ICC 2016: Users run with SCADA capabilities

Oct. 24, 2016
Panelists from GSK, Reynolds Tobacco, Yuma County Water and Sugar Creek show how to securely implement Ignition software for big benefits.

Internal process control departments are typically small, and they aren't getting any larger. However, the applications and facilities they manage—and the scope of their engineers' responsibilities—seem to grow all the time.

To help their fellow engineers keep on doing more with less, a four-man panel at Inductive Automation's Ignition Community Conference 2016 on Sept. 19-21 in Folsom, Calif., highlighted a bunch of the operational improvements they've achieved and efficiencies gained by using Inductive's Ignition SCADA software. The panelists included Justin Clark, automation engineer, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK); Chris Hemric, PE, technical services director, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; Charles Cowan, head of technical services at Yuma County Water Users' Association; and Dan Stauft, corporate engineer, Sugar Creek.     

"We've got a small group at GlaxoSmithKline's plant in Zebulon, N.C., and we do mostly support and project work that aids our processes and equipment," says Clark. "We build a lot of screens and generate a lot of reports, and use Ignition, visualization software and older OEE solutions like Active Plant software."

Hemric adds that R.J. Reynolds also has a small staff that integrates and maintains its controls, provides access and delivers data to its enterprise system, and works with system integrators. "We stumbled onto Ignition, and added it to our new processes, including our largest manufacturing process with 70,000 tags, and we're now connecting it to all our manufacturing, which includes 40 acres under roof," he explains. "What's really challenging is the pace of change, and how all the pieces of our SCADA and other systems are evolving in relation to each other. This is another way that Ignition helps because now we can put in standards for HMI and screen development, which reduces development time and cost, and ultimately improves our product and quality."

Operations "opportunities"

 "We need accuracy, especially in times of drought, and so we've been converting 55 nodes to Ignition one site at a time," adds Cowan. "It's saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars by showing us uncompleted tasks, and letting us know about others that can't wait 15 minutes. For us, this SCADA software is easy to learn and teach to others, so in the future, we're going to add it to the generation and distribution system on our power generation side, too."

Stauft reports that Sugar Creek is now celebrating its 30th year of manufacturing mostly private-label bacon and other food products at its 420,000-square-foot facility and at six other plants it's integrating. "Previously, we only did data collection for our machines, so we've started exploring Ignition for use with our water treatment and refrigeration applications, and we're seeking to link them with our MES system," he says. "We also do manual quality assurance logs to prevent recalls, and so we're also starting to put in place better temperature monitoring of our refrigerators and freezers. This includes adding automatic alarms and reporting, so we can identify approaching temperature thresholds before there's a problem and we risk spoiling 20,000 pounds of pork; respond proactively instead of reactively; and make it easy for users to extract data without needing a master's degree in SQL programming."

Securing SCADA

To address SCADA-related security concerns at YumaCounty, Cowan reports that the water utility performs full audit trails about who logs in and their activity, requires two-factor authentication, and maintains physical security for its facilities. "We also air gap our equipment," adds Cowan. "We haven't found a suitable offsite data communications method yet, but we're seeking it."

Stauft adds that Sugar Creek also does product tracking and tracing, and that it's trying to plug Ignition into this application, but do it securely. "Our two-year-old plant in Indiana is a Cisco show plant for security," says Stauft. "The applications and equipment are air-gapped, and no one is allowed in through the VPN. Instead, we run a virtual desktop interface (VDI) with VMware software and servers. It allows remote logins at the VPN, but makes users go to the VDI to see machines and applications. It's like logging on through a remote desktop, but only VDI can talk to the machines. Even the vendor doesn't have direct access here, and can't push or pull files because they're all located at the network demilitarized zone (DMZ) on the devices. Each vendor and machine gets it's own subnet, and the Ignition server is the only one that can access all of them."

Hemric cautions that cybersecurity can still get hung up by bureaucracy in large organizations. "IT department security comes back with requirements that aren't feasible on the plant floor, and so we evolved an architecture that allowed for more isolation," he says. "We require our system integrator partners' programming toolset to load to a terminal services environment, and then to the VPN with secure access, so we can decide what they're able to do. We don't let them bring in their own laptops and software, and we do track and trace through the MES."

Implementing Ignition

To get Ignition SCADA software up and running, the panelists reported it's crucial to involve all stakeholders, especially those on the operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) sides. Cowan explains that Yuma used a launch team in a 50/50 development, joint ownership and authorship arrangement. "We understand each other's concerns, and ended up with a good solution," says Cowan.

Hemric reports that he oversees both his engineering and IT groups, and that they have smooth days and friction-filled days. "We did a lot of education, and both sides know about Ignition and the other side," he explained. "Our next effort is to look at our entire manufacturing landscape—SCADA, MES, WIMS and ERP—and ask what it needs to look like to serve our business. We also started a team including operations, IT department, infrastructure group and applications support. All were represented on the team to develop our future vision, and this enabled us to get buy-in from everyone. So, it's important to look at these projects holistically, and not bolt together a solution after the fact."

Bring in big data

The panel added that another important role for Ignition is that it can help organize and present all of the added "big data" coming in from today's smart and connected components. "Our old plant was built in 1984, and it used to be hard to collect data," says GSK's Clark. "Now we have advanced equipment, and we can't use all its data yet, so we have to filter it."

Hemric adds, "We were dealing with big data before it was called big data. We created a big repository with tons of data in it, but the challenge was now that we've got it, what do we do with it? There's no value in reams of data if it doesn't help your operations or business. The lesson we learned is that you don't want to save every point. You have to decide what's the purpose in life for the points you want to save, so you don't create clutter and information that's too complex. Collecting absolutely everything is too hard for plant staff, so you need to decide do I need that point or not?"


Stauft adds, "If a process isn't moving very fast, such as a tank level that's only moving 1 inch per minute, then maybe you can log its data more slowly. And, when a process moves faster, then you can capture its data faster, too. This means deciding when certain data will affect and benefit your business."

Hermic adds that an overall engineering and management team can talk about how to rationalize data, and decide what they need compared to what they've got. "We're drowning in terabytes of data," he says. "However, 'big data' is really just more data, and it doesn't necessarily add value. So, our process control engineering group, controls engineering group and manufacturing managers are working to decide. The control engineering group does factory automation and integration for the upper levels, while the process controls engineering group examines operating trends, OEE issues and other details. As a result, these three groups came up with five points for deciding what data is useful. These include: total product produced by the work cell, good product quality, rejects, work in process, and amount of work in intermediate work in process."