GEA Westfalia Separator's New Control Generation

Posted by Michelle Howard
Thursday, March 06, 2014

 According to the manufacturer, the newly launched control generation GEA Westfalia Separator IO reduces complexity and focuses on userfriendliness. Accordingly, the initial consideration when developing the human machine interface was not what the implemented logical controller or the centrifuge are able to do; instead, the focus was on what the user needs, either the operator, the commissioner or the company’s own service engineer. Who needs what information and functionalities in which situation and what is not required, or in short: user-friendliness. This was the motto of the developers at GEA Westfalia Separator Group when they started to develop the new IO control. The aim was to make it simple because, in a world which is becoming more and more complex and difficult to understand, “simplicity is the real sophistication” to quote Steve Jobs.

For the customer, this has enormous benefits: operating personnel are quickly able to understand and handle the control units of the centrifuge, the familiarisation is relatively short. This increases flexibility in production. The reliability of the production processes also improves because, if the system only displays what the user needs, the error potential declines automatically. The equation is simple: the fewer the buttons, the lower the probability to hit the wrong one. However, this does not mean that the new generation of control units has less functionality. On the contrary, IO offers much more than today`s control units. It is the user guidance facility which has been consistently reduced to the essentials to make sure that the user is not consistently overloaded with useless options or information. The benefit for the customer is that the wide range of functionalities is now available in a much more intuitive manner. Indeed, who of us is fully aware of all functions of our TV or digital camera? Nobody likes to wade through inch-thick instruction manuals with the result that we familiarize ourselves with the basic operations while everything else remains disregarded, including genuinely useful functions.

Control, display and evaluate
That’s why GEA Westfalia Separator IO aims to be as intuitive as possible. Displays have been consistently streamlined, the symbols are self-explanatory, and the colour code is based on international standards, either traffic signal  colours for statuses or the standard which is used in plant construction for identifying pipework. One glance, and the operator knows not only what is running through the centrifuge but also whether the conditions are good or bad in this particular situation. IO is able not only to control and display, it is also able to evaluate. Because, in order to provide optimum operation of production processes, it is not sufficient merely to display the status of a machine; it is also necessary for the data to be interpreted. And this is where IO proves to be of great assistance for the customer. The customer is able to see how efficient the centrifuge is running in relation to energy consumption, performance or separation efficiency.

Assistance by efficiency programs
However, the experts of GEA Westfalia Separator Group are still not satisfied. Because the knowledge that something is not operating perfectly is one thing; the other side of the coin is to know what needs to be done. What settings have to be changed now, and how? IO also provides assistance to the customer with regard to this question, namely by way of the optional efficiency programs. The only thing left to do now for the operator is to decide what his optimum status of the centrifuge is: maximum separating efficiency or performance, minimum energy consumption or auxiliary materials? The user only needs to push a button, and the centrifuge automatically adjusts to the desired status. This demonstrates the major advantage of installing a centrifuge and control unit as a complete solution. Because the efficiency programmes comprise the know-how and decades of knowledge regarding the control of centrifuges which only the OEM has.

In view of the wide range of advantages, it almost goes without saying that IO also features remote capability. The operator is thus able to access his centrifuge via his tablet or smartphone. Even remote diagnosis by the experts from Oelde or the subsidiary is possible. This means that the centrifuges are ready to be deployed again as quickly as possible. With GEA Westfalia Separator IO, the entire potential of our centrifuges can be fully utilized: Simple, intuitive, reliable, user-friendly, with all these benefits provided even from home. The new operating system will be initially used for the CF decanter series of GEA Westfalia Separator. The process of changing over to cover all products is expected to be completed by mid-2014.

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