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Automatic For The People

Breaking the IP barrier

Automatic for the People uses Secomea – it’s the easiest solution they’ve tried

South African company Automatic for the People (AFTP) manufactures clay-brick packing machines. As their machines are used in brick factories all over the country, AFTP needed an easy, efficient way to provide support and software upgrades to their customers. The solutions they used prior to Secomea resulted in firewall problems and IP conflicts that created endless headaches.

Colin Myburgh, owner of AFTP explains, “We have tried many different support solutions over the years, from GPRS modems to dedicated remote automation support devices. None have been easier to use than Secomea – it’s by far the best solution we’ve found in the industry to date.”

What does the solution look like?
AFTP installs a SiteManager in every control panel they manufacture and they use LinkManager to provide support and software upgrades via their own in-house GateManager M2M server. Their hardware and software are from Rockwell Automation and their PLCs are CompactLogix units communicating via EtherNet/IP. They use FactoryTalk View on panel-PCs for the SCADA. Schneider Electric and GE PLCs have also been integrated in the production reporting environment.

No IP conflicts
Myburgh says the SiteManager/LinkManager solution solves a lot of problems for AFTP. “It’s a great advantage not having to deal with any advanced firewall exceptions as the SiteManager makes use of standard internet protocols and ports. And being able to use the same IP addresses for the PLC, SCADA, VSDs and robots on all our machines makes it much simpler than having to assign different IP ranges for each installation. Everything can be tested at the factory and then simply installed on site.”

Significant downtime reduction
With the Secomea solution, AFTP are able to significantly save downtime and travel time. “There are direct cost savings related to this, but more importantly, we are saving lost opportunity costs. When we are travelling, we typically can’t service other clients during that time period. By being connected to all our sites, we increase our efficiency tremendously – and all of these factors increase our profitability.”

Real Time Production Management
Beyond using the solution for remote automation support, AFTP have set-up Secomea units to offer data logging capabilities to customers in a range of manufacturing industries. Myburgh adds, “We are finding that the automated production reports, real-time dashboard services and SMS/email alert notifications are becoming more and more important to our customers. In fact, we are now rolling out these services to other industries too which will also be based on a Secomea solution on the factory floor.”

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