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    Botec F1: Easy automation of complex processes

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    The Botec F1 process control system makes it possible to run batch production with secure, dependable, and reproducible results.
    • With innovative improvements, Botec is helping to drive the evolution of modern automation technology.

    It's been almost 30 years since Steinecker GmbH first released its process control system for brewing, dubbing it Botec (short for Batch-oriented Technology). Over the ensuing decades, Botec has been continually design-enhanced, keeping pace with the many changes in control and automation technology.

    What began in Freising as a process-control light pen has now come full circle and is back at Steinecker: As of last year, the Krones subsidiary is once again fully managing, supporting, and refining this latest version of the system, Botec F1.

    The Steinecker team now responsible for Botec has set some ambitious goals: They want to make the process control system fit for the future, with innovations that will help drive the evolution of modern automation technology. The focus here is, of course, on the overarching goal of assisting companies in the food and beverage industry – so they can run batch production with secure, dependable, and reproducible – and therefore sustainable – results.

    The team has created a clear roadmap based on their collected knowledge of customer requirements, current trends, and strategic considerations, taking into equal account all stakeholders involved in the product lifecycle. Steinecker intends to follow this roadmap systematically, in phases, in the years ahead and thus fulfill their expectations of themselves and of the Botec system.

    Botec development roadmap: barrier-free access, user-friendly operation, and transparency

    All of the Botec projects that have so far been completed in collaboration with breweries, dairies, and water, soft-drink, and spirits producers have made one thing quite clear: Successful implementation, reliable operation, and comprehensive information management across all levels of control and data processing can only occur when many actors work together in concert. It takes software engineers for the initial installation of the process control system; operating personnel, shift supervisors, and managers at the production plant, and providers of higher-level IT systems for consistent vertical integration. Each of these groups faces a unique set of challenges and therefore places specific demands on the system as a whole. Steinecker takes every one of them seriously and has derived from them three main development paradigms: barrier-free access, user-friendly operation, and transparency.

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    Whether it’s the new features or the quick overview of current and past production batches – Botec is very user-friendly.

    Barrier-free access: easier engineering and a growing network of partners

    For Steinecker, barrier-free access means that all users can, literally, access the engineering easily and projects can be implemented independently, through certified Botec partners. For this reason, the team is currently working hard to reduce the complexity involved in carrying out Botec projects, with a smart "configure, don't program" approach. The concept really shines when it comes to executing Botec projects on Siemens-S7-1500 controls using the new TIA Engineering Buddy. This tool, which is freely available to all Botec integrators, makes it possible to synchronize necessary, project-specific configurations at the push of a button – for consistent engineering across all involved components. And so, projects can be planned and executed quickly, uniformly, and reliably in accordance with clearly defined best-practice standards.

    At the same time, Steinecker is continually expanding its international network of independent system integrators. All Steinecker-approved solution partners are able to implement Botec projects independently, which gives potential users a wide selection of qualified integrators to choose from. An overview of the current partner network can be found on the Botec F1 product page.

    User-friendly operation: targeted addition of features, dependable support

    Botec product management has a wealth of experience gained from the multitude of projects they have successfully implemented over several decades. The information on customer requirements, context, and trends collected through those projects serves as the basis for purposeful further development. Several new features were released recently: the ScannerApp for reliably registering and validating materials using a flexible handheld device, ActiveDirectory Integration, for synchronizing access data company-wide, and ShellTool, which fully shields Botec from the underlying operating system and therefore further enhances security alongside USB-port blocking, active firewalls, and defined whitelisting mechanisms.

    Another major contributor to improved user-friendliness is BatchView, which is fully integrated into the visualization system as an additional tab. BatchView presents batch logs, trend curves, manual interventions, alarms, and events in a single, easy-to-read visual, giving operators a quick overview of all current and past production batches. If there's a need to take a closer look at a completed process, any additional parameters can be simply dragged-and-dropped into the trend chart for tracking.

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    BatchView makes it easy to quickly gain an overview of all current and past production batches.

    All new features are regularly made available through version releases. Steinecker only recently released Botec F1 4.2, which will now be delivered with a web-based, no-license-required reporting platform as standard. The platform can load and run not only standard but also customized reports for company-wide analysis. The next version, Botec F1 4.3, is slated for release in spring 2023. It will offer a new option for securely alerting operating personnel to current alarms and warnings by way of configurable push notifications that are sent directly to mobile devices. All new installations will include the latest version as standard, and a version update for existing systems is, of course, available as well. For customers wanting to keep their process control system up-to-date with the latest upgrades at all times, Steinecker offers subscription options that allow them to access all new releases at no additional charge. The central premise of Botec's ongoing development is to maintain backward compatibility so that the process control system continues to operate in the same, familiar way after a version update and all production systems remain fully functional.

    Without a doubt, customer support is another essential aspect of user-friendliness alongside the targeted improvements to ease of use. In order to leverage synergies here, the product is fully integrated into Krones AG's service infrastructure. That means that all customer inquiries can be easily and conveniently submitted through a centralized service hotline or ticket system and then forwarded to the appropriate technical departments.

    Transparency: clear data management and defined interfaces

    Because Botec has always been designed to function as a stand-alone installation, it is already equipped with all of the features it needs to ensure secure, reliable production. And yet it is also clear that modern operations include tasks that can only be accomplished if the process control system is vertically integrated into the higher levels of automation. Therefore, the aim is to integrate Botec even more deeply into Krones' digital innovation strategy. Krones maps the digital world of production processes on four levels: the production machinery and systems, the process control level, a centralized cloud solution, and the SAP platform, to which Krones is continually adding its own applications developed in-house. This cohesive technology stack makes it possible to gain relevant line and production data which can then be used for transparent higher-level analyses of key performance indicators, quality control and verification, product tracing, and energy and media reports. And that, in turn, serves as the ideal basis for delivering integrated services to every customer and for making specific performance guarantees with respect to the digital transformation of customers' production operations.

    Steinecker even has a suitable solution for existing, custom-built IT environments: In such cases, the centralized data and information interface Iface has proven exceptionally useful. It has been continually evolving on the basis of requirements identified in projects completed for customers. The name Iface stands for a database system in which plant-specific configuration data and operating data captured during run-time are made available for interpretation by MES applications. In addition to the optional, internal track-and-trace module, the latest Botec systems provide easy access to all data sets relevant for batch tracing as standard, with no additional engineering required. Moreover, the Iface interface makes possible ANSI/ISA-95-standard bidirectional communication with planning and/or order systems in B2MML format. This allows production orders to be scheduled centrally, at the ERP level, and their confirmations in turn to be included in material requirements planning.

    Experience Botec F1 live – and see for yourself!

    It's worth the effort to reach out to Steinecker directly: The Botec team will be glad to show you, quite simply, all of the current features through a newly developed, secure remote access to the Botec F1 installation in their in-house brew center. They invite you to chat about your specific requirements, future upgrades, and pressing challenges when it comes to state-of-the-art process control technology.

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