The merits of staying connected

Finger on emergency button in control room.

Inductive Automation’s Ignition SCADA platform, provided by ESM Australia, allows businesses in every industry to cost-effectively monitor and control their facilities. 

As industrial organisations grow in scale, collecting and monitoring real-time data from multiple devices becomes crucial to maintaining the efficiency and safety of the systems.

Real-time data monitoring enables managers to get a clear picture of their entire process and to make timely decision to avoid unnecessary downtime.

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, such as Ignition, allow industrial organisations to monitor and control industrial processes locally or at remote locations.

Using Ignition, plant supervisors can easily monitor, gather, and process real-time data by directly interacting with devices such as sensors, valves, pumps, motors and more, through human-machine interface software.

ESM Australia has been offering the Ignition SCADA platform in Australia for nearly five years. Manufacturers Monthly reached out to Glen Fry, founder and managing director of ESM Australia, to learn how the system can help manufacturers run their plants more efficiently.

“Ignition is a great connector of things. It is an ideal platform for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) as it can easily and cost-effectively collect data from multiple devices on the plant-floor, irrespective of what brand or model they are, and store the data in a database,” Fry said.

“Once the data is collected in a database, we then have the ability to use statistical process control (SPC) or machine-learning technologies or to carry out predictive analysis
of that data. This can give us, as humans, insights into data that we cannot see just by looking at it – because of the huge volume of data available.”

Engineers can use the real time data gathered by Ignition to measure OEE (Overall equipment effectiveness) – a standard measure of manufacturing productivity.

“Apart from giving real time data, Ignition also stores historical data, and provides powerful visualisation tools allowing business owners to look at the productivity of a line, month-on-month or product- on-product and understand whether their performance is getting better or worse,” Fry explained.

Considerable cost savings

The main benefit for managers in having a clear, real-time visualisation of their plant’s data, is the ability to make decisions that save them money.

“The visibility of the production process allows people to make changes that drive yield improvements. By integrating optional production scheduling, downtime tracking, tack and trace, and recipe modules, then connecting this data with ERP, enormous efficiencies can often be realised.”

“Our team of engineers work with the client to scope their  requirements concisely up front. It means that we need to get a good insight into what their business is doing, so that we can help pick the right metrics to measure. The actions that the clients take based on those metrics help them not just save money, but improve yield,” Fry explained.

Unlimited Licencing

With all the benefits that data monitoring platforms like Ignition offer, why are some business owners still wary of deploying the system?

“Licencing fees and total cost of ownership are the main concerns for most plant owners,” Fry said.

“Some industrial automation software companies charge for every client and every tag. This means that if you want to bring another part of your plant online, or if you want to connect another operator to your existing system, you need to buy more client licenses.”

“A differentiator for Ignition is that with that one purchase, we provide unlimited tags, and unlimited user clients. The system can communicate with all their devices on the factory floor – without any software limit to the number of hardware the system can support. Ignition is sold by the server rather than by the number of users, devices or tags connected to the system. As a result, the system only costs a fraction of what some other solutions cost. The only costs are the engineering costs of deploying those new systems.”

Ignition also uses a module- based sale model, which means the clients can tailor the solution to their needs and avoid paying unnecessary charges.

“We go through a scoping process with the client where we identify what modules of the Ignition system the user needs to buy in order to achieve the desired outcomes. Once the client purchases a module, then they only pay a reasonable annual licensing fee,” Fry said.

Understanding client needs

Being a versatile solution, it is important that the engineers and technicians from ESM Australia understand the client’s needs first before offering the best solution.

“The first thing we do is to schedule an initial scoping meeting with the client, where we work with the client to understand what their brief is and what their requirements are. Not only do we need to understand what their business does and how it works; we need to share the client’s vision.

“When the clients come to us, they usually have an idea of what their visualisation system – or manufacturing execution system (MES) – should look like and the gains they expect to see as a result of running the Ignition platform. That is what we focus on. We work with the client to help provide the tools to better measure their manufacturing efficiencies,”
Fry said.

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