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Software Manages Paint Shops

Software Manages Paint Shops

Automaker Renault utilizes a single software interface for remote paintshop management and monitoring in all factories worldwide.

Faced with a control system that limited connectivity and application development, automaker Renault has completed a global overhaul of its paintshop supervisory monitoring. Implementing a new client/server architecture, Renault is utilizing one software package in all factories for remote paintshop management and monitoring worldwide.

For years, Renault had been studying new architectures and moving toward a PLC/PC monitoring system solution. After examining options, the team chose GE Fanuc's CIMPLICITY(R) software (www.gefanuc.com) to achieve its long-term goal of a single tool throughout the world, especially as Nissan (an alliance partner of Renault) has chosen the software, too.

"Within our factories, we make the distinction between production tracking and what comes under production monitoring," explains Didier Culie, project manager at Renault's Technocentre. "Tracking by a real-time display of production line status indicators is provided by software developed in-house. In the paint process workshop, there is a need for logging and monitoring various equipment process data such as the temperature and pressure in the tanks."

Three Renault factories are equipped with the system, including a plant in Spain where there is a configuration of 25 monitoring stations, 70 PLCs, and 30,000 I/O points. Moving to one system has provided immediate improvements since each factory had developed its own object database. And to harmonize applications worldwide, the Technocentre team developed a symbol object database for all Renault factories with an automatic translation utility for French, English, Spanish and German.

One of the greatest benefits is the remote support facility. "Thanks to the COM/DCOM capability, we can directly access the application, or be a client to the remote server, or even simply view the factory mimic diagrams on our workstations at the Technocentre," says Luc Filizzola, an engineer at the Technocentre. "Supporting the operators is much easier than it was previously."

"The PLC/monitoring architecture has the great advantage of not being tied to a single manufacturer," says Culie. "Using an OPC server between the PLCs and the monitoring system enables us to separate the two levels to attain greater independence from our suppliers, since we can change software or hardware without jeopardizing the overall architecture of the system."

Breaking from the Past

For a decade, localized control systems (DCS) linked to PLCs provided monitoring functions. The systems were under-utilized and only 10 percent of the functions were needed to fulfill Renault's requirements. But the system also had a more serious shortcoming: an inability to adapt to new developments.

"The world of the DCS was very isolated," says Filizzola. "Internal connectivity to factory applications via a computer network was so poor that we found it hard to develop applications. As a direct consequence, we were unable to improve the responsiveness of the assembly."

Maintenance or backup operations required a visit, and developments entailed very high maintenance expenses. Filizzola says that "in terms of ease of development, external connectivity and overall operating cost, the PLC/DCS architecture had reached a dead end."

Along with a tool that would provide external connectivity and the ability to operate on various operating systems, Renault-specific IT constraints were fundamental to the selection process and the monitoring system would need to operate in client/server mode. At Renault factories, PCs have unique specifications to avoid proliferation of incompatible hardware and software. So when a user wants to access the monitoring software, it must have been set up on the factory or the workshop application server.

For monitoring applications, this approach requires a distinction between executable programs and monitoring mimic diagrams. For a monitoring unit, the registration procedure for a user is typically based on the identification of the hard drive from which the application runs. In Renault's case, the client PC can be any factory machine, so GE Fanuc modified the software to suit this requirement.

The new system provides a way to log and monitor paintshop process data such as temperature and pressure in the tanks.
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