Encouraging operators of web-based tools | ARC advice



The growing influence of information technology (IT) on operations technology (OT) promises to bring significant benefits to industrial automation systems. To achieve higher goals. As with Industry 4.0 and digital transformation, distributed control systems (DCS) must provide better access to the raw process. Web-Based ToolsData, and tools to transform data into meaningful information. To achieve this, modern equipment has been added to existing DCS systems to upgrade them to today’s standards. But Siemens took a different approach. Web Based Engineering, SIMATIC PCS Neo It relies on robust automation hardware and focuses on the interface between operators and DCS. Configuring DCS in a browser was unthinkable a few years ago, but today it is an integral part of Siemens SIMATIC PCS Neo.

This ARC overview is part of a series of reports looking at various new aspects of Siemens’ new concepts for process automation in the areas of operator empowerment, collaborative engineering and system robustness.

Web-based UI: The key to SIMATIC PCS Neo

For decades, process automation systems have followed the traditional architecture of distributing control around the plant in semi-automated groups. Each subsystem is configured from an Engineering Station (ES) and each process is controlled from an Operator Station (OS) with rich front panels for process monitoring, loop control and alarm management. The software is proprietary and tightly coupled with DCS, which itself runs on proprietary hardware.

Several years ago, Siemens launched SIMATIC PCS Neo, a next-generation process control concept that did more than “reinvent” how DCS should work. The development of SIMATIC PCS Neo is focused on the user interface (UI), which is completely web-based – something new in the world of process automation. The decision to make a UI web site was important because it would appeal to young process engineers who expected to use modern, “IT-like” tools from the past, proprietary and standalone software. Since the UI is based on HTML 5, it can use the same displays on different devices, far from traditional ES and OS.

Web-Based Tools

While some manufacturing processes are fully automated from start to finish, many processes, such as a certain level of quality or high production, rely on instructions from operators to steer them in the same direction to achieve a desired result. While the underlying DCS configuration remains the same, the operator interacts with the operating system to continuously monitor progress and adjust parameters as needed, with the UI playing a critical role. In fact, one way to evaluate the value of process automation Web-Based ToolsThe system is to measure the productivity achieved through the UI. Plant life cycles are measured in decades and multiple generations of engineers and operators will interact with it, so its UI must be intuitive and easy to navigate.

A web-based UI means users interact with DCS through a browser. Instead of proprietary software, a commercially available browser acts as a window into all aspects of DCS. This has many implications. Most importantly, users have less software to install and maintain on programming and configuration devices. A single interface is used by all devices and no additional plugins are required, users can choose any browser that supports HTML5 (Siemens recommends Chrome or Edge). We think of a browser as just one application running on our PC at once, but HTML5 can be configured so that the operator’s attention is focused only on critical process screens that are distracting.

A clever function in the SIMATIC PCS Neo advanced processing library is “Interlock”, which is useful for easy operator troubleshooting. For example, if an operator cannot start the pump, clicking the interlock button on the pump’s front panel will display a logic sequence that allows the pump’s motor to start. Instead of calling a maintenance person to resolve the missing signals, the operator can quickly pinpoint the problem. The logic search is generated automatically and requires no further engineering.

Remote maintenance

While browser-based DCS configuration and monitoring makes it easy for engineers to work from remote locations (such as a home office), its real value lies in remote maintenance. In the event of a problem, having remote access to the DCS can cut down on hours or days by eliminating the need for maintenance personnel to travel to the site. So the mobile worker is truly empowered, from maintenance to plant management.

While remote access is done through proprietary software, the browser-based approach greatly simplifies the process by ensuring cybersecurity through well-known IT technologies and continuous improvements. Security is part of the solution from the beginning, and is not added later as legacy systems often do. Even in plants that are not connected to the Internet, a browser-based solution still works because the browser only creates the connection between the client and the server.

A web-based dashboard monitors the health of DCS

An interesting tool for SIMATIC PCS Neo is SIMATIC PCS myExpert, a web-based application that monitors the health of the DCS. A key feature is asset management of software and hardware assets. In a complex system like DCS, tracking software and firmware versions is critical to ensuring that updates, fixes, and upgrades are performed correctly and well documented. To protect the system from cyber risks, SIMATIC PCS myExpert provides notifications about risk exposures and suitable countermeasures for system components.

Web-Based Tools

SIMATIC PCS myExpert integrates with the Siemens Support Portal to provide product and health metric information in addition to security alerts. According to Siemens, regular monitoring of system health increases plant availability by performing obsolescence management throughout its lifespan, optimizing spare parts and improving system performance.


Process automation systems haven’t changed much in decades, and for good reason. A robust and reliable operation of a control system is more important than adding new features. When Siemens introduced SIMATIC PCS Neo, the company focused on the user interface using unconventional technologies in process automation. Web-based configuration and monitoring opens up new opportunities for improved operator interaction with the operator and how process information is accessed, viewed and acted upon.

ARC Consulting Group clients can view the full report on the ARC Client Portal.

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Keywords: Siemens, SIMATIC PCS neo, distributed control system, process automation, operator empowerment, collaborative engineering, system robustness, web-based UI < ARC Consulting Group.

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