While exchanging information between plant floor control systems and enterprise computing systems provides insight and knowledge, this data integration is easier said than done. Most industrial processes are coordinated by programmable logic controllers (PLCs), while their associated information technology (IT) data is housed in SQL databases. Ordinarily, custom coding is necessary to transfer operational technology (OT) data from the PLCs to the IT applications, but these tasks are time-consuming and prone to error. They also aren’t robust enough to last long before a disaster occurs.
A device like the Softing tManager® Enterprise Appliance Transaction Module is an industrial, built-for-purpose, in-chassis ControlLogix or CompactLogix module that addresses these challenges, avoiding the need for time-consuming custom coding while providing a direct path from the PLC to higher-level databases. In fact, using tManager, two of our customers recently met their clients’ project goals of total systems integration. Here’s how they did it:
Automating Track-and-Trace Systems
ESCO Automation is a total systems integrator, working on automation projects ranging from small logistics kiosks that check trucks in and out of plants to large automated systems handling materials with conveyors. Their recent project involved designing a custom track-and-trace automation system with additional challenges:
ESCO Automation consulted with Softing, searching for a product that offered seamless enterprise-to-controller connectivity. We recommended tManager because it provides bidirectional data exchange between enterprise systems and Rockwell control platforms.
Once installed in the PLC rack, tManager automatically enumerated PLC tags, database tables and database stored procedures without software coding or scripting. Thanks to this device, ESCO Automation fully automated a real-time track and trace system, which consisted of a network of 14 PLCs, six tManager cards, 100 barcode scanners, 1,000 connected devices, 100 tManager triggers and miles of conveyor track.
Learn more in our case study.
Storing Manufacturing Recipes and Job Data
In our second example, TranTek Automation designs and builds automated welding, material handling, inspection and assembly solutions. Recently, its client requested a system of six automated plasma cutting robots. The robots would be coordinated to work synchronously, applying plasma torches to steel structural parts according to various recipes. One of the challenges they faced during the machine-building processes involved connecting the customer’s higher-level IT system to the machine controller as production information was stored within large databases.
The tManager provided a solution to TranTek’s automation project, allowing end users to download daily recipes from the database to the ControlLogix platform. The tManagers also uploaded ControlLogix with real-time process data, such as when projects were completed.
Another benefit of tManager was its ease of setup, enabling TranTek Automation to minimize engineering and installation time during the machine-building process. “I spent only a few hours setting up tManager, whereas previously we were spending weeks just writing the custom code,” says Jeff Ebert, who has a degree in computer science. “Thanks to tManager, we also avoided the code maintenance headaches associated with custom software.”
Learn more in our case study.