The Plant iT connect module is used for the implementation of communication interfaces for exchanging information between the process control system and various external systems. The range includes:
- Client/Server or host-based systems (e.g. ERP systems such as SAP R/3, LIMS systems, maintenance systems)
- PC and PLC-based systems (e.g. automation systems and SCADA systems)
- Intelligent measuring and inspection systems (e.g. inspectors, inline analysis instruments).
The optionally available module Plant iT connect consists of:
- The engineering interface,
- The communication channels and
- The system service.
The user interface of Plant iT connect is only required for parameterising and monitoring communication interfaces. It is seamlessly integrated into the Configuration Manager, the central engineering environment of Plant iT. With regard to the various available communication channels, the parameterisation dialogues have a uniform structure. They are automatically adapted to the special characteristics of the respective channel in terms of their content.
The communication channels
The type of communication is specified for each interface to be parameterised by selecting a communication channel. Tasks of the communication channel include the interface-compliant preparation of the data to be transferred and the use of standardised functions for sending and receiving data packages.
The following communication channels are available:
- iDoc/MQ Series
Plant iT connect sends and receives IDocs using Message Queuing as the type of communication.
Plant iT connect transfers IDocs by sending or receiving RFCs (Remote Function Calls).
Plant iT connect uses Business Application Programming Interfaces, which enable object-related access to the SAP system as methods at the business object types .
Plant iT connect sends and receives XML documents and supports B2MML implementation of ISA 95.
- RFC Client/Server
Plant iT connect sends and receives RFCs (Remote Function Calls), i.e. requests for certain information whose content and structure can be individually specified for each interface. tRFC and sRFC can be used.
Plant iT connect uses the ODBC standard interface to communicate with relational databases of other systems.
Plant iT connect sends and receives data by writing in or reading ASCII files stored on the external system.
The system service
The Plant iT connect service acts at operating system level. Its primary task is to coordinate and log the communication transactions. Incoming data is prepared and forwarded to the correct communication channel. As the central instance, the service assumes key parts of data preparation. It therefore relieves the communication channels and enables a flexible extension of the system with additional types of communication.
Typical application scenarios
iDoc and RFC communication are used, among others, for the data interface to the SAP modules MM, PP and PM:
- Interface to SAP-MM
Depending on the requirement, a transaction-related, bi-directional data exchange on individual material transactions takes place via this interface. It is also possible to periodically synchronise information on material inventories.
- SAP-PP interface
Production orders including respective bills of materials are transferred from SAP to Plant iT via this interface, which in turn informs SAP about order-related data, e.g. order status and actual values, such as produced quantities.
- SAP-PM interface
This interface is used to transfer counter values and measured values from the SAP module for planning and monitoring maintenance activities in the plant (e.g. current statuses of operating hours counters and operating cycle counters).
This interface can be used for the automatic transfer of various data from subordinate measuring and inspection systems, e.g. inspector data of a bottling line. The individual inspectors (empties, full goods, empty crates, etc.) store their data locally as ASCII files on a PC that belongs to the inspection system. The system service active on the Plant iT server
- Accesses the stored data via the network,
- Checks the data for modifications,
- Reads the data, if necessary, and
- Transfers the data to the central Plant iT database via the communication channel.
The data is then available for further processing (visualisation, reporting, investigations). Thanks to its flexibility, this type of communication is particularly suitable for linking application-specific solutions to external systems.