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Siemens - Good / Bad / outdated "apple/android"

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Quick History:

I'm a Marine / oil and gas engineer time served, worked for years with Mitsubishi, Schneider and Allen and Bradley. now at a top level position of management for an international company in which  were trying to standardize all our system. all the Old dogs (directors) swear by Siemens 

Main Point

i'm just coming to the end on my first project using Siemens and well..... its cost 10 times as much at least. nothing is straight forward or intuitive.

it seems when i tackled the old boys on why Siemens is so great the main response is "everyone uses Siemens its obviously good". in other words its just me. 

and anyone who seems to think Siemens is the dogs boll*cks has never worked with anything else (i mean really work with it, not have tried something for a few days back in the 1960's). or or has only done tiny projects which didn't really warrant the use of a PLC.

Conclusion: i'm currently pulling my hair out with Siemens, is it just me?? I love Schneider, i like Mitsubishi i like Allen and Bradley . i always think of Siemens like "apple" and the others like "android" but Siemens doesn't lead the way if anything are coping the others. am i right?? and like apple if you but one thing Siemens you have to buy there plugs, cable ect..

I'd love to hear other peoples opinion (please make sure you state your experience)


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My background:

My first job (almost 2 years) working with PLCs was as a multi-craft maintenance tech in an AB plant. I rarely used the PLCs for diagnostics. Most of the time when I did, it was a system with a Soft Logix controller running on a PC that was always online and which we could only look at, not change. About 70% of my time was fixing mechanical issues, 30% electrical issues (sensors, cables, damaged wiring, etc.). I probably used the PLC code to help with 5% of my repairs total. It was very very little. I never made any changes to PLCs or HMIs.

My second relevant job (almost 4 years) was as an Automation Specialist in a plant that was mostly AB Logix 500 but was about 20% Siemens S7-300/400. The company sent me to the 1-week programming 1 classes for both the SLC500 and S7-300 within the first few months of my time there. I worked with both, probably a 70/30 AB/S7 split for time spent online. I did very little original programming in the S7s and what I tried was very difficult. To be fair, some of the difficulty was just the way the programmers went about things, doing the entire machine in STL instead of LAD. There were some other things they did that made it extremely difficult to track down problems that I can go into if you're interested.

My third (and current) relevant job (8 years in November) is Electrical Engineer in a manufacturing facility that's about 60/40 AB/Siemens. The AB stuff includes PLC2, SLC150, MicroLogix, SLC5/xx, ControlLogix, and CompactLogix PLCs and Panelview Standard and PV+, PV+6, and PV+7 HMIs. The Siemens equipment is almost all S7-300 (with a few S7 Technology processors) in Simatic Manager with a few newer ones having S7-1500s in Portal. The HMIs are the obsolete MP series (in WinCC Flexible 2008) and some of the newer Comfort Panels (in Portal). For drives, we just replaced the last AB 1370 DC drives but still have a lot of 1336x drives left. We've mostly moved on to PowerFlex 700, 700s, 4, 525, 755, and DC. Siemens drives include MicroMaster 420/440 and the newer Sinamics S120/G120s.


All that follows is my opinion, based on my experience.

I have not encountered anything that the Siemens systems do better or easier than AB with only one very limited exception: their HMIs can communicate with AB PLCs out of the box, while the AB HMIs can't talk to S7s without adding some licensed software and jumping through some hoops. Unfortunately, their HMIs are far less robust and sturdy than the PV+.

Other than that, Siemens is more cumbersome and more difficult to train people to use reliably. There are a LOT more ways for an electrician to mess up and break things in Siemens than AB. Software versioning is an absolute nightmare, due in large part to the Technology processors. The S7-Technology software (necessary for the motion control they're doing) supersedes and replaces the drive Starter software and is NOT backwards compatible with older versions. IOW, if your S7-T software is newer than the project, you have to upgrade the project to open it and you then can't go online with the drives without downloading to them from the upgraded project. I'm maintaining 5 virtual machines on my laptop to handle all of the versions of S7-T. If someone accidentally opens a drive object and upgrades it, then saves the project after making PLC changes, there's no way to fix the archives. It's a mess that Siemens tech support gave up on fixing. I can provide more details of that process as well, if you're interested.

Bottom line: I can get far better results far faster using AB hardware/software than I can with Siemens. Outside North America, AB's distributor network is lacking, in our experience, which gives Siemens an edge overseas, especially in Europe. That doesn't make their hardware/software any better, though.

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