Successful industrial and commercial enterprises implement systems to manage all the moving pieces — and we’re talking thousands, if not millions, of them. These organizations are constantly seeking ways to streamline processes, reduce inefficiencies and maximize productivity. They’re adept at optimizing operating budgets while investing in equipment to keep advancing performance. It’s no easy task — but luckily there’s more technology available today than ever before to automate what used to be manual and make “smart” what used to require labor-intensive intervention.
PLC Software: An Overview
Electrical Construction & Maintenance Magazine defines PLCs as “solid-state control devices that control, operate and monitor various types of electrical systems found in commercial and industrial environments.”
How do they achieve this? PLCs have input modules equipped to accept signals from sensors, which they convert to logic interpretable by the central processing unit (CPU). The CPU draws on program instructions to “make decisions and execute control instructions.” Finally, output modules turn these control instructions into signals that are picked up by any number of devices, depending on the nature of the facility.
PLCs have changed the game, so to speak. What used to require manual control by electricians using wires can now happen through PLC software, which tends to makes it much easier to make updates and troubleshoot errors.
What types of functions can PLCs help control and improve? Well, referring back to EC & M Magazine, a few key examples include:
- Regulating temperature in a building HVAC system
- Controlling elevator recall functions
- Managing the fire alarm system for a facility
As you can imagine, there’s a wide range of building management and machine programming functions covered under PLC. Almost anything you can automate, you can configure with modern PLC software.
Advantages Of Using PLCs
A wide range of advantages can be harnessed with advanced PLC software.
Here are some of the leading advantages of PLCs as covered in a lecture for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Control at a Spanish research university:
- Easier to Program: Instead of having to physically rewire a circuit, users can simply make changes to the program in the field.
- More Reliable: Users are able to download programs to other PLCs once they have been written and tested, which leaves less room for a logic wiring error.
- Responds quicker to events: PLCs are equipped to respond to events in real time, which is very important for machines processing high volumes of items or utilizing sensors for only a fraction of a second — like on a fast-moving assembly line.
- Can Identify Problems Faster: PLCs have built-in diagnostic and override functions that help users identify problems, trace them to the source and correct them in a timely manner.
- Less external wiring: Implementing PLCs cuts down on how much hard wiring is necessary to control conventional relay control circuits.
- Lower cost: PLCs have been shown to bring cost savings at a certain point and are now smaller and less expensive than in the past.
Having read through these advantages of utilizing PLC software to control many aspects of machine automation and facility management, you can see why there’s been a shift away from systems requiring manual rewiring to make changes to functionality. Having the user-friendly tools to diagnose and troubleshoot problems quickly can also reduce wastage and maintenance costs.