Automation Concepts - Centralized and Decentralized Part 1

Automation concepts play an increasingly important role in the modern world aligned with climate protection and flexibility. The decision for one concept or another one depends on the complexity and the necessity of a precise temporal control of processes. Centralized and decentralized automation concepts are however not being separated by a clear line: Every centralized concept also has decentralized components and every decentralized network also features a kind of central control, even if the importance is by far not rated as high as with the central concepts.

What are the Trends?

The trend in general is more likely towards decentralized networks. Our life is also becoming "more decentralized" - we take work home, and are available via smartphone or tablet PC almost always and everywhere and hardly separate privacy and work.
For some time, there has also been the trend towards M-to-M communication. M-to-M stands for Machine-to-Machine communication. This means that even vending machines have their own small mobile phones installed. In this way, the drinks dispenser at the train station can send its concrete filling condition to the supplier companies, then these only come when they have to and no longer in fixed intervals. Thus possibly unnecessary trips can be cut, or the vacantness of vending machines can be prevented.
Even in agriculture, the first centralized and decentralized automation concepts have been developed by now. Precisely speaking, this also includes the milking machine as a well-established classic centralized automation concept, but smarter ways are possible:
The irrigation of fields normally occurs in certain intervals, for example every morning at 6 a.m., again in the early afternoon, and then, as the case may be, again in the evening, at night and so on - however the farmer plans it. By the insertion into the ground of sensors checking the soil composition for certain minerals and moisture, the field irrigation does not have to work inflexible like a clockwork mechanism any more, but complies with the needs of the field. By means of such and similar centralized and decentralized automation concepts, resources can therefore be saved at the right places, and even agricultural yields can be increased.

Centralized and Decentralized Automation Concepts in the Industry

In addition to the building automation in residential buildings, the industry also realized the possibility to increase the efficiency of operation by centralized and decentralized automation concepts. Thereby, the ratio between the expenditure of time and money during production and the finished product should be increased.
The increased complexity of manufacturing processes, as well as the increased importance of precision to the split second and millisecond of certain work steps overtaxes the field bus systems that have been considered as high tech 20 years ago. The developed and most modern networks for centralized and decentralized automation concepts since 2010 are these:

  • Sercos III
  • Profinet IO
  • EtherCAT
  • Powerlink
  • FF-HSE
  • CC-Link/IE
  • FL-net
  • ModbusTCP

These Ethernet and field bus systems are the current elite class for centralized and decentralized automation concepts. A distinction is been made between the just mentioned categories "fieldbus" and "Ethernet". However, as the transition between these two automation concepts is almost a hundred per cent transparent by means of Ethernet adapters, a combination of Ethernet and fieldbus is no problem at all.

Centralized and Decentralized Automation Concepts: The Advantages

Because of the steadily increasing pressure of globalisation, more and more companies change to the use of centralized and decentralized automation concepts. The first users of these technologies can possibly hope for advantages in the market from it, soon, however, this high technology will be essential in the severe worldwide competition.
Users can benefit from the following advantages:

Savings through less waste by more precise control of the production processes. Among other things, dosage processes can be carried out more precisely that way.
The central control will be relieved and this saves primary energy. The electricity costs and the costs for CO2 certificates will be reduced by this.
The high flexibility obtained through centralized and decentralized automation concepts also creates the possibility of short-term and medium-term predictability towards the previous planning times. In this way you can reduce goods in stock because you can deal with new orders even better.
That supports the reduction in downtimes.

Furthermore there are advantages for the clients of users of centralized and decentralized control systems:

The quality of the products can be increased extremely, as constant monitoring of the processes spots mistakes faster.

Centralized and Decentralized Automation Concepts: The Maintenance

For many things, the purchase in most cases is less expensive than the long-term costs. For Ethernet and fieldbus systems, it is different:
As the users have demanded simple and, if possible, standard maintenance measures, three large providers have developed three concepts with which the field components and the systems of all manufacturers can be examined and maintained:

  • FDI : Field Device Control
  • TCI: Tool Calling interface
  • ECCL : Electronic Device Description Language

For the future of maintenance, even plans for only one technology regarding the maintenance are under consideration for centralized and decentralized automation concepts.