For Niklaus Beck, who was responsible for the automation of the Vitex project, the tool was an important success factor for this large project. The Vitex plant also was the first project to use Comos that was to be deployed for other engineering processes. Today Beck heads the Technical Services department at DSM Nutritional Products in Sisseln. “An important part of our work is support and development of configuration tools for our plants,” says Thomas Müller, who heads Beck’s Tools and Document Management team. “Here we use Comos, which we are continuously developing along with our standards and libraries, together with Siemens.”
Step by step toward the standard
Sisseln in Switzerland is one of the largest production sites of the Dutch company DSM. One of the key Swiss plants is for the production of vitamin E. This plant was the first major project in which electrical engineering and automation technology were planned using the Comos engineering software.
Pioneer in database-aided tools
Beck is responsible in no small part for the fact that today Comos is used for the design of piping and instrumentation as well as the electrical systems. He has worked for DSM in Sisseln since 1986 and began his career as an automation engineer – “still at the drawing board,” he recalls with a smile.
The first computer-based tools were quickly adopted, but at the time there were still many different tools for tasks ranging from plant engineering to electrical engineering. “In the mid-1990s, I took over management of engineering, and it was already then our goal to clean up the landscape of multiple software solutions,” says Beck. “After a few intermediate steps, we evaluated Comos and were soon impressed by the possibilities.”
Initially, Comos was used only as an engineering tool for automation planning; however, later it was additionally used for electrical engineering planning. “And then the Vitex project arrived,” Beck says.
Key plant for a key product
DSM’s Nutritional Products division is the largest manufacturer of vitamins A and E – and both vitamins are produced exclusively in Sisseln. With the Vitex project, which was completed in 2004, DSM has further consolidated its leading position in the market for vitamin E. The new production facility was equipped with Simatic PCS 7 as a process control system.
To complete the planning for the large Vitex project on schedule, many teams had to work in parallel. “Back then we decided that all partners involved in the planning of the electrical and automation technology for this plant would work with the same tools in Comos. Looking back, we were taking on a certain risk, but it has really paid off,” says Beck.
Ten years after commissioning, the plant is a mainstay of production at DSM. The processes are continuously optimized, which has allowed the plant yield to be significantly increased in recent years. In addition, the level of automation has increased steadily, reducing the number of manual interventions in the process. These changes are, of course, constantly updated in Comos, says Müller: “Here, too, we see the advantage of object-oriented work in a unified database – we can easily create new components or visuals.”
Orderly and uniform data simplify audits
Uniform document management facilitates not only the engineering, as Müller clarifies: “Especially in view of applications in the pharmaceutical and food industries, we need to ensure that our data are maintained and stored in accordance with good manufacturing practice guidelines. In some cases, we need to store the same information and data at 20 locations – in the engineering system, in the system for the management of production information, and so on – and that is simply not possible without a uniform tool.” Beck confirms this: “At the site, we have a weekly system or process audit, so it is crucial that our documents are always up to date. A tool such as Comos is a tremendous help with this.”
After Comos survived its baptism by fire, so to speak, with the successful deployment of the Vitex project, its use has been gradually extended. In the meantime, the planning of piping and instrumentation is also being carried out with Comos. Müller outlines the next steps: “Our application engineer maintains and expands our Comos standard continuously, so that our engineering partners have a good toolbox for their work. But of course we are already thinking one step ahead. For example, we are also evaluating how we can benefit from integrated engineering with Comos and Simatic PCS 7.”