Analytical Instrumentation & Environmental Monitoring

Transparent factory concept set to become the future of automation

April 2000 Analytical Instrumentation & Environmental Monitoring

Schneider's Transparent Factory is an open automation framework based on the technologies of the Intranet - specifically TCP/IP.Providing seamless communication between automation, Manufacturing and business systems,Transparent Factory implements existing information technology standards

in all Schneider products.

Linking manufacturing operations with systems throughout the entire enterprise, Transparent Factory is a truly open automation framework - helping users to take advantage of the benefits of plant-level realtime information. It does this by implementing the global standards of Ethernet TCP/IP with a nonproprietary communications stack.

Transparent Factory is not a standalone product - it is an open automation framework that is forging the future of automation. This framework consists of a set of elements, products and functions that will help Schneider's customers to take advantage of the wealth of information which is currently 'buried' on the factory floor in devices such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs), installed I/O and workstations. However, easier access to plant-level information is just the beginning...

Because Transparent Factory uses proven commercial technologies and international standard protocols, Schneider can help companies to save considerable time and money. Using off-the-shelf items such as Ethernet cards, hubs, routers and Web browsers, Transparent Factory lowers costs associated with training, support and infrastructure procurement. In addition, the openness of the architecture allows your automation environment to keep pace with technology.

Eliminating the speed and determinism issues of the past, its Ethernet implementation ensures that automation systems will communicate with optimum efficiency. Using Modbus over the industry standard TCP/IP protocol, the automation framework will allow the user to migrate to 100 MB – even 1GB and faster speeds. This means that no matter what happens with the network infrastructure in a global enterprise, the automation framework will be able to participate without incremental investment.

Regardless of one's position within the organisation, Transparent Factory can help to make the job easier and more productive.

Schneider Electric South Africa made a decidedly bold statement in support of the Transparent Factory philosophy on their stand at Electrex Instrumentation and Control 2000, the business to business exhibition for the process control and instrumentation industries held from 15–17 March at Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg. The company had absolutely no product being shown on the stand!

Talk about transparent! Actually, the 'products' were located in Schneider South Africa's state-of-the-art travelling demo truck (named Apollo) out in the parking lot of the show. The entire stand was web enabled and everything was accessed via a wireless LAN from Lucent Technologies. Demos of Transparent Factory products such as FactoryCast and the Web embedded servers for the Modicon TSX Premium and Modicon TSX Quantum PLCs were made using web browsers and PCs in various stations on the stand.

FactoryCast provides quick and easy access to PLC data through a complete library of built-in, online Data Editors and Templates. In addition, it allows the user to customise their HTML pages for specific needs or applications. Web functions in FactoryCast also include access to the controller's web page through standard browsers, plus the ability to log into preconfigured device diagnostics, I/O configurations, on-line data templates or library tools. Additional flexibility includes the ability to customise security, add HTML user screens with data access and add HTML screens that can hyperlink to other references for system users.

Another example of its leading stance in web automation was in the use of the on-line Schneider Electric South Africa website and its complete electronic catalogue. Using a high-speed colour printer in the stand, customers could select and immediately print high quality, colour copies of brochures for the products they were interested in. Schneider believes that is a powerful message that differentiates it from the competition and demonstrates that the company is as much in the business of providing information as it is in the business of providing solutions and products to the automation industry.

Following Schneider Electric's bold and successful statement in support of the Transparent Factory on its stand at Electrex, the company moved the WWW to the classroom. Leading engineers and businessmen from around the country attended an intense Transparent Factory training program spanning three days.

The primary objective of the training was to train key people from industry on Ethernet technologies and to show how Schneider Electric is supporting these technologies with products, partners and services. The training was conducted by Dirk Rouffaer, Global Business Development Manager for Transparent Factory, Jim Gossland, OPC and TF Product Manager, from Schneider Automation's headquarters in North Andover, USA.

Topics included Ethernet, Ethernet basics and network design, Web-based solutions, embedded server technologies, Java, ASP, XML and ended off with hands on development.

Comments from Schneider Electric's leading customers and system integrators ranged from 'excellent' for overall course content, to recommending to industry that everyone should investigate this technology as well as attend the course.

70% of delegates rated this technology as being the future of automation while the remaining 30% were 80% sure.

Due to the rated success and content, Schneider Electric will run further Transparent Factory training.

For further information, please contact Gary Graham on (011) 254 6443.

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