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Digitalisation as a growth enabler

16 September 2018

Currently around 1.7 billion kilograms of milk are processed every year at the Molkerei Ammerland dairy in Germany. The dairy has seen sustained growth for many years and the plant has been in a continuous state of expansion, which required modernisation of the original production network. The solution is based on a new networking concept by the Siemens Professional Services team and meets all demands with respect to security and flexibility. 

Working collaboratively with Siemens the company has created a powerful network infrastructure that allows for dynamic growth and which is helping to ensure reliable production and high plant availability.

Availability is a vital requirement when producing fresh products such as cheese and this relies on an effective production network. Overall, more than 200 controllers with over 1,000 communication nodes exchange production-relevant data with each other right across the plant.

The dairy has updated its existing network infrastructure with passive networking technology. All communication within production, storage, refrigeration and sewage treatment now runs on fibre-optic data cables. All monitoring and management tasks are undertaken by the Siemens Sinema Server network management software which also provides high network transparency.

The network components include numerous Scalance X switches from the XR-300 and XR-500 families,  which are housed in several control cabinets located in separate utility rooms. The Scalance XR528-6M switches form the core of the network with layer 3 functionality, ten Gbps interfaces and matching power supplies.

Attached to them are 17 Scalance XR324-4M EEC (Enhanced Environmental Conditions), 19in rack switches, which were specifically developed for use in energy systems or other extreme environments. A wide array of redundancy mechanisms, in combination with a clear ring structure, enable short reconfiguration time, and provide high availability even in the event of failure.

Server in virtual space
The dairy placed particular emphasis on a strict separation between information technology (IT) and the production network especially for security reasons. Any necessary communication between these areas had to take place using defined interfaces.

The installed network infrastructure ensures a smooth interaction between all processes. Instead of numerous PCs in the production area, the plant uses the company’s IT computing center where a wide range of tasks run on virtual machines – including the Siemens PCS 7 process control system. This structure saves money and provides a higher level of system availability and redundancy.

In addition, hardware and management resources are better utilised while the entire solution is scalable to support future expansion of the production area.

In spite of the complete overhaul to the system environment, there were no unexpected production interruptions as the upgrade of the network structure was planned to coincide with a 17,000m2 extension to the production area. 

The network concept with integration into the production backbone and connection to the IT was developed by the Siemens Professional Services team. Its success at the plant was down to the working relationship between the two companies and it has resulted in a solution that provides plenty of capacity for future expansions at the plant.

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