Integrator Roundtable Discussion: Disrupt and Grow
A New Strategy for Finding Long-Term Business57 min video / 55 minute read
About this Webinar
Instead of approaching end users about their plant-floor and SCADA needs, integrators can take a wider look at the enterprise to find other opportunities for improvement, such as data issues between departments.
Ignition by Inductive Automation is the perfect software for this approach because it has the ability to build or connect just about anything. And in case after case, end users that start using Ignition gradually extend it throughout the enterprise, creating a steady stream of integration projects.
Don: Good morning everyone, and welcome to today's webinar, Integrator Roundtable Discussion Disrupt and Grow, a new strategy for finding long-term business. My name is Don Pearson, I'm Chief Strategy Officer with Inductive Automation, and I'll serve as the moderator for today's webinar. I'm gonna just take a few minutes to introduce our company, our software, and then our guests, so we can get into the program right away this morning. The agenda will be the introduction I just mentioned, and then a new approach to winning and keeping business, Disrupt and Grow, Ignition projects that open new doors. We'll give some tips and recommendations from our perspective in Inductive Automation, and then we'll also have discussion input from a few of our very experienced integrators in the Ignition community. For those of you who are new to Inductive Automation and to Ignition, a little bit of company background, Inductive Automation was founded in 2003. It's really growing extremely quickly since that time, and I think it's very safe to say at this time that we're the fastest growing HMI, SCADA and MES software company in the world.
Don: From the very start, I think that's been pushed by our goal, which has really been to fundamentally change the way the industrial software market operates, to challenge it, and to provide new perspectives and new solutions, and that's what we have been doing through that tenure. At this point our software, Ignition, has really been installed in enterprises, and I know it's a lot more than 85 countries now. It's used in virtually every industry that you can think of, oil and gas, water, wastewater, food and beverage, government transportation, packaging for databases and many, many other industries. It's supported by over 1,250 integrators around the world, and I would say that we've come to be trusted very much by major companies as we've exceeded 30% of Fortune 100 companies and 20% of Fortune 500 are using Ignition to build their HMI, SCADA and MES projects. This happens to be our theme this year, but I also wanna emphasize it here because I think it ties into the subject of today. It's being adopted so quickly across so many industries, and I think one of the reasons is because more people are realizing that it's a whole lot more than just a SCADA and MES solution for organization. It actually gives you the power to build anything you wanna build.
Don: It doesn't matter what the project is, the architecture, what the industry is, Ignition is flexible enough for any architecture because it's customized to exactly what your needs are, and that also means it goes broadly across any industry, which is why I think it's become a software tool of choice for many industries. And the reason I say that ties into today's theme is because one of the things that we've realized, and we really try and do this in focusing on you as our integrators, those on our program and those who are considering being on our integration program, is that if you have a deeper understanding of how to present Ignition, of the ways it can provide solutions to your customers, if you have a confidence that you can go in and ask the questions and sort of see what the challenges are faced by your customers or your prospects, then you're gonna be more effective at seeing how Ignition as a platform can address those challenges. In putting together a panel, we've got capabilities from both the engineering side, the integration side, the selling side of how to present, how to sell, how to engineer, how to integrate Ignition across a variety of potential solutions.
Don: And then as we go into that a little bit more deeply, I know Travis is gonna go into ways that we've seen as best practices to accomplish that. And the goal I'd say, if there's any goal here today with your time, we appreciate your time, we do know how busy you are, is we wanna do anything that we can do here at Inductive Automation to help you be successful in presenting and succeeding with projects for your customers and to be able to grow your business. So, with that, let me just introduce our panelists and have them say a couple of words. Chris McLaughlin, Chris is a SCADA and MES Specialist for Vertech Industrial Systems. Vertech is a control systems integration firm that provides expertly engineered automation solutions to their industrial clients. So, Chris, give a little introduction to yourself, your company, how many years in the business industry served. A little bit of background for our audience today.
Chris: Good morning, everyone. This is Chris. So, I've been in the industry 10 plus years. I've been using Inductive software for over five years now, and it really does go anywhere and do anything. So, Vertech specializes in SCADA and MES projects for oil and gas, food and beverage, manufacturing, energy, water, wastewater, and a few more, and it really is as powerful as they appear to be.
Don: Thanks, and really appreciate your time today, Chris. And then Dee Brown is a principal with Brown Engineers LLC, and they provide electrical, mechanical and automation engineering to enterprises across many industries. Dee, can you briefly tell us about yourself and your company? Also, your years in the business, experience with Ignition, that kind of stuff.
Dee: Yes, Don. Good morning, everyone. I'm an electrical engineer. I've been in this consulting practice for 22 years now. We do projects that are for mission critical applications. We do a lot of water and wastewater utilities, some data centers, some hospitals. And so, we're a traditional engineering design firm but we also do system integration projects, and we've been working with Inductive Automation for a little over five years now. It's been a really good experience, so I'm looking forward to spending some time with everybody here today.
Don: Thanks, Dee, and thanks for taking time out of your schedule to join us today too. And the last guest speaker we have today is Travis Cox. Travis is director of training and sales engineering here at Inductive Automation. He's actually been with the company since the beginning in 2003. He's a familiar face to many of you, and he's extremely familiar with our software, how to present it, how to sell it, how to integrate it. So, Travis, give us a little overview of your role and responsibilities in the company.
Travis: Yeah, thank you, Don. So, I've been the director of training for quite a while now, I've trained thousands of people on Ignition, and I've done a lot of projects as well in design services department. But now I'm heading up a new division called sales engineering, and it's gonna be a large part of the webinar today, the focus on what we're gonna be doing to you guys in the integration program to help you run your... Get more projects and run your business better.
Don: Great, thanks. Thanks, Travis. So just a bit about the Disrupt and Grow in terms of the title here, we have a new message for our integrators in the growing community, which is Disrupt and Grow, and that isn't disrupt in a negative way. It's breaking out of the box, taking a different view, a broader view, than maybe an HMI/SCADA view to the opportunities you have with your customers. It reflects a new initiative that Travis even mentioned here at Inductive automation where we are using disruption in a positive light to see the broadness of the capabilities of Ignition, and the broadness of the ways that you are right now using it with so many of your customers. And we think the potential has... This message has a lot of legs, a lot of potential, and can really be of use as you... Maybe to look at how you approach the selling and the servicing of your customers. It actually grew over the years out of a dilemma that we've noticed with integrators when they learned about Ignition and they got trained. They get really excited, they get pumped up. Isn't that right, Travis? They get pretty excited.
Travis: Yeah, absolutely. I mean we see it time and time again that once people utterly understand the full potential of what Ignition can do, and they can say yes confidently to various questions that are asked to them, they can see that just the vastness of what they could offer to their customers, they get really excited about that. We see it all the time, people come to training, and that light bulb goes off, that they realize there was a lot more there.
Don: Then that creates a really big positive but it also contributes to this dilemma, because they often can see Ignition maybe from their own history of selling primarily as an HMI/SCADA software and the problem is not every project is an HMI/SCADA project, and if they're thinking about using SCADA, they already have a system, they don't see a need for Ignition. So most industries, also, you don't see a lot of rip and replace projects where they're just gonna put in a brand-new SCADA system. For a lot of reasons, it can be hard for integrators to get Ignition projects going. The good news is that Ignition has a whole lot of potential for projects throughout the entire enterprise, and what we wanna do is try and change the perspective a little bit and how one approaches what Ignition can do.
Don: So you have more tools in the tool belt, so to speak, to help you present properly and solve appropriately the challenges faced by your customers. I wanna... Because both Dee and Chris have sold a lot of Ignition, I'm gonna start with maybe Chris, just a little about your perspective on this, what sorts of projects have given you a chance to introduce Ignition. We're gonna dig into this more but just some introductory thoughts. So I'll ask you and Dee to maybe comment on your perspective on how you approach the dilemma of being outside the box of just a traditional HMI/SCADA and seeing things differently for your customers. Chris?
Chris: Yeah. So just a comment on that, the rip and replace of an entire SCADA system is... Other than water and wastewater, it's gonna be rare. That's just not a common way they have the software that they're using. And so, for us, it's finding that opportunity of what else is lacking in their system, what features do they need they just don't have. And so two of the easiest ones that we've noticed as entry points is maybe an alarming system. So instead of using a WIN-911 or TopView, or something that has been specified, put in Ignition. It's gonna do exactly the same thing and even more. And you can do it for the same cost. If they have local OITs and they're thinking about putting in panel views, or whatever else, you can do the same and better for less with Ignition. Either of these methodologies, it gets Ignition into the plan and there's a handful of other ways that you could go about it, but you're just looking for that pain point and Ignition can sell it.
Don: Thanks, Chris. Dee, your thoughts on that from your firm's viewpoint?
Dee: I agree with the alarming that Chris just said. The ability to provide an alarming system, alerting system with remote or mobile client access is a big deal in our industry. We see a lot of people that need access to information but they're not sitting behind a screen all day, every day, so they want it in their hands, in their pockets, on their phone, and I'd say that's a big one. And then unlimited access, unlimited view access, that can be a big deal as well. Those are two big ones.
Don: Thanks, Chris. And just a comment before I move off this particular slide. The bottom comment, of course, Ignition can do HMI/SCADA also. I think one of the challenges we've had is that it is an amazing HMI/SCADA solution. We've even positioned it as the new SCADA because of the licensing model, because of how we approach the technology, because of its scalability, and expandability, and faster development. All those things make it wonderful HMI/SCADA but it's got so much more potential, and it's really beyond that that we're gonna be focusing a little bit today to see what else it can do beyond that. If you look beyond the platform, beyond that HMI/SCADA, MES layer, you really need to take a wider look at the enterprise. It starts by thinking beyond that box, and you're approaching end-users about their platform and SCADA needs of course, but if you take a wider look into the enterprise, you're gonna find other opportunities for improvement, other needs, think about Ignition really as a tool to build the whole enterprise. So if you take a look outside that, maybe just a comment from Chris and Dee on how, when you walk into a customer, how you look beyond and have a different view of what the potential is. Dee, why don't you make some comments on that first?
Dee: Yeah. So it's important to walk around the facility with the customer, with the client, and just observe how they're doing things. Anything that's on a white board or a chalk board or a clipboard, those are easy, low-hanging fruit, things that can be easily entered into a database within Ignition and used for storage and retrieval and reporting. So those things are easy to look for. Another thing that we've done is, in other industries such as data centers, can be very IT-focused, and so to explain to them that you have a package that has the graphics, it has the alarming, the alerting, it can do the reporting and the kinds of things that they need and that it communicates already with every device they have on the plant floor through TCP/IP, Modbus, the various standard drivers that are available, that's always of interest to them, that this product already exists, because they don't necessarily come from a SCADA or an HMI background and haven't seen these kinds of tools. So it's an interesting thing... Just be careful what you call the answer. The answer is Ignition but they don't necessarily know SCADA or HMI in their vocabulary. But if I say I have a data center monitoring system that will fit all of those needs, they light up, they love that. So sometimes just calling it something else that fits their needs is all you need to do.
Don: I think that's actually an extremely big point, if there are different certain individuals within the organization, they have different backgrounds. If they're on the IT side, they have one background, if they're at the C level, they have a different set of solutions they're looking for. At least they articulate it differently. So for you to make sure that you don't put yourself out of the running because you use terms they don't even really understand that don't address their needs, could be something to be cautious of. And I think you're right, your projects probably got a solution in the data center, you can get data going from here, to there, whatever. Use the language they understand, you're gonna get a lot more receptive audience, for sure. Chris, how about you?
Chris: Yeah, Dee nailed it. Those are a lot of our tactics also. We've noticed situations where they have too many different softwares that aren't linked to each other, and that also is another low-hanging fruit. It's very easy to make use of Ignition to combine databases, polish information from one system to another, or allow everybody access to particular reports or particular information that they need to see. And so that's the first thought of Ignition can do so much, and so when they're talking about the problems, they'd start telling them that, yes, we can combine that, we can provide that info. One example is, there were some guys at Yahoo using local scanners and then it's going into one database out there, and then somebody would have to transfer it, and then that didn't interface with the ERP system and we just told them we can settle all of that and get it directly from your scanner into your ERP system with utilizing Ignition, and so we'd be thinking about what they need and how to simplify their lives.
Don: Thanks, Chris. I'd say to summarize this from a perspective of both what Chris is talking about and Dee is, simple steps, three simple steps: Know what the software does. Ignition does a lot. So there are many ways to present it to a customer. You just heard a few just now. This year, we have a goal to help you, as integrators, to understand more of the possibilities for your customers with Ignition. Second, look at the operation and make observations. Dee said, walk around. Do you see something that you could do more efficiently? Do you see something on a clipboard? Do you see something on a whiteboard? Have you observed there's something that they need that you can help them with? And then finally, find out their needs, ask questions and dig in and use your knowledge of Ignition to explain how it can help them with their needs. And as Dee pointed out, you do it in language that will make sense to the person who's standing in front of you.
Don: There's a little reversal of the usual approach. Instead of waiting for the customer who comes up and has a SCADA project, you find out what they need, and then you address Ignition as a solution to that need. What you're trying to do is, as already mentioned, is get your foot in the door with something less than the SCADA or pilot, not some whole big rip and replace project, something different, and try and get the smaller, the pilot going and then later, it'll seed and grow. They all need an HMI/SCADA for some other solution that they need, and eventually it'll just continue to grow within the organization. So really, the whole thing, I think, is leverage the flexibility of Ignition. Really, it's a perfect software for this kind of approach because it's got so much capability to build just about anything and connect to anything you wanna connect to. So I think you may have answered this but any other comments of the seed and grow approach after the end-user starts and how you expand to multiple plants, to larger things within the plant? Chris, any comments on that?
Chris: Yeah, we were talking about this yesterday, that it doesn't matter how falsely they advertised. It's still not going to turn into a great tree, and it's so true. Every time that we've been able to get Ignition in, even in the smallest way, there's gonna be something next that they wanna do with it. They see the power, they like it, and it will expand. That's a guarantee.
Don: Thanks Chris, how about you Dee?
Dee: I think just like Chris said, it's perfect. Start as small as it needs to be, to get your foot in the door, and then let them begin to experience those features and see for themselves, and then as they begin to ask questions, "Can it do this?" "Well, yes, it can talk to that." "Can it give me this report?" "Well, yes, it can do that," and it will naturally grow from there, it's pretty easy after that.
Don: Thanks, Dee. And with the subject of asking the right questions, I'm gonna bridge over to Travis here because you're in... Both Dee and Chris have done a lot of presenting, in a lot of different situations across many industries, and really to drive new business, you really need to know the right questions to get Ignition in the door to solve that problem, to find the need of the customer, and so it's looking at what are some of those questions and how do you make that approach work for you, based on what the customer needs are that are right in front of you. So with that, I wanna let Travis take over here and we have multiple perspectives on how to approach those questions and that qualifies your customer to really meet their needs. So with that, Travis.
Travis: Alright. Well, as we've said here, Ignition helps you build anything. And I have lived and breathed that, the entire time I've been working here at Inductive Automation, and that I'm an expert in the product. Let me tell you, if I go to any company out there, whether it be any end-user, I can sell them Ignition solution and by accomplishing some needs throughout that facility, and I've done it. I have hardly done any help with customers on HMI/SCADA because, hey, Ignition, that's easy for anybody to go in there and configure those kinds of applications. What I typically focus on with integrators and end-users here is the other projects there that help them connect their enterprise together, help them do things that they simply just couldn't do before, or that was really complicated to do before with what they had. So, the fact is when I go in there, I know what the product does, I know what I can say, I know I could say yes confidently to some of these things they ask.
Travis: So the more that you know about the product, the more you can say yes to it, the more you're gonna be successful with Ignition. And I think that's really the major theme here. And the theme of this year is to get you guys to... Get integrators to really learn more about what Ignition can do and the actual potential that is out there. And today what I wanna show you is some examples of some solutions where we can start small. We can bring Ignition in the door, and then of course, once it's in the door that seed-and-grow approach, it can be a never-ending project, like Dee and Chris were saying there. That happens a lot, and we see it with a lot of integrators. So we're also gonna show you some questions that you can ask to help get these projects going as well. It's kind of what Dee and Chris were saying earlier, sort of how we walk around the plant and what sort of questions we should ask the end user or different audiences there. So the first thing I wanna start with here, the first example of getting Ignition in the door would be using the SQL Bridge Module. So a lot of you may know what this module is but it's one of our fundamental modules.
Travis: The first product that Inductive Automation ever developed was a product called Factory SQL, and it bridged the gap between a PLC and a database. So it simply allowed you to put data into a SQL database, whether it be MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle, doesn't matter. So, the idea was to get it into an open format rather than being proprietary. So, the SQL Bridge Module has data logging built-in, has historian built in. It can put any data into a database, it can take data from a database and bring it down to the PLC. It is bidirectional between those two sources. So, there's a lot of flexibility with that module, and there's not a lot of people that really know the full potential of just that module. People see from our university, or they see from our training how to use the historian, which is one small piece, if you will, of that module. So, an example of getting SQL Bridge in the door, I was dealing with a customer, and we had been talking to... Our sales here had been talking to somebody on the plant floor, an operator on the plant floor who was trying to get Ignition in the door because they needed a solution down there. And it was more, of course, HMI/SCADA in that way and some alarming capabilities down that layer. But that operator only knew what his arena was, for what was needed at that particular site.
Travis: We actually went up the chain a little bit and we talked to the manager of automation across the entire enterprise. And so this was more of a corporate level. And at the corporate level, they had a need to visualize data, or centralize data across all these sites, just simply logging data, because they had actually third-party systems that they needed to report that data to. They wanted to show it on their website, they wanted other applications in the organization to get access to that data. And so, the SQL Bridge Module for them was a perfect way of getting Ignition in the door, because we put it out at all the sites, we can log data back to a central location, it's not in a proprietary format, it's an open format, anybody can query, anybody can look at it. I mean so that fact, realizing you can do that with the module allows... There's a lot of potential there, and we've seen that from various organizations who just simply need to share data across the enterprise. So, the key there for us was talking to the right person because somebody at the plant floor had a different need than somebody at the corporate level.
Travis: And so, those kinds of things are not immediately obvious when you go into a plant, maybe there's more people you should be talking to and seeing what the needs are of various roles throughout the company, and that really helps understand what you need to do there, what you can do for that particular customer.
Don: Thanks, Travis. Dee, I know you mentioned something about databases and the view of databases, any comments you may have on what Travis talked about in terms of seeing the potential in just a SQL Bridge Module?
Dee: There is some beauty to that. It is not a tool we've been able to leverage in some of our plant locations, but the beauty of what Travis just described is really, really nice and is worth exploring. Particularly if you've got multiple locations and different department levels, that needs to be thought through really well, and that SQL Bridge Module can help with that.
Don: Thanks Dee. Next one. Go ahead.
Travis: So another example of getting Ignition in the door... We're gonna present quite a few here. These are just not HMI/SCADA applications. However, they could turn into that. There's nothing saying they couldn't. But another example here is, of getting Ignition in the door is ERP connectivity. Ignition can talk to web services, it can talk to all databases that are out there. And a lot of ERP systems have database back-ends, or they have web services that we can communicate to to share information. And so, there are needs within organizations to connect the dots between the plant floor and ERP systems. They're typically ERPs business and the SCADA and HMI system is the plant floor, and there is the MES layer and that kind of stuff, but there isn't really a single solution that can unify those two layers. And so, Ignition actually can fill that gap because of the fact that we can connect to various pieces of... Various things like ERP systems and databases, and we can also connect to the plant floor, we can easily move data back and forth. A good example of this, we were dealing with an end user and they had a simple need. On the plant floor they needed some... They needed a little form on the plant floor where they just fill in some simple data, press the submit button, and it gets sent back up to the ERP system.
Travis: So this was outside of MES like all the production counts and things like that. So just simple information they needed from the plant floor up to the ERP level. And when they realized that they can get Ignition, install it there on the plant floor, and create a screen, put a form on there, put a submit button that would rather call a web service or put it back into a database that can send it to ERP, they were floored because that was something they weren't able to really do before without having to have a whole lot of custom applications and somehow get these two layers to communicate. And we see it... Obviously, ERP connectivity is large, is big when it comes to MES as well. When it looks at OE downtime or SPC or any of these things where you have work orders and product codes and schedules, we need to synchronize between the two sources. So, then we're not having to enter data into two systems at the same time. That's also really important. And in our MES layer of Ignition suite, I know it sounds like a sales pitch here, but that layer, that's a perfect way of sending that information back from the plant floor up to that ERP without having to write it down on white boards and have to bring it into some business office where they have to enter it into the system manually.
Travis: So, it's another way that if you just look at some small solution, or it could be a larger thing, we're connecting dots between the enterprise and allowing our connection points to share information around that. That's kind of the theme here of the last two ways of getting Ignition in the door.
Don: Thanks. Thanks a lot, Travis. Also just parenthetically, very often you don't... It's not something parallel, you got a solution, they wanna get some information, they want a simple submit button on a form on the plant floor. You don't have to replace whatever they have, they've got whatever they got on their HMI/SCADA, this gives them a low-cost solution to a problem that gets information where they need it to be in the enterprise. Chris, I'm gonna let you comment on this area from many of your experiences.
Chris: Yeah, so a good example of this, there was a manufacturer that had it, introduced PLT service. And it's just a small little job, and I started talking to him about SCADA, and they don't have it. Nor do they want it. And so for a second I'm like, "Wow, okay, this is going nowhere." But then they started telling me about how they had just put in SAP for their ERP system, and how it was supposed to do these MES features. And yeah, it was doing part of it, it's tracking down time and it has SCRAP. But that was about the extent and there were some things in the middle that they were missing, and so it was a wonderful opportunity to have an OE calculation in there, and also they wanted to have some dashboards up on the wall. Just showing simple times of operations and tracking the downtime up there and having it up large and just little things in between for being able to visualize what was missing from their ERP system. And so Ignition can be that fill-in.
Don: Thanks Chris, Dee, how about you? Comments on that?
Dee: Well, a lot of the utility companies we work with don't really have an ERP system per se, so I'll probably pass on that question.
Don: Okay, that's totally great. No problem, I just wanna comment and respond to Keith's question here, he said it's his first webinar and wanted to know if the slide deck is gonna be available. Yes, you don't have to think about it, Keith. Absolutely, we'll make it available and also we have an archive which will be made available too as we... Within a day, probably by the end of the day we'll have it available on our website for this and any other past webinars.
Travis: Alright, so another way of getting Ignition in the door is something that you probably have seen with some of your customers is converting an Access database to Ignition. In the concept of seeing a little bit more in that... You're probably watching a lot of plants where there is not one operator on a plant floor, to help him do his job better, he's created his own little Access database. Where he's created his own Excel spreadsheet that has some really cool things that help him. Reports and graphs or just a collection of information that could be useful across more than just that one operator, across the enterprise there. And he did that because he wasn't able to accomplish that with maybe the solutions that were in place on that plant floor. And we have basically say, anybody who has an Access database or an Excel spreadsheet, it's a perfect way of being able to bring that into Ignition.
Travis: And as soon as you do that, you now have a solution that multiple people can have access to. So you can get that data to more people's hands, we can actually then merge it with actual plant floor data to do more reporting, we can send information back to ERPs if we need to, but the idea is that these little isolated systems, that one person has developed, doesn't have to be isolated anymore. We can bring that into Ignition, and these don't necessarily have to talk to a PLC. We've seen a lot of them that are just simply data. A collection of information and just ways of presenting that information, and if we bring it into Ignition again, the main idea is that we can give that data to anybody and we have unlimited clients there. And so that potential for them is to see more... Have more visibility of what they're doing on the plant floor. That's a perfect way of getting Ignition in the door.
Don: Thanks, Travis, how about you Dee? Any comment on this particular approach?
Dee: I love this particular point because I've seen a lot of businesses, they may not be running a plant environment, but just a lot of businesses that have little Access databases all over. I know of one particular foundation here in our town, that has two different departments and they have such a struggle keeping their two different databases. They're not even in sync really, they manually enter information in some places. And so an ability to put this in Ignition and give multiple people the ability to view that information is huge, and I think that's a wonderful tool to be able to use here, pull Ignition out and show people how it can do that.
Don: Great, thanks so much for your comments there, let's move on and take a look at... Something was mentioned earlier by you guys... From an alarming system approach.
Travis: Yeah, so Chris mentioned this earlier as bringing Ignition in the door as an alarming system, and Dee has also done that approach as well, and this is a perfect approach. We have really pumped up our alarming system to make it the best that's out there and it is... It could be a very... You can make a very sophisticated and complex alarming system with what we have. The fact that you can configure alarms on individual tags, you can... Those alarms can be dynamic, you can associate data to those alarms, so that we have context to our data. We can see the status of that, we can historicize that, so we can see when alarms have become active and cleared and so forth. And then of course, the ability to notify people via email, SMS or voice. And we could do all of this within one single package, we're not having to configure two different applications, one for the tags and one for the alarming and one for this.
Travis: And the idea is that you could bring it all into one system and have visibility to all that information, again across the enterprise. Being able to launch that client and have anybody look at those alarms, to see what's really happening. It's a really good selling point. And so alarming, using Ignition as just simply an alarming system by itself has a full range of complexity or flexibility there. And with the notification pipelines being able to do escalation and to do looping and do run things in parallel, and how you can notify people, really allows you to create alarming systems that you've always wanted. If there's ever a question from a customer that is about, I need... I wish I could... I was able to call certain people and I wish I was able to email, or I wish I could do escalation, or I wish I just had a centralized alarming system for this. Well, you would definitely consider Ignition and you'd say, Yeah, we have a solution for that.
Don: Great, I know you guys mentioned it before, anything you wanna add to that Dee? And then I'll ask you, Chris, for your comments too.
Dee: Well, Travis covered the major points there, the ability to handle alarms in so many different ways is a huge deal, and particularly flood alarms, I think. I think if you can logically group systems or provide templates that roll up alarms for certain years, there's some tools that are in Ignition that have really, really helped that process, and we've been able to leverage that in a lot of different cases.
Don: Great, thanks. How about you Chris?
Chris: My recommendation is, a lot of times you'll see WIN-911 and no equal specified into the project and don't be afraid of trying to tell them that you have something better, and that you'd like to utilize it instead, 'cause they're already using a third-party alarming if they're gonna be using WIN-911. Ignition is perfect to put in there and we have had almost 100% success when we put it up there for the owner to decide if he'd like to put that in instead. You don't feel a lot of push back, and so I recommend you just be bold, say that you wanna change it to this.
Don: Thanks, Chris, I just wanna make one comment on that too, 'cause you just mentioned that, and I know I've even heard our CEO, Steve Hechtman talk about this at different times. If you're running into a specification, running into somebody say they want this, they want that technology, don't be afraid to be bold and do some value engineering, say, go ahead and respond to whatever their request is and whatever RFP, whatever project parameters are, but give them a value engineering solution because you're gonna be unbelievably competitive in terms of price and clearly in terms of functionality, and when they look at that Ignition solution, be bold, they may just shift. Travis, you wanted to comment.
Travis: Yeah, I had one comment as Chris was talking there. I certainly... One thing that I've done, and you know I'm not an innovator, but this is something that we've done, we go into end-users and we show them what Ignition can do, and that's always successful. I think for integrators what'd be would be very successful as well, is the fact that if you're onsite with them, you're doing a demonstration, you're showing them what technology is out there, or you're just walking on their plant to see what their needs are, Ignition installs in less than three minutes, it's easy to connect to a PLC, it's easy to configure some of this, assuming that you know how to do it, right? The more you know how to do, the quicker you can do it. So I've actually gone into customers and they wanted to talk about alarming, and so I can show them a demonstration of it. But rather than just me showing them a generic one, I can connect to their controller, I can bring in a tag, I can put an alarm on it and email them right then and there and, I tell you, if you do that in a few minutes, which it definitely can be done, it's very impressive, and it shows the range of flexibility of the product.
Travis: And even being able to install it, connect to a controller, bring in some values and put their logo on a screen and let them use it. I installed it on my laptop. If I'm on their network, I'll have them open up the client on their laptop, so they see, "Hey, I don't have to install any software. All I gotta do is I can just open it." And so it puts in perspective what Ignition can do for them, and as soon as they start using it and realizing that potential, they don't want it gone, right? It's something that if you take it away from them, they're like, "No," they're gonna shoot you because they need that solution. So it's something that's always successful and it's a little technique, it's outside of how you can bring Ignition to the door but this is something you can do in a demonstration that really helps move it along.
Don: That's a great suggestion. Okay, let's move on. We've got a document management system, another approach.
Travis: Another great approach is the document management system, and we've seen this with a lot of customers. Operators and people, end-users have certainly... There's a lot of documents, machine manuals, they have, they have SOPs, they have videos for corrective action or just documents in general that they need to know, HR documents, or whatever it may be. And I went to a lot of places, they don't really have any document management system at all. They simply just put it on a file server, and that means that now, everywhere they are, whether it be the plant floor or the business, they have to get access to it and get permissions to it. And that presents a problem because as we all know, there's two separate networks, there's a control network and there's a corporate network, and getting security and having IT get all that to work successfully for you, and then for an operator to quickly get to a manual that they need or SOP that they need right away, when I say, for example, when alarm happens, they need to know this information quickly, it can be a little bit hard to do so.
Travis: And if you look at Ignition and in connecting to a database, we naturally deal with databases. We can store whatever we want in the database. We could actually store documents in the database. A good example of this is in our demo project. It can be PDFs, it can be Word documents, it can be videos, it can be images, it can be whatever you want, and the idea is that's in the database, everywhere you open that client, you have access to that data, we can pull that document. And better yet, on the alarming system for example, you could add an associated data to your tag that is like the document filename of what needs to be opened when that alarm happens. So that way, if you see the alarm on the alarm banner, you see that alarm come in, you can right click on it and say, "Open SOP," or "Open Manual," and it instantly opens that within the application without having to go find it somewhere else. It's something that a lot of companies want and they don't have a solution for it, or their solutions out there can be really expensive or hard to manage. Ignition can make it very, very easy and with the ability, as you see a general theme here, getting the information to people's hands.
Don: Absolutely, thanks, Travis. And I think that the general theme here is also that there are a variety of different ways to do this, every one of them addressing a solution to a problem that your customers are facing. This last one is a broad perspective, but shares this paperless factory perspective.
Travis: Yeah. You know, paperless factory, everybody wants to have a paperless factory, man, and Dee was mentioning this earlier. If you just walk around the plant, and you will see whiteboards, you will see things written on paper, it just happens, and there's a lot of companies that still do this. And I've seen a company, for example, that they write down some metrics, that they're collecting for a shift on a whiteboard and all the information exists, by the way, in the PLC or exists in some way. There's data there that they don't have to write down. Typically, they're getting it from a display and then writing on a whiteboard. I've seen them take an actual picture of the whiteboard at the end of the shift, so that they could store that picture on a file system, so they can come back to it later on.
Travis: And that just is not really a great way of achieving it because it's not indexed, it's hard to find the information, you can't then share with other things that are out there. If you see this, certainly we can convert that into Ignition. We can make it electronic using Ignition in the database to store the information, provide the forms, and the fact that anybody in the organization can have access to it. We can have a heads-up TV display that shows live data rather than having to wait for somebody to write it on a whiteboard and anybody throughout the enterprise can look at it versus just having to be down there on the plant floor. And this is a no-brainer, in my opinion, if you see this, Ignition is a perfect solution for that going forward.
Don: That's great. Thanks, Travis. So we just covered a variety of ways that we can look at it, certainly those aren't all of them. I'm gonna ask you first, Chris, and then you Dee... You can make comments on the paperless factory certainly, but also any other ways that you sell Ignition for non-SCADA needs through your organization. So maybe creative things you've done we haven't covered here. We're just trying to give our integrators as many tools as they can to approach this successfully. Chris, your thoughts.
Chris: Yeah. So it's a great product and it's very powerful and people will see that, but there still is a desire from the customers to understand what kind of experience you have. And so if you're doing your first project or maybe even just your second, it's still a little hard for you to prove to them that you are the right person for the job. And so my advice is utilize Inductive Automation, they have wonderful reps and they have wonderful technical support. And now, just having this new position in that department, there's the ability for even more support. They'll do webinars with you, they'll do demos, they'll talk to clients, use that. And outside of that, I just wanted to make an offer to you guys today . We, at Vertech, like working with other integrators. There is power in that. You can basically utilize our salesforce and resources to your benefit. We will partner with you and go into an opportunity, help you close it and even help you do that project to add it to your resume. And in the past, companies didn't want to do something like that because integrators don't work together, but we have done it time and time again and have had some extremely positive experiences with it, so anything that we could do to help out, my contact information is at the end, use us.
Don: Thanks, Chris, and really, thanks for being here to participate in the Q&A too. Dee, how about your overall thoughts, whether it be on the last thing, the paperless factory that Travis talked about, or just creative ways that you are presenting and selling Ignition to your customers?
Dee: One area that we're looking at pretty heavily is the laboratory information systems. So a lot of these treatment facilities, they'll take grab samples, they'll have a chemist or someone doing some analysis on those things, and that process lags a little bit in time behind the actual treatment process, but they have to do that for a lot of government regulations and things that they have to track. So I see a lot of Excel data, Excel files, sometimes an Access database, sometimes it's a whiteboard, a lot of activity in that area that we're using to help leverage the Ignition tools and tie in with the overall plant SCADA system. So that was helpful.
Don: Great. Thanks, Dee. So we covered a number of things here, we tried to give as many different perspectives from Dee, from Chris, from Travis, as we could in the time that we had allocated, but I wanna wrap things up a little bit, so we still have some time for some Q&A. But the idea is to give you a fuller picture of how to address your customer's needs from a broader perspective and to see how Ignition can be a tool to help you sell more effectively. So I'd like to talk in a little bit more detail on how you might take the next step as an integrator. If you're an integrator that's not our program, you need to register, you can go to our website and do that, you can talk to your account executive here at Inductive Automation, he'll be more than happy to help you with that. If you happen to be a registered integrator, you haven't sold Ignition yet, I'd encourage you to work on these steps here. I'd encourage you, number one, to get at least one person credentialed with Inductive University, and then participate in our educational web demos, lunch and learns, ways that you can expand that knowledge, get an idea if there's an opportunity for Ignition with any of your customers, and we can help you become more confident.
Don: And Travis is gonna talk a little bit more about that with the establishment of the sales engineering department he's growing up now, so that you can be successful with that first project. If you're an integrator in this category, one or two sales, you have some experience with Ignition but there's more your customers can benefit from, then dig in with some of the questions and some of the querying that we talked about today, what challenges do they face, what's their ideal scene, what do they need that they don't have today, so you end up finding an entrance point, whether it's SQL Bridge, ERP connectivity, alarming, any of the things that were mentioned today. Also, I'll say one other thing in this bullet point here, use design services. We have a design services team here that's very effective to help you, whether you're trying to architect, configure, design a project, make sure it goes right, we're willing to work with integrators to help them be successful as they're launching into newer projects.
Don: And also with the establishment and the expansion of our sales engineering department, I mean Travis is really welcoming the idea to do joint demos. We can work with you on the demo so that we can help that go forward and also start building up your own library of templates, UDTs and scripts and things. That'll help you grow to the next level as an integrator. If you already have a lot of experience, multiple projects under your belt, the good news is, I think from even covering things today, there's more success. You have the never-ending project, you're not just bidding on a project with a customer, you're becoming a trusted partner in that enterprise for all sorts of enterprise applications with the use of Ignition that are gonna benefit your customer, and we wanna help you build that business anyway we can. You just keep building that library of templates, UDTs, scripts, and it'll always be useful. If you want us to discuss challenges that are keeping you from landing more bigger projects, let's do that. Something you'd like to do with the software, you're not sure how to do it, let us help you with that also.
Don: So it's really just saying, expanding into other industries, expanding into other applications, that's what we really wanna support here with our team. So, really, no matter what the level is, bottom line, we wanna help you in any way that we possibly can. Just a couple of quick things on more about the Integrator Program if you don't know about it... Bottom line, we'll do technical and web demos with you. You see that we give free tech support, we offer training and certification, lots of... There's benefits, including software discounts. And so I think it's worth it that you start, go to the website, talk and see what you want to find out more about the Integrator Program if you don't happen to be on it yet. And then rather than me talking to sales engineering, you can see the bullet points here. Travis, you're the director, you're establishing this, you've been wanting to do this for a long time, and you're finally blasted into it this year. Share why you think this is valuable and how it helps our integrators.
Travis: Yeah. I mean, look, we really value our integrators. We grew up integration roots, we know where you guys are, and where you come from, and what challenges you face, and so this year, well, I'm really, really excited because I'm heading up a new division called Sales Engineering, and the idea of that is to really provide that technical expertise along with the sales cycle, to help you get these projects, and to help you succeed with Ignition, and we're gonna do things with you this year, like joint presentations and web demos, or even lunch and learns with you guys to learn more about the product, answering technical questions you guys have on the product, or maybe you have a question you have for your customer, or an RFP that you need help with, and we certainly wanna be able to assist you with that. Maybe you have a little template you're trying to make and you don't quite know how to approach it or something you're stuck on, we would like to help you design some of those little templates and develop strategies that you can work with with the end-users.
Travis: We really want to help grow the Integrator Program by this technical expertise here. I've been doing this with a lot of customers over the years, but I haven't made a formal program, and this year we're making a formal program where you guys can schedule. We can dedicate resources, we can schedule time, we can really get you guys to understand what Ignition can do, because like we said earlier, the more you know about the product, the more you can say, yes, the more you could develop quickly, the more you could sell. It's just simple math there. It will really help you guys grow. So take advantage of this. We're gonna put information at the end. If you guys have... If you want to learn more about the product, you have things you need, or just want to do joint presentations for your customers so they can understand what technology is out there, just let us know. We're more than happy to do that.
Don: Thanks, Travis. Just one comment on that. One of the things that we've learned at Inductive Automation as we've grown so rapidly is, there's more and more and more capabilities for Ignition but you're running businesses, you've got integration and engineering firms, you're dealing with customer's needs and while your technical skill grows, what this is about, from our standpoint, is we wanna help you with other aspects of your organization, how to sell, how to present, how to succeed, and being more value to your customers is gonna help you grow your business on that pretty effectively.
Travis: Yeah. And this is really designed to help you with getting projects and getting Ignition in the door, and really let you guys understand the product. This is what Sales Engineering is about. Obviously, after that, we're gonna support you all the way through the cycle. We have great tech support, we have design services that can help during the development of the project, we have lots of people here that really know the product and want to help you guys along the way. But this Sales Engineering is to help you get the actual project, to get in the door, and that's something that we haven't done before. We've helped you afterwards but now we wanna help you get more business and to grow.
Don: Yeah. I think you get the sense of where we're coming from this. In terms of wrapping up and then addressing your questions with a little time we have left, you can learn more about the Integrator Program by going to the website, inductiveautomation.com/integrators. If you're new to Ignition, certainly download a whole version free today, work with it, you'll get a full-featured product, you can try before you buy, and really take a good deep look at anything you wanna do and design with it. It's got all up there. Just a comment on Inductive University, 'cause we mentioned it a couple of times in passing, you can learn more about Ignition and Inductive University, we have an HMI school, an MES school, it's online training, it's free. Obviously, available anywhere in the world, any time. You can watch one to five-minute training videos, test your knowledge with challenges, you can earn Ignition credentials, you can do that all at your own pace. And frankly, in just a few months, we've got like 1500 users have joined and watched over 150,000 training videos. So really check it out because it's our way of saying, "We wanna make the knowledge transfer as easy as possible, wherever you may be at your own pace." With that, Travis, we've got a question here. And the first one here is, "Can you speak to the appropriateness of using Ignition as a calculation engine in conjunction with an existing Historian?"
Travis: Yeah. Certainly, we've seen a lot of customers do this. Ignition logs data through a database naturally, whether it be the Historian help functionality, where essentially we control the format of their still open data, or transaction groups, a SQL Bridge Module to log data. Once in the database, we can perform calculations on it, we could bring it into Ignition, perform calculations on it and have dashboard screens that are available to everybody on that. So we see a lot of that kind of stuff happening. Well, this year or next year, we're gonna increase more functionality to our Historian and add more ways we can bring data back and do more data mining and more data analytics out of the box. So it'll be much, much easier and we'll have a lot more functionality there.
Don: Great, Travis. Thanks. So I'm gonna make a comment on this, and if you wanna add, too, you can. But on lunch and learns, one of the things that we found is that as you begin to build, depending on how many people are in your firm, you've got maybe one or two people are finding out about Ignition, they're learning about Ignition, but you got other individuals who are doing projects in the firm, and you'd like to have more knowledge spread more deeply. So we will schedule a lunch and learn, and maybe you decide to bring together a team or in many cases, and frankly, a lunch and learn goes across multiple offices across the country. There's 25 engineers in five different offices, and they'd all like to take advantage of a little bit of a deeper dive, so we schedule a lunch and learn at some convenient time for those various time zones or a convenient time for all the people in your office. It doesn't have to be lunch. We've had breakfast and learned too. But that's... The goal there again is knowledge transfer if guys get excited about Ignition through a lunch and learn you're gonna have more success inside your organization so that's really what the goal of the lunch and learn is.
Travis: Yeah, and if your innovation firm has say, a dozen people, only one person knows the Ignition product, well certainly getting more people in the organization to know Ignition and know the potential of it allows you guys to be able to do more projects because you'll know you have more people that can support it versus having that one person who's dedicated to that product so we want you guys to learn the product more and those luncheons are perfect ways to get that knowledge transfer started.
Don: Great thanks Travis. So here's another question: Inductive University shows Ignition and MES how-tos. Will this be expanded to show how some of the extra functionality discussed today can be achieved? That's an excellent question, Patrick.
Travis: That's a really good question. So that is really what the university is gonna be all about. We focus, it's only been out for a few months and we focus heavily on being able to understand the core functionality and features of Ignition and so that's what the how-tos are on that's where we get credentialed on that and you work through challenges and that's the core functionality there. There are some things that we talked about today that are in there like database manipulation and forms that kind of stuff's there but as we go forward like this year in particular we're gonna focus on videos that are gonna help see other outside bigger picture things, things that we talked about today problems at tech support, people that call the tech support have run into whatever it may be, things that don't necessarily need to be in the core structure. We're gonna have these other videos that are gonna be coming out there at the university this year that are gonna be, really gonna show a lot more.
Travis: So my goal or our goal, the university is to be able to Google anything, right, go on Google and search for something and hopefully find a video that helps you achieve that. Again we wanna make knowledge transfer better and in the meantime you can talk to somebody like myself if you have questions and there's not a video that knows, that addresses it, we can do, schedule something we can get that knowledge transfer going but as that happens I would write down what that video, what we could make on the university and we'd go and make those. We are dedicated to making videos continually from this point on.
Don: Yeah and we're getting custom flow from our support team and what the videos need to be made on. So it's a strong dedication. So here's one thing I'd like to say as we wrap up 'cause we've come to the end of our time. I wanna once again, at least Chris McLaughlin from Vertech, thank you very much for your time. Dee Brown of Brown Engineers thank you very much for your time. We really appreciate you taking time to share with our integrators on the webinar today. So with that we're sort of at the conclusion of any wrap-up with you Travis, you're finished off. Anything you wanna say in conclusion?
Travis: I just wanna say we're excited this year to head up the sales engineering utilize that and as Chris said earlier and he's willing to partner as well, so, we have a community out there the community is growing with Ignition and we're not afraid to talk to each other and share information and we have facilities in place for that to happen, with cloud templates and Inductive University and all these things that we're trying to put out there to help you guys do your job better. That's our main focus and so utilize these tools and let's get this party going.
Don: Thanks Travis. I hope it's come across there that we are very very committed to you as integrators and wanna do anything we can for your success so we appreciate it. Don't hesitate to call us. Thanks very much for your time today. And with that we are concluded with today's webinar. Have a great day.