Integration of Industry 4.0 Production Systems Using OPC UA Technology


Industry 4.0 production systems aim to enable intelligent and flexible production while minimizing configuration times on production lines. At Valio, product quality and traceability requirements are very high, highlighting the importance of smooth and reliable communication between different production systems. To meet these requirements, Prosys OPC developed the OPC UA standard-based software Valio uses for integrating all their automation and manufacturing execution systems.

Reference Architecture Model for Industry 4.0

Valio is a product and production development pioneer and has over 350 patents worldwide. Production is constantly being developed with many vendors, choosing the best solutions for each need. Valio has benefited from OPC UA technology earlier and more than most other companies. The right decisions were confirmed when the internationally followed and applied Reference Architecture Model for Industry 4.0 defined OPC UA technology for data communications and modeling.

OPC UA offers high security and the broadest support from automation and manufacturing control suppliers. Consequently, it has been a good choice for unifying the various production systems in all Valio plants. According to Valio Development Manager Mika Puustinen, Prosys OPC’s strengths include OPC UA technology expertise, flexibility, and efficient implementation of solutions. “Prosys OPC has long-term experience and good know-how in production software development and OPC UA technology”, says Puustinen about cooperation. “It is also important for us that the partner is reliable and long-term cooperation is possible”.

OPC UA Integration Solution

The integration solution uses the OPC UA standard-based communications to connect automation systems to Valio’s manufacturing execution system (MES) and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) system. Automation systems include both large distributed automation systems (DCS) and smaller programmable logic (PLC) systems. In addition, the installation base includes PC-based and embedded solutions for controlling production lines and equipment. For all of these, an OPC UA or OPC classic server was available or could possibly be developed.

The software developed for integration is based on Microsoft .NET technology and has been developed using the Microsoft Visual Studio development tool. The OPC UA interface is primarily connected to the Oracle database of the manufacturing execution system. The MES system also uses a custom HTTP REST / JSON API provided by the OPC UA solution to retrieve data from OPC UA servers.

The OPC UA solution is configured via a NodeJS + Angular technology-based browser interface. For example, new trends can easily be added to data collection, or new production messages can be defined. Features also include data validation for special cases and real-time monitoring of OPC UA connections, where a dedicated monitoring user interface facilitates expert work.

The data transferred to the production execution system includes process messages and measurement data. The connection is also used to transfer process orders and recipes from the manufacturing execution system to automation systems. Continuous real-time information on the state of production processes is needed to monitor production efficiency. For this purpose, measurements are sent through the OPC UA solution to OEE computing and reporting systems.

Using OPC UA technology, all communication needs can be centrally managed through one reliable and easily configurable connection. Systems that provide OPC classic servers can be accessed using OPC UA Gateway converter software. The solution also improves security as OPC UA enables using the latest security methods, such as encryption, while being easily routed in a segmented and hardened plant network. The integration solution is easily expandable to new needs. It can manage the data communication needs between plant systems and automation at all Valio production plants in a unified and manufacturer-independent manner.

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We want to have a forward-looking and top-notch supplier that understands the needs of the production environment and is able to implement demanding plant system integration. In addition, OPC UA has proven to be a true long-term technology solution with constantly increasing market share in production installations and support by vendors.

Mika Puustinen
Development Manager, Valio

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