By introducing change management and version control software from M.A.C. Solutions for all its programmable devices (PLCs) in five production plants across three different continents, heat exchanger manufacturer SWEP has minimised the risk of machine downtime, thus avoiding costly delays and disruption to customer delivery schedules
Part of the Dover Corporation, SWEP is a leading supplier of compact brazed plate heat exchangers (BPHE). The SWEP plant in Slovakia manufactures BPHEs in high volumes across three continuous shifts. BPHEs are manufactured using high value, automated, PLC-controlled machines. Any unplanned stoppages to these machines must be avoided, as these can result in costly delays to production and disruption to deliveries.
Martin Figura, team leader production IT at SWEP Slovakia s.r.o, is responsible for managing all production automation across SWEP. He comments: “Currently, SWEP has approximately 80 PLCs installed on machines that are located in different time zones across our six production plants. These PLCs are manufactured by a variety of vendors, including Siemens and Allen-Bradley. The PLCs are critical to our BPHE production processes.”
Prior to 2015, SWEP had no formal system in place for managing version control or changes to PLC programmes – backups were made manually, with each SWEP site having its own policy for managing this. There were no scheduled backups or version control of PLC programmes, either within one site or across multiple sites.
At the Slovakia plant, this became apparent to Figura when a supplier was called in to the plant to fix a problem on a critical production machine. As he explains: “In order to resolve the issue, the supplier made some changes to the relevant PLC code and uploaded these changes to the machine, which fixed the problem, but also accidentally uploaded the same changes to an identical machine located elsewhere in the plant. This resulted in an unplanned stoppage to the second machine. We had no PLC backup in place, although, fortunately, I’d made a back up of the PLC programme a few days before, which enabled us to get the second machine back online later that day. However, this stoppage resulted in the plant losing half a day of production time, which was simply unacceptable.”
Figura therefore looked for a suitable solution. “I came across the MDT Software website and read about MDT Software’s Autosave Change Management Solution, which seemed to be what we needed. I then spoke to M.A.C. Solutions, the UK reseller for MDT Software, about the issues we had been having with PLC backups and version control, who recommended a multi-site implementation of the software across all of our six sites. This involved installing a single, secure data centre in our headquarters in Sweden and five software ‘agents’, one for each of the other five sites.
“In my research, no other change management software provider could offer us a similar ‘open’ solution that enabled communication with multiplevendor PLCs. MDT Software’s Autosave is also easy to set up and use. M.A.C. Solutions provided all the software training via online screen-sharing.
“Now, with MDT Software’s Autosave installed across three Continents and five sites, we have a global change management and version control solution in place. We have scheduled tasks set up for PLC programme backups.
“At present, we are running backups for all our PLCs once a day, which is sufficient. The software takes one to two hours to complete the back up and comparison/synchronisation of PLC programmes. Within this time, all PLC programmes are compared and if any changes have occurred, I am notified via email. It’s an insurance policy for us as a business and guarantees that every operator, in the event of a problem with any machine located at any of our six sites, will always have access to the latest version of a PLC programme.”
“Since introducing MDT Software’s Autosave in January 2015, we’ve had a couple of incidents where the system has really proven its worth. Recently, one of our new operators accidentally deleted some operational parameters on a production machine PLC. I simply downloaded the latest version of the PLC code from Autosave and within a few minutes had uploaded this to the machine. Prior to Autosave, this would have taken us at least two hours to rectify,” he states.
“Another unexpected benefit of introducing the software is that it has become a key part of our business-wide Disaster Recovery Policy. We know that if an unforeseen disaster should occur, we will always have access to the latest version of a PLC programme, wherever the machine is located in the world,” concludes Figura.
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