Scalable SCADA: Q&A with Manager, SCADA and Applications, Rich Wagner
One of the most basic principles of architecture is that a structure can only be strong if it is built on a solid foundation. Today’s enterprises face the added challenge of building technology infrastructures that are not only strong but flexible.
The Internet continues to transform the way business is done, industries are in transition, new markets are opening, and consumer habits are shifting. Even if your architecture is working well for you now, is it scalable enough to adapt to unpredictable changes?
Many industrial organizations are asking themselves that question, and a growing number are switching to Ignition by Inductive Automation as their industrial automation platform. Ignition is a uniquely scalable SCADA software that can be deployed in many different types of architectures because it is modular.
We sat down with Rich Wagner, Manager, SCADA and Applications, to talk about the many benefits of utilizing the Ignition platform, and how Gray Solutions’ customers are embracing automated solutions to drive their facilities into the future.
Can you give us a brief overview of what SCADA is? “SCADA – or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition – are pieces of a control system in an automation environment, meaning they consist of software and hardware. The easiest way I’ve been able to describe a SCADA System to people is to think of it like a puzzle, made up of many different pieces, and once those pieces come together, you have the big picture, or the completed solution.
A SCADA solution is a successfully developed piece of architecture and design, which is unique and tailored specifically for the customer. The inevitable goal of any well-developed SCADA Solution is to finish that puzzle with minimal pieces, while also providing a quality product. I believe the most important aspect of a well engineered solution is allowing the customer to evolve and grow with what is being provided.”
Since Gray Solutions provides many solutions focused around SCADA, and being within the top 10 integrators for Inductive Automation for 2020, how is Gray Solutions utilizing the Ignition platform to develop Scalable SCADA Solutions for our customers?
“Gray Solutions is utilizing the modular based application design of Ignition, and embracing its templating features, web-based platforms, and supported manufacturing modules by Sepasoft, to create a new type of facility for Food and Beverage plants world-wide. The factory of the future is at our doorstep and we are working to fully integrate the manufacturing modules first, while also providing a tailored environment to our customers. It is important to have a methodical and logically based assessment for customer SCADA Systems, and we strive to build partnerships rather than products.”
What kinds of processes take place when Gray Solutions are uncovering customers’ needs relative to a tailored solution?
“I’ve been working in automation consulting for 15 years, and I’ve found over time, customers want a partner first and an adviser second. An important aspect of consulting is that we get to engineer the tools that our customer’s will be utilizing for years on end, so keeping their requests a priority are pivotal to a successful project assessment. Typically, Gray Solutions would conduct assessments of a desired SCADA system, propose architecture in-line with design requests, and ultimately, begin design and development of areas within the SCADA System. This way, we are able to uncover and expose valuable information throughout these discussions, but it’s also a great tool for us for project phasing.”
You spoke earlier about Ignition, and the range of capabilities the platform has to offer. How does Gray Solutions determine which capabilities, modules or specific functionality is essential for the customer?
“As a programmer, engineer, and creator, we love to make things that are exciting, unique, and different, it’s a version of art after all. The most rewarding aspect to me over my career, is learning software I have engineered and programmed is still running to this day. Technology has evolved at such a rapid rate over our lifespans, so as a developer, it’s imperative to consider software and hardware support first, rather than the exciting and unique. Gray Solutions’ mission is to create customer centric, outcome based process, automation and technology solutions through deep collaboration and lasting partnerships. For every project I have been a part of, my goal is to collaborate with the customer to pursue utilizing the modules that Ignition provides to their maximum extent. Whenever I design and engineer a system, the explicit goal is to develop a solution to evolve with the customer, but also, to see it function years later.
The best way to understand which modules need to be utilized is by understanding the problem they solve. From the first interactions with our customers inside the discovery phase of our projects, this is where Gray Solutions begins to gain an understanding of exactly what’s needed from a solution standpoint. As mentioned previously, the efforts attributed to priority assessments on a design scale will being to pave the way for what’s necessary to implement a comprehensive solution for our customers.”
Rich, since your time with Gray Solutions, what do you enjoy most about your work?
“Above all else, I enjoy working with my colleagues within the Gray Solutions team. The fast-paced, energetic environment is exciting, and I feel this company has been constructed with a wide variety of passionate and strong-willed personalities, which I appreciate every day as we grow together. What I most enjoy about my work specifically, is building relationships with my coworkers and developing a supportive and passion driven foundation for Gray Solutions to grow on.”
"What I most enjoy about my work specifically, is building relationships with my coworkers and developing a supportive and passion driven foundation for Gray Solutions to grow on."
Rich Wagner, Manager, SCADA & Applications
Every organization has unique needs, and Ignition allows them to build any architecture, from a simple data logger to a SCADA network that stretches across thousands of geographically dispersed sites, and almost anything in between. By leveraging the modular Ignition platform, every organization can find the sweet spot between scalability, affordability, functionality, and security.
To learn more about the technology and SCADA use cases, check out this article from Inductive Ignition.
Gray Solutions is a Gray company.
Formed in 2018, Gray Solutions is a leader in automation and process integration for customers in Food & Beverage. As a part of the Gray family of brands, we continue to creatively address customer challenges in projects small to large. Whether you need a simple modification or a new facility, our services will increase efficiencies in your system through the power of data and information technology.