- By Bill Lydon
- October 01, 2021
The 2021 Ignition Community Conference (ICC) was another high-energy and informative event, with the theme "Evolve to be Smarter, Faster and Stronger" supporting the Inductive Automation mission statement to create industrial software that empowers users to swiftly turn great ideas into reality by removing all technological and economic obstacles.
The 2021 Ignition Community Conference (ICC) was another high-energy and informative event, with the theme "Evolve to be Smarter, Faster and Stronger" supporting the Inductive Automation mission statement to create industrial software that empowers users to swiftly turn great ideas into reality by removing all technological and economic obstacles. The second virtual ICC event, held Sept. 21-22, was extremely well organized and run. This year’s event billed itself as “taking virtual networking to the next level” with an interactive video chat platform. Attendees could start video chats in virtual rooms with a simple point-and-click and make conversations public or private.
In the opening keynote, Steve Hechtman, founder & CEO, Inductive Automation, discussed the importance of the company keeping a finger on the pulse of the business addressing pain points, explaining, “I started the company to address pain points experienced as a system integrator." Hechtman with 25 years of experience as a system integrator, rhetorically asked, “Without experience as an integrator, how could you run an industrial software company?” He emphasized the company’s commitment to collaboration, sharing and working with the industrial automation community to evolve improving the industry. Hechtman built the foundation of the company on four pillars namely New Technology Model, New Licensing Model, New Business Model and New Ethical Model.
The ICC conference again featured the Discover Gallery, showcasing a wide range of diverse and interesting applications in many industries and countries. That annual Ignition Firebrand Awards recognize system integrators and industrial organizations that use the Ignition software platform to create innovative new projects in a wide range of applications with functions including human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), manufacturing execution systems (MES), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The online video Discover Gallery is a great resource to learn from these real-world applications and get ideas.
Just another HMI?
After attending the Ignition Community Conference for many years, I asked myself: what distinguishes Ignition software from other offerings? Attending project presentations and tutorials, as well as having in-depth discussions with attendees over the last years, including industrial & process plant users, system integrators and IT people, led to this consensus: ignition software is an easy-to-use open platform to achieve complete manufacturing business integration of plant automation, operations and business enterprise systems. Users repeatedly emphasize the value of Ignition to efficiently implement industrial applications in an open platform with flexibility to seamlessly use Java, Python and SQL to efficiently create advanced data management, processing, and reporting without requiring multiple layers of software products. People can make their own judgment by reviewing project videos by users here.
System integrator panel
The system integrator panel is always interesting and this year’s participants were Brian McClain Business DevelopmentManager Corso Systems, Cody Warren Sr. Controls Engineer Tamaki Controls, Dustin Wilson Sr. Project Manager Phantom Technical Services, Inc., Jake Hall Business Development Manager Feyen Zylstra, and moderated by Shay Johnson, Sales Engineer Inductive Automation. These are my takeaways from the session.
Integrated manufacturing business
Ignition puts everything on one platform making it easy for system integrators and end users. This is an advantage to implement and deploy HMI and high-level applications in a single platform compared to other solutions that have multiple layers of software and interfaces to accomplish this.
It’s one thing to find engineers that are experts with Python and PLCs and who have a good eye for user interface design. The bigger question is: do they have the mindset and mentality to explore technologies? Those are the kind of people that are hungry to learn and exploring new technologies and how to apply them in real-world situations
Work instruction digitization
Digitization of work instructions, information and processes including machine set-up, machine processing is becoming important to bring on new workers to be effective quickly in manufacturing facilities. This is valuable for every manufacturer with the labor shortage and skills gap. In addition, this simplifies cross training of existing workers existing workers making it efficient to cross train existing workers on new systems and platforms.
Designing flexible automation and work cells to do several different tasks throughout a manufacturing facility is far more efficient rather than investing in fixed function investments. Collaborative robots were mentioned as one of the new technologies enabling flexibility.
Remote visibility & support
Remotely supporting customers particularly during the pandemic when you don’t know if somebody’s going to be at work the next day has become extremely important.
Remote support is enabling experts to view what’s going on, diagnose and troubleshooting in real-time is proving extremely valuable particularly when customers are limiting the number of people that can come on site. This benefits both the integrator and customer.
Production supervisors and managers they can’t go into the facility or have limited access are empowered with remote access. IT departments have made great strides to create an environment to make this happen with secure communications.
The value of video training has really come into focus during the pandemic an extremely efficient way to improve staff knowledge and continually improving skills. The online and free Inductive University courses has been particularly valuable, and attendees earn credentials validating their progress.
The majority of ERP companies seem to want to stick within their own space and integrators noted Ignition software has multiple ways to provide ERP systems with the information they need.
Ignition support of containers has become a great way to try new things and compartmentalize specific parts of applications particularly with Inductive Automation try before you buy software.
Automation project success
Successful automation projects start with a clear defined business objective and plan including using demo applications to validate concepts and results. Functional and data modeling is important for good design including the use of ISA 95 and ISA 88 standards and concepts.
Cloud tools are certainly popular, powerful, and very valuable today particularly for creating machine learning and analytic solutions.
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