Leveraging Ignition for Smart Manufacturing and Digital Transformation
Ignition Community Live61 min video / 1 minute read
As more manufacturers are tasked to design and implement Smart Manufacturing and Digital Transformation programs, we find the space is so big it can be difficult to know where to start.
Might we recommend… Ignition?
Ignition provides thorough data connectivity for OT devices, immediate value to users through visualization tools like Perspective, and extensibility through partner and custom modules to support Digital Transformation Initiatives.
This Ignition Community Live features Sam Russem, Director of Smart Manufacturing at Grantek, in a conversation with Kevin. They will discuss how Ignition can be leveraged to support Digital Transformation initiatives and how to get started.
Kevin: Hello everyone, and welcome to this week's edition of Ignition Community Live: “Leveraging Ignition for Smart Manufacturing and Digital Transformation.” It's good to be here with everyone. I'm glad that you all have been able to join us for this. Quick introductions: So my name's Kevin McCluskey, you may have met me or heard my voice before. I do a number of things with Inductive Automation, and I am joined today by Sam Russem from Grantek. Grantek is one of our Premier Integrators and Sam is a really good guy. So Sam, can you hear me? Are you there?
Sam: Yup, I'm here. Thanks a lot for having me, Kevin. Glad to be a part of this.
Kevin: Alright. Well, excellent, and Sam has actually given us a little bit of a treat. A lot of today's presentation is something that Sam and the Grantek team has put together. So what we're gonna be talking about is a lot of them sharing some of their ideas and some of their approaches to different things, and we'll have a conversation back and forth about these things as well. The point of these Ignition Community Lives right now is that we're trying to stay connected. The idea is that we want to stay connected to the community and part of how we do that is through these events, and then we're doing a variety of other things as well. We are all doing the shelter-in-place right now, or with COVID, but inside of this series, it's a weekly series. We've had three of these so far. This is the fourth one. If you've missed any of the first ones and you're interested, please feel free to go back and watch those. They are actually live right now. So you can go into the Resources section, you can see the last three there, and these will continue to be posted and please participate.
If there are new things, new topics, new guests that you think that we should have on, new speakers, if you're tired of my voice and you wanna hear somebody else from Inductive Automation, go ahead and just let us know. Send us your ideas. And in addition to that, as we go through, and as I just mentioned a moment ago, we do take questions. There's Q&A that goes back and forth for the whole period. And this is today's topic, which is how Grantek is leveraging Ignition for Smart Manufacturing and Digital Transformation, and things about some of our communication that we have with other folks too, and some of the trends I've learned that Inductive Automation is doing, in addition to the trends that Grantek is doing.
As more manufacturers are tasked with designing Smart Manufacturing and Digital Transformation, two buzzwords, right? What do those really mean? Where do you go from there? Let's define it, let's talk through. Let's understand where to start here and let's get information from Grantek about all of that. Sam, I'm very excited to hear what you have to say about all of this. Sam, I think that I will turn it over to you and then we'll just go back and forth from here.
Sam: No problem, that all sounds great. Thanks for that intro, Kevin, and I'm sure that you will be peppering me with questions and clarifiers and points as we go through all this. Yeah. Again, I'm looking forward to it, and looking forward to everybody's questions too, as we go through all this material. One thing that I think that Kevin mentioned that is... That I definitely latch onto a lot as we talk about this space is that Smart Manufacturing and Digital Transformation just as buzzwords. They are big concepts that are out there and they could really cover a lot.
Actually, where we're gonna be starting is, working to define those a little bit more clearly. We're gonna define Smart Manufacturing in Digital Transformation and how those two ideas relate to each other. Then we're gonna get into our main content and talk more about Grantek and how we have been leveraging and how our customers have been leveraging Ignition for their Smart Manufacturing installations. Then we're going to talk a little bit more about how you can use Ignition specifically as a starting point, and some of the low-hanging fruits and foundations that you can make to have that be your platform of choice that drives you to Smart Manufacturing in Digital Transformation and then we'll open it up for a little bit more questions at the end.
Kevin: The number of folks take a look at Smart Manufacturing in Digital Transformation, those two phrases here, and it can mean different things to different people. It sounds like you're going to go through and let us know what that means to you personally, and to Grantek, too, is that right?
Sam: Yeah, exactly. Actually, I start with kind of the industry definitions that I personally like the best, because boy, are there are a lot of different definitions out there for a lot of these terms. But yeah, it's all about taking that core concept out of them and figuring out how it applies to you, and your business, and how you're going to improve at it. For example, first, we'll talk about what is Digital Transformation and Gartner actually has a definition that I like a lot around it, Digital Transformation, referring to any type of IT modernization. For example, cloud computing to digital optimizations, the invention of new digital business models. And I find that idea around new digital business models to be interesting and it covers a lot of ground. It's not just the technology in that optimization part, but it's also around changes that could be affecting personnel or organizational structures or process, and it's really not specific to manufacturing, when it's just phrases, Digital Transformation. Right?
Banks invest huge sums of money in Digital Transformation, as do law firms, as do hospitals. So a lot of the ideas of Digital Transformation certainly apply to Smart Manufacturing, but they are not as industry specific as some other terms like Smart Manufacturing are. You can really think of Smart Manufacturing as a subset of your Digital Transformation. So Digital Transformation is the broad term that covers, that focuses on the entire business, where Smart Manufacturing is more directly related to manufacturing and the supply chain. Building things in Smart Manufacturing, when you're doing it the right way, when you're doing is strategically, all contributes to your Digital Transformation of your company as a whole, but if you are looking for keywords and you're looking for things specifically about how to make a smart factory, the term "Smart Manufacturing" is more likely to guide you in into the technologies that are going to be looking at that type of applications.
Kevin: A lot of folks talk about their Digital Transformation journey, what they have to go down, the things that they have to do. Would you say that Smart Manufacturing is an important part or an important step inside that Digital Transformation journey, maybe as the first step?
Sam: Yeah, for sure, especially for those where manufacturing is a critical component of their business process. Right? But again, it lends into this idea that what Smart Manufacturing means can really change based on what your business is doing. High customization is a great example of that, right? A lot of companies now are adapting to a business model where they are tailoring their products and solutions to specific end users focusing on small batches, things like that. That's gonna work for some companies and be where they really wanna grow, but it might not be for others, and both could lead to Digital Transformation initiatives, but the way that that impacts your manufacturing process to change significantly based on where you wanna get.
Cool. Now, we've talked a bit about Digital Transformation and Smart Manufacturing. Let's define Smart Manufacturing a bit more. Right? For this, I like to use the MESA International definition. If you're not familiar, MESA is the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association. They're a global nonprofit. They focus on education, and standards, and best practices for more Smart Manufacturing, specifically. I highly recommend their website, MESA.org, if that is a new term for you. And they define Smart Manufacturing as the intelligent realtime orchestration and optimization of business, physical and digital processes within factories across the entire value chain, talking about how resources and processes are automated and integrated and monitored and continuously evaluated based on all of the available information, and as close to real time as possible.
While I like that definition, I like it 'cause it covers a lot of ground. It talks about the entire value chain. It talks about information delivery. There are a lot of words in there too. So, I can oftentimes distill it just down to the acknowledgement that we are using an unprecedented amount of access to manufacturing and business data to drive more informed decision making. So we have this new connectivity of client core systems, we have new connectivity to Business Systems and ERP. And the way that you use that information to drive context and bring people to make informed decisions is really the goal of what we're trying to get out with a lot of these Smart Manufacturing initiatives.
And a lot of that actually is encapsulated in this concept around closed-loop manufacturing, right? So if you're not familiar, this is the general idea of taking that manufacturing and business data and starting to use it in these iteration cycles to improve process. A lot of the things on here you might have and use today. In fact, you probably do, the basic ideas of these are captured in something like just alarming and fault detection within a system, where you have your manufacturing process on the left, that's actually making your finished goods. You capture data from that. You add context to that data to turn it into information, and then you deliver that information to an end user. So that could be a temperature sensor being your data, using the limits of that sensor and the probe that you expect as your information, using that to drive an alarm and delivering that to an operator to have them take some type of corrective action. Just in that is really closed-loop manufacturing.
Where Smart Manufacturing makes it a little bit different is the different number of inputs that we have, and the different number of outputs and audiences that we are able to deliver that content to. Now, as we are taking our data from the manufacturing floor, and turning that into information we have... We can bring in information from business logic or master data or predictive models and use all of that to help us calculate that information. And once we have that, it's not necessarily just the manufacturing process that we're informing. Right? Those same types of results could be an interest to your brand or supply chain, to data scientists, to your product teams or to machine learning platforms, but you have a lot more places you can deliver this to improve your business overall and the insights that you drive from.
Kevin: One thing I think is really interesting about this picture that you're creating here, and can you tell me if this is true from your perspective, but the closed-loop manufacturing where you're going through and you're feeding this information, it's not just going in one direction or it's not just some control on the plant floor. It's actually coming back around to it. You've mentioned alarms as an example, but are you seeing an increase in closed-loop manufacturing from things that you have on the right there, so predictive models, AI machine learning platforms, other things that might be analyzing this data, and then maybe even feeding back into the process in a way that it's going to, rather than just informing the user that there's something, maybe it takes part in the control in some way to set points or adjusts different things or gives information that is graphs and charts and other things that operators might be able to respond to directly right there based on some predictions?
Sam: Yeah, for sure. I think the answer is a little bit of both. It is something that we are seeing, and it's something that we're seeing more often. If it's in its infancy or not really kind of depends on the industry you're in. A lot of the ideas of Smart Manufacturing for some industries have been in practice for a very long time because they've had a high value proposition to them so you had to adopt it to stay competitive. Whereas, this is new information to other industries and what we also find is that learnings from one industry or vertical are starting to affect others as well. So, where golden batch ideas may have been very important and a priority in food and beverage, those are kind of moving over to other processes and industries where maybe that concept is valuable but didn't have the return to justify the cost of experiment like it did in that primary industry, right?
The other thing that you mentioned there that I definitely think is true, is that this is just one loop that is going on around the manufacturing piece of it, but what you'll see sometimes and what I actually show in one of our case studies towards the end here, is that there are other loops between these systems that happen externally from your manufacturing loop as well. We're gonna show an example later where this loop brings manufacturing data into information processing systems, but then we circle it back out again through advanced analytics platforms and golden batches, and predictive models external to the manufacturing loop to inform the next generation of data that goes into it. So absolutely, yes, as this... As as we get more data sources and destinations, there are other processes that are taking place external to this that inform the overall manufacturing model.
Kevin: I'm excited to see what you have to show there.
Sam: Oh, good. [chuckle] With all of this, of course, around your process, your capture, your processing and your delivery, Ignition is a very good platform to help you sit at the center of all of this, especially in that manufacturing space. Right? When we do start to get things outside of the plant, we're talking about some of those other loops, right? There might be other tools that are the best fit for that, but when we're talking about taking data from your OT devices and starting to use that and drive actions, Ignition is a great platform to get started. Now, I'll also briefly mention that I am going to summarize that model into a Make-Collect-Process-and-Deliver keyword, and I'm just saying that because you'll see in the upper right corner on some of my slides later, I'll just kinda follow this along, just so that you can see where I am in the process sometimes, but this is just a summary of the same cycle we just saw. And speaking of moving along, let's start talking about more how Grantek and our customers have been leveraging Ignition for Smart Manufacturing.
Earlier, I broke down the data that we need to collect into manufacturing data and business data, and I'm gonna start with the manufacturing side and talk about what we're seeing people do with Ignition to collect their manufacturing data. One of the most common early stumbling blocks that we see in Smart Manufacturings is just simply getting the data that you need. And a lot of times when I do start to talk to customers and one of their pain points is that they don't have all of the data to drive Smart Manufacturing, I often think of Ignition as the glue that can bring a lot of that together. A lot of it's pretty relatively common standards, things like direct builtin driver communications to modern PLCs like the Rockwell and Siemens suites, or OPC servers and other more specific drivers to address specific other communication issues, but then we start to move into some of the things that are more unique to have built directly into the Ignition platform.
The SQL Bridge (Module) is a really good example of that, being able to do built-in integration to databases as opposed to just OT devices is very powerful. Ignition Edge is a great solution to help integrate islands of automation, especially if you have things that are not connected to the ethernet network or not able to, but the cost of upgrading them is too expensive, Ignition Edge is a really great solution for things like that. And we also have things like MQTT with a series like partner modules that help support low bandwidth and remote applications. Not only that, but once you have all of those information gathering techniques, you will now have the power of having this data in Ignition and you get a lot of the power of Ignition to realize immediate gains from this. Right?
One of the tenets that I oftentimes advertise is the idea that Ignition can act as your central data hub and use that built-in OPC UA server to provide, to be that single source of truth for your manufacturing data and distribute that information to other platforms and systems as necessary. One of the other things, actually, my personal just favorite thing that Ignition has built in out of the box is that historian right there in the tag designer, where you just click on a box and start to collect historical data. There was definitely a long time that that was not a native feature in a lot of platforms out there, and every Smart Manufacturing project I have ever been involved in relies on historical data to some extent or another. Having that so native to the platform, I think, is really powerful in enabling people that start to leverage historical data. Kevin, were you jumping in there, too?
Kevin: Yeah, I was. I was actually going to ask you a couple of questions here. You're obviously very familiar with Ignition and you're talking a lot about manufacturing. Can you give us just a quick overview? I realized that we didn't do this, a quick overview of who Grantek is and what industries that Grantek is in. When you're speaking from all of your experience, and you have a lot of experience, what industries is that experience coming from, and where does this... Where do you really see all of these applying? I know that's several questions all in one, but I think that that would be pretty interesting to talk about for a minute.
Sam: Yeah, no worries. I do have kind of the more Grantek pitch "this is who we are" at the very end, but now the quick preview of that would be ... Yes, as mentioned, we are a premier systems integrator that works a lot with the Ignition platform. We're based in North America. We have offices across the US and Canada, around 200 employees strong across those two regions. Sorry, we have offices out in India as well. And yes, so we are an integrator. We work from mostly in level one through level three, so from the automation devices and processes, through control systems and automation, through MES systems and Smart Manufacturing systems like this.
I personally am the Director of Smart Manufacturing over at Grantek. My job is to advise our customers and our company on the direction they should be taking as they do embark on Smart Manufacturing initiatives, whether that be finding out the requirements that are going to drive their justifications to invest in Smart Manufacturing, through finding the right vendors and tools to solve a specific problem, through just general consultation on what to start to do with this data once you all have it across a large enterprise plan. Grantek's two main verticals are food and beverage, CPG, and life sciences, but we do touch on a lot of different industries in our experience. And one of the things that we have found interesting is that, when it does come to the Smart Manufacturing space, things do start to become more industry-agnostic. And we have found people from various industrial backgrounds, are able to abstract out some of the details of the process and talk to us about Smart Manufacturing across various verticals in manufacturing. I hope that gives a little bit of context. A very good question, Kevin, actually given me a little bit of pitch time.
Kevin: Sure, sure. And I don't really even see it as pitch time, right? These meetings aren't really about pitching, of course, you're gonna put yourself out there, and folks will latch on to that, but I think that having that background or knowing where you're coming from and what your ... What the background of Grantek is, and what your background is, probably would help the attendees all be able to frame this a little bit. And I think being the size of your company that it is, that you just mentioned, although you have a couple of verticals that you focus on, that's not the only thing that you do.
And there's a wealth of experience. There's quite a few engineers I've talked to from Grantek who can talk all day about all sorts of different industries that they're coming from and that they have a background in. And I know that Grantek is a very sharing company that brings together a lot of the skill sets of different folks who are coming in, and brings that all to the table. So great, yeah, yeah. Understanding pharma, and you've got food and bev, consumer packaged goods, CPG, for those who don't know the acronym. And that covers ... There are so many things that are so similar for general manufacturing and automotive. And when you get to the point of just data collection, data analysis, data ... Circling that back, that definitely, in my experience, a lot of this stuff just applies straight across the board for everything that's manufacturing.
Kevin: Sam, I didn't mean to derail you here, though, I know you have a focus on the way that you're crafting the message and sharing this information, so back over to you.
Sam: No, no, no, no problem at all. Again, happy to share. But, yeah, I completely agree with everything that you said. I used to joke when we were interviewing new candidates, that it's all ... The job is all about taking the lessons learned you made from making cookies and biscuits yesterday, over to the wind farm you're gonna be working at tomorrow, right? Absolutely, a lot of different verticals and it's all... And there are core similar concepts across a lot of them. And we try to really bridge that gap for a lot of our customers.
Kevin: And hopefully, you're bringing some of those cookies and biscuits to the wind farm when you go there.
Sam: Yeah, definitely. That's the goal. Okay, great. We talked a little bit there about Grantek, but just before that, we were talking about Ignition's connectivity and the way that can bring in data from a lot of different types of OT devices in a lot of different environments. Just quickly, I do have a simple and a more complex architecture to show just some high level of how Ignition can help you with that connectivity. One of the things that we had mentioned was using Ignition Edge to help legacy devices and islands of automation. And there's a lot of different versions of the Edge solution out there right now to help you pick and choose the right one for the given use case that you have.
And this is a simpler one, where I like to always think of this as using that Ignition Edge as a connection to some other island of automation, or something that couldn't go on to the Ethernet network itself. We're using Ignition Edge with some type of serial connection, where other types of communications speak with that PLC, though it could be over ethernet as well, if you needed it to. And it's able to act as that local buffer and that single point to represent the area you're in, and it can store and forward that information over the internet or your plant network to a central Ignition gateway or for processing consolidations. So just a good example of a way that's forward, is common, and can lead to a complex problem of having non-ethernet enabled devices that might be very expensive to upgrade. Here, within the platform, we have a solution ready to go to start to address some of that.
One other more complex architecture we also show is more around collecting things using a combination of Ignition Edge in something like MQTT, for both accessing remote devices and some business applications, again, all managing that through a central gateway. This would be more suitable for controlling a remote site, where bandwidth might be a concern, and where you do have business applications that are able to communicate with you over MQTT. Kevin, is there any other thoughts that you have around Ignition Edge, and where that's a good fit for collecting data?
Kevin: Yeah, that's a good question. If we're talking at a basic level MQTT, in addition to the remote data collection, we do see some folks doing that where they need reliable data collection on the plant floor, too, where there's an individual island of automation, maybe an unreliable network, maybe WiFi even, and they're looking for some store forward from there, or if they have a corporate standard, where they're trying to make the data as accessible as possible and need a single source of truth. Those are the two additional things that I've seen this a lot. And in addition to the remote data collection, yeah, lots of folks in oil and gas, in water, wastewater are using it, where it just makes sense for bandwidth savings and remote collection, unlocking that data, that's on the remote, changing your pulling times from three minutes or one minute to getting it over nearly instantly, normally less than a second, for values to come through from changes from the Edge, and often just milliseconds.
So it's... But yeah. In addition to that, we've seen a number of folks who were going to that side. And this doesn't really depict it but MQTT sometimes cross facility where we've got some bigger companies that have somewhere between 50 and 100 locations, that are sending all of their plant information out over MQTT to a central location, so that all their business systems can just tie into the plant tags. Those can be accessible with tens of thousands of tag changes per second streaming over it. It's such an efficient protocol that that's fine, that you can get lots and lots of millions of tags going through these systems without breaking a sweat in a lot of cases.
Yeah, for sure. Okay, great. To continue on, we talked about... And especially with this architecture I have on screen now, the way that you can use MQTT to potentially bring in data from other business systems, though not all of your business systems are going to be MQTT-enabled today. What other options do we have to start to collect some of that business data? And what better system, what better module to connect to business systems than the Business Connector Module?
Sam: The Business Connector is a partner module made by Sepasoft to accelerate connectivity to ERP systems. In addition to the business connector itself, there is also the Interface for SAP ERP that can sit on top of that to help accelerate SAP integration, specifically. The business connector can help you accelerate non-SAP integrations without the SAP interface. But if you are working with SAP, you should definitely look at the interface connector to see if that's going to accelerate your process and save even more time and effort. And one of the very powerful things about that Business Connector Module, is that it lets you spend less time in code and more time in easily understandable graphical interfaces to help you develop those connections.
So we're using more function charts and auto-populated mapping tables to help you associate data from your ERP system into the context of your Ignition tags and your Ignition structure and MES. Without those connectors, you can still absolutely connect to your business systems and we're gonna talk about that a little bit on the next slide, but if you are able to take advantage of the Business Connector and the Interface for SAP, those are built in accelerators that should speed up your development process.
But they're not the only way. We do have other solutions within the Ignition platform that can facilitate communications to business systems that are both non-ERP or ERP solutions. That can include the SQL Bridge to exchange data through database tables. It could be the Sepasoft Web Services Module to do custom coding to bring in information from business system platforms or using some of the industrial protocols like OPC UA, when that's available, as well.
These are gonna vary more depending on that business system that you want to interface to, but that's also where the flexibility of Ignition can come in and be very powerful, is that you have a lot of different options for integrating to those systems. It's just a matter of understanding the value, understanding that interface, and making sure that we're quantifying and picking the right tools to do that type of interactivity.
We've talked a lot about our data collection options. Let's move on. Let's go to the next part of that cycle now, more about the processing. Remember, information is the idea of data with context to it to make it actionable. Data is just your raw ones and zeros and numbers, fairly useless on its own without context from anything as simple as engineering units and scaling, all the way up through process order context and full business logic around a specific piece of data.
Let's talk about within Ignition, the tools that you have to add some of that intelligence into the data that you are collecting to turn that into something more actionable. One of the low-hanging fruits around this is just to utilize the tag calculations or light scripting that you have available within the Ignition platform to help you calculate KPIs and other critical control points that are in your process. And the fact that you have access to those multiple data sources, both OT data sources and business data sources, manual inputs, things like that, makes Ignition uniquely suited to be the central point for combining that data and presenting those KPIs that you have.
There's also the ad hoc analysis tools that come with the product as well. Things like you're trending or creating clever screens that show the information at a glance that you need. Remember that Digital Transformation is a journey. And that, of course, we want to digitize as much of these processes as we can and we want the computers to do a lot of the hard work for us, but especially in the meantime, and when we're getting to more complex problems, that human touch can still give a lot to the process. Just giving the right information to ... The right data, I'm sorry, to a qualified individual to help derive some of those insights manually with the right tools, can be a great step in the journey towards Smart Manufacturing and Digital Transformation.
And finally, just to acknowledge what I was saying earlier, there is just some intelligence and smartness in a lot of the processes that we're used to doing today. Things like alarms, things like high performance screens, things that give you the contextualized report and information that you need at the right time. But a lot of times, these can also use a bit of a refresh, a little bit of a re-examination to understand how clear that information is, to make sure that it does make it to the right people.
We've all walked into that situation where we see an alarm banner that has 100 unacknowledged alarms that are all flashing. And when you ask someone about it, they say, "Oh, well, we never actually pay attention to that. That screen is always that way." Of course, that's something that we wanna move away from. And by just taking the tools that we might have in place today, and from a SCADA perspective, and tuning those and reevaluating them to make sure that they are delivering the contents that you need, it can actually be really powerful.
Kevin: We have a couple of questions that came in.
Sam: Here we go.
Kevin: The first one ... Actually, if you bounce right back to the previous question or the previous slide, and the question is about that. How is the Sepasoft Web Services module different from the Web Dev Module, or the Web Development Module? And that is a fantastic question. If you're talking about Ignition communicating with RESTful web services specifically, and we're talking about two items there, which would be Ignition communicating as a RESTful web client, you can do that with Ignition scripting functions. If you're talking about Ignition being a RESTful web server or hosting endpoints, you can do that with the Web Dev Module or the Web Development Module that was alluded to directly inside Ignition. The Sepasoft Web Services module covers more than that. And it also provides visual configurations. Basically, it covers both RESTful clients and RESTful endpoints or RESTful services hosting those endpoints. And it also covers SOAP-based clients and SOAP-based endpoints in a way that has a configuration that you do in a separate section inside the Ignition designer.
So you get a new entry for web services. There are configurations for those web services, and it allows for central management of those web services. To inductive automation, if you use the Web Services Module for this, or if you use Ignition for this, for the clients and the core scripting functions, and for the endpoints, you use web dev. To us, our customers who are doing that have the same levels of success. But the Web Services Module does have a higher price tag attached to it. But it does have a lot more convenience in terms of the way that you can do that centralized configuration. If you have multiple folks working on those web services endpoints, that can be a benefit to all of it. And we have folks who are having success going both routes. If you're interested in learning more about that Web Services Module, you can certainly reach out to your sales rep. They can set up a quick 15-minute demo of what that looks like and walk you through those features that are inside that Web Services Module.
The second question, and you can actually go forward here, would be for you, Sam. The question, as it's written, do you have already existing projects that use Ignition with business data, and which type of business decisions were taken? And I think, if we back that up and make that, still just as specific, but maybe a little bit more cross applicable, I think that the interesting thing here that's being asked and the interesting thing to me is, can you give us some examples of specific business decisions that companies have made or are able to make now from different things that Grantek has delivered for different types of projects? Maybe you have one or two examples. And certainly not asking for any company names here. Don't break any NDAs or give us any information you're not supposed to.
Sam: Sure. One of my favorite examples of that is when you start expanding Ignition using those MES modules from Sepasoft to really integrate your SCADA and your MES platform together. And one of the places I've seen that have the strongest effect is around supply chain planning and logistics. With the vision of that being that you have something like your longer term production schedule that is being designed and updated in your ERP system based on deals that you have with your customers and the rules that your supply chain team has around what it's gonna take to deliver those orders. One of the things we've seen that's really interesting if not very useful is when you have more of that information present in your manufacturing environment, when you've implemented that, say, the OEE or the traceability solutions that we have through the MES modules, now you are doing your detailed scheduling more within Ignition.
And the tools that you have there are the plants or your, what am I producing for this specific run for this specific shift? You can start to automatically communicate finished goods production back through that system and have that automatically update your supply chain in your planning systems. So that if a major breakdown on a line is going to make it so that you're not going to hit the production numbers that are expected, unless you take a decision not just at the plant level from how you're going to react to that but from the supply chain level and understanding that it might make sense to reroute some of that order to another line that does have excess capacity, or to reprioritize orders based on business rules like delivery contracts that may not necessarily be available to the people that are making the decisions on the plant floor.
Just the ability to automatically communicate and elevate those types of decisions to the stakeholders who might not have had the opportunity to influence them before is definitely something that's been really powerful that we've seen implemented around closing this loop and bringing that business logic into the plant.
Kevin: Great. Yeah. Go ahead and keep going. I think we've got a... We'll have a few more coming in here.
Sam: Okay, great. Talked about some intelligence that you can add at the Ignition level. Let's also talk about some of that processing and the information conversion that we can do outside of Ignition. Actually, what a great segue I did for myself without even realizing it. I was just talking about some of the Sepasoft MES modules. And outside of core Ignition, this is definitely one of the things that we see a lot of people implementing to add a little bit more intelligence to that data. So it is, if you're not familiar, Sepasoft is a developer of partner modules for the Ignition platform that are generally focused on this Manufacturing Execution System or MES layer.
And if MES is a new term for you, the real idea there is that your MES is that system in your plant that can combine the OT information from automation and SCADA systems with the business logic that you all have and some of your business rules and your ERP systems to not only help you combine that information within the plant, but it also ends up serving as this data broker more often than not, where it is truly the governor of data between what comes into the plant and what needs to be processed outside of it. If you're going to be doing it on Azure-based machine learning over your batch processes in the cloud, they still need to get that data from somewhere. And your MES and SCADA systems from the plant are usually your single point of the truth to drive a lot of that.
Sepasoft's modules are broken up similarly to the Ignition modules, where they're broken up by feature. Sepasoft has a similar strategy by MES function. So they have their features broken into OEE and Downtime, Track and Trace, SPC Quality, and Recipe and Changeover modules. By implementing these into your manufacturing environments, you can get a lot of intelligence along those topics more out of the box. These are all technically things that you could program custom in Ignition if you wanted to. But in almost every case I have seen, it absolutely makes sense to leverage the work of these modules that they already have and breaks down that capability to you faster. And of course, there are other business intelligence tools that are going to be important as well. One of the interesting things about smart manufacturing and Digital Transformation is just that exponential increase in compute power and what you can do with that compute power when you're leveraging systems in the Cloud and large server stacks that are available out there.
And again, to go through Ignition or your MES systems to facilitate that type of transfer and help close that loop can bring you a lot of value, which brings me to, once we have done this processing, once we have that information, the ways that Ignition can help you to deliver it. So I'll touch on these a little bit more quickly because I'm sure they've been ... I know they've been covered in other live events that we've been working through lately. But the four primary things we'll talk about are Vision, Perspective, Alarm Notifications, and the Reporting modules. Vision, again, is just kind of using what a lot of you are going to have today. Taking advantage of the HMI/SCADA screens that we have, integrating into those processes and making a natural information channel for people to get what they need to do their work. I'll go back to a point I made a little bit earlier around proper design really influencing the usability of these screens. If screens are too busy, it makes it difficult for you as a user to focus on the right thing, and it can really increase the amount of training that you need to onboard new people. Having that proper design from the front is definitely the preference. But if not, don't be afraid to take the point to re-evaluate things and make sure that you're putting your SCADA systems on the right path.
And I definitely recommend taking advantage of writing standards documentation so that you can communicate expectations to your vendors, as well as, using Ignition's template capabilities to help facilitate standard, clean, appealing screen designs. Speaking of appealing screen designs, that also definitely brings us over to perspective, Ignition's HTML5-based visualization platform. I usually use goto perspective work for two boxes, which is gonna be dashboards and mashups and its mobile capabilities. And especially the fact that you can do both of those designs in a single editor with a single design is just icing on the cake. Dashboards or mashups are more of a way to get critical information out to a bunch of people quickly. These are the screens that you show on a TV in a break room or a hallway, or displayed in a shift kickoff meeting. But these can also be brought up on your mobile phone when you're on the go. These should answer big picture questions around how you're doing and where you can improve in the short term to affect that big picture. So what do I do across a shift, a day, or a week to realize results?
Kevin: And this actually dovetails into a question that was sent a few minutes ago here. In web SCADA, do you provide control or only monitoring the system? First of all, from an inductive automation standpoint, Ignition definitely supports both. But I'm interested to know, Grantek, are you doing control as well? Are you doing just monitoring? The rest of this question is due to COVID19, providing control, as well for specific processes, reading between the lines, providing control is useful. I think if providing control, how is it done, as for the authority, the authorization, the authentication, as there's a risk in control systems that's inherent? Yes, absolutely. So Sam, over to you. And then I'll jump in afterward and answer a little bit about the rest of the community and some of the other integrators that I work with and what they're doing today too.
Sam: Yeah. The question posed... They really hit the nail on the head towards the end, when they mentioned a risk-based approach to that. We actually approach it similarly as we would a safety project, where it's really a question of thinking about the work processes that you have and how people are gonna interact with these systems, identifying the risks that might come up with that, and then determining a mitigation strategy and seeing if that's an acceptable risk once mitigated. If you do have mobile devices on the shop floor, you're more likely that people are gonna be down looking at their phones and not looking up at what's in front of them. You might have an added risk of having... Of losing devices or dropping a device into a critical machine or something like that. And then, of course, with remote control, there's always this risk of someone trying to issue a control without having the knowledge of what is happening in the physical space where that control is being executed, which could be a huge safety risk if there are other people in that area.
But all of those are mitigatable risks. If you don't want people staring down at their phones all day, you can do that through policies and strict enforcements. You can do certain physical designs around the mobile platforms that you pick that may influence the way, any risk of them getting into a manufacturing equipment. You can add cameras to make sure that you have a good physical view of what's happening in a machine before any type of command would be issued. It's absolutely something the platform is capable of doing.
I think you need to ask yourselves, what is the risk that I'm exposing us to from a safety perspective, from a process perspective, things like that, that are going to be amplified through a mobile solution and balancing that with the value that you get out of it. Are you controlling this from your phone because it's a critical thing in a case like COVID, where is it going to provide immediate value to us, or is it just really cool if you can start a motor from your phone? I'd be willing to take more risk for the former than I am for the latter. Understanding value and risk is critical, but absolutely from a technology perspective, there are times that we've seen it and it's a good fit, and we've made it work. And there are times when we've talked about the risks and benefits and said, "That's not really worth it. We'll come up with another solution."
Kevin: Great, yeah. Thanks for that answer. I fully agree with everything that you just said. Being careful about your deployment strategy is very important. If you are doing things in a way that you only need visualization, it's actually really easy to add web visualization to anything that you have in a plant with Ignition over MQTT. Over the gateway network, you can spin up another Ignition server in the cloud, and connected in a read-only fashion. We have a security hardening guide that we recommend everybody follow, if you are gonna spin anything up in the cloud. And then, if you are going to do read-only, we have read-only service security that makes it so there's not even the possibility of someone writing back anything. So you can use access control lists with MQTT or you can use the service security section for the gateway network and secure those things.
There's one other question that specifically had to do with MQTT, which is how data security is taken care of when you collect from a gateway MQTT to Ignition. MQTT has ... It rides on ... It has a number of security features that are built in and then it also rides on top of HTP which has other security features that are built in, or on top of TCP, rather, sorry. And so, you can do TLS or SSL, and we always recommend turning that on. Turn on encryption for your MQTT traffic. And then it does have authentication, so you can do username and passwords. And then MQTT has access control lists as well, ACLs, so you can determine what types of things you might wanna do, if you wanna allow rights to come from different places, if you're just looking at allowing read-only access or subscribe only access to things. That type of thing is possible there.
Yeah, definitely highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the security features and we at Inductive Automation have a really strong focus on security. It's paramount for anybody inside this industry. And we've really taken a position where we want to be the leaders in a lot of these web security and the security features and the integration with technologies that folks are using today. And so, there's a lot there that you can do. Okay, great. We don't have any other questions that have been sent. And Sam, I'll turn it back over you to get through the rest of the items that you wanted to share. I know that you have a few more items.
Sam: Yeah, for sure. What I'm gonna do, everybody, I'm gonna gloss over a couple of the points that I think I can do pretty quickly. If you have more questions about them, email Inductive or me at email@example.com and we're happy to follow up. Yeah, we'll plan on going a couple of minutes over, so we'll cover all the contents. I'm gonna cover some of it, the next two slides, very quickly. Talking about some other delivery methods, we do have the Reporting Module, still very useful, especially when you need to make official records out of the system. These are inalterable PDFs or can be made into them. There's definitely a lot of value that you have out of your Reporting Module and the Alarm Notification Module. And we're talking about getting the right information to the right people at the right time. What better technologies do we have than being able to email and text people and have voice notifications to help issue those types of prompts? So, won't cover those too much, but definitely valuable in delivering information to users.
And I definitely wanted to spend some time talking about that use case and how we can tie all of this together around a closed loop system. I'll speak at a high level, but this is a real use case that we did develop with some customers that were doing some batch manufacturing process. They did identify some critical control points for quality that they wanted to be monitoring and making sure we're within specific control specifications. We used Ignition connecting via the direct drivers to collect and historize those critical control points and the quality of results that they had. On the information processing side, the goal was to use this product data to determine a proper golden batch curve, detect deviations, and then notify the users and the product teams, if there was a deviation that was happening around a certain product.
One of the things that we need to do is, A, know the product that we are making. This customer actually had thousands of SKUs each with their own specific golden batch curves that they wanted to hit for them. Knowing what products we were making in a given time was a critical input to this process. And actually, we chose an advanced analytics engine to actually do that golden batch processing and deviation detection. So we were taking this information, not doing the processing in Ignition ... We were doing some conditioning in Ignition but having the heavy lifting of that batch analysis being done in an external system. Not only did we use this to find the proper golden batch curve and profiled against it, but we would use this to detect potential deviations and feed that back into Ignition, if one was found. Now we have our information, we have our golden batch curve, we've found an exception. And we need to both deliver that to our continuous improvement and product teams so that they can have a system of record and determine if there have been multiple similar deviations on a similar product over time.
And no matter what, we wanna feed this information back to the people that are there on the line so that they have an opportunity to address that issue prior to a major quality control happening by bringing that batch closer to the original curve. What I like about this example is that it is not... A, it's something I think that a lot of us understand, we have the idea of this golden batch profile that we are working towards, that's been something that's around in manufacturing for a long time, but this is a different way to do it, solving a more complex problem. We're not talking about a single-batch curve, we're talking about thousands of batch curves. We're talking about having people with knowledge of the process, picking the right one and defining that as the golden profile, and we're talking about those curves being complex enough that it was worth it to go to an offsite server to do some of that processing and do that analysis on those systems, and to have all of that then come back into the plant system for a near real-time result.
One of the things that we've talked about sometimes, actually hasn't come up in this conversation so far, is this, it's not just about closing this loop but it's about tightening the loop, too, and that integration with other ... This idea of having your manufacturing process, collecting that data, driving results to it, it's an old idea that we've been doing for a long time, but we can do it with more complex information faster than we've ever been able to do it before. So again, I'll quickly do a little bit of a rush job through these last couple of slides around where you can start your smart manufacturing journey with Ignition. The four things that I look to when a new customer comes to us and wants to talk about smart manufacturing, I wanna make sure that they have these four things before we really get started, especially if we're trying to talk about jumping right into an implementation.
I wanna make sure that you have your business goals, requirements and success criteria, clearly defined, and understanding what the system needs to do to get you there. I wanna see the financial justifications, understand any expectations around payback on the investment. We want the right level of sponsorship for this, too, right? If we're talking about a large enterprise wide global initiative, we shouldn't have a sponsor that is an individual plant manager as the primary sponsor for a project. So making sure that you have the right people backing up your ambitions is absolutely something that helps drive success throughout the organization, and finding the right vendors, whether that be consultants or integrators, or we're finding the right software and hardware, we need to make sure that we know the playing field that we're playing on before we're gonna play the game.
And Grantek does lots of Ignition implementations. We do have to look at a bunch of other platforms though, too, as we're a systems integrator and we do implement many platforms. The things that I see when I'm talking to customers, that indicate that Ignition is a good choice, though, or the things that are particularly appealing for them are generally that it's a platform solution, which I really like. It's not a conglomeration of a bunch of different programs that have been acquired over a number of years to eventually solve the problem. It's a single platform, it's a single space that you are doing, which you can expand through third-party modules, but really, there's so much that you can do within the environment. And that simplifies the process and the training and the long term support of the solution.
We also like how flexible the platform is. I can't think of very many instances where we run into something that Ignition can't do. It's very customizable and workable to those customer requirements. But I do say that with a word of warning, not to over customize too early and to focus on things that are outofthebox, that configure requirements. And to know what's in the box, so that you know when to take something out of it, right? What I'd mentioned earlier, for example, with the Sepasoft OEE and MES modules. We have seen people write their own custom solutions to address those types of issues, but when they've realized that there was a module that also fit a lot of their criteria, we've realized they could have saved a lot of time had they known that.
And then finally, of course, that the licensing model, this unlimited style of licensing is unique, especially in the MES and smart manufacturing space. The à la carte modules are always helpful to find out exactly what you need. The price, overall, is very competitive, and there's a lot of flexibility around your architectures and your hardware deployment options. In general, when people come to me and wanna know how to get started with smart manufacturing, I find them to generally be within three buckets. If you are just starting to explore smart manufacturing, I recommend that you focus more on researching and identifying those business cases ... The business case that you have and your requirements. At some point, you're gonna need to show somebody why your investment is going to pay back and make the company all sorts of money, so making sure that you're focusing on that business case from the getgo can really drive a lot of your decisions and make sure that you're getting the paybacks that you expected to justify the project in the first place.
If you're actively exploring smart manufacturing and looking for the right tools, why not just try Ignition? That barrier to entry is so low, you can get some trial versions of software and start to see how it might fit those requirements that you've established. And then, finally, if you already have Ignition, but you wanna start leveraging it for more of the smart manufacturing initiatives that you have, take a look at your use cases and applications today. Go and find out what's in that Module Marketplace, and find the right tools to support you and your team.
Before we take it to final questions, I'd mentioned a little bit of this earlier but I do wanna mention quickly this, that, again, I am here from Grantek. We are... We pride ourselves in our Ignition certifications and partnership. We are an enterprise integrator, we are a SCADA premier integrator, and we are qualified and certified in all of the Sepasoft MES modules as well. We do both ... Again, we focus on the automation side of things, as well as the smart manufacturing Digital Transformation aspect as well, and we're happy to help anybody through that journey as they need to. And with that, I'll hand it back over to Kevin, in case there are other final questions that have come up, or if there's anything else that you wanna do to close out the session today.
Kevin: Yeah, yeah, I appreciate it. Sam, I wanted to say thank you. Thank you, from Inductive Automation, from myself, for being here, for sharing your expertise and knowledge with the community, for putting together a slide deck that was going to lay it out in a way that's very well-thought-out, and something that potentially can help all of us. I very much appreciate you being here today. Grantek is a great company, if you need to engage in Integrator. Certainly talk to them. If you are an integrator and you just wanna say hi to Sam, and he's a good guy, too, so. In fact, I like ... I think all of the folks that I've met from Grantek are actually really great guys.
We are going to have continuing Ignition Community Lives. Make sure that you are on our newsletters. We send them out on a regular basis, so we have our weekly newsletter that goes out and gives you information about upcoming things. We have upcoming events on our website as well. And the next few that we have coming up, we are going to have Sepasoft and Sirius Link on, doing some Ignition Community Lives here. We have some other customer Ignition Community Lives that are coming up, too. And we actually have a schedule set up for about the next month and a half, or two months. Good to be here with everyone. I did get a couple of... Well, they're not really questions, comments. Thank you, good. Very good presentation. I will take that as a point of feedback for you, Sam. Well done, Sam.
Sam: Yeah. Those are my favorite questions. Keep 'em coming.
Kevin: Yeah, that's right. [chuckle] And alright, with that, I think we're going to be concluded. Once again, thank you everyone. Have a great day. Stay safe out there, and we'll see you next week.
Sam: Great. Thanks, everybody. Bye.