Ignition Community Live with ECS Solutions and Swedish Match
Journey to Ignition through Business Analysis32 min video / 24 minute read
This is a look at how Swedish Match North America arrived at using the Ignition platform to solve real business need, and how their IT Department drove this initial investment at their Owensboro Factory.
Travis: Hello everybody, and welcome to today's Ignition Community Live. My name is Travis Cox. I'm the co-director of sales engineering for Inductive Automation, and really happy to be here today. We have a couple of great hosts here to talk about a journey to Ignition through business analysis. This is Episode 16, and we do these Community Live events weekly. We are really excited to have our hosts here today. Today, we're joined by Tim Matheny, he is the President of ECS solutions. They are a Premier systems integrator with Inductive Automation. And we're also very happy to have Brad Logsdon on here. He is a Business Analyst at Swedish Match. So guys, I'm really excited to see and to hear your presentation here today, I'll send us over to you, take it off.
Brad: Morning. This is Brad Logsdon, and basically our topic today is looking at how we at Swedish Match arrived to the Ignition platform. This was to help solve real business needs, and this was how our IT department helped drive this investment at our Owensboro factory. The world has changed quite a bit over the last several years, but I've just kinda wanted to give a background of where we were at Swedish Match in 2016, when we started this process. If you don't know, Swedish Match is a company, we develop and manufacture and sell products with brands in the snus and moist snuff, other tobacco products, cigars and chewing tobacco, and lights like matches, lighters. Our Owensboro facility produced snuff production in various form factors loose leaf and plug chewing tobacco. And this is the area that we were focused on when we started this project.
Brad: Our Owensboro facility had been open since 1973, so we had various stages of investment in equipment over the years at the time of the project, so we had a lot of different engineering-type investments that had happened over the years, various PLCs, HMIs... Those type of equipment that we had to find a solution that could work across multiple age type of systems. And at that time, the market that we competed in was on the declining trend, the IT investments were pretty scrutinized, any type of investments were scrutinized because of this declining trend, so it was a little bit harder to get funds, and then we were also starting to deal with increasing regulations. So one of the things that we did is we started a pre-study, and this pre-study was trying to see how IT could help support our manufacturing business. The approach that we took is we went through and documented the production process, the team questioned area managers, employees and other stakeholders, team gathered copies of Excel files, Access database, paper forms and other data points being collected by the production process. And then we worked together with Engineering to understand what data was available in the existing PLCs and HMIs that we're setting out on our factory floors.
Brad: As part of the pre-study, we went through each area and started to process, map out the processes that they were using. So this is an example of one of the areas that we had mapped out. During that time, each area manager, we asked them what were their issues they were currently having? And what issues do you see in the future? During that time, we started documenting data sources, we gathered over 32 forms that the employees were filling out paperwork. These were different checks that our production operators were doing, whether they be weights, quality checks, just making sure that the correct labels were on our product. It was estimated that production employees were generating 900 rolls of data with the paper forms and about 800 of those were in our packaging production areas alone. This is the areas that were actually going out the door. And then we also looked at the data being generated by the PLCs and HMIs, a lot of times, we realized that they were existing already at these points. However, employees were walking up and then writing these down and then adding them to an Access database, Excel or even on paper forms at the end of shifts.
Brad: So they were collecting data but the data was very setting in their own islands and then they were also setting very hard to share the data. Our findings in this process, we found that two major overall themes, there was a lack of visibility into our processes, what is happening right now, and then data was collected at the end of shifts in formats that were not friendly to share. The data entry was very manual, and retrieving data required searching through boxes and paper forms. There was a lot of times our regulatory may need some information, they would have to go back, dig out a box, and then manually enter the data from the paper forms. So after these findings, we decided to put together a team to try to find the best way to solve these issues.
Brad: The idea was that we were able to find a system that offered a better way to collect product and production data, visualize it, and report production data. Swedish Match comprised of business engagement team and members of plant electrical engineer, and to help further the search, we also incorporated ECS. This is when we met Tim for the first, or rather when I met Tim for the first time. After evaluating several companies, it was decided to proceed with demonstrations from two well-established companies and one that we considered disruptive, which was Ignition. One of the things that helped us is we saw one of the beer companies that did an Inductive Automation case study video, and that really helped us visualize that Ignition could help us.
Brad: So prior to our evaluations, we created a vendor evaluation worksheet that had a total of 68 requirements and broke into the following areas. Each vendor was given a copy of the... Prior to the demonstration and along with the core stakeholders that would use these during the demonstration to score each demo. And as you can see, these are the results of the three vendors. Travis, this is when we first met you. And one of the things I could say is that when we were going through these demos, vendor A and B both came on site. However, for Ignition, it was more personable, even though you were... You did yours through online, your demonstration online, you were more prepared and really customized the demo to our needs or requirements that we sent out.
Travis: Yeah, thank you. And that it's true with those kind of... Doing the presentation remotely there, we can really go into a lot more of the nuts and bolts, really show you those kind of things and give you that kind of good sense of what the product can do versus just a PowerPoint presentation.
Brad: Yeah, and whenever there were questions, you didn't dive in and say, "We'll have to get back with you" like the other vendors, you just moved on with your live demo and went to the different areas and said, "Well, this is a one way that you can solve it," and showed something with the demo, that live demo environment that was already created. So that was definitely a much more personal touch, even though the other vendors were on site and you were remotely sharing. Well, after we scored everything and Ignition, we kinda thought was a little bit more disruptive technology. So we kinda wanted to test it out before we went on and proceeded with a full-on project. And one of the things that, of course, you guys offer is the free trial version of the software. So we created a proof of concept. The proof of concept was very simplified. It was just how many cases were being produced? Was the case factor on for each one of our production lines? And it was all on one screen. I think we had about eight, maybe one or two days worth of development into this proof of concept.
Brad: One of the funny stories is, after the 30 day,or after the trial ended, we were getting a knock on our door because it quit working, and Tim reached out to Inductive Automation, we got it extended, and then as we started our project and got approval, we have to extend it one more time because we went past that date and they were knocking on our door again. It was data that they felt like they had to have, which was data that they didn't have at the time. So going into the project funding, one of the things that we had was our vice president over the Owensboro operation, was going to be in town for the grand opening of a R&D building that we were recently opening. And during that time, the team felt like it was time to give a status update 'cause it would be better to do it in person versus a conference call online.
Brad: So in that presentation, the vice president was presented with the demo of the proof of concept, he was shown the papers of all the forms that were being collected, and at the time, we felt like we were still working on a business case. And to the surprise after that very quick demonstration, the feedback from the vice president was, "Get something to me to sign because I can see there's value." It was quickly realized that there was value in a system like this. One of the things that we did was a phased approach as part of our recommendation, how do we deliver value? In what part? How do we deliver this over time? And part of that vision was this phased approach that we would start with phase one with our monitoring and packing lines since this was where they were needing the most visibility. And then continuing on to more of the process and eventually to our Track and Trace.
Brad: One of the things that we wanted to work on as well was giving that IT/OT support and giving some vision to how that would work between what was Engineering's responsibilities and what were IT's responsibilities. So as you can see, the infrastructure and support of creating BI reports and any copy database for regulatory compliance was gonna be part of Group IT's support. And then Engineering was on our own application functionality and the dashboard reports, so more of the real-time reports.
Tim: Brad if I could interject here, I think for the benefit of our listeners. In Swedish Match, engineering is a manufacturing or a direct production-level function, so it's a plant engineering, with IT being more of a corporate service, is that correct?
Tim: So it's not... This is a plant engineering directly responsible for the automation on the floor.
Brad: Yes, that is correct. So part of this is, once we got approval for the funds, we started to work with ECS and we wanted to give some vision for the implementation for that phase one. And part of that was we created a 68-page requirements specification document to help with the vision and the scope. The document highlighted management summary, introduction to the project, a basic description of our company, the project scope, functions and activities, requirements, and then we added an appendix as well, just for supporting documents. One of the things that was really fun with this project, and I think part of the reason why Tim wanted to include us for this type of presentation was we created this document that really helped give direction for his team.
Brad: It allowed them to really focus in on the development, without having to go through and understand exactly what was wanted by the stakeholders, we had worked hand-in-hand with the stakeholders to help with this. One of the things that we had created was an example of our concept of a dashboard, so as we started through the process, we kinda wanted to know what type of information do we want to show and how would that work and how can we use that across multiple production lines with the production factors, form factors. So we got a basic high-level concept and then I took a bunch of screenshots and mocked them up in... Access, er, yes go ahead.
Tim: If I... I just want to add a little bit to what you said on the last slide, directly to those on the line who may be end user customers. You listen here to how much work that Group IT did on behalf of Swedish Match to define needs and determine what would be most useful to their operations. And ECS does perform that function in a lot of jobs, but Group IT, with their process mapping and everything that they did really set themselves up to be very on top of what their needs. And I would say to any of you end user customers, you'll cut into my billable hours by doing that, but you'll get a better system if you do that kind of work yourself or in consultation with your integrator instead of just dumping it on your integrator.
Brad: Yes, and I think that was one of the things that we were able to do with the mockup like this. We took this mockup, it was just a bunch of screenshots that I had taken together, I placed them into a PowerPoint presentation and just mocked them up. I sent them to our developers at ECS, "Hey, I'd like to see something similar to this, how do you envision that?" And from this mockup, we got a delivery dashboard that looks like this. And these are the ones that we use daily out on our production lines, and these are all in real time. One of the things that we found very useful is the fact that our directive was to implement it as software, we weren't looking to implement a lot of investment into our infrastructure. All this data was available in our HMIs and PLC, we just unlocked it by connecting Ignition to it. One of the things that we were able to do as well, that... I think we use this pretty heavily, as we had a lot of quality-type forms that we mocked up and created that we now collect in Ignition. We have PCs that are on looking like IV stands, but it's a monitor and a keyboard that we roll around and have them out in key production areas where they were previously doing paper forms. And with this, they now go from the paper forms like a mockup like this to creating our quality shifts in a form like this.
Brad: And one of the things that ECS was able to do with this is the fact that we knew exactly... If you select what location you're at, it knows exactly what we are running based off of the PLCs. So it's pulling up that information of what item's running, what work orders are running, and then all you have to really as an operator, concentrate on is, is this a pass? Is it a fail? And then if it is a failure, there's a comments field that you have to type in. There are some other areas where they have to enter a weight or some sort of moisture type tests, but those are all being captured and can be retrieved through a database and reports created based off that. So at a very high level, we had some feedback from our delivery project. When we first rolled out those electronic forms, there was concern on how these operators were going to react to having to use digital versus paper forms. Went out, I did some testing with them, and as we were doing those tests, did the training with them, and after about a day I left, came back the next day, the first question I got was, "When can we get rid of the paper forms?" And that was the correct question, I felt like. The operators preferred the electronic forms over the paper forms, so that made us feel like we had created something that was useful to them, our production managers were excited to have the real-time visibility into the process.
Brad: At the end of the day, they were writing these, adding them into Access databases and then getting their OEE. So if they're having loss of OEE throughout the day, they didn't know where it happened, where now with dashboards, they were getting real-time information, real-time visibility into our processes. Our... The vice president approved the project, he came through and did a walk-through and at the very end, he said this exceeded his expectations, and then another testament to how well the project was, is we've had several expansions to the system and improvements since we first implemented it. And our counterparts in Sweden even have started their own instance and started to use Ignition since we went live. I guess we can open it up for questions.
Travis: Yeah, what was... In terms of this project, what was the overall timeline? And for the Swedish Match folks, do you guys now go in and do some development and get into the environment there, now that they have systems in place?
Brad: As far as the timeline went, we kinda did a pre-study previous to the whole thing because we knew we needed something, we just didn't know what it was we needed. So part of that process, we looked at several applications, types of applications, and Ignition was the one that really opened itself up the most to us 'cause we saw future growth, we also saw connecting our existing infrastructure. Currently, we have experienced quite a explosion in growth over the last few years since we started our initial project. So we haven't been able to do the internal development as much as we would like, but we've done a lot of expansions working with ECS and that we continued that partnership with ECS to meet a lot of those needs.
Travis: Yeah, awesome. So there was a question that came in here from Doug. It says, did you investigate, consider Sepasoft for some of the functionality you were looking for?
Brad: Yes, yes. And we do have Sepasoft as a add-on to Ignition. The biggest thing that has helped us out is that we... Ignition has allowed us to use a single platform to bring all this data into, and then we were able to use some of the Sepasoft add-ons to create some of the dashboards in real time.
Tim: I think the question... This is Tim. Yes, we used the Sepasoft OEE Module for the OEE portions of the project, and used Ignition directly, if you will, for the forms part of the project. So we did use the Sepasoft OEE.
Travis: Right. Another question from Doug was, any plans to use Perspective, so that it provides more mobile-responsive capability?
Brad: Currently, we are not on the newest versions of Ignition, we've been waiting on the... Is it 8.1?
Travis: Yeah, 8.1 right. The LTS production of Ignition 8.
Brad: Yeah, we're looking for the long-term... We've been waiting on the long-term version, so the long-term support version. So that's the reason why we have not moved yet, but we are definitely eyeing that and looking to how we could use Perspective to meet some of the current needs that we're doing and which areas would benefit using Perspective over Vision.
Travis: Okay, so a question here from Will. If the customer hadn't done the 68-page requirements or the mockups, how would ECS have approached the project?
Tim: Well, the way we would have done it, and what we've done in the past is trying to create some mockups and stuff ourselves is schedule the conversations with various Swedish Match people and come up with ideas. And we do that when we... In our situation with Swedish Match, we had been working with the manufacturing or plant engineering people for several years, so we had a good relationships going in. When clients go out and ask for just bids, then we throw together some of our best ideas without really knowing how well it's gonna fit with the end customer's needs. It's a very difficult situation. Here we... In this case, we relied on the work that the Ggroup IT did or the business analysts, but we would have tried to mimic that as best as we could, developing a good functional spec is part of our regular methodologies.
Brad: And part of the work we did was a journey with our supervisors as well. When we first started this, we had the mockup dashboard, the proof of concept that was very basic. And so when I reached out to the production manager and asked, "Hey, what do you need?" She said, "This is perfect." This proof- of- concept dashboard. And this is something that we threw together very quickly. So that's when I started to create the PowerPoint mockups, and I had about five or six versions, and I walked through it with them, "Hey, what type of data are you looking for? Here's examples that we can probably work with." And then we were able to hand that... Once they made their decision, we were able to hand that over to ECS, and it gave them a clear vision of the end goal.
Tim: I think too, it's important to understand 68 pages is a lot of stuff, but it didn't mean that Swedish Match disallowed the ECS development team to have any creativity. And I think in the forms area is probably where that's most obvious;. That the initial concept was nearer to a paper- on- glass sort of form filling out. As we dug into it, our guys were able to say, "Well, we can do these things with Ignition to... If you can give us access to certain kinds of information... You heard Brad talk about the location, so and so forth, and we can pre-fill some of these forms, if you will, and help the operators and deliver a more ergonomic thing, and Swedish Match embraced that. So the specification was not, "Make a screen look like this, have a button that did this, and we just want ECS to deliver." The specification was very needs-focused, and the concepts that were in it were, I guess, malleable to the point that ECS was able to use its creativity to deliver the best possible application.
Brad: Yeah, I think it was a mixture of both where we as our business analyst side, we worked to really help find what the business wanted, what their needs were, and then ECS did a very good elegant way of delivering on some other solutions.
Travis: Perfect. So I know we asked the question about any plans to use Perspective there, going forward. I know you've added a substantial amount to the projects over the last few years, but there's a few questions here about, what does the future look like? What are some of the things you're gonna be going down the path of? I know, Brad, you mentioned you're gonna be bringing this to other locations potentially. So what does that future look like for you, with this project, with future projects and with Ignition?
Brad: One of the biggest things is that we have experienced a lot of growth over the last few years. So there's no... It looks like that's not slowing down. So a lot of our projects that we have done since Go Live has been to support a new form factor that we've been producing at Owensboro factory. And as we help support that, we've also been continuously doing updates, trying to find better ways of doing it. When we first started with Ignition, we didn't wanna invest any extra money into hardware, it was more of a software solution. And one of the things that we knew going in, is we wouldn't know how things were... We wouldn't know exactly, best ways to implement everything. So we implemented what we had and then we've let in the data drive where we do upgrades and... Or how do we expand? We let the data drive us into those enhancements. As far as in Sweden, they have started their progress, they are using the Perspective, they're using 8.0. So they are doing some development and it's very more pointed solutions that they've been working on. But the advantage is that once we've done the initial investment, there has been... As projects come along, you find more ways to use Ignition.
Travis: Right, yeah. You have the license in place, so you can keep expanding, and you keep adding on to it. There were some questions in here,. I know, talked about using Sepasoft for the OEE, and you've done quite a bit here. Can you get a sense of how big the system is in terms of number of devices you're talking to, or tags or clients you have, that you have. I know you started out at a certain point, but you've been adding on to it, what does it look like here today?
Mark: I can answer that. This is Mark. A typical day shift, we drop off connections somewhat on the second and third shifts. But on a typical day shift, we have between 100-150 devices connected in terms of client sessions, we're probably running 50,000 tags at any given time.
Travis: Okay, great. Those were sort of all of the questions we had so far in here. Tim or Brad, any final comments here on anything you've gone over or anything you'd like to provide to the audience here today?
Tim: Well, this is Tim, I would just emphasize again, that I think Swedish Match saw a high amount of total value, but also very immediate value because of the background work that Ggroup IT did in... The business analyst part of Ggroup IT, to really understand their own processes, how they worked? What the needs were? What the regulatory needs were that were coming, and how we could best prepare Swedish Match to address these things. The effort that they put in paid off in the value of the system that they received. And as good as I like to think ECS is, Swedish Match Ggroup IT made us better on this project.
Brad: Yeah, and one of the biggest take-backs from this is that the problem we were trying to solve was visibility into our production process and data collection. That was our initial thing. Since then we have expanded into quality, we've expanded into several other areas, even some of our process areas. The initial piece was to solve that initial issue of that visibility, and we were able to do that pretty successfully. As mentioned, we kinda let the data drive where we continue to do development in process improvements, in the application once we got started.
Travis: Great, great. Well, there weren't any other additional questions that came in here, guys. So, really appreciate your time here today, and especially Brad, thank you for sharing that journey and the project you did and the value they received out of this. We loved hearing those kind of stories, and thank you, Tim, as well, for being here and being a valued partner with all this and looking forward to the future with both of you guys.
Tim: Well, you are very welcome, Travis. I hope this is helpful to everyone.
Travis: Perfect. Well, thank you everybody for attending here today on the Community Live, and look to that schedule to see for the next events that are happening with Community Live, and we'll see you next time. Thank you all. Have a good rest of your day.