HMI

Ignition software sparks SCADA

See how HMI, SCADA and MES are tying together applications with flexibility.

By Jim Montague, executive editor

Part of our Product Review series —

Ignition software from Inductive Automation is an industrial software platform built for developing HMI, SCADA and MES applications. It includes real-time control and analytics, rapid development and hot-pluggable modules. Ignition is affordable because its licensing allows unlimited clients, tags and connections. It’s also scalable because its server-centric architecture lets users launch clients from Web browsers, make one-click changes to all clients and operate across platforms.

Not surprisingly, many developers, system integrators and end users are embracing this newfound flexibility and adopting Ignition in their process applications. 

They’re also building functional modules, which can be reused and even sold like smartphone apps at Inductive’s online market. 

Multiple solutions

David Lewis, software design services engineer at Sierra Nevada Brewing in Chico, California, reports that his company has been using Ignition for about 10 years. “We started using Ignition because the massive, opaque PLC solutions weren’t customizable enough and were very expensive,” says Lewis. 

“We began by testing it in a small CO² recovery system, and it worked well, so we expanded it to our brew house, filtration, packaging and utilities. We started using it for data acquisition (DAQ) and moving data and then used it for software development and building new SCADA, MES, ERP, sales and marketing and warehouse management applications.”

Lewis reports that Ignition’s main benefits are its flexibility in addressing different SCADA challenges. “Previously, we had to struggle or buy a costly solution, but Ignition helps us gain better insight into our processes; maintain better production efficiency, product consistency and quality; find inefficiencies more quickly; and achieve a factual basis more easily for our decisions,” he says.   

Also read: Go back to basics with HMI design

Lewis reports that Sierra Nevada even used Ignition to build a full-fledged, statistical process control (SPC) module that it routinely uses to examine process issues, such as temperatures, bottle fill heights, oxygen pickup before capping and other parameters before they drift out of spec. 

Likewise, because Ignition’s DAQ functions can track, record and report on anything that generates a signal and then populate an SQL database that can be correlated with other plant activities, Lewis adds it helped the brewery to find air leaks in its compressed air system. “We’ve expanded our Ignition application massively; we add to it all the time; and it just keeps getting better,” says Lewis.

Dynamic material management

Because its Wish-Bone salad dressings contain almost 200 ingredients and flavors, Pinnacle Foods Group in Parsippany, New Jersey, sought a batch-based method for the recipe and ingredient kits it uses to direct production at its plant in St. Elmo, Illinois. The company uses these kits to trace every ingredient from its warehouses to batches, and its material management system includes barcode-based scanning and printing, allergen compatibility control and dynamic inventory management.

Ignition helps us gain better insight into our processes; maintain better production efficiency, product consistency and quality; find inefficiencies more quickly; and achieve a factual basis more easily for our decisions.

As a result, Pinnacle collaborated with ECS Solutions, a controls and automation integrator in Evansville, Indiana, and implemented ECS’ Material Manager solution which uses Ignition software to provide HMI and additional functions. 

“The main focus of Material Manager is creating a partial weigh out,” says Erik Gross, SCADA system developer and food and beverage project manager at ECS. “Operators are directed to a certain room or location, depending on allergens and material availability, to weigh out a specified material quantity. Occasionally operators will need to move ingredients from one location to another for better organization.”

It also allows the option to split containers, move one container off a pallet of containers and, when prompted, add the weighed materials to the kit, says Gross. “Once the kit is built, it can be viewed and validated from the kit viewer screen,” he says. “Supervisors have the ability to select specific lines or rows on the ingredient tables, but operators are forced to perform a barcode scan that automatically selects the table row.”

Gross adds, “Ignition gave us the power we needed to create more than an HMI application. Operators and plant personnel don’t just see this as a SCADA system. ECS’ Material Manager is viewed enterprise-wide as a powerful material management platform. Creating an error-proof solution for operators to control an SQL system is far more complex than a typical user interface for controlling machinery. Recipe-based inventory control was an idea that we formed with our customer in the early stages of the project. Because Ignition seamlessly integrates SQL and PLC software, we were able to successfully bring that idea to fruition.”

Big, unified SCADA

To replace localized SCADA/HMIs that couldn’t connect or share information, Sinton Dairy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, recently worked with system integrator Tamaki Control in Auckland, New Zealand, to adopt Ignition as a centralized SCADA system, adopt Tamaki’s Plant Replay function to review past operations and use Ignition’s unlimited history to store tags history for all displayed tags.

“Operators were constantly having to jump from system to system to monitor and control the piece of the plant that they were operating,” says Cody Warren, controls engineer at Tamaki. “This caused problems with tracking down and solving process issues because none of the historical data in these systems could be shared or used outside of the localized HMI.”

Implementing Ignition and Plant Relay has enabled Sinton to quickly track down and solve numerous process issues. “The dairy now has an expandable SCADA solution that will grow with the plant,” adds Warren. “They’ve also started the process of moving other areas of the plant onto Ignition and are planning future expansion projects that will utilize the existing Ignition SCADA.”