When control worlds converge

01 March 2019

Distributed Control Systems (DCS) and PLCs are increasingly converging. PLC systems have acquired more extensive visualisation systems, similar to those traditionally used by process engineers to manage complex processing workflows.

For today’s PLC-based systems, even I/O points in the high five digits do not pose a challenge. In addition, software engineering environments now feature a broad range of libraries and plenty of function blocks so that even highly complex closed-loop control structures can be designed quickly and reliably.

Traditionally simple machines have evolved into more complex production lines within tightly networked plants, and operators have become more interested in using distributed peripherals that can be linked to fast fieldbus systems and deliver the bandwidth needed to accommodate the resulting flood of data. As a result, systems that can offer distributed intelligence are now prevailing, according to Beckhoff

Above all it is the vision of the Internet of Things (IoT) which has resulted in PLC-based systems taking on characteristics of DCSs, especially in terms of integration capabilities. This, in turn, has increased support for mature protocols that offer cross-system data exchange, for example, based on OPC-UA, but also for communication between the supervisory control level and the cloud through protocols such as MQTT and AMQP.

With its PC-based control solutions Beckhoff believes that it can offer the ideal automation toolbox to implement all the requirements of both the machine builder and the process engineer in a  complete and integrated solution. Through the addition of specific innovations for process technology applications, process engineers now have access to the same automation system that has long been proven in machine design and factory automation.


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