Five ways that implementing IEC 61499 improves automation

From Schneider Electric comes a foundation for industrial automation applications that makes life simpler and more logical. It is based on implementing the IEC 61499 design language for information and control systems and starts the move away from proprietary tools.

The industry is experiencing a seismic change. Organisations are adopting technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud/edge architectures to navigate and thrive in increasingly complex digital worlds. But according to Schneider Electric, this raises new challenges.

Changing needs

Altogether, current industrial automation system architectures have made a good job of advancing the industry to where it is today. Yet their closed and proprietary nature makes it difficult to embrace advanced technologies quickly and efficiently as needs change.

Failure to apply open industrial automation standards is certainly costly on all fronts. Today, many automation suppliers talk about ‘open’ but have yet to fully embrace implementations with code and function portability. As a result, end-users must endure unnecessary engineering expenses and delays in rolling out innovative manufacturing plant designs—which can mean lost business opportunities.

Implementing IEC 61499

Of course, it does not have to be this way. Implementing IEC 61499 tools for industrial automation liberates engineering efforts and allows end-users to manage market complexity more easily. It opens the world of automation to the endless possibilities of Industry 4.0.

The IEC 61499 standard defines a high-level system design language for distributed information and control systems. Here are five ways implementing IEC 61499 optimise the creation and management of modern data-driven automation systems:

1 Black-box software component.

The event-driven function block is the basic building block of IEC 61499 and encourages a software-component approach to automation applications. Application developers can use their programming language of choice to encapsulate and sell their IP in the form of black-box components.

2 Portability of application code.

By proposing an application model independent of the underlying system devices, IEC 61499 enables the portability of application code across multi-vendor platforms and engineering tools. Automation applications designed to run on one vendor’s system can also run on another vendor’s system. It protects the user’s investment in software IP and renders it future proof. Moreover, as automation moves forward, innovative software rather than hardware will solve Industry 4.0 use cases.

3 Event-driven.

The event-driven nature of IEC 61499 is perfect for interfacing with transactional IT systems. Now developers can combine real-time OT functions and ‘right-time’ IT functions in one application. For example, a pump control block that initiates the creation of a maintenance work order based on built-in predictive analytics.

4. Distribution of information and control.

The IEC 61499 proposes a system and device model to distribute automation applications across heterogeneous devices. These range from field-mounted instruments and actuators to controllers, and up to powerful edge computers for calculation-intensive applications like artificial intelligence/machine learning, all with zero engineering.

5. Plug and Produce.

The combination of benefits one through four above results in a ‘plug and produce’ approach to automation, where proven-in-use software components combining real-time and right-time functions are plugged together to create process and machine applications.

This also results in a step-change reduction in engineering hours, greatly facilitates the implementation of complex use cases, and simplifies debugging and maintenance for increased uptime.

Go here for a video overview of what implementing IEC 61499 can do for your business, or download the Schneider Electric white paper. “IEC 61499: The Industrial Automation Standard for Portability that Enables Industry 4.0”