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News / July 13, 2012

Long-term Growth and Functionality are Key in Building a Controls System

Looking at long-term needs, and the functionality required to grow with those needs, is the most cost effective way to plan a controls system, according to integrator Ken Bannard. The importance of long-term needs is often overlooked when a short-term need requires immediate attention. Bannard, owner of a controls system integration business, KSB Industrial Services in Drayton Valley, Canada, finds that his customers often call him in for the short-term quick fix solution, rather than long-term planning.

Bannard says he will often educate his customers on not just the best way to fix their immediate challenge, but how to fix it with an eye on the future. Since controls systems depend much on software to automate their processes, looking for software that has flexibility in functionality is really the key in saving money in the long run. Bannard recommends using Inductive Automation software to his customers because of its database-centric architecture.

Database-centric Software Offers More Functionality

Bannard explains that because Inductive Automation has built their software around using a SQL database, there is more room for future growth of a controls system. "I educate my clients that a database solution will add more functionality and allow long-term growth in their system," Bannard says. "Customers need to understand what their long-term needs are, and plan for that now."

One project Bannard has developed would not have been possible without a database-centric solution. A recent law was passed in Canada that requires an employer to provide a backup form of communication 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to their employees who work alone in industries such as health care and oil. Bannard set up a system using a GPS device that workers carry with them, and then used FactorySQL to take data from the GPS to place it into a database. This data is then accessible via FactoryPMI where supervisors can monitor real-time information regarding where workers are, and when they enter or exit specific work zones. If a worker does not move for a certain amount of time, it sends an alarm to the supervisor that the employee may be in danger so the supervisor can take the appropriate action to contact the worker or deploy rescue personnel to check on the individual.

Cost Can Make or Break a Project

Another aspect in making the most of the functionality offered by software is the bottom-dollar cost. Even if a particular software company offers a wide array of functionality, the cost to obtain that functionality can place a project out of budget range for a customer. Each time a customer wants to add more functionality, it usually requires more tags or clients. Often, software companies charge by the seat, clients and tags, and even by separate components for downtime tracking, alerting, history storage functions, etc. This creates a huge software expense for the project, and often results in projects being canned due to cost.

Bannard has found those cost limitations go away when he implements Inductive Automation software because the company sells licenses by the server. This means his customers don't have to spend extra money on software licensing and special components every time they need a new function added to their system. Since Inductive Automation has a flexible database architecture and there are unlimited tags and clients included with the server license, Bannard can continuously go back to his customers and implement new functions without a need to spend more money on the software end.

"Our attraction to the (Inductive Automation) software bundle is based on its superior functionality at a very attractive price, enabling us to provide a very high-end solution to all clients regardless of budget constraints," Bannard says.

Win-Win for Customer and Integrator

Bannard has found that he can offer his customers more functionality for their money, which in turn is helping him grow his controls engineering business. It's a win-win situation for both customer and integrator. Because Inductive Automation doesn't charge by the client, tag, screen, etc., Bannard's customers can afford to have more capabilities integrated into their systems, while KSB has more opportunities to perform work.

Bannard started using Inductive Automation four years ago, and has been using it with great success for his customers. KSB Industrial Services provides services for the automation, instrumentation, and electrical needs of their clients for oil and gas, petrochemical, pulp and paper, wood products, and research and development industries.