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By Elian Zimmermann
20 November 2023

Sepasoft Fundamentals: Ignition-built MES



Kent Melville
Director of Sales Engineering
Inductive Automation


While we recognise that our community includes many specialists, the Sepasoft fundamental session served as an introduction to Sepasoft for many new members in attendance—the features and benefits and why and how you would deploy Sepasoft. The recording serves as a fantastic recap for those with limited experience!


Speaker 1
All right, while you’re finding your seats, a couple announcements that I wanted to mention real quick. One is, if you’re tired of hearing from all of us vendors, I do want to give you some hope. At the end of the day, we are going to have a customer session where some customers come up and talk to you about the things that they’re doing. We’re really excited for that. So please stay tuned. The other one is, I’m glad you found the snacks outside. Also wanted to alert you to, there are some snacks in the back of this room, and so if you leave here hungry today, that’s your fault, not ours. There’s food everywhere. Please enjoy. And then lastly, something that I forgot to mention in my last session about ignition is you’re like, oh, that was cool.


Speaker 1
You talked about it, but I want to see it. I want to see how it works. Well, conveniently over here, we have a great demo of ignition running on the stratus hardware. Please go check that out today as well so that you can see kind of how that all works and also see some cool stuff about redundancy with the strata system and all that kind of stuff. But with that, we’re going to jump into the next session here, which is Sepasoft fundamentals. And you’re like, wait, it’s the same guy. Sorry, you still got to deal with me. And so Sepisoft is another partner in this stack, like I said earlier, which I am not able to advance the slides, so I’ll let somebody come and help me with that.


Speaker 1
But Stepisoft is a partner of ours at inductive automation that they build modules for the ignition platform. Their entire business is great. It was a user error. No, they build modules for ignition that plug in. And so it’s not a separate piece of software that you install, but instead it is just additional modules that fit on top of the ignition platform, unlock new functionality to view on the same screens, develop in the same designer, all that kind of stuff. And so today this will be a shorter session. We’ll just be going through and talking about some of the highlights from the stepasoft stack. So a little bit about them. They were also founded by OT focused people, focused on solutions, and they started doing mes in 2010.


Speaker 1
And actually originally Sepasoft was part of inductive automation and then they split out to be their own company in 2010. Really wanted to have some separation between kind of the Scada and the more like universal piece of everything that could be applied to all different kinds of industries versus the Mes side, which was more focused on manufacturing and other execution type systems. So they’re used worldwide, over a thousand implementations out there. They also work through an integrator program. They’ve got integrators throughout the world. They’re certified to deploy their software as well. They also work through distributors. So, you know, eight distributors in foreign countries, but very focused on mes. Right. And solving problems there. And, yeah, as we get into it, you know, they’re really focused on mes. MES stands for machine execution system.


Speaker 1
So it’s all about executing processes on machines and then monitoring the efficiency of those machines, tracking production, all that kind of stuff. And a big part of Mes systems is to actually track production, meaning taking raw materials and tracking them all the way to finished goods. And so from a licensing perspective, perpetual licensing, we’ve talked about that already today, but wanted to emphasize, we’ve just gotten a lot of feedback from people. They’re like, hey, we’re seeing all these other vendors go to subscription models. You’re not going to do that, are you? We wanted to emphasize we are very dedicated to that perpetual licensing model and also to nonsense licensing. So at a given site, we default to unlimited machines, unlimited lines, all that kind of stuff. And both inductive automation and Sepasoft are very transparent about pricing. Price can be found on the website.


Speaker 1
We’re not going to like, hey, tell us about this and what your budget is, and then we’ll tell you how much the software costs based on how much you can afford. We’re not into those kind of games. It’s all on the website. I didn’t make these slides originally this was Sepasoft, but they wanted to let you know that they’ve got great support. No, but they really do. They do have great support. I’ve personally talked to their support team as I’ve worked on projects with ignition that I was using the Sepasoft modules for, and it’s great. They also have what’s called a quick start program.


Speaker 1
So anytime you’re starting a new project with the Sepasoft modules, they give you some engineers to help you get it off the ground, which I think is really important because mes systems are complex in that they really need to be catered towards your application and your use cases, your data, so that the results that come out of it are meaningful. And so they really do a good job of helping you get something valuable out of the system. Once again, they wanted to highlight how great they are. A third party here, which I highlighted there on both sides. This was by software reviews. This wasn’t like a pay to play kind of thing. Sepisoft didn’t even know this was happening. They did a review of mes systems and Sepisoft scored really high against Siemens and also against Rockwell in these different categories.


Speaker 1
So really cool to see that they’re getting a lot of respect from these third party reviewers. They’re used by a lot of different companies, which you can see there. Plus increasingly more and more companies here in South Africa. When we talk about the ignition software stack, we talk about modules. As I said at the beginning, they also make modules that fit in our stack. And so here they are, the green box there. I’m sure you can all read that perfectly in that green box. But don’t worry, because I’ve pulled it out here for you to be able to see individually. So they make a variety of modules. And just like with ignition, you can pick which modules you want for your application. With Sebasoft, it’s the same thing. You can pick and choose which modules you want.


Speaker 1
And for these modules, I won’t go into great detail about all of these modules per se, but the newest one I wanted to. Well, so there’s modules, I’ll talk about them all in a minute here, but I wanted to talk about where they fit in the stack. If you look at the bottom of the stack, you’ve got your plc’s, you’ve got your machinery and that kind of stuff. Right above that you’ve got HMI Scada. So that’s where I’m doing my control. That’s where I’m monitoring the health of everything, all that kind of stuff. But sitting on top of Scada is your mes system. And your mes system is looking at not just how your machines are doing, but how your process is doing.


Speaker 1
And that’s the big shift there is that it’s really looking at are you producing what you need to produce, rather than just are your machines on? Right. And so mes is a great thing. It’s also kind of in the same vein of what we’ve been talking about today, about adding context to your data. And so we can get the data about the machines and how your machines are running, but to add the context of how your process is doing, how your lines are doing overall can be really valuable and provide a lot of insight. And that leads to a lot of interesting applications where you say, all right, I’m once again going to take context. Sales team sells something. We are now going to be providing the solution to 2000 new stores.


Speaker 1
So now I need to make a bunch of product to send to these stores. Well, that’s a work order. Now production needs to actually make something right and have that ship out. And so your mes system can help you schedule that and run that. But we need to go collect that work order information from the ERP system, bring it in and then translate that into what actually happens on the factory floor and then have that report back to the MES system or the ERP system about how this is all working, what was built when it’s sent out, all that kind of stuff. And so MEs is really helping you bridge the gap between just equipment and actual business stuff and actually helping it make it a reality, if that makes sense. And so a big thing about that is it’s scalable.


Speaker 1
We’ve talked about scale a lot today, so I won’t go into a lot of detail, but once again, they can do multiple on premise servers. They can farm some tasks up to the cloud scale however you need it to. So what does it end up looking? Right, looking like with mes, one of the big focuses is oee, which is why am I blanking? I’m not used to the, my excuse I’ve been using all week is I’m not used to your time zone yet, so I’m no sleep, but it’s overall equipment efficiency. So how efficiently is my system running right now? And so you can start creating dashboards to track that. Right. I want to be able to see my performance over time. I want to see planned versus actual, which usually it’s not going to be straight lines like that.


Speaker 1
You’re going to have more variation there. But how many of my widgets was I hoping to produce this shift versus how many have I produced so far? That kind of stuff. Or I want to be able to show downtime. So when my machines go down, then I want to track that. How long were they down for? Which piece on my line went down? That caused the whole line to go down and maybe one piece went down, but that wasn’t critical because I can bypass it in another way, but I want to see what the production cost was of that overall. And so yeah, there’s a lot of ways you can start tracking that information and then also being able to see run information.


Speaker 1
There at the bottom, that’s a chart where you can be able to see as it runs, and you can see when changeover happened, when downtime happened for each of your processes, and then you can track that over time and you can see how that works? You can do Pareto charts. There’s a cool ad hoc analysis thing where you can generate reports on the fly based on all your data that’s built into their modules. It’s just a component in ignition you can just drag out onto any screen. That’s really cool. The OEe module has, for a long time, kind of been the core functionality of this mes suite, so that you can really start seeing how your system is running and then scheduling that to run as well. But another big part is reporting, so it can then actually share that data with different people.


Speaker 1
And it’s cool because there’s been a lot of companies that have had a lot of success with that. So this is Sugar Creek. They make packaged meats like bacon and a lot of bacon, but they also do other meats as well. And then they had a system where they brought it in and it was all paper and stuff like that. And once they actually started to track data, see when downtime was happening, how changeover was happening, the settings that they were using as they ran production, once they started to get that data, they started to be able to make informed decisions about how do we improve our processes, how do we do this digital transformation. And I was starting to get alarms based on set points they were trying to define and things like that.


Speaker 1
And the impact was that, well, once again, these slides weren’t made by me. The impact that you should really know about us not on here, is they. Over the three years that they were working on this project, they saw a 200% increase in output of product from those lines, which is huge, right? To double the output of your plant, not by adding new equipment, but just by tracking it and improving your processes. You know, that can. That can make a big difference. And so, yeah, Sugar Creek is one example, another one that’s not food and beverage. Daimler trucks, they make big diesel trucks. Once again, they didn’t have any monitoring things like that. They started adding these and on boards, these big overhead displays that would actually track how each cell in their production line was operating and starting to show shifts.


Speaker 1
So the people that were working the shifts could see if they were meeting targets as they were working and things like that, and then also tracking downtime, figuring out what the root cause of all their issues were, and fixing those things. They were able to see huge improvements as well, and were able to take their OEE scores from like 30% to the high seventies, which is huge change. So, yeah, overall equipment effectiveness, much more effective. After they did this, another module, other than OEE is track and trace. Track and trace is saying, I’ve got these raw materials that come in, and when they go through this production process that was scheduled with OEE and the equipment was tracked, I also want to track how those raw materials became a finished good.


Speaker 1
I want to know which materials, like, if I’m building an engine or whatever, I want to know where that metal came from. I want to know if I’ve got sub assembly parts that came from some vendor. When I bring that in, where did those parts come from? Which are their vendors or food and beverage? I want to know. I make wine. Where did my grapes come from that went into this particular batch, and how are they processed or whatever else, right? And so track and trace allows you to, at the end, see a finished good and know how it worked or how it was worked on through the entire process, through in your facility. And then you might find that somebody wants to do a recall one of your products.


Speaker 1
Instead of saying like, oh, I need to do a recall on everything, now I can find just that batch that had this one bad thing that came from this one vendor, and I can isolate that and do a smaller scope recall or things like that. So track and trace has been huge. It’s been interesting. In the United States at least, we’re seeing more and more people who purchase these goods actually demanding track and trace. That if you don’t have a track and trace system, they won’t accept your products. And that’s especially true in the food and beverage space, that if you want to sell to Walmart and you don’t have track and trace system, they won’t let you sell their products there. And so it’s becoming very critical. There’s inventory systems. There’s, I did want to talk about this one.


Speaker 1
They have a new batch and procedure module which allows you to actually execute batches. And all this stuff, it’s a really cool tool because it allows you to define standard processes. But then managers can go in and actually create these flows. So if you’ve got somebody who’s, like, not technical, but they’re an expert in how to create your product, they can come in here and use the building blocks that you define as a technical person, and they can help build out the flows from a non technical perspective. And so a very approachable module, but it also, as it goes through that, it does electronic batch records, ebrs, and can be compatible with, like, for the pharmaceutical space, if you have different standards, like 21 CFR, part eleven, or there’s all other kinds of food and pharmaceutical standards.


Speaker 1
This can do all the tracking and stuff like that. So you can be compliant with those going a little bit fast for the sake of time here. It can also then track that batch status in your real time screens. You’re like, I’ve got Scada though, and I want to see my equipment. Well, you can overlay these two sets of data on top of each other. So as my batch executes, I can see that in my hmis and I can see the status and I can also put oee information on those screens if I wanted to, and whatever. It can all come into one system, single pane of glass. They’ve got document management, they’ve got electronic signatures, they’ve got very specific reports that are templates that they’ve built out for things. Another case study, stone brewing, they make beer.


Speaker 1
And they implemented this saw with the recipe management. They were able to get a much more consistent beer. And it helped really improve their image within the industry because people noticed their product was better. And another thing that they have is the connectivity to ERP systems. So one thing that they have is they’ve got an interface for SAP. And so if somebody’s running SAP as their ERP system, you can directly integrate with that plug and play with no scripting, pull all kinds of data. But also they have this generic business connector that allows you to create these workflows so that you can talk to any ERP system or any other business system and ingest that data, transform it into how you’re going to use it in your system. And so it really allows you to integrate with other line of business applications.


Speaker 1
We talked about enterprise architectures, so they can have a bunch of different servers that all funnel data up to a central server. And so at an enterprise, they can see all of these stats in a meaningful way, and they can have different stats that run an enterprise. So you can start doing site to site comparisons, which can be really impactful. And also it helps you get some common metrics, because even if sites are doing different things, you’re not going to track. Are their processes the same? But is their output similar? Is the efficiency similar? And so you can have some enterprise metrics that are an apples to apples comparison that you can track and people like it. This was the guy from Sugar Creek, and he said, before we put ignition in, getting real time data was quite often a struggle.


Speaker 1
Typically where you’re looking at information that was a day old. Now with ignition Sebasoft, the data is immediately available and highly actionable. It’s a world of difference. So like I said, people like it, we’ve got other people that like it as well. Swedish match. I’m not going to read that one to you, but you can read it really fast on your own here. But just wanted to kind of wrap this up by saying when you put in ignition, you can start adding these mes functionalities. And other mes systems often want to pull the PLC directly and operate outside of your SCADA system.


Speaker 1
And then they’re trying to connect up to these other line of business applications and by using it as part of this overall stack that we’re talking about today of ignition, Sepasoft and Canary and flow, by having it all be there now, you don’t get this isolated data, you don’t lose that context of data, but you can bring it all in house. And so that by the time the data is making up to the enterprise, it’s more impactful, it’s ready to start doing all the other things that you want to do with that data. So it’s a great mes system. They get less time today because they didn’t fly down to South Africa. So. Jokes on them. No, but I did want to open it up to any questions from all of you. So, any questions about the mes suite?


Speaker 1
I can get you a water bottle if you ask a really good question. Or a pair of socks. Yes, he wants that. Oh yeah, there we go. Socks in hand. What’s your question? Oh no, it’s a mic. Can’t see anything from back here. We’ll still get you socks.


Speaker 2
You mentioned the interface to SAP. On what level it is like plant maintenance orders. And is it said SAP Erp, because that’s a specific version of SAP. Is it compatible to all versions up or is that the version that it is compatible to?


Speaker 1
So it’s not compatible with every version of SAP. It’s compatible with several versions of SAP. So SAP hana. And they would be able to better answer that question off the cuff. We could get you a list of all the versions it’s compatible with, but it’s several. It’s compatible with most versions of SAP. And the way it ties in is it goes into the Baptist, the business APIs, and then it makes those all just browsable, and then you can select which ones and then it brings it in where it then shows what all the outputs are going to be from those API calls. And then it’s got a list of all the inputs on the ignition side and it’s just drag and drop mapping to say I want this data to get mapped to this part. It’s pretty powerful. Did that answer your question? Yeah.


Speaker 1
Was there another question up here? Yeah, go ahead.


Speaker 3
I’m developing SepA software project and it comes with a lot of great built in components out of the box. There’s only just one issue I find is that the component is very closed off compared to ignition components that you have built in. They have user interaction. You can configure it, you can get the data from the interactions that the user is clicking on. And I’ve just found that this small things like I want to set a batch id in the procedure, batch execution, and I can’t send the component something simple like that. So I have to bold that component myself. So do you know in the future updates, if they’re going to expose more data within their own pre built components that then we can use so we don’t have to redesign those components ourselves?


Speaker 1
Yeah, great question. So a couple thoughts. One, I like their new components in perspective because vision was even more restrictive and their new ones in perspective are a little more open, so we’re moving in the right direction. The other thing is that they’ve been exposing more and more scripting functions. So system Sepasoft, all their stuff, and those allow you to access a lot of the data that the components won’t let you access, which helps. It doesn’t solve the problem for you per se, but it’s this tricky balance of making things possible and then making things easy. And so right now with the scripting functions and stuff like that, they’re trying to make it all possible. And then with following that up, with making it really easy.


Speaker 1
But there’s also the danger that if you keep adding to the components and exposing more and more properties and all that kind of stuff, then those components get harder to use. And so they’re trying to find that balance of how do we make it so that it’s approachable to the first time user, but also make it powerful enough for a more advanced user. Right now it’s the scripting functions and stuff like that. But we are continuing to develop, I say we, us and them are continuing to develop new versions of those so that more of that data is exposed by default. Absolutely. I’m out of time, but any last questions? Going once, going twice. Sold. All right, thanks, everybody. I never went to my last side question. Yeah, clap for me. Come on.

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