Flexible emulation environment combines simulation and virtual commissioning

Large conveyor systems such as those used by DHL in its parcel centres are highly complex and generate a high volume of communications. Planning them and not testing them until the startup of the plants to see whether they are functioning and delivering the desired performance entails high cost risks and usually leads to enormous delays. Instead, DHL relies on the flexible emulation environment of EDAG PS, which uses process simulation to simulate a complete system during software development and replace step-by-step with real controls. This reduces costs, saves time and prevents unpleasant surprises.

Author: Ingo Rosteck

The advantages of the flexible emulation environment are illustrated by the planning and commissioning of the DHL High-Tech Package Center Obertshausen. The Deutsche Post DHL Group was faced with the challenge of responding to the increased demands customers are placing on parcel shipments today with a new, particularly powerful parcel center. Because in times of increasingly popular online shopping at Amazon & Co. this service is experiencing a real boom.

In June 2016, the logistics company therefore decided to build Germany's largest and most efficient package centre to date in the southern Hessian town of Obertshausen near Frankfurt Airport. The aim was to allow the new centre to sort 50,000 parcel shipments per hour instead of a maximum of 40,000 shipments per hour.



In view of the high planned capacity and the complex logistics of this huge plant, an innovative process simulation solution was required to ensure smooth and punctual commissioning. For this purpose, the two units Simulation and Production IT of EDAG PS created a flexible emulation environment (FEE), which can be used for both simulation and virtual commissioning.

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Thanks to the flexible emulation environment of EDAG PS, it was possible to implement a particularly powerful package conveyor system. Source: DHL Group

On the basis of standard software, all conveyors and controls of the entire plant are mapped. The simulation can be used to determine and optimize the system's performance - for example, with regard to the sorting speed for a previously defined package quantity.  



At the same time, the flexible emulation environment can be used for virtual commissioning. The controllers used in the simulation can be switched off for this purpose. Instead, the real controls of the control system (PMES), the material flow computer (MFR) and the PLC are coupled to the simulation model. In this way, it is possible to check whether everything really works as planned - or whether adjustments are still necessary in the control programming.

The advantage here is that the construction of the plant and the programming of the controller can be carried out in parallel as incremental processes of a Scrum project. This shortens development time, increases software quality and at the same time enables faster commissioning.



The simulation of a plant allows the decoupling of hardware and software development, which saves an enormous amount of time. By continuously replacing the simulated controllers with real ones in virtual commissioning, errors can be detected and eliminated at an early stage. The flexible emulation environment lives up to your name and can easily be adapted for further projects. It is already foreseeable that DHL will be able to save even more time and money without having to take any risks by using the EDAG PS experts' solution for two further package centres that are currently under construction.

You have a similar application and want to optimize your factory by using process simulation? Please do not hesitate to contact me: ingo.rosteck@edag-ps.com or by phone: +49 (6142) 8207-66960.