City Corporation operates Russellville Water and Sewer System, providing service for nearly 30,000 residents in Russellville, Ark. When it was time for City Corp. to choose a new system for human-machine interface (HMI) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), it worked with system integrator Brown Engineers to come up with a solution.
City Corp. chose Ignition by Inductive Automation®. Ignition is an industrial application platform with fully integrated tools for building solutions in HMI, SCADA, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). “We have to have faith in the software,” said Steve Mallett, general manager of City Corp. “Ignition has worked perfectly for us, and we’ve had no issues.”
Brown Engineers is such a strong believer in Ignition, the firm is a certified Ignition Premier Integrator. “We went live with the Russellville upgrade in mid-2015,” said Dee Brown, principal and co-founder of Brown Engineers. “Ignition is helping run and control the water treatment plant and the water distribution system with pump stations and tanks. It’s also on the sewer treatment plant and sewer collection. So it’s a fairly large system. They also have radio and cellular telemetry sites that have been added.”
City Corp.’s SCADA system has nearly 38,000 tags. That includes data from a variety of PLCs and controllers installed at various times over the years. The system includes two HMI servers per plant in a master/backup redundant configuration. Ignition controls digestion blowers, clarifiers, sludge pumps, and more. It also provides alarm management and reporting functions.
Mallett said the Ignition platform is more flexible than the utility’s previous system. And it provides a lot more data, which can be seen by more people. “That is critical,” said Mallett. “It provides information we need to make daily decisions, and it keeps us from having to go out to our sites. It drives costs down.”
Cost was a big factor in choosing Ignition. Its unlimited licensing model is an important benefit. “The software we had before charged by the number of tags,” said Mallett. “So if you wanted to upgrade, you’d have to pay more. Our system is growing, so that was a critical consideration. With Ignition, we never have to worry about any additional cost for adding tags.”
There are other savings as well. “The yearly maintenance costs are much lower with Ignition,” said Mallett. “So it was an easy decision to go with Ignition.” And the transition was easy. “We stayed up and operating during the entire process,” said Mallett. “The switchover to Ignition was quick and painless. That’s what mattered to us, and we appreciate Brown working with our staff to make sure that it went smoothly.”
City Corp. also found a non-SCADA use for Ignition, one which saves time and makes it easier to report data to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). Seeking a more efficient process for tracking and reporting sanitary sewer overflows (SSO), Mallett asked Brown Engineers to create a mobile system that would cut down on paper and speed up the process. Brown leveraged Ignition to deliver exactly what Mallett envisioned.
The SSO Mobile application allows City Corp. to create field assessments on mobile devices, using standard internet technologies. The other part of the system, the SSO Workstation app, provides tools for managing the data and reporting it to ADEQ. Field crews now use tablets and smartphones instead of paper and pencils. “We were able to make the process more efficient on several levels,” said Julie Halford, GIS/CAD Technician for City Corp. “The reporting, the calculations, making sure there were no mistakes. It all goes much faster now. And we found the new system to be extremely user-friendly for our field crews.”
City Corp. is so happy with the solution, it may adapt it for other uses. “With the success of the SSO Mobile app, we’re looking at possibly creating an app for hydrant flushing,” said Mallett. “It would allow us to get all the data from the hydrants and develop a database, versus the way we’re doing it now, which is with a pen and pad. And that could develop into an asset management system that we could use for all of our facilities.”
In November 2015, Brown helped City Corp. replace a failing PLC with a new controller from Bedrock Automation. Bedrock™ controllers provide groundbreaking cybersecurity at the hardware level. City Corp. is so impressed with the performance and security of the controller, it’s planning to replace all its controllers with Bedrock. “It gives us peace of mind, knowing we have that hardware layer of protection,” said Mallett. “We sleep better at night.”
Brown Engineers is also impressed with Bedrock. “We’ve been working with City Corp. to develop a PLC upgrade and control strategy that would include cybersecurity for all their facilities,” said Brown. “And it appears that Bedrock will be the platform of choice.”
Brown Engineers is based in Little Rock, Ark. The award-winning firm designs mechanical, electrical, fire protection, HVAC and plumbing infrastructure; automation controls; and monitoring systems. For more information, visit brownengineers.net.