Universal Automation: Schneider Electric Supports IEC 61499

Schneider Electric is accelerating its drive to help customers unlock the full potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Their vision for universal automation focuses on the benefits of an IEC 61499 open automation platform like EcoStruxure Automation Expert.

While information technology has adopted open platforms and is evolving, the same is not true for industrial automation technology. Industry has suffered from a lack of adaptability, modularisation and interoperability, which is stunting innovation.

Schneider Electric believes the time is right for a bold move in industrial automation. It is calling on industrial users, vendors, OEMs, systems integrators across industry to embrace universal automation. As its benefits become clear, Schneider Electric believes end-users will soon begin to demand it from their automation suppliers.

Universal Automation

Universal automation uses plug and produces automation software components based on the IEC61499 standard to solve specific customer problems. The specification of IEC 61499 defines a generic model for distributed control systems and is based on the IEC 61131 standard. Furthermore, it extends the capabilities of existing IEC61131and enables an app-store-like model for automation software components.

Adoption of an IEC61499-based standardised automation layer, common across vendors, will provide limitless opportunities for growth and modernisation across the industry. It also addresses the challenge engineers face from closed and proprietary automation platforms that restrict the adoption of best-of-breed technologies.

EcoStruxure Automation Expert is the first universal automation offering based on the IEC61499 standard for a new era of interoperable industrial automation.

“The IT world has realised the benefits of open operating platforms; now it’s the industry’s turn,” said Peter Herweck, Executive Vice President, Industrial Automation, Schneider Electric. “EcoStruxure Automation Expert is a new category of industrial automation system with IEC61499 at its core.”

EcoStruxure Automation Expert

  • Enables the building of automation applications using asset-centric, portable, proven-in-use software components, independent of the underlying hardware infrastructure.
  • Allows the user to distribute applications to any system hardware architecture of choice – distributed, centralised, or both – with minimal to no extra programming.
  • Supports established software best practices to simplify the creation of automation applications that interoperate with IT systems.

The first release of EcoStruxure Automation Expert supports automation platforms, like Modicon PLCs, together with Altivar Variable Speed Drives and PCs. For the first time, complex multi-drive control algorithms are programmed and distributed to the drive controller without needing a central PLC.

Completing the line-up, a virtualised software controller running in Docker-powered Linux containers supports distributed information and control systems across edge computing architectures.

Software components known as Composite Automation Types (CATs) leverage the object-oriented nature of IEC61499. They have modelled assets by combining real-time control functions with other facets, such as the human-machine interface.

This asset-centric approach delivers cost and performance gains, freeing engineers to automate low-value work and end task duplication. Moreover, benchmarking of EcoStruxure Automation Expert against current automation systems demonstrates a 2 to 7x time reduction.

EcoStruxure Automation Expert’s support for mainstream IT best practices enables step-change improvements in asset and workforce efficiency using advanced technologies like predictive maintenance, digital twin and others. The system also reduces the total cost of ownership by incorporating legacy systems with a wrap-and-reuse approach.

But where Schneider Electric leads, will others follow? See for yourself here.

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