In virtual commissioning, the simulation model serves as a blueprint for the generation of the plant control for the control programmers. To make this possible, the IT structure is modelled as true-to-life as possible within the simulation model. For instance, the classic control levels within a storage system are:
- ERP (order management),
- WMS (warehouse management system),
- MFC (material flow controller),
- PLC (secondary controllers of the plant)
If the same structure is modelled within the simulation model, the configuration of the controls for the real system is simplified. In addition, this structure is a requirement for using the model for the virtual commissioning of real controls; the model can be connected to the real system, provided that the model has the appropriate control structure.
The connection of the model with the real control is also referred to as emulation. To do so, the control logic in the simulation model is replaced with the external control software.
Emulation shortens commissioning times
The exchange of information between the control levels is carried out at telegram level, just like in the real system. If the PLC level is tested, the emulation model only contains the hardware functionality. If the MFC or WMS is commissioned, the model also covers the PLC logic.
Using emulation, the control can already be commissioned before the real system exists. In addition, the control can be tested under a high system load. Critical situations can be created in the model at the push of a button. Another key benefit is the reproducibility of error events, since the simulation model always behaves the same way under unchanged conditions. If you imagine carrying out the same tests in a real system or, for instance, during the commissioning of the plant on the construction site, it quickly becomes clear how much time and money emulation can save.
Emulation significantly shortens the commissioning time of a plant. Furthermore, it leads to a higher quality of the control as more scenarios can be tested within this short time. It is, for instance, possible to test load situations that would, in reality, occur only after several months or even years.
If controls of an existing system are changed, then emulation can be an important support, ensuring that the transition to a new control is as smooth as possible.
In addition, the emulation model can be used for training purposes during the ramp-up phase. With the aid of the model the operating personnel can be prepared for the new system and trained specifically with regard to important plant conditions.