Using an Enterprise Platform for Operational Improvements

Oct. 5, 2022
Four diverse applications—from gas processing and water utilities to airline baggage handling and lumber production—show how Inductive Automation’s Ignition platform scales far beyond SCADA and HMI.

We recently covered Inductive Automation’s positioning of Ignition as enterprise software suitable for connecting IT and operations technology (OT) across any manufacturing or processing business. To highlight Ignition’s diverse use, Inductive Automation featured numerous examples of the software in use across varied operations at the Ignition Community Conference 2022.

Learn how Inductive Automation is positioning Ignition as an enterprise platform for IT/OT connections.

Streamline Innovations

Designing and building gas processing plants to treat the highly toxic hydrogen sulfide gas found in most oil wells is the principal focus for Streamline Innovations. Its processes transform hydrogen sulfide into sulfur fertilizer. The company operates 27 units across four states and has treated more than 1 billion gallons of well wastewater with 99% uptime.

According to Dr. Peter J. Photos, chief technology officer, Streamline Innovation does this using “full-blown Ignition on Stratus ETC Edge devices connected to PLCs and HMI hardware to feed data via Starlink to the Azure cloud and then into Microsoft Dynamics ERP (enterprise resources planning).”

Using Ignition to transfer data from PLCs to modems for transfer to the cloud, we can monitor the status of all computers [in the plant] and even restart hardware with Ignition, said Photos. “We can do everything from non-linear process control calculations up to artificial intelligence, specifically non-linear regression analysis. With this we can start with data from the instrument level [and extend out] to profit and loss reports for executives. Ignition allows us to pivot as needed with live, real-time data from the granular to the strategic level. We can make a valve open, optimize operations, minimize use operator time, and maximize profits to run the company.”

Photos explained that Streamline Innovations connects field-level data to PLCs using 4-20mA to I/O modules as well as Modbus and HART to get data into Ignition. “We’re agnostic in terms of where we can pull in data. But we use OPC UA for bi-directional control from the cloud, which is important for our operations since so much is done remotely,” he said.

Mohawk Valley Water Authority

With 27 tanks and 27 pump stations in the field, Mohawk Valley Water Authority hired integrator Brock Solutions to upgrade the SCADA system in use by the utility since 2006. Patrick Becher, executive director, said the water authority used the older SCADA system for remote monitoring, “but it was aging out and vulnerable.”

The first step with Ignition involved building out an asset management registry of the authority’s equipment to give them complete remote access and control over all assets.

The original code for the systems was smoothly transferred to Ignition, said Phil Tangora, director of water quality. This includes code for everything from control pumps to databases and IoT sensors to provide “for a single pane of glass for all system operations as well as remote access via smartphone,” Tangora said.

Joseph Donohue, senior solutions architect at Brock, said VPN (virtual private networks) and other tools are used to guarantee security of the system for remote access. “Along with policies to manage traffic within the water authority’s sites, we work with partners to continuously monitor and scan the environment to determine who is active in the system,” he said.

United Airlines

From the time you drop off your bags until pick them up at the baggage carousel, United Airlines uses Ignition to track them.

Davin McDougall, business unit leader at Brock, said the integrator worked with United Airlines’ operations, maintenance, and IT groups for the move to Ignition. “The first project we did with them on Ignition saved the company $50,000 with the freedom to code tags in the system as needed to provide greater visibility into baggage handling operations,” he said. “With 10-12 miles of conveyors moving bags in big airports, Ignition made sense, especially with remote access via Ignition Perspective.”

Stephen Halligan, manager of facility maintenance for United Airlines at Houston Bush International airport, said a big challenge to meeting the baggage handling operations’ key performance indicators was “cutting out the time lapse for alerts coming from the control center.”

Brock recommended Perspective for the mobile system to cut down on communication times with big KPI improvements. “With Perspective, workers in the field knew about issues before a call was made from the control center,” Halligan said. He added that the experience with Ignition has been so positive that United Airlines baggage handling operations is moving their “existing tech stack into Ignition to expand its use to all hubs.”

Roseburg Forest Products

A supplier of timber products ranging from lumber and plywood to particle board, Roseburg Forest Products wanted to get MES (manufacturing execution system) data from the shop floor to management for improved decision making.

Derek Randall, data engineering manager at Roseburg, said, “We’d been using Excel to make reports, but within 30 minutes of downloading the Ignition trial version I was connecting to PLCs and getting reports without spending any money.”

He said Roseburg looked at several MES packages and “all of them were too large and expensive and not configurable enough, so we decided to build our own with Ignition. We worked with Brock to get help with the nuts and bolts of building what we wanted because we needed to be able to maintain, troubleshoot, and modify it ourselves.”

With 14 facilities in the U.S. and one in Canada, Roseburg wanted a system that would be the same across the business even though the processes used at the plants are different. “Using the EAM (enterprise asset management) module in Ignition, when we make changes we can roll them out to all our plants within days,” said Randall.