Automation system developers are tasked with eliminating equipment islands and improving data sharing between shop floor and top floor systems. This is more challenging when the networks of communication must support diverse, multi vendor devices, like HMIs, sensors, PLCs, and MES (Manufacturing Execution systems), as seen in manufacturing gas, oil and mineral industries. The OPC foundation creates and maintains the OPC specification for standardizing the communication between plant floor devices and enterprise systems based on general computing technology that offering unifying solution.
OPC has been applied successfully to enable greater interoperability between enterprise systems and industrial automation. The scope of OPC includes accessing current data, historical data, and alarm events. It remains a scalable technology evolving along with industry demands since OPC is an open standard maintained by the OPC Foundation.
The OPC specification addresses a lot of platform capabilities intended to improve the interoperability between devices on different industrial networks from different vendors. Some of the capabilities as following:
• Real time plant access, industrial solution vendors are providing OPC data of product coupling services and real time control applications, such as equipment conditioning monitoring software or HMIs.
• Edi (Electronic Data Interchange), OPC enables data sharing between different factory devices and corporate systems using EDI systems such as XML.
• Connectivity of ERP, solution vendors seamlessly integrated data between the ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications and the industrial automation environment.
• SOA (Service Oriented Architecture), this design framework loosely couples services with programming languages, operating systems and other technologies, which eases the effort to exchange data between applications.
The OPC foundation broadened OPC interface options beyond Microsoft COM/DCOM which could not be integrated into devices of automation running other operating systems with recent architecture changes. This meant the main OPC use case, communication Human Machine Interface (HMI) applications with automation devices, required proprietary communication link from the device to the OPC interface running on a PC.