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By Elian Zimmermann
20 November 2023

ELEV8 2023 Recap: Achieving NEW heights

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Even if you didn’t attend the 2023 Element8 Community Conference, you don’t have to miss out on the knowledge and inspiration that ELEV8 offers. You can read the blog post below for a recap of the conference highlights, check out the conference photos (JHB, CPT), or access the session presentations.

The picturesque Hazendal Wine Estate in Stellenbosch and the exquisite Irene Country Lodge in Centurion played host to ELEV8 2023. Our inaugural community event attracted over 200 attendees over the two days and venues. It featured a fireside conversation with international guests, solution overviews, technical deep dives and much-anticipated customer presentations.

Setting the scene for Transformation

The welcome address aimed to achieve a couple of things. Firstly, to clarify the purpose of Element8 and our role as a software distributor:

  • Humbly serve. Our community and the industry.
  • Learn from others. And share what we’ve learnt. 
  • Provide intuitive solutions that scale.
  • Help ensure a data-driven and flourishing future for all.

Secondly, the goal of ELEV8 2023. What we’ve seen this past year is a continuation of trends that we – and many others – have been discussing for years: Digital Transformation is top of the agenda. These ideas are reaching a level of utility that is starting to create a sense of urgency around us. Technology progresses exponentially, and we’ve seen examples of companies that have embraced digital transformation and started distinguishing themselves from those that haven’t.

Our goal for ELEV8 – wherever you fall on the productive side of this opportunity, is to help you start, continue, or ELEV8 your digital journey. 

 

Fireside Chat: What are we solving for?

The day started with an insightful conversation with Kent Melville, Director of Sales Engineering at Inductive Automation, Ken Wyant, Director of Business Solutions at Canary, Clark Bossert, Director of Business Development at Canary and Leonard Smit, Customer Success Manager at Flow Software.

The team shared many valuable insights and anecdotes with those in attendance. They discussed digital transformation, industry trends, technology roadmaps and the most important question you should ask: What are we solving for? While we have many technologies available, select the technology that reduces technical debt, is scalable and sustainable and, most importantly, solves your immediate technical and business needs.

Kent shared highlights from the recent ICC 2023, including IA’s first international office, Inductive Automation Australia, Community Impact Program, Ignition Edge Updates and what to look forward to in Ignition 8.3, targeting a late 2024 release. Shortly multi-tenant licensing will soon be available for Ignition Cloud Edition!

Ken and Clark shared exciting international expansion into India, context on some of the time-series database growth drivers, and an update on the immense effort by the Canary development team working on the much anticipated Linux support of the Canary System. 

Speaking of Linux support, Leonard shared details of the recently released Flow Version 7.0. Now, with multiplatform support for both Linux and Docker! With this technology update, you can run the different Flow components on various platforms, including Linux and Docker, with support for x86 and ARM processors. Other highlights include new regression functions for Machine Learning fundamentals and several performance enhancements.

“It was a treat having the internationals speak; they all spoke well and were very interesting to talk to.  Putting a face and personal relationship to the products is important for us, and although we contact E8 for support, it makes everyone feel that we have that link to the suppliers, which puts an extra bit of comfort in ensuring our clients and us get support when needed.” – Rob Obree, Next Integration

Getting started with the fundamentals

While we recognise that our community includes many specialists, the fundamental sessions served as an introduction to the technology solutions for many new members in attendance. These included Ignition, Sepasoft, Canary and Flow fundamentals—the features and benefits and why and how you would deploy each. The recordings serve as a fantastic recap for those with limited experience! 

Breakout Sessions: A Deeper Look

After the opening, fireside chat and fundamentals, we deeply explored specific functionalities and features. Here are some of the highlights from this year’s breakout sessions:

The Unified Namespace (UNS): What is it and why should you care?

The UNS is a hot topic! Kent shared how Data management can sometimes seem like the Wild West, with the chaos caused by inconsistent conventions for naming and organising data, what the Unified Namespace is and its significant benefits.

The Unified Analytics Framework (UAF): Unlocking Analytics at Enterprise Scale

Tightly integrated with the UNS is the Unified Analytics Framework. Leonard explained why you need a scalable no-code analytics framework. Most medium to large-scale manufacturers are in crisis-they cannot scale their analytics efforts to embrace today’s technologies, let alone tomorrow’s. This in-depth exploration presents a compelling case for centralised integration.

The Difference Between Historians: Data, Process, Site, Enterprise and Cloud

If you have spent time researching industrial databases, you have likely encountered several labels for historians. The Canary team speaks about the differences, important considerations and, most importantly, which one you need to get the job done

Automate Asset Discovery: Using the Canary System

Some companies deal with an ever-changing landscape of devices and tags. Whether it be assets in the field or entire plants that come online, if you can automate the discovery of new tags and assets, you will dramatically decrease your workload while providing faster data access to your client tools. Ken showed us how to achieve this with Canary quickly.

High-Performance HMI Techniques with Ignition

Gary Lowenstein from Element8 shares the value of high-performance HMI design, the basic concepts to remember, real-world examples, and helpful resources to get started with this approach.

What’s That in the Sky? An Intro to Ignition in the Cloud

There’s so much buzz around deploying Ignition in the cloud that you’d think it gives your system superpowers. But does a cloud deployment align with your organisation’s grounded, realistic objectives? Our “captains” for this flight, Laura Strydom from Element8 and Kent Melville, introduced cloud deployment concepts and discussed which architectures and scenarios most benefit from cloud-based integration. 

Diagnostics and Troubleshooting Basics

The diagnostics and troubleshooting basics for Ignition and Flow were aimed at the more experienced developers and users. Laura discussed the numerous built-in tools for gathering diagnostic and health information about the Ignition system. At the same time, Tebello Masedi from Element8 provided an overview of how our support team leverages supporting information during the Flow diagnostics and troubleshooting.

Insightful Customer and Partner Panel Discussions

The panel discussions brought together some of the best and brightest from the worlds of automation and technology. Customers and partners participated in the panel, discussing how their companies have deployed solutions and answering audience questions.  

In Stellenbosch, Dirk Brandt from Döhler, with integration partner Brian Cooper from Integ, joined Léander Steynberg from Proxa Water and integration partner Caleb Hiller from Devcotech on stage. 

Dirk and Brian discussed considerations and drivers for the Ignition, Sepasoft Batch and Canary-based application. While the project nears completion, the team shared design concepts, functional layouts and various operator and reporting screens. The ISA-95 Complaint plant utilises the ISA-88 Batching Control Standard, and the intent is to have a fully transparent Control System capable of integrating MES (Sepasoft) and ERP (SAP).

Léander and Caleb shared insights on Proxa’s history with Ignition, a journey which started in 2018. The Remote Control Centre utilises a Hub and Spoke architecture, serving several sites and customers. They also spoke about their ongoing transition to MQTT and how Ignition’s platform meets Proxa’s evolving needs for improvements and upgrades.

Jacques Malan from Grindrod TCM, with integration partner Rudi van Aarde from Darner, joined Pedro Steyn from Implats and integration partner Braam Venter from Advansys on stage in Centurion. 

Jacques and Rudi spoke through the Ignition, Canary and Flow applications serving the Terminal De Carvão da Matola operations in Mozambique. Their control system was outdated and in need of an upgrade. They opted for Ignition, while Canary was deployed to give long-term historisation capabilities, and Flow was selected for downtime analysis, reporting and eventual integration into ERP systems. The results are a clean, modern system with expanded functionality, simplifying operational tasks while providing more in-depth information.

Implats built a new cooling tower and plant that needed a PLC control module standard and a Situational Awareness SCADA that works with the new PLC standard. Pedro and Braam discussed their requirements and why they selected Ignition: The new SCADA must be cost-effective and sustainable. They also shared and talked through the sleek new situationally aware operator screens and adoption considerations. 

Network and Unwind

The networking and social end of the day allowed attendees to mix and mingle in a more relaxed atmosphere while enjoying delicious entrees, wine-tasting and artisan gins. Catching up in person is always a highlight! 

If you attended ELEV8, what were your highlights? What would you like to see at ELEV8 2024? Feedback is a big part of what makes a conference a great experience, so feel free to share your thoughts.

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