Industry: Mining

Not just information but an information modelling tool for Exxaro Coal

Goals

  • To provide a toolset of graphic and model objects that can assist in guiding the definition and development of the hierarchical plant information model
  • To provide a methodology and process to guide the development of the MES Performance model and downtime rules
  • To provide automatic documentation of the information model for easy verification

Solutions and Products

  • System Platform
  • InTouch
  • MES Performance

Challenges

  • Formulation of generic and configurable object requirements
  • Developing a simple and maintainable tool including XML data storage

Results

  • Reduced engineering cost
  • Reduced paperwork
  • Traceability and version control of information
  • Automatic documentation of the information model, rules and requirements,
  • Easier and shorter implementation of the business process
  • Reduction in the schedule for business rule definition and approval
  • Easier formulation of rules for the control system
  • Automatic collation of needed information
  • Ease of maintenance
  • Uniform naming standard
  • Empowered end user

“All future projects involving systems providing information will be structured by using this information modelling tool. Implementation will then follow according to the approved information model. Exxaro Grootegeluk management is excited about the value that can be added to the business with this new tool.”

– Almero Roux, Solution Architect, MES & Plant, Exxaro

Background

For more than a decade, Wonderware’s ArchestrA technology has assisted system integrators and end users manage the industrial automation aspects of plants with the help of user-defined and dynamic plant models.

These models are the logical representation of the physical machines and processes being controlled and supervised within the Wonderware software application. They represent the physical equipment, how data will be acquired, how alarms are defined, all aspects of system security and user roles as well as external interfaces.

Figure 1: A graphical illustration of the hierarchical nature of part of a plant model as developed within the System Platform environment

In short, plant models provide essential context to data, greatly assisting with diagnosing and troubleshooting, while reducing implementation risk, providing a tested path from prototype to implementation and a way to systematically adopt change over time.

But while they collate the necessary data, plant models don’t always supply the information required by interested parties. There are two main reasons for this: information models are different from plant models because they cross traditional industrial IT boundaries and are needed by a variety of decision-makers from production managers to senior executives. The second reason is that information can be collated and analysed in any number of ways and one model cannot possibly fit all cases.

In view of this, Exxaro decided that they needed an information model for their Grootegeluk mine, the world’s largest coal beneficiation facility and also one of the most efficient. This would provide them with the real-time decision support they needed to improve their bottom line. So their goals included:

  • Developing a toolset of graphical and model objects that can assist in guiding the definition and development of the hierarchical plant information model. This model would need to specify the relationship and containment of the various plant information properties required to build a complete information model for the business unit.
  • Devising a methodology and process to guide the development of the Wonderware MES Performance model and downtime rules (e.g. a running rule for availability).
  • Generating automatic documentation of the information model, rules and requirements to easily check if their requirements had been met.

Figure 2: Each area of the plant model created with the ArchestrA-based System Platform can be customised and have its properties changed to include such parameters as availability, throughput, flow, power status and any other KPIs.

Implementation

Exxaro has standardised on Wonderware’s System Platform as their operational technology and they preferred to use the Wonderware toolset to ensure an off-the-shelf technology for the information modelling tool. Also, the concept of instantiation of predefined templates suited the hierarchical requirements of the information model.

Exxaro selected Control Systems Integration (CSI) for the implementation of the project. “Prior to this project, no information modelling tool existed at the mine,” says CSI director Dries van Schalkwyk. “We used the standard off-theshelf ArchestrA scripting environment to develop the object templates, providing a standard and open system which is easy to configure and maintain. The information modelling objects were developed in line with the S95/S88 conventions. This tool was then used to generate the configuration and availability rules for Wonderware MES Performance. We also used InTouch as the human-machine interface for the information modelling tool.”

ArchestrA-based System Platform provided CSI the flexibility to build object model templates that could be used to define the information model and its properties to meet Exxaro’s specific needs. In addition, the system’s version control and flexibility allowed the generation of objects that enforced compliance with the best practices as well as standardisation of the methodology and business process required to define the information model.

“The object-oriented nature of ArchestrA and its template development facilities enabled us to develop flexible objects that could be reused through instantiation, thereby saving time and cost in engineering and maintenance,” says van Schalkwyk.

With every new version of an information block (see figure 2), a XML file is created. This allows the redeployment of the objects without dropping any information. The XML file can then be imported into an Excel template for printing which makes the approval process a lot easier.

Benefits

  • Reduced engineering cost
  • Reduced paperwork
  • Traceability and version control of information
  • Automatic documentation of the information model, rules and requirements,
  • Easier and shorter implementation of the business process
  • Reduction in the schedule for business rule definition and approval
  • Easier formulation of rules for the control system
  • Automatic collation of needed information
  • Ease of maintenance
  • Uniform naming standard
  • Empowered end user

Wonderware’s ArchestrA at Exxaro Coal

Lephalale, Limpopo Province, South Africa – One of the reasons technology is advancing at such a pace these days is because of the tools at our disposal. Today’s CNC machines, integrated circuit manufacturing plants and medical electronics – to name just a few – owe their sophistication to the evolution of their predecessors.

And the same is true of software where the unifying technology of Wonderware’s ArchestrA has enabled astounding progress in the development of industrial automation and industrial IT applications. This is the story of just such an application which used ArchestrA technology for the development and implementation of an information modelling tool for Exxaro Coal.