and readout instrumentation can be required to handle industrial projects. For example, a data center requiring day tank control to supply diesel fuel backup generators would require significant more relays without a PLC. Without a PLC-based automation control for this system, a constant readout of remaining fuel would also require many more controllers. These additional electronic components and wiring increase the physical complexity. The impact in terms of higher costs of labor would be felt, from the stages of design and building up through the maintenance of the system.
One could make a strong case that if a PLC programmer’s logic is not sound, then yes, the ability to oversee and interact with the system could be a detriment when compared to a simpler hard-wired control process. Again, modern computing and the time-tested expertise behind advanced logic now offers enough PLC hardware and software to make this argument null.
PLC-based electronic control provides the ability to solve most any challenge to automating a process with the right components. One such advantage is making additions and upgrades to an industrial process. A new piece of equipment can be wired into the existing system. The programmable logic controller can be reprogrammed for its accommodation of the new modality.
Modern facilities now controlled through PLCs
If there is a modern industrial or commercial building facility, it is controlled by a PLC through the building management system (BMS). Equipment and machinery, wired one way or another to accomplish whatever process is necessary, is most likely integrated into that BMS.
Once mastered, the PLC’s human machine interface or HMI, allows field engineers to work smarter with more efficiency including Inputs and Outputs for alarm triggers and any kind of level readouts required, such as pressure of an operating steam boiler or fuel tank transfer process. The amount of time troubleshooting can be greatly reduced through programming sequences of operation that help isolate and readily identify the problem. Making the case for PLCs starts with demonstrating how much easier automation control becomes when the controller handles what is complex so the person in charge can focus on other priorities.