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Inductive Automation
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News / November 12, 2013

Ignition’s Advantages Help Save U.S. Manufacturing Jobs

Affordable, Scalable SCADA Software Improves Factory Productivity

Watch Ted Krevis of Sherwin-Williams discuss how Ignition helps U.S. manufacturing:


It's not a secret that manufacturing jobs have been leaving the United States for decades. According to the U.S. Labor Department, there are currently about 12 million manufacturing workers, which is about half as many as there were in 1980. Many companies have responded to rising U.S. wages and health-care costs by manufacturing products more cheaply overseas. Taxes, infrastructure, training and regulation are also frequently cited as reasons for this decline. Culturally and educationally, there has been greater emphasis on educating students for careers as "knowledge workers." Former Intel CEO and Chairman Andy Grove wrote in a 2010 editorial that he observed "a general undervaluing of manufacturing — the idea that as long as ‘knowledge work' stays in the U.S., it doesn't matter what happens to factory jobs."

One way that companies can continue to employ manufacturing workers in the U.S. is to apply modern technology that radically improves their operational efficiency. Ignition by Inductive Automation® is the type of cutting-edge solution that can help them accomplish this. "I was talking to corporate engineers at a major United States company that has adopted Ignition with a vengeance," wrote Inductive Automation President and CEO Steve Hechtman in a 2011 blog post. "They said, 'You know what we're doing, don't you? We're saving U.S. jobs.'"

Ignition is a unified human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and manufacturing execution system (MES) platform that empowers companies to automate and improve their processes, reduce waste and increase quality while saving significantly on software. Manufacturers often have to spend heavily on SCADA software because vendors charge them for each client, tag and connection in their system. By contrast, Ignition is licensed by the server and comes with unlimited free tags, runtime clients, and connections, allowing companies to reduce and control software costs.

During his session at the 2013 Ignition Community Conference, Helix Water District Information and Process Control Supervisor Henry Palechek talked about the cost and performance improvements his plant experienced by switching from Wonderware InTouch to Ignition. After explaining that water utilities face many of the same regulatory and economic challenges as manufacturers, Palechek said, "My main plant has 16 client computers covering the facility, and so each one of those 16 clients would be a license file that I would have to purchase. Now I just license it by the server, I'm able to deploy a powerful, modern solution and I'm able to do it at a fraction of the cost." Ignition cost 15% to 25% less than traditional SCADA software, according to Palechek.

Ignition's flat server pricing also makes it possible to scale out affordably, in terms in software. As companies' needs change, they can adapt by connecting to a wide range of devices (PLCs, databases and web-launched clients) and with MES and ERP systems.

Ignition increases efficiency in many areas by eliminating large amounts of paper, streamlining procedures, speeding up development and enabling almost-instant system changes. All of this efficiency doesn't eliminate jobs; it leads to better jobs. As Hechtman wrote in his blog post: "There is another company that generated reams of paper every day just to keep track of their operations. They are in the food industry and have stringent genealogy requirements. The amount of double, triple and quadruple data entry was astounding. Now it's all electronic using Ignition.

"You might say, 'Well, what happens to all those people's jobs?' The answer is they still work there, but in better, more productive, more rewarding jobs. That company is now more competitive. Similar stories are rolling in every day from Ignition users," wrote Hechtman.

Another success story was recently shared by Ted Krevis, manager of Sherwin-Williams' industrial applications group, at the final keynote session of the 2013 Ignition Community Conference. "Ignition has provided us with a wealth of tools to collect the data, combine the data, store the data and display the data," Krevis said. "It frees up our IT personnel to work on the application, and isn't that what we're here to do: to provide applications to the business community? That business community is in our factories. It's the factory worker. And remember, if you help that factory worker with good software that helps him to do his job correctly and makes it difficult to do something that's not … he's going to do better, and his supervisor does better, the plant manager does, and everyone gets fed in the whole pipeline."

"The other thing I love about Ignition," Krevis said later in the session, "is the fact that we are connecting with these personnel in the factory … and some of the things that we're handing to him might help his factory stay open in the future. If you fast-forward and look in the future and see that the data collection that we did helped prove that we need a better machine on this line, that whole factory might be open 10 years from now because of that machine." Krevis noted that people often say they want to keep manufacturing in the U.S. and said, "It's software like this that will enable us to not only maintain what we've got, but to grow into the future."

To download the full version of Ignition for free, click here.