Unquestionable Quality: Inside the Wonderware System Platform 3.0 & In Touch 10.0 HMI S.I. Beta Program
“Systems integrators have much broader experience than end-users in applying the products in many different ways,” says Wade Harsy, president of IPACT , a factory automation SI based in Valparaiso, Ind. “It was an opportunity for us to provide a lot of feedback that ended up in the product that will help Wonderware be effective in hitting the market with the best solutions possible.”
Participation represented “a significant investment, a couple of man-months in time,” says Mike Peters, account manager at Aseco Integrated Systems of Oakville, Ontario, Canada. But it was an investment — and opportunity — well worth the time.
“The beta environment gives you an opportunity to perform deeper exploration of the application without the time constraints of a customer project, where you can fully investigate new and better ways of doing things,” says Brian Fenn, technical manager of Advanced Automation , a global SI located in Exton, Penn.
By all accounts, the opportunity grounded the SI participants in both expertise and confidence in the new products. General consensus: “The new releases represent a huge leap forward along a variety of fronts, enabling us to do more with greatly reduced efforts,” says Peters.
The list of enhancements to both systems earning praise is extensive, but several key elements consistently stood out among participating SIs. Chief among these include
Tighter integration between System Platform 3.0 and InTouch 10.0 software, enabling centralized development and deployment, as well as streamlined change management
New vector graphics with embedded intelligence enabling fluid scalability and greater multi-dimensional display
Embedded Microsoft .NET controls for more efficient and dynamic application development
More comprehensive troubleshooting diagnostics
“To me, the biggest improvement is that the two products are more tightly integrated. Before you had to develop an element in both systems and then build a link between them,” says Fenn. “Now if I’m developing a graphical element, I simply create it in the System Platform 3.0 software and drop it into InTouch 10.0 HMI. I don’t have to manage two distinct elements to ensure alignment.”
Says Mike Grasley, director of consulting for Aseco: “The Wonderware Development Studio enables engineering and development to work in a single environment all the time, rather than hopping back and forth. System Platform 3.0 software is orders of magnitude more powerful than the traditional approach, enabling SIs to be more productive, resulting in customers getting more value.”
The new vector graphics capability received high praise from all participants as well. “One of the problems with the old graphics was that when you tried to scale them from the original design, things got funky,” says Harsy. Says Dean Ford, director of enterprise application for St. Louis-based Maverick Technologies : “As new mobile technologies pick up, you can develop a graphic once and deploy to any screen, including those on hand-held devices. That’s huge.”
Additionally, scripting of intelligence embedded in a graphic object creates smart symbols that are easily deployable and re-usable. The new graphics also convey a lot of information quickly. For example, changes in underlying conditions will dynamically change the graphic display, causing elements to change color, but also grow in prominence– clearly alerting operators to take action. “We’re going to see development of some very interesting, complex screens, with multiple uses of InTouch symbols, buttons and lights that were extremely difficult to create before,” says Harsy.
The rich world of Microsoft .NET Windows controls has also been fully tapped, enabling them to be easily embedded behind all applications without reverting to ActiveX features, which was time consuming and cumbersome. “You can now natively interact with .NET controls without having to jump through hoops,” Harsy says. Common in many MES applications, they’re now readily available for SCADA implementations as well.
“Another really big thing for us is diagnostics for troubleshooting,” says Ford of Maverick Technologies. “When testing an application in our office, we can easily eliminate everything in the model design and configuration except field problems.” Now, explained Ford, instead of having to run through a score of possible root causes, new diagnostic features automate much of the effort.
Better Product– Better Value
“We’re extremely pleased with the whole suite,” says Brent Humphreys, MES system engineer for St. Louis-based Stone Technologies . “Everything is simpler, quicker and easier.”
All of this translates into significant benefits for SIs seeking to deliver the greatest value in the shortest time to their customers. But beyond the new system features and capabilities, participation in the Beta program delivered sizeable intangible benefits to SIs, end users, and Wonderware as well.
“It provided us with greater depth of knowledge of the new products, where we’ll be better able to execute our work,” says Fenn of Advanced Automation. “It gives us peace of mind in understanding where Wonderware is going; and gives Wonderware peace of mind knowing they’ve got capable SI partners implementing their systems. That close tie assures customers that they’ve got a seamless team focused on providing the best value.”
Increased knowledge and confidence in the new solutions were widely viewed as big benefits of participation. “We work with customers in developing roadmaps for new technology adoption,” says Grasley of Aseco. “Having gone through the learning curve already, we can speak confidently about the implications of the new technology and put any concerns customers have to rest. We don’t have to wait for the solutions to come to market. It helps differentiate us as leading edge.”
Says Ford: “It enables us to hit the ground running to deliver those first early-adopter projects that will foster overall faster adoption.”
Humphreys states that Stone Technologies was able to incorporate the new capabilities in one customer’s project plans before the products were even formally available. “It allowed us to leverage the technology well ahead of the market. We were able to include and InTouch 10.0 software during the design phase. This enables our customer to gain the benefits of using these new applications that much sooner, keeping them on the cutting edge.”