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Benefits for Users of IEC 61131-3

Last updated: 15-08-2013

Intro IEC 61131-3

IEC 61131-3 is a world wide standard. It harmonizes the way people look to industrial control by standardizing the programming interface. This includes the definition of the language Sequential Function Charts (SFC), used to structure the internal organization of a program, and four inter-operable languages: Instruction List (IL), Ladder Diagram (LD), Function Block Diagram (FBD) and Structured Text (ST). Via modularization and declaration of variables each program is additionally structured, increasing its re-usability, reducing errors and increasing efficiency. In addition, IEC 61131-3 structures the way a control system is configured.

General Advantages

As IEC 61131-3 deals with standardization, it provides advantages to the users of this standard. General advantages are:

Reduced waste of human resources
High level of software re-usability creates a focus to problem solving
Reduced misunderstandings and errors
Provided programming techniques usable in broad area: general industrial control
Combines harmoniously different components form different locations, countries, and projects

Advantages to users? Which users?

Users of the IEC 61131-3 standard is a very generic term. They can be found in a broad area, covering all aspects of the industrial market. In the whole supply chain one can distinguish between different types of users:

    (independent) software suppliers
    industrial control hardware and systems suppliers
    programmers
    suppliers of production units (machines)
    system integrators
    SCADA and DCS suppliers
    end user of industrial equipment, both discrete manufacturing and process control
    installation parties
    (independent) maintenance people
    (independent) training providers / educational level

Benefits for (independent) software suppliers

    IEC 61131-3 provides a standard definition for their software development environments
    Standard more and more accepted by their customers, creating a large potential market
    Market is broader: general industrial control
    Independent software development possible: hardware adaptations limited to specific part only. Creates focus to fulfilling customer requirements
    Differentiation possible on efficiency, user friendliness, coupling to other programs and tools, pricing structure, support, training, user documentation, language availability, function block libraries, etc.
    Multiple independent suppliers support the acceptance of the standard

Benefits for control suppliers

    no internal specification needed
    market acceptance increasing: often pre requisite
    recognition and acceptance of the company
    ability to concentrate on differentiating added value
    access to 3rd party modules and tools
    increased total available market through wider application areas
    merge path for different product lines
    provides link between past and future (e. g. softlogic)

Advantages for programmers

    Well structured, 'top-down' or 'bottom-up' program development
    Provides tools for decomposing the problem into manageable units
    Support for development in a group with different backgrounds and/or levels
    High level of re-usability of code
    Strong datatyping prohibits programming errors
    Support for full execution control
    Support for complex sequential behavior description (SFC)
    Data structures for easy exchange of data elements
    Flexible language selection, matching different backgrounds
    Vendor independent software development possible

Advantages for suppliers of production units (machines)

    Provides more independence towards suppliers at control level
    Provides basis for re use of software across platforms
    Higher flexibility in personnel: not limited to one system only
    Less training required
    Higher efficiency in coding
    High level of re-usability reduces costs and increases confidence in planning
    Provides tools to specify requirements at higher level
    Better comparison between different offers, esp. software development
    Provides link to existing personnel
    Usable world wide, over and over again
    Provides a standard communication tool between engineers at different locations

Advantages for system integrators

    Provides more independence towards suppliers at control level
    Provides basis for re use of software across platforms
    Higher flexibility in personnel: not limited to one system only
    Less (cross) training required
    Higher efficiency in coding provides reduction in costs
    High level of re-usability reduces costs and increases confidence in planning
    Provides tools to specify requirements at higher level, providing better communication with clients
    Usable world wide, over and over again
    Provides a standard communication tool between engineers across the organization

Advantages for SCADA and DCS suppliers

    Provides means to broaden the available market by integrating the control part
    No need for own, internal specification
    Large range of independent software suppliers to choose from, creating the basis for optimal solutions
    Link to broad area of third party products and training

Advantages for end user of industrial equipment

    Provides more supplier independence at control level
    High level of re-usability reduces costs and increases confidence in planning
    Provides tools to specify requirements at higher level
    More independent towards system / service suppliers
    Better comparison between different offers, esp. software development
    Provides link to existing personnel
    Usable world wide, over and over again
    Provides better communication tool between engineers at different locations

Advantages for installation parties

    Easier commissioning, through structured programming
    Less errors, reduces on-site debugging and gives shorter installation times
    Multi-brand control systems can be supported
    Less training of personnel, providing flexible work force and knowledge sharing
    Becomes pre requisite of end user in lots of markets

Advantages for (independent) maintenance people

    Support for multiple brands possible without retraining
    Separation between different levels possible via function blocks
    Selection of languages provides often different views for different countries
    Structuring tools provide better overview
    Often on-line, case sensitive help functions provided, and support for multiple windows, providing easier debugging

Advantages for (independent) training providers / educational level

    Supplier independent courses possible
    Product independent courses possible
    Better matching of theory and praxis, esp. at schools / educational level
    Based upon up-to-date programming techniques and structural thinking