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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

“iPad HMI” Makes Car Wash Automation Mobile

  • Custom Control Specialists operates as an OEM of control systems to manufacturers and distributors of automated car wash equipment. Custom Control Specialists’ premier product line is the Guardian Wash Command, a PLC based automated tunnel car wash controller.

  • As an OEM control solution, the Guardian Wash Command and the Tommy controller system must be adaptable to any combination of equipment types, application, and configuration that may be required in the particular wash location. Every car wash is a unique location with unique equipment layouts, chemical applications, and retail wash package offerings. All these variables need to be configured in the field, by personnel of varying technical skills.

  • The “iPad HMI” solution developed for Custom Control Specialists’ car wash application utilizes InduSoft Web Studio. The application uses the iPad to configure the car wash controller to the installed equipment and retail wash package offerings at each individual location.

Figure 1: By using mobile devices like this iPad, Custom Control Specialists can offer more flexible and cost effective solutions than are possible with a traditional panel PC HMI.


 

The retail car wash industry is a competitive one. It is an industry that relies on customers’ discretionary income and ability to spend on additional services for their vehicles. Despite some volatility, the car wash and servicing industry is an open field, where small and large firms alike can compete if their locations are favorable and their operations are incredibly efficient.

Pro Tech Systems Group is a system integrator to the water/waste water and automated car wash equipment industries with the goal of developing systems that offer the efficiency required to remain highly competitive.  Custom Control Specialists is a division of Pro Tech, and operates as an OEM of control systems to manufacturers and distributors of automated car wash equipment. Custom Control Specialists is a UL508A panel shop, and their premier product line is the Guardian Wash Command, a PLC based automated tunnel car wash controller.

Custom Control Specialists have built systems for washes in almost every US state from Maine to Hawaii, and Mexico, Canada, Australia, Russia, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Serbia, and other countries internationally. They also developed a private labeled system for a major equipment manufacturer, Tommy Car Wash Systems.

As an OEM control solution, the Guardian Wash Command and the Tommy controller system must be adaptable to any combination of equipment types, application, and configuration that may be required in the particular wash location. Every car wash is a unique location with unique equipment layouts, chemical applications, and retail wash package offerings. All these variables need to be configured in the field, by personnel of varying technical skills.

Custom Control Specialists required an interface capable of configuring, monitoring, and reporting back on the controller system for each of their installed systems. They began searching for a SCADA/HMI software package flexible enough to handle the wide variety of systems, advanced enough to incorporate current and emerging technology, and intuitive enough to develop hundreds of applications for use worldwide. They explored the solutions available and chose InduSoft Web Studio as the basis for their car wash interface. 



Figure 2: The application is configured at runtime to support the unique configurations of each location.

The Challenge

Custom Control Specialists initially relied on touchscreen HMI panels for car wash controls, but found that they were expensive to purchase and increasingly expensive to maintain. In addition, they required that operators be present at the panel, and they lacked the freedom to move around the wash location. This led to high costs and low efficiency, and Custom Car Specialists began exploring new solutions that could offer customers a more agile system with high mobility for operators.

The new solution required the flexibility to work with a huge variety of equipment configurations. Each car wash system is unique, and would have to be configured in the field in the runtime environment. InduSoft Web Studio was an obvious choice for this challenge, thanks to over 240 native drivers for every major equipment manufacturer.

As machines grow smarter, operators no longer need to be tethered to their stations to receive the data and make the adjustments necessary to achieve optimal performance. Custom Control Specialists wanted to incorporate mobile solutions into their OEM offerings, and began looking for a way to replace the traditional HMI with mobile devices, such as the iPad. InduSoft Web Studio also fulfilled this requirement with a web thin client that could be accessed via a remote desktop client on the iPad.

 

The Solution

The “iPad HMI” solution developed for Custom Control Specialists’ car wash application utilizes InduSoft Web Studio installed on a small diskless/fanless PC with a SSD drive and Windows 7 OS that communicates with a Schneider M340 PLC via an Ethernet TCP/IP connection. The application uses the iPad to configure the car wash controller to the installed equipment and retail wash package offerings at each individual location. All I/O points are monitored along with installed variable frequency drives.

The iPad accesses the system with a remote desktop client, using WiFi radio signals for wireless connectivity. This allows operators to monitor and configure equipment from anywhere in the car wash and replace costly panel PCs with lightweight iPads that are easy to update and cost effective to use.

Each system offers username and password protection for operators, so that data is protected, and changes to the application or configuration can be monitored.

Custom Control Specialists has installed the iPad HMI system at sixteen locations, and has nearly that many planned for immediate development. Because these systems are OEM installations, configuring and installing each system must be as easy as possible for operators who have not been trained in any kind of HMI development. Using familiar consumer devices such as the iPad, and developing systems that can be configured on the fly makes the iPad HMI solution cost effective and practical in the competitive car wash industry.

 

Figure 3: The application allows operators to configure the different service options available on site.

The Results

Finding a replacement to the traditional HMI model can be tricky in the OEM environment. The ability to develop an application that offered mobile connectivity has been a huge plus to Custom Control Specialists. Not only are there opportunities to upgrade old systems, but new systems are being developed daily with the iPad HMI as a standard option.

Customers have overwhelmingly embraced the remote connectivity of the iPad HMI, and are now able to work far more efficiently and quickly in a market where minutes count.


Figure 4: Each location has a different configuration of equipment and services available, so applications must be configured at each location by operators who may not have much technical knowledge.


For more information contact your local distributor or InduSoft directly at info@indusoft.com or 877-INDUSOFT (877-463-8763877-463-8763) or 512-349-0334512-349-0334.


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