Beef Producer Gains Quick Access to PLC Data

July 3, 2013
A warehouse system integrator uses KEPServerEX to get the PLC data this beef producer needs quickly and easily.

Challenged with effectively routing several thousand boxes of meat per hour, a major Kansas beef producer sought help to ensure efficient production from multiple plants, and confirmation that its meat was automatically and accurately moving from the warehouse to the retail location without human intervention.

With the industrial automation process as a top priority, a solution had to provide routing direction within seconds from the point of data flow. Any miscommunications would cause significant delays in routing and overloading, slowing conveyor belts and costing money.

The beef producer found Cirrus Tech Inc., a Cary, N.C.  warehouse system management company. Bob Harris, founder of Cirrus Tech, said the beef producer “required a solution that could read 20,000 tags from 10 PLCs every three seconds. Its previous system was draining nearly 80 percent of CPU time and slowing the process. For Cirrus to help, it had to offer an automation solution that provided routing direction within seconds.”

Harris found Kepware’s KEPServerEX offered the right capabilities for the job. Specifically engineered to connect disparate devices and applications, KEPServerEX is “middleware” that manages, monitors and controls industrial devices and applications while supporting a variety of open standards. Its OPC drivers, for example, eliminate the need to learn new communications protocols and applications.

Teaming up with Kepware (, Cirrus helped the beef processing plant pull data from dozens of PLCs and equipment, analyze the detail, and send direction back to the system controllers. “The combined Kepware and Cirrus automation system filters information and provides direction within two seconds,” says Harris.

Cirrus now uses Kepware as its communications platform for industrial automation for all customer deployments, Harris said. “Anytime we introduced a new piece of equipment, it required an entirely new PLC. We don’t have the time to write a new driver, which could easily take eight weeks in development and testing. Since Kepware has such broad support and flexibility, it took the responsibility off of our shoulders,” he added.

The latest version of Kepware’s Communication Platform, KEPServerEX V5.12, was just released and it provides increased security functionality and better interoperability with modern OPC UA standards. A new Security Policies plug-in and updated user manager settings leverage user authentication in OPC UA to help ensure that only intended users receive access to the server runtime through trusted client applications. Administrators can provide access permissions at the group level or restrict read, write or browse access at the object level. KEPServerEX V5.12 also includes two new Rockwell Automation Allen-Bradley Micro800 Serial and Ethernet drivers, as well as additional enhancements to more than 20 of Kepware’s drivers.

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