For a publicly traded, global health care services, pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturing company based in Fort Worth, Texas, Ayoka was engaged to modernize building automation systems for improved clean room air quality control and air pressure controls, boost failover capacity, and provide a mobile ready campus-wide issue tracking and event monitoring system.
As manufacturing operations grow increasingly complex and regulated in a challenging economic environment, our client was faced with the need to continually drive productivity while increasing efficiency and minimizing downtime and energy consumption. Ease of use proved to be the main impediment to adoption of any proposed solutions, thereby mandating that any future implementation must be simple enough to understand and use with very little training.
While this client previously utilized Programmable Logic Controller or PLC systems to control and monitor their industrial manufacturing and energy plants, it was determined that upscaling their PLC systems for a greater degree of control and visibility throughout their headquarters would consolidate campus-wide issue tracking and resolution into a single, easy to use system. We began by phasing out older Siemens and WAGO (WAGO Kontakttechnik) PLCs in preference for updated Allen Bradley systems. The use of Allen Bradley hardware and Rockwell Automation’s ladder logic software made creating and updating PLC programs much easier, while also streamlining the process of deploying software updates.
Additionally, EZAutomation’s EZRack PLC was utilized in specific cases due to its IioT (Industrial IoT) readiness. These PLCs come pre-programmed with MQTT and Ignition Sparkplug B protocols, as well as the ability to deploy updates via the local network, as opposed to the previous method of on-site uploads. This allowed software developers and operators to push updates without having to leave their desks.
Furthermore, we upgraded the company’s Ignition interfaces, moving from a previous version to the more current Ignition 8.1, which allowed us to begin developing Vision and Perspective interfaces in parallel. The addition of Perspective interfaces greatly improved productivity and issue tracking/resolution time due to the mobile-first nature of the platform. This allowed operators and technicians to report issues and perform diagnostics from their personal devices, including smartphones and tablets. This also removed the need to create and install individual HMIs for each machine, as we were able to instead create HMIs within Ignition, deploy them remotely, and allow operators to access them from their own devices. This process was further improved with the implementation of NFC tags, which removed the need for operators to search through UIs for the machine or system in question. They could instead scan a tag and be immediately redirected to the necessary SCADA system.
The previous usage of Programmable Logic Controllers previously extended across several manufacturers and required the integration of multiple varying systems. By actively reducing the number of technologies used, and instead employing those technologies across a wider range of use cases, we were able to increase efficiency while reducing complexity and cost. Ayoka also made improvements with usage of their own local database servers, allowing SCADA systems read/write access to these databases, thus reducing turnaround time for diagnostics and data logging.
Updated PLCs, along with Ignition’s ability to create multiple Gateways as well as MQTT Edge Gateways across the entire campus, allowed us to increase failover capacity. Additionally, operators now have increased control and monitoring over every campus system, from manufacturing lines to HVAC systems.