4 Keys to Removing Friction in Your Industrial Organization

Overcome Obstacles and Increase Results with Unlimited SCADA

56 min video  /  49 minute read View slides

About this Webinar

When you work in an industrial organization such as a public utility or a manufacturing company, you have to deal with many sources of friction that slow you down and keep you from reaching the next level of efficiency: outdated SCADA systems, proprietary technology, restrictive licensing, expensive upgrades, and steep learning curves – just to name a few.

In this webinar, experienced professionals from the water/waste water and plastics industries discuss how they've been able to remove friction from their processes. Learn about a software platform built on modern technologies, unlimited licensing, a business approach that empowers users, and an ethical commitment to its user community.

Discover how these combined elements remove operational friction by:

• Exponentially decreasing the time it takes to get the data you need
• Giving engineers freedom to develop systems without licensing obstacles such as limited tags or clients
• Enabling new users to quickly learn the software and begin developing applications
• Facilitating solutions that OT and IT can agree on
• And more!

Webinar Transcript

Don: Good morning everyone, and welcome to our webinar, 4 Keys to Removing Friction in Your Industrial Organization, Overcoming Obstacles and Increase Results with Unlimited SCADA. My name is Don Pearson, I'll serve as the host with our panelists here for this particular webinar. A little bit quick look at the agenda. What I think I'll start off with is just an introduction to Ignition. We'll take about an hour here. We have a couple of panelists. We're gonna discuss the four keys that our company recommends for removing friction that are really part of our business model, actually, and then I'll lead into a discussion with our panelists about six major ways that Ignition removes friction in their organizations. As always, we're gonna have a Q&A at the end of the webinar.

Don: A little bit of company background. Inductive Automation was founded in 2003. We're really very pleased that enterprises in over 100 countries have actually chosen Ignition for their HMI, SCADA, MES, and IIoT needs. We've got over 1400 integrators that joined our integrator program. And really since 2010, we continue to experience pretty explosive growth with an average annual growth rate that exceeds 60%. If you want more information on Inductive Automation, you can actually go to the About Us section on our website and it talks about the personnel, the company, the CEO, that kind of stuff. Actually, Ignition is trusted by thousands of companies, including 44% of Fortune 100, and I think it's over 26% of Fortune 500 now, used in almost any industry you can think of: Oil and gas, water, wastewater, food and beverage, government, transportation, packaging, energy. I think the list goes on.

Don: We've also gotten some recognition for leadership in industry, which we're pleased with. We've been named as First Team Honoree for the Leadership in Automation from Automation World again for six consecutive years. In 2016, we were named by Gartner as a Cool Vendor in Managing Operational Technology in a Digital Business. But I think more so than that, what I'm gonna share with you is that about a year ago, I think, Automation.com released the results from its HMI Software Experience Survey, and the orange bars on the left are Inductive Automation and our Ignition platform. All the other ones you can see, if you look at the full survey, are all major competitors in that area. Our company was by far, the choice in four categories: Technology Adoption, Customer Service, Ease of Use, and Software Reliability. If you're interested in that, you can certainly see the full survey, I've got the website there, bit.ly/hmisurvey.

Don: I think there's a lot of reasons for that ranking, but because Ignition really is different, I think it's safe to say it's the world's first truly universal industrial application platform because it has a whole lot of unique features, some of which I've listed here: Unlimited licensing, cross-platform compatibility, IT-standard technologies, scalable server-client architecture, web-based and web-managed, web launched design around clients, the modular configurability. So you configure the capabilities of the Ignition platform by adding modules based on what the tasks are you're trying to accomplish with your project, and of course, rapid development and deployment. So it's a single, universal platform for HMI, SCADA, MES, and IIoT solutions.

Don: We're really fortunate to have two excellent panelists today. Henry Palechek is Information and Process Control Supervisor for a water district here in California and Chris VanRemoortel is the Engineering Manager for Bixby International. I think what I'd like to do is ask each of you panelists to introduce yourself, and I know we're gonna dig into how you are using Ignition to reduce friction in your organizations, but start by telling a little bit about your own background and the organization that you work for. Chris, let's start with you.

Chris: Hi. My name is Chris VanRemoortel. I'm the Engineering Manager of Bixby International in Newburyport, Massachusetts. We're a custom plastics sheet and film extruder, and have been around for about 140 years. And we've been using Ignition for about two and a half years. We have replaced all of our legacy HMI and SCADA systems with Ignition and couldn't be happier with it.

Don: Thanks, Chris. Henry, introduce yourself.

Henry: Okay, so I've been working in the instrumentation field since 1986. I have a bachelor's degree in Information Systems, a California T4 system. We've deployed two SCADA systems in the past, a legacy system that we replaced with Ignition, and that system oversees a 106 MGD treatment plant with ozone and a 50-square mile distribution system covering about 300,000 customers.

Don: Henry and Chris, thanks so much for being here and I'm gonna start a little bit talking about friction in business, and then we're gonna come back to the area of you and what you are doing in your organizations to reduce friction. Since the subject today is removing friction, if you look at physics, friction is simply resistance caused by the movement of an object over another object. In business, when you look at friction, it's any factor that slows your organization down or keeps it from reaching the next level, and you're always looking for ways to remove friction. A great example is Amazon as a business. They worked on reducing friction from the online shopping experience, as we all know, and that really helped Amazon become a retail giant that's actually, at least reportedly, worth more than Target, Sears, and Macy's all combined.

Don: And the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has said that when you reduce friction and make something easy, people do more of it. And if you want them to do less, increase the friction. That's also true, I think, in the industrial workplace if you think about it, because when users encounter friction from technology, frankly, it just keeps from getting more done and from collaborating with others, which ultimately holds the whole company back from its own progress and its own goals.

Don: Lots of points of friction is caused by common traditional SCADA software, that many industrial organizations are still using. Some of the biggest ones that we see anyway are friction caused by lost time and money, by the difficulty of connecting to other systems and getting more data, certainly by restrictive licensing models, certainly by steep learning curves you have to climb before you can develop something useful or learning curves before you try anything new. Friction between the operational information technologies, that OT IT wall or barrier that gets written about so much. And of course, friction caused by a short-term focus and upgrade cycle which is promoted by many software makers in the industrial industry.

Don: Just a statement about the mission of Inductive Automation 'cause we're gonna hit on it a little bit in terms of setting up our panelists here. The whole essence of Inductive Automation or IA since its very beginning has been to remove friction. That was what our CEO was looking at when he started the company, the mission is all about that. It's to create industrial software that empowers our customers to swiftly turn great ideas into reality by removing all technological and economic obstacles. You can also see that in the pillars that we consider as the foundation of our company, each one of them has its own way of removing friction, new technology, new licensing model, new business model, and new ethical model. Each one's essential because everything we do at IA from the technology to the business model, etcetera, is directed at this, "Get friction out of the process, make the customer better able to do their job."

Don: And at the end of the day, we consider that if we're doing the right job we should be getting out of your way and let you unleash your innovative ideas into solutions for your organizations or the organizations you serve as integrators. Just to comment quickly on these pillars, it really starts with new technology because most SCADA software happens to still be based on '90s technology. But Ignition leverages very well the best of modern technologies. And I said it a few slides ago, it's web deployed, works with databases, cross-platform, rapid application development tools, and the list goes on. Every one of those is designed to speed things up and reduce friction. It's an open platform, uses standards like OPC, provides open access to data, and it's open to scalability and expansion.

Don: I can't neglect this 'cause it's probably one of the more disruptive things about our organization since we started, remove friction with licensing, make it simple. When you have to pay for every tag, every client and you have to decide, "How many historical tags do I need? How many real-time tags? If I need another seat, I gotta pay more." It gets really expensive, really fast. But when you can have unlimited clients, tags, connections, etcetera, then you can fully have a scalable system that also happens to be practical and affordable.

Don: So if you think about even the evolution that's going on right now that we're all hearing about and reading about the Industrial internet of things or Industry 4.0. Come on, we're gonna be connected to thousands of PLCs, RTUs, flow meters, devices of one sort or another, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of sensors. You overlay a legacy priced licensing model on top of that system, you're gonna break the bank. I mean only a few large organizations can even afford to deploy a system like that. Licensing model has to empower scalability, level the playing field, and reduce economic obstacles to innovation if you're really gonna get the kind of implementation that's possible technically.

Don: Third key to remove friction is the new business model because we don't just need to have the right platform, you've got to be iterating your business and growing it so that it can meet the needs of the customers. And I think we've done some things in that area. Many of you are familiar, some of you are very new to us with this, but responsive support, industry leading training, strong integrator program. We actually go to market straight with integrators, we do not move through a distributor channel. We believe the integrators are the subject matter experts across multiple industries and if we support them, they can do really good work with the customers. So I think that's really critical in terms of getting friction out of the overall distribution model to get your technology out into the marketplace.

Don: And I also think it's important to build trust and that means having an ethical business model. Part of that trust is stay... We believe anyway, part of the trust is staying independent as a company. We've talked about this before, our CEO has talked about it. It ensures that our focus remains on putting customers first and our development timelines and whatever we do, frankly, you have to look at it with a broad view across all contributors in our ecosystem. It can't be based on a philosophy of, "For me to win, you have to lose." You need a win-win-win approach to be sustainable to grow and reduce friction, 'cause at the end of the day the customers have to win or it's not gonna work for the integrator model or for the software company that makes the software.

Don: So that was an overview of the pillars we had for removing friction. Now, let's discuss with the panel some specific ways that these four pillars have reduced friction in their organizations. We're gonna focus on six ways. You see them here on the screen, saving time, making data easy to get to, making licensing unlimited, making it easy to learn and teach, bringing OT and IT closer together, and the ability to future-proof your system and don't end up buying obsolescence or getting stuck in the past.

Don: Starting with the first one on saving time... Well, a couple things, I think most SCADA software causes friction by slowing things down. I mean, it can take hours to download and then hours or days to install. Once you've got it installed and deployed, it's not easy to add functionality or change the configuration, you often have to shut down the system to do that.

Don: And in certain industries like, certainly, oil and gas, cutovers are just so costly that you just really want to limit the cut over problem. Ignition speeds things up, downloads it and installs in a few minutes, launches clients and makes changes to clients, instantly. You can add functionality or change configuration without shutting down. And it's just frankly an exponentially faster SCADA system, lets you really turn those ideas into reality. I just wanna share one example because I think it makes the point, and then, Henry and Chris, you can share examples in your organizations. Last year we were... Myself and Travis and Christine, were up at The Global Petroleum Show in Calgary and I had the opportunity to go to a midstream company, Plains Midstream, and go to their operations center and get a chance to meet with them on... They were doing a project and we had a couple of their project managers come in and speak at a conference we had, a follow-up event we had in Calgary the following... Later that month.

Don: And when I was up there, I had a meeting where we went to their operations center and they took on a project to improve network performance and reduce risk that they talked about at our event. They worked with Cirrus Link Solutions, which is a strategic third-party partner that builds MQTT modules for the Ignition platform, and they worked with a systems integrator called The Streamline Group on a new architecture for this project that was built around Ignition and MQTT. Just a comment, for a second, on the architecture. To help understand the new type of architecture that we're talking about, first look at conventional architecture. In this diagram, you have a conventional architecture like this, any application can interact with any device, and that leads to a lot of friction and a real web mess of cross-lines.

Don: Somebody wants to get new functionality, it takes work to add it on; when applications and devices are coupled, that creates problems with security, device resources, network resources, documentation, maintainability. It creates redundancies, it's arcane, and as a result, a lot of valuable data just gets stranded in the field, large quantities of it never gets there for any predictive maintenance or other function the organization may have. By comparison, in this new architecture that we set up for the midstream oil company, the applications were decoupled from the edge of network devices. Device data published by exception to an MQTT broker application is subscribed to the broker, data is bidirectional and state is maintained, which is vital in the industrial setting. The architecture provides better security, better network utilization, and a whole host of other benefits, not the least of which is time savings. So this midstream oil and gas company took on the project with the new architecture to improve their network performance and reduce risk.

Don: Before this, when they say, in their network operations center, they run about 8,000 or 9,000 kilometers of pipeline over British Columbia and Manitoba and Alberta and Saskatchewan, all over Canada, but mostly in the four western provinces. And they could turn on a pump 200 kilometers away on some pipeline in Northern Alberta, and it'd be 15 to 20 minutes to know if that valve was actually turned off or not. They would actually sit there with a stopwatch and time it, with this message-oriented middleware architecture using Ignition and MQTT, that cycle time was reduced from the 15 to 20 minutes down to sub 15 seconds. They were in disbelief. Traditional polling methods will never get you there, the traditional architecture will never get you there. That's a 98% decrease in the time it takes to get data back, and I'd simply point out that most significantly is a reduction in friction. So maybe with that as a backdrop or at least the concept of that, Henry and Chris, I'd like to hear from your experiences in your company, what are some ways Ignition has helped your organization to save time. How are you doing? Maybe I'll go to you, Chris, you start first.

Chris: Well, actually, there's two ways it has. The first way is, it allows us to get in front of the end user much faster. The licensing model has allowed us to push screens to engineers' desks, operation desks, where we used to only have it out on the floor, so they can go look at data, trending, that kind of information from the desktop rather than having to go out to the floor and interrupt the operation to look at data. It's also easier to deploy. Our legacy system, if you were bringing up a new computer, you'd have to install the software, set up the database connections, set up the device connections, get everything running, now you just install Java and it's running.

Don: Thanks, Chris. Henry, give us your perspective on time.

Henry: I agree with Chris. The client computers are virtually zero administration, you get the Java Runtime, network access, point them to the server, you're done, and this allows us to put more PCs out in the system because they no longer have to purchase a license, it gives better access for the operator. From a technician standpoint, the screen builder is an active screen builder, so if I take a tank symbol and drop it on the screen and then take the tank level tag and drop it on the screen, it immediately goes active. I'm no longer switching from a window creator back to a window viewer, trying to see if it looks right or if the data is correct. It's all done rapidly on the fly. I think with the Ignition software, I build screens in a fraction of the time that I used to.

Don: Thanks, Henry. This is, I think, a really critical component is just all these different aspects make a difference when you're updating and you can update all of your clients at one time because you've got a server license and you're working on the server level, change one place and deploy out wherever, so I think that's a big source of reduced friction. How about the data side of it? Another way Ignition reduces friction is simply making it easier to connect and gather data. Proprietary systems that speak different languages make it hard to query data. And then you end up with data silos that prevent you from seeing all your data in one place, and certainly you can't do any data analytics on it 'cause it's not there, so Ignition is built to connect to just about anything.

Don: It's a hub, if you will, it uses OPC and MQTT protocols to connect to all your PLCs and devices. It connects also with all major databases, historians, any MES or RP system, and web services so it really lets you collect as much data from as many different sources as possible so you can query it, analyze it, or use it to benefit in the organization. When you talk about big data and data analytics, Ignition is at the hub to make that not a nice idea, but a reality. So let's talk a little bit, first, I'll ask you for your comments, Chris, and then I'll move over to you, Henry. So comments on data acquisition and getting data.

Chris: One of the big things, we're a heat and film extruder, so we have on our extrusion lines and they're running on dedicated hardware that uses an OPC server but it had a legacy HMI, but if anyone's ever done decomp, you know it's really hard getting data out of a remote OPC server. So to solve this, we put another gateway on those machines, doesn't use up a lot of space, and now we can tunnel data from that OPC server to the main Ignition system extremely easy, and now we've got data that we never had before.

Don: That's great, Chris. Henry, I know we've talked about this many times and you threw us a couple of slides to put in at this point, so let me let you talk a little bit about, from your viewpoint, reports, data acquisition.

Henry: So you know the surface water treatment rule requires that we achieve a certain CT disinfection value at a peak flow rate and the legacy system that we had was not able to do that for us. So with the IA software, I was able to reliably log the data, create a custom screen that could query the data and show what the peak flow was and what the disinfection value was at the time, and this gives the plant supervisor and managers the operation that they need. I was even able to put a calendar object in there so they could go and look at not only today's data, but the performance of the plant in the past.

Don: Thanks, Henry. Also, you had one other thing here, which I'm gonna let you comment on because before Ignition, I know you were doing simple data queries that added up to quite a bit of money over time. Can you compare this to the Ignition reporting methodology you're using now?

Henry: Right, so with the Ignition system I was able to create that query myself. In the past, we had to pay a programming consultant to do this function for you. And you can see that over a six-year period, we paid almost $30,000 for this one simple query. Now that I have Ignition, I no longer need to do this, I can query the data myself. And this is significant, right? $30,000, and this was $30,000, 11 to 17 years ago. When you consider the time value of money, this is huge. I can purchase a high availability Ignition system easily for less than $30,000.

Don: Thanks, Henry. I think that at least gives a little perspective on not only the cost, but all the flexibility of getting data and utilization. I know I talked about licensing limits, but I wanna talk about it in terms of how you're able to deploy systems and how it impacts your organization, and how you're able to move forward, so let's revisit the point a little bit. When you look at all the connections, the tags, the seats that you can add, you're talking about potentially a million dollars' worth of software valued at the $10,000 to $15,000 range. And as one of our software engineers, Kevin McCleskey put it very clearly, "The most important thing about unlimited licensing is the impact that it actually has on the engineer. It lets engineers develop the best system possible without worrying about the number of tags or plants and details like that." So with licensing out of the way, that should be a big reduction in friction.

Don: Chris, as I throw the ball to you first and then come to Henry, I happen to know from having conversations with you that you don't exactly have some big team inside Bixby that does all this work and you just pass it along to your 22 engineers. You had a day job and you fully transformed that organization with the Ignition platform. Can you talk a little bit about that as far as how the server license and unlimited licensing affected your ability to proliferate projects and transformative actions?

Chris: Sure. Actually that's the real reason we bought Ignition. It's great and software and everything, but the cost is what pushed it over the edge pretty quickly. We were replacing a six-station HMI system on the floor which would have cost us over 30 grand to update to "current technology". And with Ignition, it cost us about 13 grand including those remote gateways, which is a much easier sell. Plus, I could push screens out anywhere I wanna push screens out. Like I said before, there are people in operations, people in management, people in shipping, all have screens so they can see what's going on on the floor. Often, we have more than 20 clients running at a time and we're a company of 55 people, so that's a pretty good ratio.

Don: Thanks, Chris. Henry, I also happen to know from previous presentations you've done, that you've talked about developing your entire system on an operational technology budget, not a capital investment budget, without having to go for capital funding. You go back a ways to our legacy systems, but you continue to grow with our technology developments and releases, so is that still true?

Henry: Yeah. We deployed the system in-house, we did a pay-as-you-go with no capital funding, and yeah, the system worked really well without any issues and no capital funding since like 2007.

Don: Good. And have you also seen the... I know Chris talked about it a little bit, the ability to have different individuals in the organization easy access to, has that been valuable in terms of the unlimited licensing for data availability throughout your organization?

Henry: Yeah, so we've got that occurring in two different ways. Just like Chris talked about, we've deployed multiple screens, we went from just a handful of screens to now I think we've got 16 screens throughout the plant to give the operators access. From a technician standpoint, when we went to deploy the system, we divided the screens up in a third, and because Ignition is not... You can have more than one design session, we were able actually to design 3D and so we were busting the screens out at a pretty good clip with the three of us working. I remember I was working with one of the techs and I was more familiar with the PLC, and so we paired up side-by-side and as fast as I could create the Ignition tag in the tag browser, he was dropping them onto the chemical feed screen, making it work, so we were able to do a pretty quick deployment of the chemical feed system using Ignition.

Don: That's great, thanks. I appreciate your comments on that because I think when one looks at the availability of capital funds, they aren't always there but you can do a migration, work alongside, evolution of your own automation strategy in your organization, consistent with a evolution of acquiring Ignition and deploying it, or adding modules and functionality as you grow and can make a... I'm not talking about it being free, but you can make a pretty good case for that kind of a transformation. The next thing I'd like to hit on a little bit is ease of learning because learning can be a big barrier if there's a lot of friction in the process. Learning curve is really a common source of friction, and actually it's the reason why some people just simply don't move to anything newer because of the curve of getting people up to speed and being able to use it, that knowledge transfer, if you will.

Don: And I just wanna share one example that came to us from Dan Stauft from SugarCreek, they're a food manufacturer, they won New Plant of the Year last year from Food Engineering Magazine. And Dan told me about a senior engineer, excuse me, this engineering student from Purdue University. His name was Sukrit, he did a summer internship for six to seven weeks, and the intern... Actually, an intern developed a new refrigeration control system for the plant, including 25 to 30 Ignition screens for alarming and reporting and real-time control and monitoring. He had no prior knowledge of Ignition, he learned at Inductive University and he immediately put it into action and built a new system.

Don: Now, I just wanna point out that one of the reasons for Inductive University, there's 550-plus videos on there on every aspect of Ignition is to do exactly what happened with Sukrit. Go from thought to action fast, from idea to implementation quickly, and that's what the university is designed to do, plus it's 100% free and people can learn any place in the world. But just on the subject of your experiences too, how has Inductive Automation helped facilitate knowledge transfer, whether through IU, the university training courses or some other way? Have you guys been able learn the software and put it to use relatively quickly? Henry, how about you?

Henry: So we purchased the system 10 years ago, and even back then, you guys had training videos, and so we were able to watch those videos, we were able to get some one-on-one training with Travis, who was able to address... Show us how to do some of the stuff that we couldn't figure out how to do, but our staff was able to pick it up pretty quickly. Since the time of the original deployment, we've hired a couple of new control electricians and they're actually a little bit younger than the two of us, and they seem to be picking it up even quicker. I think younger staff is more in sync with modern software.

Don: I see. Is that gray hair I see on your beard there, Henry? Is that what you're talking about?

Henry: Yeah, it is.

Don: Alright, yeah, I'm in the same category. Yes. The younger engineers are putting Ignition on a Raspberry Pi and controlling the thermostat in their dorm room right now, that's what the engineering students are doing. So I think we have another set, another generation coming up that fits pretty well with this modern technology. Chris, how about you?

Chris: You can't see my gray hair.

Don: I don't see it, you don't have any gray hair. You must be 28.

Chris: That's a lie. It's the lighting. Three things that I wanna point out is A, the fact that you don't have to buy a developer license is huge. I basically built half my system before I said, "Okay, this is gonna work, let's buy this software." So you can play with it and understand how things work and whether it's not gonna fit your needs, which I'd be surprised if it didn't. It's also very intuitive to use, and when you get into a... Get stuck or something, the way I use the videos is that I'll go to a video and watch it because it's sort of like an interactive manual, so...

Don: Great. Thanks, Chris. I think it's certainly something I will say that we are very committed to, I can tell everybody on the webinar today, and that's to facilitate knowledge transfer and to expedite our learning curve as quickly as we possibly can from anything we can do here through our guys in support to sales engineering with Travis and Kevin and their team, and over to the training department too. I just wanna comment for a second on this source of friction, 'cause you hear more and more about it from Gartner and ARC Advisory and other analyst organizations, and that's the friction coming from the gap between OT and IT. Historically, they've used different technologies, they reside at different levels, so when one side wants to implement a solution, the other side may push back, and we found that when a solution makes sense, you actually won't get resistance.

Don: If OT tries to push something that's arcane, proprietary, or expensive, hard to deploy, hard to secure, hard to maintain, IT's of course, gonna resist it. I think the same thing happens if IT tries to shove something on OT and they have no concept of the challenges that are faced by the operations technology folks, the people in the field, the people who have to fight downtime and keep production going, then it simply won't get received well and nothing's gonna happen if IT is shoving it down. Sort of that old colloquial statement, "That dog don't hunt, that dog stays on the porch." It just won't cause a convergence because the fact is it's not a good solution if it doesn't provide a superior solution that operations technology folks go for. And I say that because when one goes to the history of Inductive Automation, it's at our roots, and when Steve started the darn company, the very first legacy product was released was called Factory SQL, which was designed to basically move PLC data into SQL databases, and we have actually continued in that direction through every subsequent version of our software.

Don: I think Steve referred it early on as the... When he was still working in integration as the Swiss Army knife for the integrator. You can go into an industrial organization and do just about anything that needs to be done. He shared a story with me one time about something that happened when he was a systems integrator. It was a grocery store chain, his customer, he was a customer of his. He was just coming on with this customer, they hadn't done much with him yet, and the center had several acres under refrigerations, a PC-based system, and it ended up crashing at 4 PM on a Friday afternoon. There wasn't any way to get it up over the weekend, there was God knows how many millions of dollars of product were at stake. And so Steve was building the relationship and they called him in. He had his Swiss Army knife, if you will, and within six hours, he replaced the whole legacy system with Factory SQL. Database is connected, the system up and running, and as he jokingly says he still made it home in time for the 11 o'clock news.

Don: When IT solution or the next week when that IT heard about that solution, there wasn't any resistance, they were thumbs up on the solution. The plant engineer said, "Steve, how did you do that?" He had always tried to avoid IT, the whole point is, if the system makes sense, you're not gonna get resistance and that is the ultimate bridge between OT and IT 'cause at the end of the day we're talking about one industrial enterprise, not OT and IT in different worlds. I'm not sure if this is an issue for either of you guys, but you may wanna make a comment on it. Chris, let me start with you, and then I'll go to Henry.

Chris: Well, since I am OT and IT, it just prevents me from arguing with myself.

Don: That's a good problem. You don't have to argue with yourself anymore.

Chris: Exactly, I can argue about other things. Client installation is so simple, that's one of the biggest things that I've come across is that if I wanna put another computer, all I got to do is do Java, I don't have to install anything else.

Don: Thanks, Chris. Henry, any of your thoughts on bringing the organization together?

Henry: So our IT group is pretty supportive, sometimes we'll have a special function going on or I'll need some type of special report or query and so our IT group can help me write that query and get the data out. Another way that they've been able to help us is they wanted to apply an active directory for security, that wasn't possible with the legacy system. But actually our IT network person jumped right in and put it in place. And then because the software uses the Java Runtime, that hides the operating system and it allows you to do Windows updates and virus software protection much easier on the client and the server machines. And so our IT group has set up a Windows server and a virus push that helps protect this system from a security standpoint, and the viruses are actually... Virus software actually, it breaks a lot of legacy systems, but we've seen absolutely no problems with either updates with the Ignition product.

Don: Great. Thanks, Henry and thanks, Chris. The last section I'm gonna do before we move into Q&A, and I wanna emphasize that we have some questions you guys have put into the queue, this is definitely your time, so we will leave the last 15 minutes or so of the webinar to get into individual questions. We have some lining up here, but if you have questions for either of our panelists... I also have Travis Cox here with me, who is Co-Director of Sales Engineering, and as we go into the Q&A... We used to actually have webinars that were called Stump Travis, so you can ask any question you want of Travis, and we'll dig into it with the best answers we can give you as we move into that. But just a comment on future-proofing, 'cause it's something that we consider that's I think very critical, because another point of friction is the upgrade cycle and the short-term thinking that leads into that.

Don: The enterprises that get locked into an expensive cycle of buying expensive technology that quickly goes obsolete, we frankly don't think it's ethical to force customers into expensive new releases and only giving them marginal improvements; instead of keeping customers on an endless upgrade cycle, it's better to help them longer term and build a future-proof system, while at the same point, we're gonna maintain backwards compatibility and certainly work with any modern version of Windows or Linux or Mac OS. But when you think about the future-proofing thing, Chris, what are your thoughts on that area, and then I wanna chat a little bit differently with you, Henry, about some stuff I know about the evolution of your system. So Chris, any thoughts on the future-proofing and how some of these friction things can help you build a system that takes a long view for Bixby?

Chris: Sure. One of the big things when we had our legacy HMI system is that it was running on Windows XP and it didn't really run on anything above that, so we had to upgrade to get that... I had XP desktops out there two and a half years ago, but now, since it's sort of OS agnostic, you can... It's just running on Java, so I can run it on Windows, I can run it on Apple, I can run it on a Raspberry Pi. I can run it on almost anything that Java will run on which is just great.

Don: That's great, Chris. Henry, I remember you, years ago, we did a webinar, I think it's like eight or nine years ago when you were first rolling into this and you made some comparisons of the cost of operating system obsolescence and how it had turnover and challenges with different versions of Windows and what it did to your software deployment cost and strategy. Can you comment on future-proofing and how you view this system and how it's evolved from those early days?

Henry: Yeah, from those early days, we have an ozone system as an alternative disinfectant, and that system was built as a standalone package. When we went to merge it in, it also wouldn't run on anything higher than an XP. When we went to merge it in, we went from version 71 to 711, that was 1/100 of a change. And so, they're like, "Version change, gotta buy a new license. You've merged a client in, now you've exceeded your tag count, gotta buy a higher tag count," and it turned out that the price for that one tag, one license file, was so expensive that it became a capital item that had to go to the board for approval, and so that makes it a much more difficult, subscription based if you will, process to go through. With Ignition, you simply don't have that limitation. If we were to do that now, there wouldn't be any license issues. It would be a simple project export, import the screens and tags, and I would be done in a matter of two minutes.

Don: Yeah. I know you just said something that I hope isn't lost on the audience. It would be a matter of two minutes. Yes, the licensing cost is handled, but you're also talking about something you could do in two minutes, so it makes a huge friction reducer if you have technology that allows you to future-proof that system as you go forward. As a wrap-up question before we go into the Q&A, maybe a concluding question to our discussion, what are your plans for Ignition going forward? Do you have other areas in the operation where it could reduce friction? Take a moment to share your view. I think there's a variety of folks on the webinar today, some of them understand Ignition very well, and this is giving them a lot of different angles as a way to approach it, and some are brand new. So, first, your view of the future, Chris, and then, over to you, Henry.

Chris: More screens, more screens, more screens. It's so easy to deploy. You just have to... You have a Raspberry Pi and a monitor. In fact, we're... One of the next projects I'm gonna work on is one of those welcome screens in our entrance way, so that... And it'll be running on Ignition and we'll just change the tag to whoever's coming in that day. You can use it for anything.

Don: Thanks, Chris. How about you, Henry, some final thoughts there?

Henry: So, you know, the guys should know, I don't get paid to do this webinar, it's just that I found a great piece of software. What I found is that my workload has shifted from an 80/20, where I was spending 80% of my time maintaining the central SCADA software and hardware. It's now shifted more to 20% of my time doing that. And really, the biggest part of the 20% is the Windows updates and whatnot. The Ignition software works really well. And this is kind of a welcome change. I have both radios and PLCs that need some of my attention as well, so now that the Ignition system is deployed, working well, and is stable, I can focus on other technology issues in the business.

Don: Thanks, Henry, and thanks for your final comments too, Chris. We're gonna move into our Q&A, but basically, before we do that, I just wanna encourage... Chris mentioned it. Try the software, download it, it's free. The latest version Ignition 7.9 is available. It has advanced troubleshooting features, it has distributed services like remote tags, history, and alarms. Our CEO likes to call it the friction remover release. So, try it out, go to inductiveautomation.com, download the full version. It takes three minutes. You can use it in trial mode for as long as you like. As Chris said, he went a long ways into using it in trial mode, developing before he decided it was something that he wanted to buy.

Don: And I wanna emphasize also, I mentioned it earlier, but learn more about Ignition, free online training inductiveuniversity.com. The online courses, they're just designed to guide you through all of the steps that you need in order to earn an Ignition credential. Plus, you can search, if you just wanna look at the videos that relate to alarming or something related to connecting to databases, you can just look and search and use it as a tool, while you're working on projects. So, it's easy, just sign up and start learning. So with those two points, I wanna move over to the Q&A. And I might start by actually letting Travis say something in terms of another field like the energy management system field, so, I don't know if you have anything to say on that, but I see a question here that says, "Do you have some example of integration... An Ignition integrated in energy management systems?"

Travis: Well, we certainly do have examples in that industry, as well as many other industries. One good thing you can do is go to the website in the About Us section and see the various industries and customers who are using it. We could also... You can call us and get a web demonstration and we can, during that, talk about specific examples and even look at getting a reference in that arena. So, Ignition is a platform that can be used in pretty much anything. So, energy management is, now, obviously becoming a bigger field and a lot more people are very interested in it.

Don: Okay, cool, cool. So this one I'm gonna ask for... Anybody can comment. "What is the complexity of learning programming for Ignition, considering a guy with very less to zero experience in programming?" So this is a guy who has apparently zero experience in programming, so let me ask... For you, Chris and Henry, you wanna comment on that? And then, Travis can comment, too.

Henry: From my standpoint, I've been able to accomplish everything I need to do without using any of the Python programming in the back. The system has nice flexible expressions that can do the work. The queries against the database are pretty simple, so my programming experience is 20 years old and I didn't have to go back to school to learn some more modern language.

Don: Okay.

Chris: If you know Excel and can do formulas in Excel, you can do just about anything.

Don: That's great, Chris.

Travis: Yeah, I'll kudos that you don't really need any programming experience in Ignition. Yes, there is the scripting language built-in, you can go and if you know, if you have a deeper knowledge of databases and programming, you can... The amount of things that open up in the platform, the amount of things you could do becomes bigger, but the core of it, we have made the common things we do in this industry very simple, from putting guys on screens, doing real-time status control, logging information, historical information, creating graphs and trends of that data, as well as doing alarming and notifying people and creating reports. These things are all very core features of the product and easy to attack.


Travis: And the university is a great place to start learning on how to do some of these things, and then as you get more experience with the product, if you've had no experience with programming, you might start dabbing into some of the programming aspects of Ignition just one little piece at a time, and you'll see that it's actually approachable because it's not like you're programming for programming's sake. We're using it, and the tools that are in there to help you accomplish particular tasks.

Don: Actually, that's a really good point, Travis. You can just inch into it and grow with the knowledge as you go along. We talked a lot about databases and connectivity, and here's a question about historians that I'm gonna throw your way, Travis, and certainly Chris and Henry can comment on it, too. "Have you seen Ignition used as a front end for other historians such as Rockwell FT Historian, with back end?

Travis: Yeah, so we certainly have. Ignition has an historian feature, but some companies use Ignition in parallel with their existing systems, so they can attack something that they haven't been able to accomplish with their systems. And if the systems have some integration point, a lot of them have OPC HDA support, we can connect to them through OPC HDA and we can read that data to Ignition. Some of them also have the ability to have ODBC or a driver, so we could actually act as if it's a database and we could run SQL queries against it, so we can certainly be at the front of that. Ignition's clients unlimited, so if we can connect to it on the back end, then any of our clients can view that data, giving more information to people and that's the ultimate goal, provide that solution.v

Don: Sure, no, absolutely. Let's go to another question here. And I do have... I'm jumping through the questions, folks, here we go. "How have you dealt with closed ecosystems and PLCs? How do you approach the machines when the manufacturer isn't willing to help with tags, etcetera?" Any comment on that from Chris or Henry?

Henry: That was kind of an interesting one 'cause we wrote our PLC programs in-house, so we knew what we were looking at, so I'm not sure I would be the one to address that question. I can tell you one thing though, is that our controllers don't use native Modbus mapping and so there's a nice transition CSV file that you can do that makes data access from a controller a lot easy, you can view the tags and pull them out, but if you don't know what the registers are, that might be a little bit of a trick, really, for anybody's software, right?

Don: Yeah, absolutely. Chris, any comment on that?

Chris: I've had to reverse engineer some stuff, but I know with the OPC browser, you can go in and look at tags. I'm not sure if you can... I would assume you still could look at tags even if the program itself is password protected, at least from an Allen-Bradley standpoint. And then you start changing something on their screen and see where it changes, and sorta gotta reverse engineer it a little bit, but I've done that before.

Don: Okay, Travis?

Travis: Yeah, I just wanna point that out. Certainly, if it's closed... We can't actually go and modify the PLC program, we can't add more logic to it or add more tags, certainly that's gonna be a barrier potentially with that machine, but there is an important point of being able to have Ignition connect to all of them and read what does exist. Whether we have to reverse engineer what those tags are or whether we can browse and understand what they are, there's an importance of being able to bring that into Ignition and have it be in a central place. We have seen, even with closed systems, that companies who are connecting to all of them together have been able to create a larger control system and synchronize values across multiple devices and do logic where they wouldn't have been able to do it in the PLC, but they did it in the software itself, so there are rooms... There are opportunities, I think also when you have some closed ecosystems. If we can connect to the PLC, we can still do work, we could still make a valuable system.

Don: That's great, Travis. Common, I'm just gonna read your little testimony here 'cause I kind of liked it, you didn't ask a question but you said, "I was a Siemens WINCC integrator for five years now I work with Ignition and I get done my job for less time and more fun, great product, good job to you." So thanks, we appreciate the acknowledgement. I'll pass it along to our development team. Next question from David here, "Can you touch on the next version V8 with HTML 5?" David, someone's always gonna ask that question, I'm glad you did. I'm gonna let Travis touch on that as we wind down with a couple of more minutes left.

Travis: Well, David, it's a good question. Of course, it's an important thing, the evolution of Ignition. We're talking about friction here today and reducing friction. One of the friction points that does exist, granted, it's not as big as legacy systems that are out there, is that you have to install Java on a client machine in order to launch our application, so you can see the screens. Mobile devices don't have Java and so we have [Mode Module, but there is... We're running a client virtually or on a server using some resources, so it's not quite a full solution, as far as mobility and for those devices. We are working on Ignition 8.0 and the whole purpose of this is more to reduce friction, to have a completely web browser-based client that only needs an HTML 5 browser.

Travis: We use HTML 5 and CSS as the rendering for this web application. We will no longer require Java on the client side of things, so whether it's mobile devices, whether it's actual applications you have on PCs or TVs, it's all of the above, it's the next generation of visualization where we simply use a web browser as our rendering tool.

Don: That's great. Thanks, Travis. Here's one from Mr. Lopez. I think it says, "Can we integrate control logics create an alarm and event into Ignition?"

Travis: So it doesn't automatically take all the alarms and the events and convert it into say, alarms or events inside Ignition. Certainly, we can read various values and if we can address the value of the PLC, we can read it into Ignition, at that point, we can create these alarms and events. There's also the ability to do things through XML, if we can export it from one, import it to Ignition, we can convert and make these things happen. But it's not an automatic process, it doesn't automatically bring those alarms and events in, and work with it, but we still... It doesn't mean we can't use them, we just don't do it automatically.

Don: Thanks, Travis. We're winding down in the time that we have left. For questions that we didn't get to, we'd certainly make sure we will follow up and get all your questions answered, so we definitely will get to all of them. We've got one final one for Travis and then I'll give each of you gentlemen a chance to say any final things you wanna say as we wrap up here. So first, your final question, Travis. "Do you have any experience with WAGO PLC and Ignition using Modbus TCP, are they good together?"

Travis: They are. I have had experience with WAGO quite a bit, especially in a water environment, where we had a lot of remote WAGO PLCs and we would connect to them through Modbus, as well as we also have worked with FTP and getting information from the device directly. But Modbus is a great protocol, allows us to connect to a lot of different things, and it does work really well, you just have to understand the mappings and how that comes into Ignition, as Henry was saying earlier. And then lastly, David had a question about the estimating of when the Ignition 8.0 is coming out.

Don: He keeps asking questions, David does. Doesn't he?

Travis: You knew that was gonna be the next question.

Don: I know, but I was gonna say we didn't have time to answer it. [chuckle]

Travis: So certainly we are shooting for a 2018 release, early 2018. There's no hard, fast date on this because we don't wanna have a product that is not gonna meet our expectations, as well we want it to be the best that it possibly can be. So we anticipate that at our conference we might have a pre-release or not a pre-release, but a showing of the progress and where it's at, with something in 2018, so that's the goal here.

Don: Yeah. So there, I think we're coming to the end. Let me give you a chance for any final comments you may have. First, I'll go to you, Chris, anything you wanna say to the audience before we wrap up on today's topic? And then, over to you, Henry, for our last minute.

Chris: I just wanna say that it was such a step change in ease and reduced friction, to use the topic of the day. When I went from our legacy HMI system that I'm sure a lot of you are using right now to Ignition, it's just so much simpler.

Don: Thanks, Chris. Henry, your final thoughts?

Henry: I have a friend who asks why government agencies can't stay on a budget, and I think they can, but it requires them making good choices. And so from a SCADA software standpoint, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better solution than Ignition.

Don: Thanks, Henry. I just wanna say again, I do appreciate your time, Henry, your time, Chris. And just as a final thing on this slide that's up there, we already encourage you to download. 7.9.1 is available for download on our website. If you want a demo, it's really worth it for you, even if you know something about Ignition. Call your account executives here, call Melanie, take a look at getting a current demo. Travis and his team are doing this all the time and you'll be amazed at what's happening with distributed services, what some of the troubleshooting capabilities are, full redesign of the gateway, I mean, you're really looking at some significant change, so if you haven't, get a demo of 7.9.1 from your account executive or design consulting engineers. And with that, I think we are finished. Thank you very much for attending, have a great day.

Posted on January 25, 2017