FLS Automation Develops Innovative Operator Station for Cement Plant with SL-GMS Based MMI


FLS Automation emerged from a small R&D department within the F.L. Smidth Group over 25 years ago.As automatic process control and supervision systems became increasingly important components of the cement and mineral works being built by the company, FLS Automation activity kept pace. Today, FLS Automation is a thriving independent company, one of five members in the F.L. Smidth-Fuller Engineering Group.

With a reputation as one of the world’s most innovative process control specialists, FLS Automation offers a range of control and process optimization systems, including hardware integration, software and engineering services, as well as process control and optimization software.Headquartered in Denmark, FLS Automation also has offices in the United States, Spain and France and maintains close contact with the worldwide network of F.L. Smidth-Fuller Engineering Group companies.

The latest generation of FLS Automation’s Expert Control and Supervision (ECS) systems includes .the ECS/ OpStation, an X Windows-based Man Machine Interface (MMI). The ECS/Op Station provides a cement plant operator with an animated, real-time view of the plant with point-and-click control of the facility’s motors, PID set points, shutters and other devices. The open platform allows the configuration to meet each plant’s unique specifications, as well as efficient integration with any FLS Automation plant­ optimization and quality control system. FLS Automation is committed to developing and integrating leading-edge technology to meet customer requirements. True to this philosophy, the company has incorporated SL-GMS software to provide users with a dynamic, real­­-time, MMI, plus the open, object-oriented characteristics that are vital to developers.

SL-GMS Improves Control Performance

The ECS/Op Station is hosted on a Digital workstation under OpenVMS. The system utilizes a real-time, proprietary database which is continuously communi­cating with the plant’s operation through Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs). The PLCs gather status data into logical groups before sending it, together with analog data, to the database. These units of information, called Motor Status Words (MSW), facilitate real-time communi­cations throughout the plant’s control system and advanced dynamic presentations on the ECS/Op Station.

The operator uses the MMI to supervise and control the production facility. The objects on the screen mimic the actual devices on the plant floor, such as hoppers, mill feeds, motors, conveyors and switches, as well as all analog measurements. In addition, text data identifies the devices by name and numerical data presents current operational statistics. All of the screen displays have been built utilizing the SL-GMS software and as a result change dynamically in real-time to reflect the current state of the process. The display is updated as each MSW and analog data is received by the database. Flashing and color changes in the displays are also used to communicate state data to operators. For example, when a motor is running, the object representing the motor onscreen will be green. The screen object will turn reel and flash to indicate an alarm. Once the operator acknowledges the alarm (using point-and­-click mouse function), the motor objects stop flashing, maintaining a static reel to indicate an acknowledged but pending alarm.

At other stages in production, operators interact with the process by changing set points for a !’ID loop. In this type of situation, the operator clicks on a dynamic screen object and the MMI pops up :1 template which includes the PII) control mode, the process and the output variables, plus slide bars and button to adjust the set point. From the template, the operator also initiates display of trend curves, showing all of the output and set points that are related to that PI!) loop. The template is based on SL-GMS and therefore changes in real-time to reflect current conditions and operator actions are transmitted immediately to the control devices.

The intuitive, easy-to-use nature of the MMI results in improved operator performance and reliability and minimizes the risk of equipment damage and production loss. The multi-tasking X-Window environment reduces the number of control-room operator workstations, cutting the investment without sacrificing functionality. Operators open several windows on a single display, each high­ lighting a different portion of the plant. In a typical example, two main windows are configured as a process overview and a display of the plant’s MMI systems. This configuration provides a view of the overall process and each of the subsystems within the process. Older control systems relied on different operator interfaces for each system, requiring that operators become proficient on several MMIs. By integrating all of the plant’s subsystems into a common MMI, FLS Automation has significantly reduced the operator training and system maintenance requirements.

Reduced Programming Time, Easier Customer Installation

The operator displays were created utilizing the SL-GMS editor, SL-DRAW2. The editor’s object-oriented approach allows developers to create a single screen object and then instance it to generate as many copies as needed. More complex group objects can be rapidly built by combining individual items. If a change is made to the object, it will also be reflected in all instances of the object. This dramatically reduces the time required to create and change complex displays. The individual SL-GMS­ generated objects retain their dynamic properties when used in a group object, thereby eliminating redundant programming effort. Further, the SL-DRAW2 editor includes the capability to assign the dynamic properties
to the screen objects and then link them to the database and the control devices mimicked by each screen. This simplifies the setup of displays at each new customer installation.

FLS Automation engineers investigated several alternatives for generating the screen displays and selected SL-GMS. The functionality and ease of use of the SL-DRAW2 editor allowed them to focus on the firm’s core businesses – system integration, process control and optimization – rather than the complexities of graphical interface progress. In addition, the open architecture of SL-GMS allowed some of the objects from previous generations of FLS Automation products to be seamlessly integrated into the new system.

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