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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thomson Technology Generates Huge Time Savings with InduSoft

Thomson Technology’s Series 2400 Switchgear series has been standardized on InduSoft Web Studio to offer customers a feature rich HMI application.

 

Thomson Technology, a Canadian company, specializes in modular switchgear and power generation equipment.
  • Thomson Technology designed a custom application template for use in their 2400 switchgear series using InduSoft Web Studio.

  • Thomson Technology’s application offers standard communications through Modbus Serial, Modbus TCP, and Remote OPC.

  • Thomson Technology cut down on HMI programming time from 50%-60% per project, using custom templates designed in InduSoft Web Studio.
Figure 1: Thomson Technology, a Canadian company, specializes in modular switchgear and power generation equipment.


Background

Any facility is only as reliable as its power source. The equipment we depend on to ensure we have electrical power must be robust, and reliable. That’s why the equipment produced by Thomson Technology is so critical to power generation infrastructure, as is the HMI that connects those systems to their human operators. When Thomson Technology began to research a better development platform for their flagship Series 2400 switchgear, they needed to find a product that would be as reliable as the equipment they produce.

Thomson Technology has been developing, designing and manufacturing power generation controls and switchgear since 1973, providing systems for critical applications such as, Health Care, Data Centers, Water and Waste Water Treatment plants, Oil and Gas exploration. With such challenging requirements, Thomson needed an HMI capable of meeting the demands of their ever changing technology requirements. Their search for a better solution eventually led them to InduSoft Web Studio.

 

The Scheduler designed by Thomson Technology is capable of reading hundreds of set points, and displaying them all in a visually intuitive way.

Figure 2: The Scheduler designed by Thomson Technology is capable of reading hundreds of set points, and displaying them all in a visually intuitive way.

 

The Challenge

Thomson Technology identified that the time spent in development of their HMI for their Power Generation Switchgear Systems was preventing them from meeting their objective of providing the industries shortest available lead times.

For several years, Thomson Technology custom programmed their HMIs using many of the well known development platforms on the market. While they were able to create interfaces for their HMI, they were unable to find a solution that offered both the reliability of a hardware based platform and the flexibility of a hardware independent solution. In addition, the unintuitive interfaces of the various SCADA/HMI development software suites they used caused long development time and a large outlay of labor in application development.

Once Thomson Technology made the decision to find a better answer to their problem, they put together a list of requirements that had to be met in their new HMI application development software. Among them included aspects of flexibility, easy customization, scheduling, and communication.

One major theme of the switch to a new development platform was the need to easily create new projects based on a basic template that would allow them to quickly customize each HMI for its intended application. The new SCADA/HMI development platform had to be able to allow customization of a new project simply by enabling options in a configuration process. The same standard PLC/HMI programs also had to be able to perform different tasks based on which features were selected. This configuration process had to include automatic screen layout changes based on information entered, and include a built-in simulator that would allow Thomson Technology to test new features or troubleshoot existing projects.

The ability to save and load the project configurations in their own files was critical. This feature, in combination with the simulator, would allow them to quickly load a site configuration without changing the programs and run tests to offer support to the service department, or simply develop a new project quickly.

In order to keep their interfaces intuitive, Thomson Technology also needed complete control over the design of their interface. In order to include advanced information to operators, they needed the functionality to develop projects with popup help screens, messages and indicator lights detailing the meaning of each individual set point in the application, any conflicts or illegal operations, and the status of communication with field devices.

Thomson also wanted their customers to have control over their HMI. They looked for a SCADA/HMI development platform that would allow changes to be made during the runtime without stopping the program. Customers would conceivably need the ability to add or remove users, edit communication parameters, configure their own web server for remote monitoring, generate reports from history files, and configure the application to send automatic emails when the system triggered alarms.

Because the scheduler implemented by Thomson Technology can use hundreds of set points, it was crucial to display and allow the user to edit them in a visually intuitive way. Just as important was the ability to save and load all the scheduler set points to a file to save time when entering hundreds of set points and to easily deploy these set points on multiple sites.

Finally, it was imperative that the new HMI development platform serve as a communication gateway between devices. It should be able to acquire data from engine controllers, meters, protection relays, and other devices in the field. It also had to provide a central monitoring and logging platform to send the information further up the chain to integrate it with a larger SCADA system.

 

Energy management is easy to track and control using the series 1400 Switchgear’s intuitive HMI.
Figure 3: Energy management is easy to track and control using the series 1400 Switchgear’s intuitive HMI.


The Solution

The solution to this challenging set of requirements was an InduSoft Web Studio development platform that offered all the required functionality, as well as the ability to cut development time further using the Rapid Application Configuration Environment that exists as a ribbon interface development environment for InduSoft applications.

Thomson Technology designed a custom application template for use in their Series 2400 switchgear. Each system in this series is delivered with an integrated HMI and offers options for communication with the BAS (Building Automation System), BMS (Building Management System), or plant monitoring system. Thomson Technology’s application offers standard communications through Modbus Serial, Modbus TCP, and Remote OPC. According to Blake Debasio, engineering manager at Thomson Technology, “Virtually any protocol is available, from DNP 3.0 to BACnet.” Another option that they provide is multiple remote stations which are delivered using the InduSoft Web Thin Client.

Not only did InduSoft Web Studio meet and exceed the requirements necessary for the SCADA/HMI development platform, but Thomson Technology soon began to incorporate other features as well. According to Mr. Debasio, one thing that they found particularly useful was that “InduSoft provides several hours of development with a runtime license, which has allowed for minor changes on-site with only the runtime license installed.” Thomson Technology also uses InduSoft to offer a ‘Virtual Technician’, where they can remotely connect to the panel PC over the internet, diagnose problems, and make adjustments to the PLC or HMI without ever having to travel to site.

 

Thomson Technology Case StudyThe Results

As a result of developing their project in InduSoft Web Studio, Thomson Technology was able to reduce HMI programming time by 50%-60% per project. In addition to this time savings, they are able to offer a much more feature rich application, a standardized, highly serviceable installation, and an application that provides many important communications, data logging, and remote maintenance features that did not exist in previous applications.

Thomson Technology continues to refine and expand their current application for this and other equipment, and they plan to use InduSoft Web Studio for HMI and SCADA projects going forward.

 

By incorporating advanced communication interfaces built with InduSoft Web Studio, the Series 2400 Switchgear can communicate with any PLC or building management system, providing maximum equipment utilisation and total energy management. Figure 4: By incorporating advanced communication interfaces built with InduSoft Web Studio, the Series 2400 Switchgear can communicate with any PLC or building management system, providing maximum equipment utilisation and total energy management..


 









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