Simulation on a grand scale

As a manufacturer in process automation, there are many ­options to test new products. However, these tests are seldom performed early in the development phase under real conditions at the company’s own plant. Rockwell Automation, an expert for automation solutions in industrial production, and Endress + Hauser, a specialist for ­instrumentation, have now inaugurated their first joint test plant for validation purposes in Europe (Fig.). Core elements of the test plant at Endress + Hauser’s site in Maulburg, Germany are three massive tanks, each one containing between 2000 and 26 000 liters of oil. On the tanks, more than 20 instruments from Endress + Hauser with different measuring methods have been installed, all of them communicating with Rockwell Automation’s Plant PAx control system. In this way, all personnel at the test center obtain specific information and diagnostics relating to the tank contents at a glance.

The original idea of a joint installation came from training centers established by Endress+Hauser with the support of Rockwell Automation in recent years: so-called Process Training Units. At ten facilities in the USA, Colombia, China and Canada, sales representatives and product specialists from both companies host practical training sessions for their customers. These courses comprise installation training, simulations under real conditions, diagnostics and comparisons of different technologies.

With an investment of several hundred thousand euros, the first joint test center for Europe in Maulburg takes this concept a few steps further and establishes new standards: It is surrounded by the Endress+Hauser production site for level and pressure measurement technology and focuses on product validation. Research and development take center stage to align new products to customer requirements at an early phase under real application and environmental conditions. In Maulburg, this includes, as well as research and development, training employees and customers at the validation center and offering hands-on learning for students. Last year, 2600 external visitors trained on the test plant’s tanks and systems. Now additional trainees will come from Rockwell Automation.

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