Mining and Mineral Processing

MAPS Projects Undertaken In South Africa

Recently one of the largest ferrochrome producers in the world required to upgrade their Mitsubishi hardware from A-series PLCs to the Q-series PLCs. The current SCADA system would have required some engineering work, but to get software support and upgrade would require a yearly renewal of the SCADA software.

The customer group standard is Siemens and PCS7. However, the customer was looking for a solution integrated with Mitsubishi PLCs as the technical personnel was already familiar with Mitsubishi products and their programming way. With MAPS as an integrated solution for Mitsubishi Q-PLCs, it is a perfect fit.

The current challenges for the customer were:

    • Outdated solution and technology (CITECT and Mitsubishi A Series PLCs)
    • Customer group standard – Siemens PCS7.
    • No standards (PLC or SCADA), so it is difficult to maintain. Each system integrator would come and implement their particular program standard, and this made faultfinding very difficult.
    • Existing system did not support traceability and auditing.
    • Any design or engineering work first had to be compiled and downloaded to the server.
    • Real-time changes were not possible.

The reason why the customer decided to use MAPS rather than their group standard is;

    • Integrated solution with Mitsubishi PLCs. The PLC program used a standardised function block library, and the MAPS solution consisted of electrical and instrumentation templates. These templates all have alarming, data logging, auditing enabled as well as the PLC to SCADA link is automatically setup. The customer merely has to specify the physical IO address of the equipment.
    • The customer is highly satisfied that the set-up is done from the SCADA software side instead of having to go into the PLC programming software.
    • There was no need for new PLC programming training, as the customer was already familiar with the software and how it works.
    • The cost-benefit was also a significant factor as it was a once-off cost. No yearly renewal fee for the software.
    • Training and support are available in South Africa and assistance is a phone call away.
    • The SCADA software also offers seamless redundancy. There is no operator interaction required and switch-off if needed, is nearly instantaneous.

Additional benefits to the customer were;

    • Standardised reports for auditing and alarms. The customer quickly picked up with the alarm report that there were instrumentation faults in the field, and they could attend promptly to it while in the commissioning phase.
    • Updated IO list. The customer can now export the IO list to Excel and give it to the IT Department for MES logging. The IO list provides the equipment name, PLC address, and data type and register size, this eliminates a paper trail that gets sent to the ITDepartment for MES logging.
    • The MAPS templates give the option to put equipment in simulation mode, either when it goes into a fault state or if it is to be installed in the future. The simulation for instrumentation equipment also gives the actual raw state of the instrument in the field.
    • Bulk Excel configuring of the field IO saves a lot of time and effort by using the IO list configuration, as no testing is needed and the IO list automatically updates with all the changes.
    • Automatic backup and project synchronisation between redundancy servers. The back-up includes the PLC program, project and system information. The customer now informs the IT department where to go and fetch the back-ups eliminating errors and time wasted due to paper trails.

South Africa produces 85% of global ferrous minerals used in steel production. Ferrochrome (FeCr) is an alloy of chromium and iron containing between 50% and 70% chrome and is the world’s second-largest producer of ferrous minerals.