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Erric Ravi
by on July 14, 2020
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In the initial stages of automation, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) devised control systems with rack-mounted PLC’s, pilot lights, gauges, and push buttons. In recent times though, the vast majority have modified their systems by migrating to operator interface (OI) panels in place of other panel mount components.

In an effort to further lower the cost associated with reactive maintenance, many OEMs are now also including secure remote connectivity to access end user networks to facilitate remote program modifications and analyze equipment performance. In most situations, an OEM machine would consist of an automation panel consisting of a programmable automation controller (PAC), a distributed IO, a touch screen operator interface with data logging, and an industrial security router. The PAC, OI, and router each consist of their own processor, their own installation processes , and their own unique software configuration. Automation control panels integrate the programmable controller functionality and the operator interface into a comprehensive single unit.

Automation panels became popular in the market about 15 years ago. Many of these early units simply consisted of operator interface panels with some local IO, ladder logic, and a flat database. Automation panels can however be elaborated on as PAC controllers with a built-in operator interface, instead of just an operator interface that performs control. Automation panels can notably lower software development costs.

Automation panels utilise a single database, with a single development environment, and lastly, a single library for reusable objects. This results in lower hardware costs as well. Integrating the controller, operator interface, and remote connectivity into a single device results in the purchase, installation, and configuration of one device itself. This lowers expenditure on both production time and on panel space.

It goes without saying that maintaining one device is less of a hassle than maintaining three, particularly in cases when you may have shipped a system to an end user that may be hundreds or thousands of miles away. With the use of an automation panel, you can even back up the operator interface and logic program on one memory card or USB stick. If the end user possesses distinct files for the operator interface and controller, and is in a position where they have to restore one or both programs, they could end up loading different revisions which results in a non-working system. Having a single program to restore is easier and eliminates version compatibility issues.

#SchneiderElectric is a well-established brand in the spheres of electrical management automation. With leading brands like Schneider Electric spearheading the revolution in terms of industrial automation, the future is bright indeed. #LifeIsOn.
Topics: plc
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