Ignition Firebrand Award Implementations
I attended the annual Inductive Automation conference in Folsom, California with an inquiring mind regarding HMI/SCADA. What are people (and companies) doing with Ignition, its flagship software platform? Why after 20 years are customers still lining up to use the platform? I did the very beginnings of what is now called digital transformation 45 years ago. Why are we still so far from implementing it?
Two brief answers. First, there are always problems to solve. The problems solved here are providing information to people who need it in order to better operate whatever program or operation they work at. Second, the tools just keep improving enabling more problems to be solved.
Inductive Automation sponsors a competition among users culminating in the annual Firebrand Awards. Following are short takes on the projects that won. The link takes you to the overview page for deeper information. These are really cool projects that should fire your imagination for problems you could tackle.
IGNITION COMMUNITY UNITES TO BUILD HOMELESS MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEM
Room in the Inn exists to provide programs that emphasize human development and recovery through education, self-help and work, centered in community and long term support for those who call the streets of Nashville home.
Room in the Inn (RITI) was using four disparate software packages, Excel, and email to run their operations, but there were still too many gaps and the logistics were too complex for the existing solutions. Vertech offered to build an Ignition application that combined all their software packages for their existing operations and included additional logistics features. And Vertech offered to do it for free. Over 150 volunteers from around the world participated in this two-and-a-half-year project to provide RITI with the solution they need to help serve the homeless community in Nashville, TN.
In what Chris McLaughlin from Vertech describes as “stupidity or altruism,” he offered to build RITI one cohesive software platform that would encompass all the existing functionality and add the missing features required to scale their service for the homeless. Whether it was the offer to build a multi-million-dollar solution for free, or Chris’ “charm,” RITI trusted Vertech, Chris, and his community of engineers to make a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) despite having never made one before. Ignition wasn’t the obvious software platform for a HMIS that doesn’t have any I/O or industrial equipment, but it was the platform Vertech knew, and it came with a community of volunteers willing to help.
After two-and-a-half long years and over 150 volunteers, the new Ignition HMIS system went live and was named Discovery by RITI (just a coincidence that it is being submitted to the Discover Gallery). Now over 40 people per day use Ignition to run shelters, manage operations, provide services to the homeless, and generate KPIs for continuous improvement. They are already using it as a foundation to add additional reports, auto-task generation, and features to improve the service of the homeless.
CUSTOM VISUAL TOOLS HELP BRING ANIMATRONIC CREATURES TO LIFE
ESM Australia was founded in 1996, originally to provide a repair service in the fields of industrial electronics for industry in Queensland and later around Australia. Today we have become recognized leaders in Industry 4.0, leading companies through the process of digitalization, allowing them to realize the potential gains that automation and data promises.
Creature Technology Co. produces the most technologically sophisticated, creatively inspired and life-like animatronics for area spectaculars, theme parks, exhibitions, stage shows and events around the world. Founded in Melbourne, Australia in 2006, Creature Technology revolutionized animatronic entertainment through the production of Walking with Dinosaurs ‐ The Arena Spectacular. With a vision to emotionally connect an audience to a cast of prehistoric beasts, we used never‐before‐seen technology to set a new benchmark in storytelling through animatronics. Since then, our work has spanned the globe and the many genres of live entertainment.
Creature Technology Company developed and implemented the C-Tech 2 system with support from ESM Automation Systems (AKA ESM Australia) and Inductive Automation. The system provides theatrical technicians and operators with simple visual tools to modify or create interaction and motion of complex animatronics figures without needing to access or be experts in PLC, motion, or SCADA programming.
The drag-and-drop interface offers a friendly and familiar way to pull dynamic functions from a palette to a workspace and draw links between them to create complex relationships. For this project, the data structures, functions, variables, relationships, and even screen layouts and tabbed views are linked to a PostgreSQL database.
Beckhoff industrial controllers, connected to the same database, interpret configurations in the database into logic and motion control settings. The logic and motion control settings are used in conjunction with motion profiles generated by studio animation tools to create fluid, lifelike movements, and interaction of animatronic creatures.
After surveying potential solutions, Creature Technology Company determined that a custom Ignition module using a React library to create a custom Perspective component would yield the best results. With the help of Inductive Automation’s Travis Cox, a custom module was built using the React Library’s React Flow Chart. The module contains two components: the draggable node and the chart. Both components utilize Perspective’s embedded views for visualization on the chart. This enables full integration and use of Ignition’s features, e.g., pop-ups, tag bindings, etc.
The element palette is a database-driven flex repeater that contains all available elements as draggable nodes which can be dragged onto the chart. There are three categories of nodes: inputs, functions, and outputs. Inputs and outputs are linked to static elements, while the functions contain dynamic elements such as adders or setpoint select nodes. Each node is uniquely identified and has dynamically created tags. Once a node is removed its tags are also removed.
Nodes are displayed using a dynamic block template. Based on the database, a defined number of input and output ports, as well as custom local parameters, can either be exposed as an input or statically defined. Local parameters can be edited in a setting pop-up for each node. Ports can be linked using connectors to other nodes. Once a flow is completed from an input to an output element through any number of functions, a map is created to identify the order of execution for the Beckhoff controller. Lastly, for an improved user experience, tabbed workspaces and file operations were added to ensure operators can manage large animation programs more easily.
The improved user experience has been lauded by end users, who express overwhelming appreciation for the new drag-and-drop view’s ease of use. Assessing the UI mockups next to the delivered system demonstrates that Perspective is the ideal environment to connect industrial hardware quickly into a web-based environment which can be accessed anywhere at any time.
DATA CENTER SUPPORTS CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT THROUGH SCADA SYNCHRONIZATION
Vantage Data Centers powers, cools, protects, and connects the technology of the world’s well-known hyperscalers, cloud providers, and large enterprises. Developing and operating across five continents in North America, EMEA, and Asia Pacific, Vantage has evolved data center design in innovative ways to deliver dramatic gains in reliability, efficiency, and sustainability in flexible environments that can scale as quickly as the market demands.
Vantage Data Centers’ goal for this project was to design and deploy an Ignition Perspective system for multiple data centers across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), used for both system control and monitoring, as well as supporting operational excellence and continuous improvement.
With Vantage Data Centers’ targets for rapid expansion in the EMEA region, they were challenged with “industrializing” SCADA deployments, namely building a framework and approach to deploying thousands of devices in short development and commissioning windows, all without compromising quality or ease of use.
The challenges Vantage Data Centers faced were all derived from the scale of the project:
- How to build and configure this many tags and devices?
- How to display thousands of different devices?
- How to ensure the system is vendor and communication protocol agnostic?
- How to create the above without compromising consistency and quality?
- How to achieve this in the time frames required?
- How to maintain a system so huge?
Vantage Data Centers focused on five critical areas while creating their Ignition solution.
To solve the issue of building tags and devices on a large scale, Vantage Data Centers developed a number of engineering tools. This allowed the deployment of tags and devices to remote I/O gateways from the project’s frontend, leveraging the redundant hub & spoke architecture and gateway network. These are fully configured, including the driver configurations.
Vantage Data Centers coined the phrase “universal pop-up” for the one pop-up they use for all devices. This pop-up evaluates the data structure of the UDT instance and displays the tag data accordingly. It is fully automated, works with any industrial protocols, and incorporates a number of features, including integrated trending, alarming, maintenance, and commissioning. This tag-centric approach to building graphical elements allows for high-speed deployment with excellent quality and consistency.
The operators and wider team use displays ranging from large wall-mounted monitors to tablets. Leveraging their library of icons, Vantage Data Centers is able to display each device in a simple format, with configuration of the template as simple as the UDT definition path. This allows for standardization across multiple-sized UIs throughout the region.
A modern, high-performance layout enables operators to access any device within four clicks. With a simple eight-color pallet, it is easy to identify issues with equipment.
Three layers of gateways have been deployed: I/O gateways collecting data from devices, frontend gateways where users interact with the data, and the regional management layer. Using the Enterprise Administration Module, Vantage Data Centers is able to monitor the health of all the systems from a single location, perform remote revision-controlled changes to projects and trend data, and monitor KPIs from anywhere in EMEA.
Since migrating to the Ignition Perspective system in 2022, Vantage Data Centers has reduced their development and deployment cycle from a few months to a few weeks. Commissioning of the new projects is now simpler while error and rework rates have been significantly reduced. Additionally, situational awareness has been dramatically improved by the end users.
IGNITION EMPOWERS BUSINESS EVOLUTION FOR LEADER IN WATER SUPPLY PIPELINES
2Gi Technologie is one of the oldest Ignition integrators in the world. As a Premier Integrator, 2Gi Technology has specialized in the digitalization of industrial processes for over 20 years. It is involved in SCADA, MES, and IoT, and can offer full turnkey solutions, including hosting and telecoms. Over the years, 2Gi Technologie has successfully implemented solutions in the manufacturing industry, chemical industry, and water and wastewater management. Thanks to its recognized expertise, including in large groups, 2Gi Technologie is occasionally active in Europe, French-speaking Africa, and the United Kingdom.
Worldwide leader in light and sustainable construction, Saint-Gobain designs, manufactures and distributes materials and services for the construction and industrial markets. As part of this vast group (€51.2 billion turnover in 2022, 168,000 employees, present in 75 countries), Saint-Gobain PAM has been the leading expert in water supply pipelines for more than 150 years and equips more than 100 capitals and 1,000 towns worldwide each year with its range of ductile iron pipes, fittings, joints and accessories. It also supplies equipment for the municipal casting and building sectors, such as fire hydrants, manhole covers, valves, gully grates, and flange adaptors.
Saint-Gobain PAM has launched a business modernization program to remain at the highest level of competitiveness, and digital technology plays a key role. Saint-Gobain PAM chose the 150-year-old reference plant to demonstrate that leveraging Ignition as an enterprise platform could cover every need and that a team of 6 experts could successfully manage the entire transformation, including SCADA, MES, track and trace, quality control, and many other functions.
Saint-Gobain PAM has chosen to:
- Use Ignition with an adapted economic model that natively embeds numerous technical capabilities.
- To build a team of experts: Three in the Saint-Gobain PAM digital team and three in an Ignition integration team.
- To rely on the expert integration team at 2Gi Technologie, which has been using the Platform for 15 years.
Ignition’s Hub & Spoke architecture met every challenge, including security, performance, real-time data transmission, and scalability.
Ignition’s open standards made it possible to easily interface with third-party systems, including SAP and VAX architectures (designed in 1977).
Saint-Gobain PAM uses Vision, Perspective, and Perspective Mobile at the same time to keep HMIs adapted to use at the foot of the production line, in a “responsive” office environment, and in mobility
Saint-Gobain PAM achieved tracking by combining an RFID tag placed in the surface of the pipe and capable of withstanding high temperatures developed by its R&D teams and Ignition’s ability to collect and aggregate data in real time from various points on the production line.
This unique traceability allows Saint-Gobain PAM, after 15 years of various attempts, to track the detailed production of each pipe manufactured in real time.
Vision has improved quality control with simple and ergonomic HMIs with tactile input for operators permanently wearing protective gloves.
The strategy of building a team of experts to leverage the full power of the Ignition Platform has paid off.
In a few months and with optimized costs, Saint-Gobain PAM has a modern and open Enterprise Platform covering all of its digital needs in a manufacturing environment. The plant put an end to costly and imperfect paper-based information collection processes.
ALARM MANAGEMENT SYSTEM MAKES COMPLIANCE EASIER FOR BIOPHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY
For over 40 years, top manufacturers in food & beverage, CPG, and life sciences/pharmaceuticals have called upon Grantek to solve their most complex business and manufacturing challenges. Grantek automates pharmaceutical and food & beverage manufacturing operations, including integration with business systems for seamless solutions. Grantek helps customers meet the stringent requirements and challenges of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Grantek is a system integrator and solution provider with a specialization in smart manufacturing solutions, manufacturing automation solutions, industrial IT/cybersecurity solutions and manufacturing consulting services.
For more than 130 years, Merck & Co., Inc. (Merck) has brought hope to humanity through the development of important medicines and vaccines. Merck aspires to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world — and today, Merck is at the forefront of research to deliver innovative health solutions that advance the prevention and treatment of diseases in people and animals. Merck fosters a diverse and inclusive global workforce and operates responsibly every day to enable a safe, sustainable and healthy future for all people and communities.
Merck & Co., Inc., the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world, requested Grantek’s assistance in building an alarm management system with the Ignition SCADA platform for its facility in West Point, PA. This solution provides alarm monitoring, historization, and a management interface for 10,000+ points while also delivering ad hoc and scheduled reporting tools to aid in the rationalization of up to 30,000 alarm events per day. Grantek’s solution, built with Ignition Perspective, also provides point change management and tracking tools to assist site administrators in maintaining the associated point metadata.
The system needed the ability to add various alarm data from existing Siemens PLCs and through OPC tags for different systems on site. To keep the configuration setup as simple as possible, all data was mapped through the existing Matrikon OPC Server. This eliminated the need to verify all tags back to the PLCs or other systems while also simplifying the overall tag verification for the existing system. Tags connecting to Siemens controllers were connected through the Ignition OPC Server.
The alarming system had to provide all levels of alarm management for the configured tags, and a variety of metadata type options. As part of the alarm system, the user needed the ability to enter comments for each active alarm that would be historized and available for review via reports and the alarm’s history. The alarm system will also work in conjunction with Active Directory to access a list of designated users and populate the given parameters that are made available. User profiles and characteristics also had to be created. Additionally, reports needed to be configured to be filterable by time (day/week/month), severity, category, and users.
Merck selected Ignition by Inductive Automation as the SCADA system for this solution. Grantek recommended Ignition Perspective, as it is uniquely positioned to deliver the results Merck wanted to achieve. The solution had a connection to 22,000 tags and 11,000 alarm points through an OPC/DA server architecture, while also providing a future avenue to connect 96 new Allen Bradley PLCs directly to the gateway. To ensure a user-friendly experience for Merck operators and managers, a real-time alarm management workflow was developed to allow operators to view, dispatch, acknowledge, and annotate unique alarm events through the life cycle of the event. Perspective views for high-density alarm summary and alarm history were also developed to let users perform advanced filtering of the alarm tables as needed. This feature also allows operators and management to view all relative metadata and response status in a conveniently docked pane.
This solution provided Merck with an application that enables well-defined management (dispatching, answering, annotating, and monitoring) of all alarms (up to 10,000 alarm events per day). Furthermore, the solution lets application administrators perform in-depth configuration updates to existing alarms points (and associated metadata including setpoints, sensor details, troubleshooting steps, owners, and various other details) and the ability to add and configure new alarms through the application’s frontend. Additional features included automatic notifications and report distribution, and a high-availability DB architecture allowing for historical retention of an immense amount of alarm information.
To provide more flexibility, the ad hoc and filterable reports let users view historical events in highly customized formats. This feature can also be helpful in the event of a regulatory review or audit. The UI tools allow authorized users to manage points from the system’s frontend. They will be able to change point metadata, alarm parameters, point owners, and specify users who will be notified by email or text if the point enters an alarm state. Alternatively, users can export point data to a CSV file from the Ignition Perspective application, make necessary edits, and re-import the CSV file into the application to modify points.
UI tools were incorporated into this solution to provide workflow for users to request changes to points while allowing system administrators to track the progress of the changes and record annotation. Grantek’s solution also provides AD integration and workflow so that system administrators can approve or deny new users or role changes.
CUTTING-EDGE DMS EMPHASIZES DATA CONTEXTUALIZATION FOR PHARMACEUTICAL ORGANIZATION
Skellig was founded in 2010 to experiment with the optimization of teams in the life sciences industry. Skellig clients experience a level of transparency and partnership that has not been seen in the industry until now. Skellig partners best with their clients by focusing first on being a place where great engineers can do great work. They built their business around solving for engineers, where engineers find fulfillment in the work they do and take part in opportunities that suit their goals, surrounded by great teammates.
Center for Breakthrough Medicines is a pharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organization focused on innovative cell and gene therapies. CBM’s integrated, comprehensive offering provides a one-source solution to accelerate speed to market for advanced therapies. CBM’s mission is to save lives by accelerating the development and manufacturing of advanced therapies. Services include drug substance and drug product for all phases of the product lifecycle at a single site. We provide many services including process and analytical development & testing as well as plasmid DNA, viral vector, and cell therapy manufacturing in an over 30 process suite, 700,000+ sq ft facility.
The objective of this project was to develop the Automation Infrastructure and Data Management System backbone for the world’s largest Cell and Gene Therapy Pharmaceutical (CDMO). Center for Breakthrough Medicines’ (CBM) primary aim was to automate data collection and contextualization while ensuring logical controls are in place to protect client data and proprietary information. The system will provide a platform for equipment deployment and integration, maximizes flexibility and redundancy while minimizing upkeep and maintenance, and incorporates cutting-edge automation and IT technology for expansion and future growth.
Development of the automation backbone is essential for efficient management of data, which, in turn, is crucial for business and organizational success across industries. CBM’s goal was to develop a robust Data Management System (DMS) and automation infrastructure to provide time-series and relational data archives as well as deploy process control capabilities for future needs.
The primary objective of the project was to automate data collection and contextualization as much as possible and make data readily available to all end users, including clients, enabling scientists to focus on science and business developers to focus on business development by eliminating manual data collection activities. In line with this objective, the DMS aims to ensure logical controls are in place to protect client data and proprietary information while still providing a high-availability interface.
To facilitate quick and easy equipment deployment and integration, the system provides a platform from both functional and validation perspectives. The system’s flexibility and redundancy are maximized while minimizing system upkeep and maintenance to ensure maximum efficiency.
The DMS is designed utilizing cutting-edge automation open-source technologies, including Opto 22 hardware, Inductive Automation’s Ignition SCADA platform, Canary Historian, and utilizing MQTT protocol, providing CBM with the tools and platforms for expansion and future growth. This architecture was designed with scalability in mind, ensuring that it can accommodate the growing needs of CBM as the company expands not just site-wide, but globally. The system’s capabilities also allow CBM to collect, record, and distribute data more efficiently, reducing the potential for human error and freeing up scientists to focus on higher-level analysis and scientific research. By incorporating all data repository and collection systems under one global strategy based on their data model, CBM has a streamlined approach to data management, enabling efficient and effective data analysis, quicker decision-making, and minimizing the effort of system expansion.
CBM’s DMS architecture and automation infrastructure are the most advanced in the pharmaceutical industry, enabling CBM to provide more services and data availability to its clients and giving it a major advantage over its competitors.