SCADA platform tools save time and money
Installing a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system improved efficiency for a Wisconsin-based automotive supplier. Results included greater visibility, faster problem solving, lower costs and more throughput.
- Madison-Kipp Corp. (MKC) implemented a new SCADA platform and got access to more data than ever before.
- Benefits included providing customers with more information, more programming languages and improved interoperability.
- The SCADA platform made training users and keeping them up to date easier than previously.
Users who want to make data-driven decisions need a lot of data. Madison-Kipp Corp. (MKC) implemented a new system for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) nearly three years ago — and has since had access to more data than previously and accelerated problem solving. Armed with new insights into its processes, the company has raised productivity, lowered costs, and shared more information with customers.
Based in Madison, Wisc., MKC makes precision machined aluminum die castings and subassemblies for the transportation, lawn and garden and industrial markets. After looking at several possible SCADA software packages, MKC chose a web-based platform that provides unlimited licensing and interoperability, which helps MKC with numerous projects. The company uses it for central SCADA, human-machine interface (HMI), control of edge clients, part tracking, part history, reporting, alarms, alarm history, transaction management, API access, predictive control for HVAC, text notifications and other applications.
The software platform can connect to almost anything, which eliminates numerous proprietary roadblocks. “The platform has filled a void for us between multiple manufacturers and platforms,” said Jay Sandvick, senior automation controls engineer at MKC. “It’s given us interoperability that we didn’t believe we could have. We now have accessibility to data streams we didn’t have before. And we have the ability to generate seamless reports from machines that were previously thought unconnectable.”
Equally important is the ability to have numerous systems on one platform — a big improvement over what MKC had in the past. “I can’t train over 150 maintenance personnel in 30 different software platforms and keep everyone relevant and current,” Sandvick said. “Now we have a single platform that everyone can learn, including online and at their own pace. It’s been an exceptional increase in our productivity.”
SCADA platform migration part of the bigger picture
The transition is aligned with the company’s larger objectives. “Technology is very important to us,” said Bill Johnson, vice president of operations for MKC. “We have to keep ahead of our competitors in many different areas. Using this software and taking real-time data from our processes helps us understand our data — which helps us make better decisions.”
With real-time data from the SCADA system tied into MKC’s continuous improvement process, problem-solving goes much faster, Johnson said. “We did this with a customer. We were able to double our throughput in less than a month. It was very quick, and our customer was very happy with the results.”
The new SCADA system has made a big difference throughout MKC. “Some of the results we have are in the cost savings realm, and we’ve also seen improved efficiency,” Johnson said. “Before, engineers had to collect data on their own. This would take a long time. Now we’re able to pull that data in and look at it and solve problems very quickly.”
Platform interoperability provides opportunity
The platform’s interoperability allowed MKC to streamline its systems. “Before, we were reliant on various software packages that were frankly a nightmare to maintain and pay for,” Sandvick said. “With this software, we have a single-point interface, a single cost, and it has more than exceeded our expectations in talking to various machines.”
Dotti Jacob, industrial integration engineer at MKC, said about the system’s connectivity: “It’s been a lifesaver in allowing us to use different programming languages, and tie into all sorts of different systems, without being held back by proprietary issues.”
It’s also helped her by providing remote access. “Before, if I was at a different facility and there were troubleshooting issues, I would have to travel there to help out,” Jacob said. “Now, I can access the SCADA from anywhere and see in real time actual images of the different machines and what they’re doing, which is very helpful for troubleshooting. Having real-time data we can access from anywhere allows us to see and address the issue a lot more quickly than we could in the past — which saves us time and money.”
Jacob also likes the options when it comes to languages. “One of the best features is being able to use different programming languages — not just C# or C++,” she said. “We’re also able to use Python and other, newer languages that are coming that allow you to do a lot more.”
Customers see data too
MKC’s customers expect to know how their products are being produced, which is different from the past. “Data access is something that our customers are no longer just asking for; it’s becoming a requirement of doing business,” Sandvick said.
The software allows MKC to share data with customers regardless of location. “Our customers really enjoy the ability to see real-time data on their products being produced,” said Scott Sargeant, vice president of sales for MKC. “It allows them to understand things without having to travel to our location — which of course saves them time and money. We’re talking about a paradigm shift in information sharing. It really gives our customers a window into the production environment. And our ability to provide this helps differentiate Madison-Kipp from other manufacturers.”
MKC’s customers now have more knowledge about the process. “In the past, our customers weren’t able to understand what variations we had in the process, or just how efficient the process was,” Sargeant said. “Now our customers can see that data, can understand impactful events, downtime, and other important issues in production. It’s real time, and that benefits our customers in numerous ways. It gives them the confidence that we, as the manufacturer, are supporting their needs on a minute-by-minute basis.”
Real-time graphic display
The software’s flexibility allows it to use CAD drawings of the plant floor as the background for screens. The screens show real-time movement of robots, giving operators an accurate view of what’s happening.
“Before, we had to use these cookie-cutter images that were not very accurate to what was actually happening on the floor,” Jacob said. “Now we’re able to take a CAD drawing of the equipment, and it can move in real time with however the equipment’s moving, and that’s very helpful.”
Based on the positive results, MKC plans to expand its use of the SCADA platform. “Strategic initiatives are vitally important for any organization,” Johnson said. “When we set our initiatives for 2020 on the technology side, this software is one of those strategic initiatives that’s going to help move us forward this year.”
Jim Meyers is communications manager at Inductive Automation, creator of the Ignition industrial application platform for SCADA, HMI, MES, and IIoT. Edited by Chris Vavra, associate editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keywords: SCADA, supervisory control and data acquisition, system integration
Madison-Kipp Corp. (MKC) implemented a new SCADA platform and got access to more data than ever before.
Benefits included providing customers with more information, more programming languages and improved interoperability.
The SCADA platform made training users and keeping them up to date easier than previously.
What is the one feature you’d like most if your company installed a new SCADA system and why?