Empowering the Edge and the Enterprise

Inductive Conversations

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Today we’re joined by John Miller and Daniel Coffelt from The Integration Group of Americas to discuss their real-world projects in water/wastewater and oil & gas. We’ll hear about the challenges they overcame to successfully migrate an outdated SCADA system to an updated IIoT platform. We’ll cover utilizing Ignition in the enterprise and Perspective as the user interface, taking an edge-first approach, and partnering up with OnLogic. We’ll learn how these solutions are improving visibility, flexibility, control, and cost savings for companies that provide vital services.

“What Perspective allowed us to do is design a single visualization tool that can be leveraged across every user experience…  it decreases some of the complexity around the remote operating center.” Daniel 

"Ignition is providing empowerment to the integration community, but it’s also providing empowerment to the client base because they can see that, with a small investment, they can deploy the Ignition system, see the value, and then take that easy win, and justify the expansion of that platform.”  John



Episode Transcript:

Amanda: Welcome, everyone, to Inductive Conversations. My name is Amanda Karkar, I'm the Integrator Program Manager here at Inductive Automation. Thank you everyone for joining, and welcome to our guests, John Miller and Daniel Coffelt. Please go ahead and tell us a little bit more about The Integration Group of Americas, the solutions you provide, specialties, industries you serve, locations, etc.

John: Well, thanks for having us on the podcast. We appreciate the opportunity to talk with you. So The Integration Group of Americas, we call TIGA, is a systems integration and engineering services company focused on deploying systems for industrial sectors. So we do integrated control and safety systems, we do enterprise-wide SCADA deployments, industrial IoT migrations and implementations, and then we also do customized application development-enhanced SCADA applications and to enhance industrial IoT applications purpose-built for our customers. And we do that across the energy sector, the pharmaceutical sector, biomass, and a handful of others.

Amanda: Great, and what are your roles within the company?

John: So I'm the President of the company. I founded TIGA back in 2017, and so I deal with a lot of customer interactions, project proposals. I work closely with the management team to set the strategy for TIGA.

Daniel: I'm Daniel Coffelt. I'm the SCADA Services Manager here at TIGA, and I work with our integration team across all of our customers across all of the industries, and primarily implementing these enterprise-wide SCADA platforms using technology such as Ignition.

Amanda: Now, TIGA specializes in a wide range of different software platforms for system integration, one of them being Ignition. So can you tell us how you were first introduced to Ignition and why you enjoy utilizing it to solve client needs?

John: Yeah. I know Daniel will wanna chime in on this as well, but for us, it was about five years ago where we had a client that was doing an evaluation of software platforms out there, and they began to mention the Ignition system. At the same time, very, very, very close to the same time we had a few of our engineers come to us and say, "Hey, have you heard of this company out in California? This seems to be brand new tech, it seems to be on a new platform." And some of the systems we had been dealing with had been around for many, many years, sort of legacy SCADA systems. And so because we were techie-type people, we were really interested to understand and know a lot more about it. Once one of our main clients had begun to indicate they were leaning heavily toward Ignition in their commercial process, I had recognized that that was gonna be an industry shift, and I know that that shift probably had been... Had started already, but it was definitely a big moment for us. And we didn't participate in that project to start with, but on the day we realized that Ignition was the selection, I think I registered four people for Ignition training.

Amanda: Awesome.

John: I don't know if you have anything to add to that, Daniel?

Daniel: No. Just that Ignition as a platform is very attractive to us because, really, the way that you can architect the system for scale and reliability of the system, and leveraging the, really, this concept of industrial IoT and the modular aspect of it that you can sort of, from a cost perspective, is very attractive to a lot of our customers, which is... Which is something that, especially in today's world, everyone's very focused on. And so Ignition really helps us align with those goals and those needs and requirements for our customers from the Edge enterprise, and then enhancing what they have in their operations, from mobility to custom applications or modules inside of their mode operating centers. So it really just allows us to really wrap our hands around all of those needs and provide a solution within this singular platform.

Amanda: So today's conversation is going to cover a couple of different projects that TIGA has implemented, each with their own unique problems and solutions. You have one for WaterBridge Operating, a midstream water management company, and one for Parsley Energy, which is an oil and gas company. So why don't we start with the project that you did for WaterBridge? Would you mind telling us a little bit about WaterBridge, and then tell us what problems they were looking to solve?

John: Sure. At a high level, WaterBridge as a water management midstream company is basically in the business of taking water from producers and disposing of it. And they've got several different tank batteries and salt water disposal facilities that they had an existing control system and SCADA system very tightly tied together. And whenever they reviewed the economics on that and also looked at some of the challenges they were having long-term, in long-term maintenance, and being able to build out their own control room and trying to define what's the roadmap and the life cycle for SCADA in WaterBridge, they realized they wanted an open system, one that they could support and maintain themselves and then one that they can have a large ecosystem to help them support it over the years. So that was the beginning drivers for WaterBridge. Daniel can kinda jump into some of the technical problems that needed to be solved.

Daniel: Yeah, I think the biggest is... It's really, it's the open platform that you just described. What they really needed to move in towards that, if they wanted to really take things in-house for them. And that includes control of the remote operating center that they wanted in-house. And also, the reliability was a key thing there, that it was a system that was mature enough to handle everything that they wanted to do and then enable the industrial IoT at the Edge, the facility HMIs, the high resolution data collection that they need and then bring all that into their remote operating center, so that those folks there can make actionable decisions for their assets, to meet their needs. So those are really those key things. And the technology platform that Ignition provides all of those things from the Edge, which we leverage in our partnership with OnLogic, and then into this enterprise system. And so they've been able to really improve the reliability of their system through Ignition.

Amanda: Great. So can you talk about the migration path for upgrading them from an old SCADA system to a new IIoT platform?

John: So one of the first things that WaterBridge asked us to do was engineering assessments that comprehensively reviewed what were the actions that we would need to take on the instrumentation of the electrical systems, the control systems, the SCADA systems, and then some of the reporting that was built upon... Built upon the SCADA system. So as part of that, we really needed to look at what were the automation and control system steps that we're gonna need to replace the existing industrial PCs that had the existing SCADA system. We had to rip that... And break that apart into five functional areas. There's the architecture for the system, both at the server side and on the client side. We needed to sign out the data collection, talking to all of the end devices.

John: We needed to define a user interface for the system. We needed to figure out what the data model was gonna be for WaterBridge and for making it a scalable and easy-to-maintain system. And then we need to figure out all of the data that we were capturing, what other systems within WaterBridge were we gonna be interfacing that data to. That was one piece of it as it related to the SCADA system. On the control system side we were basically consuming the ladder logic and the function block code that was in some of these end devices and basically rewriting it into new controllers. So basically... So that would include a new panel design, fabrication of panels, and then all of the wiring of those panels, the control system, programming and testing commissioning. And then in addition to that we also implemented some Edge Components...

John: This was a great project for us in the sense that it covered a large range of the capabilities that TIGA provides. And so in terms of the migration path, it was basically done in a phased approach where we made sure we did not... That we minimized downtime for operations, that we could quickly cut over the new system site by site and go through a full validation of Ignition while we had our team in the field dealing with instrumentation and the validation of the control system login.

Amanda: So how has the new solution helped WaterBridge become more flexible and efficient? Is it more cost-effective for them? Has it helped them grow?

John: Yeah, just on the cost-effective side... And I'll turn the flexibility and efficiency to Daniel. But on the commercial side of it, there was immediate savings just in terms of the spending on SCADA by moving to the Ignition platform. So they were very much looking at the ROI and just the platform itself. And so they were saving money just by shifting. Not to mention improved maintenance and other things.

Daniel: In the technical implementation. It took... The system was built with scale in mind, so the time to value in bringing these new assets into the system was substantially reduced. And so WaterBridge can quickly and easily bring these things into the SCADA system, into the platform, start collecting that data sooner, start getting in front of their operators sooner and start realizing the value out of these assets sooner. So it's been a very positive thing for them.

Amanda: So you mentioned your partnership with OnLogic. So can you tell us a little bit more about partnering up with OnLogic for this project and how it's been successful.

Daniel: Sure. So OnLogic, the industrial concedes that we're there. The legacy SCADA system, and control system. We're able to repurpose a lot of that and load Ignition Edge on those, and so we did that with everything that was existing. And then new assets, we worked with OnLogic in leveraging their controllers with the Ignition Onboard. And that just allowed us to quickly and easily and effectively deploy in these assets. So that ties into this time to value. So that's been a big key thing in enabling all of this to move forward and get done quicker and faster and reliably.

Amanda: Great, so is there anything else that you would like to add regarding the project working with WaterBridge?

John: Just from our side, WaterBridge was a great client for us to have. And we really envision all of our clients as partners, really trying to do the maximum we can for them to... For their life to be easier. And so without them, we're not able to push the envelope... Without their sponsorship and support, and pushing for newer technology, we might not have these opportunities. So we're certainly grateful for them and their vision.

Amanda: So moving on to the next project, we have one that you did with Parsley Energy. So go ahead and tell us more about them and the reasons why they came to you.

Daniel: So Parsley had a goal in mind to... Really to enable an IoT platform for their intelligent field operations. And Parsley was unique in that the approach here was more from the Edge first into the enterprise. So the entire system was designed and architected around these high resolution, industrial IoT Edge deployments. And then the enterprise system into the remote operating center sort of complemented all of that. So from a design approach, it really shifted in how we traditionally integrate some of these projects... Traditionally, you'll come in and you'll almost do a replacement of what exists. And this was unique in that we were able to design and architect with that concept of Edge first. And then on top of that, leveraging on their strategy and mobility and the visualizations and the types of things that they wanted to capture inside of the enterprise for engineering analytics is really a unique opportunity and approach.

Daniel: Yeah, a lot of it had to do with the architecture itself. And the best way that I guess I could describe it is complementing the Edge with the enterprise and the tag nomenclature in our templates. We're developing this Edge first approach, and then you've got your visualizations that sit on top of it. And all of these things are very templated. So our nomenclature are tags, how data is moving from the Edge into the enterprise. We've had to learn some lessons on what is the most effective and best way to implement that at a scale. So as we move through these different layers, we've had to... There's been unique challenges along the way at every step of the way that we've had to overcome. And really at the end of it, is just... It's enabled us to really understand very quickly what are those best practices...

Daniel: And that's based off of our past experience... Years of implementing similar systems. And then this one, especially with this approach has been able to allow us to fine tune what that looks like so that moving forward, these things are easy and effective. Even for us to deploy and implement. It's been a very great project for us to work on. And I think it's challenged not only our team, but our customer's teams on the types of thinking. Let's look at the goal. Sometimes it's 90,000 foot and then let's try to architect the system to meet those goals, and then what unique challenges or technologies can we implement, or solutions can we implement along the way that make that better for everybody?

John: Those clients, yeah, they want SCADA systems so they can remotely control and operate their assets safely and make sure they got visibility to the data. There's not many that come to you and say, "Hey, I wanna think about how to deploy a mobile platform for SCADA, and what is that user experience like? And then architect me a system to do that." That's typically not the way the ask comes.

Daniel: Yeah, and these guys, especially some of the things that we looked at as references to what's the most intelligent way we can deploy this platform was looking at how Triple-A deployed their IoT initiative and what enables that organization to be successful and then apply that to oil and gas. That's very different than what we're typically used to, and it challenged our thinking and our process to deploy the solution. We are just very fortunate and able to align with some of our key engineers with Parsley to make this successful and it's been great.

Amanda: So I understand Perspective was a big part of this project. Can you tell us the different ways you were using Perspective here and then why Perspective was a good solution?

Daniel: Perspective was great. So it's all tied into their intelligent field operations, but we identified early on three core users and user experiences that they're gonna be leveraging the system. There's the Edge component, there's operations and folks who need to use it on a day-to-day basis with their phones, and then really the core user is in the back office and remote operating center and engineering and management. What Perspective allowed us to do is design a single visualization tool that can be leveraged across every user experience. So we did not have to... And traditionally, you would develop for your Edge alone, you would develop for your mobile alone, and with Perspective, we were able to do everything within that one visualization tool to accomplish all of those functions. The time to deploy it increased or decreased, sorry, and we were able to template and leverage all of those things. So it added a lot of value in terms of making it work for, let's say that single facility within operators in the back office can then see the same thing that operators can in the field, and decreases some of the complexity around this remote operating center.

John: In addition to, it wasn't long ago where you would implement your SCADA system, and then immediately after that there was another project that was getting scoped for a customized mobile application to be built, and the challenge with that mobile application was, "Who is it for?" And then the question of, "Well, do I need more than one application or do I need to build one view of things?" And it'd be responsive and allow for multiple users to view and see it. Especially in the current economy, in the current market that we're in, in all industrial sectors, the efficiency of implementation and the amount of money that has to be justified, and whenever there's a SCADA platform out there that has a mobile component within it that's already ready to go, that's a huge selling point, and I think that moves clients toward Ignition quicker.

Amanda: Right. What have been some other positive results from this project?

Daniel: Those positive results have really been really that time to value, getting these assets spun up in the way that things have been templated and that you can leverage these visualizations in the work perform, let's say at the Edge into the control room. It's helped with that, the ability and the efficiency to operate these assets. And we have to apply the same greenfield implementation model to brownfields so some of their existing assets, we've been able to better leverage those assets, bring that in and then more efficiently operate and manage those other systems.

Amanda: Alright, so before we wrap up our conversation here today, I wanted to mention that the WaterBridge Project we discussed was given a shoutout at this year's ICC 2020 Keynote, and they were also a Firebrand Award winning project from the ICC discover gallery. So people can check that out on our website. So I'm curious to know, what are some other ways that TIGA is hoping to use Ignition in the future? Do you have any other unique ways you're gonna use Perspective or any plans for KPI dashboards?

Daniel: Yeah, definitely. So as we move into this era of collecting high resolution data that just enables these businesses and our customers to leverage that a whole lot more, and so right now we are actively working on generating these dashboards, these KPIs, these things that our customers will then be able to better leverage within their existing SCADA system that they've already made the capital investment on to further get that value out of that system, especially as we roll out more and more of these industrial IoT implementations. Ignition is, from our perspective, at the core of a lot of these, especially when it means moving data into that next level, next layer cloud analytics, Ignition helps to enable a lot of that to easily work through as we partner with and work with guys like Microsofts and the AWSs of the world, that Ignition is that platform with modules can easily and effectively access the data and streamline that data into those environments.

John: Yeah and in terms of interesting projects we've got coming up we're pretty excited to be the deployment control system for a lithium battery manufacturer, and we're proposing Ignition as a SCADA platform for that. They are really excited about that. We're excited about it and just more things we can do with Ignition the better.

Amanda: Awesome, so is there anything else you guys would like to share with our audience before we finish up today?

John: Just for me, I think that we've been doing SCADA systems for a really long time, and when we started hearing about Ignition several years ago, the thing we realized was that it was providing some empowerment to the integration community, but it was also providing some empowerment to the client base, 'cause they could see that they could with a small investment deploy the Ignition system, see the value in it, and then take that easy win and begin to justify the expansion of that platform within the organization against the economics that existed with others. And so I think that's a pretty important component that's really helped Ignition grow. There's a lot of movement in the industrial sector with new plants and new facilities being built out and I think even sitting next to existing SCADA applications, Ignition is there to be implemented at a competitive rate and can show you a great value and then that can be used to better plan out a roadmap for the company.

Amanda: Well, that was great, thank you, John, and thank you, Daniel, for your time today and for all the information, and we're looking forward to seeing all the great things you guys do with Ignition in the future.

John: We appreciate it, thank you.

Daniel: Yeah, thank you.

Posted on December 28, 2020