MES, done Inductive Automation style | Automation.com

MES, done Inductive Automation style

November 302015
MES, done Inductive Automation style

Perspectives from Ignition Community Conference 2015

By Bill Lydon, Editor

The Ignition Community Conference 2015, hosted by Inductive Automation, formally introduced Ignition version 7.8, while highlighting some major MES features. Inductive Automation reports that Ignition software is used by 32% of Fortune 100 companies and is used in more than 90 countries.

MES

At last year’s Ignition Community Conference, I spoke with users that were building MES systems using Ignition software. I asked them why they did not use a standard MES software product. They responded that MES packages were too difficult to configure to their needs and were too expensive. The Inductive Automation open software approach was significantly lower cost, and requires far less labor hours to implement.

The new features of Ignition provide the tools to build MES systems to improve operations. All of the Ignition MES modules are built to align with ISA-95, which is defined by the International Society of Automation as the international model for integrating enterprise and control systems. ISA-95 has been adopted worldwide, including by IoT driven manufacturing initiatives such as Industry 4.0. Ignition MES modules seamlessly integrate with Ignition HMI/SCADA - all leveraging cross-platform compatibility, unlimited free clients, robust out-of-the-box SQL database support, and fast installation.

MES modules offered by Inductive Automation include:

  • Scheduling - Plan and monitor production in real-time
  • OEE/Downtime - Monitor production efficiency
  • Web Services - Connect to ERP and other systems using web services
  • Track & Trace - Track finished goods, raw materials, and more
  • SPC - Collect and monitor statistical process control data
  • Instrument Interface - Collect and parse data from scales, gauges, files and more
  • Recipe / Changeover Management - Manage and monitor recipes and changeovers

Tom Hechtman, Inductive Automation’s MES Product Architect, in his keynote presentation on MES said, “We really need knowledge of the production environment, not just raw data.” “The next step is to turn the information into knowledge by taking the info and looking for correlations.” He also discussed the need for efficient two-way communications with ERP, planning, and other systems.

Pricing

True to its founding principles, the Inductive Automation’s Ignition software model remains one price for a server license with unlimited clients and tags so users can easily meet all of their application needs. This pricing model offers the freedom to add as many clients, screens, tags, connections, and devices as the application requires. Based on many interviews with Ignition users, it allows them to get creative and build more effective applications and projects.

Steve Hechtman, Inductive Automation’s CEO, President and Founder states, “Our mission is to create industrial software that empowers our customers to swiftly turn great ideas into reality by removing all technological and economic obstacles.” Steve Hechtman’s conviction comes from his 25 years of experience as a control system integrator, including Co-Founder and President of Calmetrics Company, a prominent control systems integration company in Northern California. Enduring years of frustration with expensive and impractical industrial software, he decided to create a better solution and subsequently formed Inductive Automation.

Value

The price of Ignition is significantly lower than competitor’s offerings but users consistently tell me the biggest advantage is Ignition’s open software architecture that leverages current software technology. Users with special needs most always mention the ability to use JAVA and PHP to add functions as a major advantage. Users say this ability translates into overall lower project cost, and lower lifecycle support cost.

Software Philosophy

After spending time with Inductive Automation’s management and software development people, it is clear that a core company tenant is to focus on leveraging open software to create features and tools for industrial automation. In contrast, many of their competitors’ products seem to suffer from a not-invented-here syndrome with closed interfaces and tightly coupled software which complicates applications and introduces higher lifecycle cost.

Training

Inductive Automation has an open and free approach to training that was strengthened last year with the launch of Inductive University. Inductive University provides global access to free Ignition training videos available 24/7 to anyone with an Internet connection. The courses have all the steps users need to earn a credential in Ignition SCADA & MES schools. Since its launch last September, more than 4,000 people have signed up as users, about 11 new users per day. Users watched nearly 800,000 Inductive University videos or about 195 videos per user. Five-hundred forty-nine people earned Ignition credentials.

Thoughts & Observations

Inductive Automation is clearly a new breed of industrial automation software companies that is leveraging open software standards.

Ignition is multiplatform but the most users [that I spoke with] prefer running on LINUX because they feel it is less prone to software bugs, runs faster, and is more cyber secure.

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