When you look at the manufacturing sector from a global perspective, the competition truly never sleeps. It’s everywhere, all the time. That puts huge pressure on manufacturers to keep their industrial automation (IA) environments up and running.
In particular, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), Human Machine Interface (HMI), Historians, and other IA systems are critical to meeting customer demands within tight schedules and managing inventory to maximize profits. They’re also central to product quality and regulatory compliance. Unplanned downtime can wreak havoc.
If your SCADA/HMI goes down, data collection stops and some data may be lost. You’re essentially running blind, which is a big problem. With the enhancements made to SCADA in recent years, you could need that data for everything from predictive maintenance to asset performance management and alarm response intelligence. Missing data also could put you in a tight spot during a compliance audit.
Depending on where downtime occurs, especially if it’s in a remote location or a site without skilled IT resources on staff, you could be down for days. That gets costly very quickly. In fact, a Stratus paper and packaging manufacturing customer calculated their cost for unplanned downtime at $33,000 per hour.
Traditional SCADA/HMI infrastructures also aren’t very efficient. If you follow the traditional approach of assigning one application per server, you could have numerous servers to manage and patch. It gets complex and time-consuming. Plus, your applications are probably only using five, ten, or 20% of each server’s capacity, which is just a lot of waste.
At Stratus, we recommend a different approach to running your critical IA systems.
First, virtualize. Virtualization has been around a long time in the IT world, but it’s just catching on in operations environments. Basically, it’s an abstraction layer that allows operating systems and applications to run above physical hardware. Instead of running your SCADA, HMI, or Historian each on an individual physical server, you run them on “virtual machines” side by side on the same hardware. That allows you to use 60 or 70% of the server and greatly reduce the number of physical systems needing management and maintenance in your IA environment.
Second, run your virtualized environment on a fault-tolerant server. When you have multiple applications residing on a single piece of hardware, uptime of that system is more important than ever. Stratus always-on servers ensure continuous availability of your applications, without a single point of failure and risk of data loss.
The paper and packaging manufacturer mentioned before saw the value of this approach. They moved their Manufacturing Execution System (MES) onto Stratus always-on servers and eliminated unplanned downtime while simplifying their infrastructure. Plus, they increased profitability thanks to a continuous operation without any line stoppages.
Unplanned downtime and complexity remain key issues for industrial automation, particularly in the competitive manufacturing environment. The good news is that Stratus can help you eliminate the issue.