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Middleware that’s far from middling

28 August 2019

At a press gathering attended by DPA & Connectivity Editor, Paige West heard Roger Kunz, CEO of Inasoft explain why their solutions are important for data collection, OEE and updating higher level systems directly from the factory floor – Industry 4.0.

In the world of industrial automation, Turck Banner’s reputation as the total solutions provider goes from strength to strength. The core strengths of the company are its diverse product range and its team of industry specialists, well versed in system design and implementation. However, delivering the total solutions package would not be possible without some very strong collaboration with like-minded companies.

The Swiss company, Inasoft GmbH, falls into this category, as for many years Turck Banner have deployed smart solutions using “middleware” to interface directly to customer’s databases and ERP/MES systems.

Inasoft GmbH offer software services in the fields of control technology and robotics, primarily specialising in projects for machine and plant engineering companies. Their dedicated team, led by the CEO, Roger Kunz, boast a high degree of experience in the database connection of industry systems.

Since 2005 Inasoft have been tackling applications and supplying solutions in key industry sectors such as food, pharmaceutical, automotive and packaging industries. Furthermore, they are very active in the tool manufacturing, clock, medical, electric and coin industries.

Inasoft solutions are based on the tried and tested SQL4automation Connector, a specially designed software solution for industrial usage that connects PLC and robotic controls directly with SQL databases. 

The use of SQL4 offers many advantages over conventional data management methods. For example, with SQL4, the complete programming is carried out in the controller, as opposed to controller plus data management software used in traditional methods. Also, with SQL4 the controller is the master and determines which and when data is written or read, while in a conventional system the controller is simply a data receiver. With SQL4 the controller gets data directly from the database resulting in faster communication.

At a press gathering attended by DPA & Connectivity Editor, Paige West, Roger Kunz, CEO of Inasoft explained why such solutions are important for data collection, OEE and updating higher level systems directly from the factory floor – Industry 4.0. Richard Amery, Systems Manager with Turck Banner also discussed several case studies, including a carwash franchise and an automotive industry application.

One customer who benefited from this solution was softcarwash, a car cleaning company. They needed to be able to monitor the consumption of various chemicals used in the cleaning and waxing process. When the company was founded, they only had one car wash station, so it wasn’t a problem to keep track. But now they have 40 wash stations across multiple locations which makes it a little more complicated. 

The solution was simple; each station has local PLC visualisation of the chemical consumption for operator and technician. This information is stored on an MS SQL Server on site at each car wash location which is then sent by VPN to an MS SQL Server in the central headquarters. This way, the company has a centralised data view of the total chemical consumption of all car wash plants to help plan the weekly order.

Turck Banner also use SQL4Automation for all their Pick to Light (PTL) solutions. The general layout of such a solution consists of Pick to Lights on a rack, local control, a main control unit and a PC – on an automotive plant in this case. PTL speeds up the process of picking parts – users simply scan the order and all the parts for the order light up. 

For this particular solution (automotive plant in the UK), Turck Banner use the main control panel, like a gateway. They write the requests which then go to the customers system which is actually based on a virtual server in Amsterdam. From an operator scanning the order to be fulfilled on the line, a query is sent to the MES database where the rack, part and quantities are returned. This data is then sent to the PTL racks to illuminate the PTL units for the order. This takes around 150ms total process time. 

Providing direct access to database applications from the factory floor means data can be written, stored and retrieved without the requirement to store this data in the PLC. 

Data is becoming more important for OEE, condition monitoring and production processes direct from the MES – SQS4Automation provides a solution to make this possible.

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