Recently we worked with an aluminum smelter operation that has doubled in size since it first opened and has made a significant positive impact on the local economy by supplying aluminum to local industries which has fueled their growth.
Like any growing business, this user is always seeking ways to improve operations and reduce risk of downtime. In the end they need to deliver returns to their shareholders while continuing to support the local community, all of which requires consistent predictable operational results. In this blog post, we'll cover how they used an off-the-shelf solution for integrating varied systems to reduce life cycle costs.
In a recent project, an aluminum smelter sought to improve the integration of real-time operational data with their MES system in the cast house operation, and reduce the risks related to their existing interface. The existing interface was a custom C/C++ application that had been created when the MES was originally implemented. It was becoming challenging and costly to evolve and maintain that custom application in a rapidly evolving and growing operation.
Part of the challenge of replacing the custom system is that the MES system was running on Linux with an Oracle database also running on Linux. The OPC data sources were running on a Windows system.
Key criteria for the solution selection were:
- Support for current OS and portability to future versions of Windows, while retaining ability to interface with the Oracle database on Linux either from Windows or by running the software on Linux.
- Off-the-shelf configurable software that can be rapidly deployed.
- Availability of regionally local support for the software and configuration, backed by supplier support.
- Software that multiple in-house users can be trained on maintaining and supporting the configuration.
The user worked with our regional partner Industry Software Solutions & Support (IS3) who recommended they utilize the Cogent DataHub solution. The implemented solution connects to multiple OPC servers. A direct connection to the Oracle database running on Linux was made from a single copy of the Cogent DataHub running on a Windows server. Although they could have run the DataHub connector on Linux, and the user was pleased to have the future option, they decided since DataHub connects to databases so easily to run the solution on a Windows machine.
MES data hosted in Oracle is sent down to the plant OPC data sources on a periodic time interval, and confirmation of the communications is sent back up to the MES to close the loop to confirm successful download of the parameters and update MES records. The Cogent DataHub is configured to manage all these connections as a real-time memory resident hub providing fast and efficient concentration and distribution of the data between OPC, Windows, and Linux applications. Features used in the Cogent DataHub include OPC, Bridging, Database, and Scripting.
“Our application engineer found the help files very comprehensive to show you how to do what you need to do and the support from Software Toolbox to help validate that we were doing everything efficiently allowed us to implement this solution quickly,” said Ismail Gattoo of IS3.
The user now has a solution that is off-the-shelf, maintainable, and will serve them for many years to come, while they focus on continuing to improve their business in other areas and grow.