This blog is dedicated to open, interoperable manufacturing software and the coolest, latest and greatest things I see every day while conducting business under the banner of Inductive Automation.

Hello, my name is Steve Hechtman and I am president of Inductive Automation. During the span of one day there is more excitement, more discovery than I can possibly keep to myself. This blog is, therefore, my outlet. WARNING: This site is highly biased in favor of the most powerful, affordable manufacturing software in the world - Ignition by Inductive Automation!

The Value of Fast SCADA Installation & Development

When integrators install Ignition for their customers they deliver more bang for the buck in two ways. By an order of magnitude, they save their customers money both on software itself and on the labor to develop applications and deploy them. It's a double-sided benefit for end-users.

If you're an integrator, you might say, "but that's less work for me!" From experience I can tell you that's not true. I've discovered that in the same number of hours you will deliver way more functionality and end-users will love you for it. Then they will ask you to do even more. It's a win-win proposition. Essentially, what I have found is that they finally feel like they are getting the value they always expected.

This is a valuable concept you can use to your advantage as you offer your services.

Also consider this: Who wants to pay for an integrator to spend all week just to install and deploy HMI/SCADA/MES software? That's a huge waste of time and money and it makes the end-user feel like he's getting milked. Enough with that! Why should an installation and deployment take more than a few minutes? Spend the rest of your time building what the customer really wants and deploy it to a hundred clients with just a mouse click.

End-Users Are Beginning To Expect More From Integrators
End-users are starting to take all this for granted. I've been witness to the overwhelming reception of Ignition by end-users once they truly understand it. Hundreds of other integrators have discovered this as well. But now many end-users have come to expect what Ignition delivers as the new norm. When integrators approach these end-users with the old way they're going to get laughed right out of the place. I was recently a witness to a CEO ridiculing an integrator who proposed doing it the old way. It was embarrassing for me to watch.

Virtually all other software I'm aware of is so '90s. Relational databases are a way of life now in manufacturing yet most HMI/SCADA software treats it as an afterthought if they handle it at all. Sure, you could band-aid something together but why would you want to when you could be delivering real value in a fraction of the time? You want to feel loved? Well trust me, that's how you do it.

Offer Higher Value Before Your Competitors Do
Integrators should always be on the look out for better ways to do things more efficiently. Some integrators say, "I just do what the customer tells me." Do that at your own peril because one day the end-user will discover it on his own and some other integrator will be putting it in.

In one case recently, an integrator lost about a year's worth of work when another integrator showed the customer two bids: one for what the end-user requested, and an alternative bid using Ignition. The customer decided to use Ignition because the integrator showed that for the same amount of labor he could deliver more functionality – and more value for the money. He's feelin' the love now!

Integrators Can Differentiate Their Services By Developing Specialized Modules

A week ago we held a Module SDK developers class at our new facilities in Folsom, Calif., with the purpose of increasing the number of third-party developers who would partner with us by developing specialized new modules. I was surprised to learn, however, that integrator differentiation was a key reason for developing new modules.

We recently added two new features to Ignition that make it possible for integrators to differentiate their services from the competition. The first is the new Module SDK and the second is the OEM lock.

Ignition Module SDK
The SDK can be downloaded for free from the Inductive Automation website and includes a new 80-page manual for developers.

Using these tools and knowledge of the java programming language, integrators are now extending Ignition in ways we couldn't have even imagined. Since your java code is compiled your intellectual property is protected. Some integrators have even hired java experts solely for this purpose.

OEM Lock
The OEM lock allows integrators to create Ignition applications that cannot be opened in the development environment (or be otherwise be decoded) without a developer's key. We've had a lot of requests for this functionality over the years and now you have it.

The Developer Program
Just to clarify, we have a three-tier program for module developers. On the first tier, for qualified companies that develop modules which we deem to compliment our product offering, we have a partner program whereby the module developer develops the module and we market it aggressively through our normal channels, as well as us handling sales and first-tier support.

Our second tier program is very similar to the Apple app store program, if you are familiar with that. On the third tier you can develop modules for your own in-house use and this could include developing modules which create integrator differentiation.

Module Development Is Easier Than You Think
What you should bear in mind is that when you write an Ignition module you gain all the leverage of the Ignition platform itself. This includes use of the development environment, the deployment model, database connectivity as well as store-and-forward functionality, security, connectivity with thousands of other devices, interaction with Python scripting, internationalization (yes, that's coming soon too), and literally hundreds of other functions that are baked into the Ignition platform. A proficient Java developer could develop in a week what would take years to write otherwise.

Then there's the aspect of install base. When you develop for the Ignition platform you instantly have a potentially large and ever expanding install base. Right now this is thousands of installations in more than 50 countries. So once an integrator develops a module, there are a lot of Ignition users who would probably be very interested in buying the new module.

Platform Focus vs. Specialized Module Development
Here's our philosophy about modules. We want to focus on the Ignition platform itself and make it the best platform there ever was. This includes supplying ever more universal functionality, improved documentation, constantly improving software quality, improving the ease of use, etc.

For the more specialized functions we want to partner with other qualified companies that already have extensive domain experience in some specialized area. There are potentially thousands of these areas. Perhaps yours is one of these companies.

Automating Business Processes Can Save U.S. Jobs

Recently, I was talking to corporate engineers at a major United States company that has adopted Ignition with a vengeance. They said, "You know what we're doing, don't you? We're saving U.S. jobs."

I've always felt this was the case. But you can't just plop down Ignition and expect to automatically save jobs. Ignition has to be thoughtfully integrated against existing business flows; then if you did well, you can make the same statement as the company above.

I'd love to tell you more about the company that was rejoicing over the phone about saving jobs in America, but we're under a non-disclosure agreement because they are serious about keeping their new-found business advantages.

Better Efficiency Begets Better Jobs
There is another company that generated reams of paper every day just to keep track of their operations. They are in the food industry and have stringent genealogy requirements. The amount of double, triple and quadruple data entry was astounding. Now it's all electronic using Ignition.

You might say, "well, what happens to all those people's jobs?" The answer is they still work there, but in better, more productive, more rewarding jobs. That company is now more competitive. Similar stories are rolling in every day from Ignition users.

A "Living Application" Example
Our own customer relationship management (CRM) system is an example of making everyone's job better. Way back in 2005 we were being overwhelmed administratively on just the traffic we had at the time. We had a hard time tracking everything that was going on. We were doing it all manually and it was labor intensive and not very scalable.

So we took every one of those existing business flows and automated them using Ignition. Everyone knows what's going on. The sales pipeline, all communications, tech support history, knowledge base, statistics of many types, website back-end, license activation and history, quotes, email, phone, appointments, cameras, you name it, it's probably there. And every single day there are updates rolled out to the multitude of open clients, which adds even more functionality.

It's a living application which keeps up with our business processes as we improve them. Ignition makes "continuous improvement" attainable in reality. There is just no way to communicate how our CRM has taken all the internal friction out of our operation and for that we're far more competitive than we otherwise would have been. And it didn't cost us a million dollars.

The Right Mix for Automating Business Processes
Why is Ignition so adept at automating business processes and creating paperless plant floors? Because Ignition is a rapid application development (RAD) tool, because it can easily talk with almost anything in the enterprise, because it has an amazingly simple deployment model, and because it has flat server pricing so you can scale it out without dealing with oppressive economics.

As I mentioned before, achieving these efficiencies doesn't happen auto-magically. It still requires someone who knows existing company business processes as well as a familiarity with Ignition and databases. But with these in place you can do miracles and be the hero.

What many companies are doing here in America today with Ignition is breathtaking. I've seen many of these applications and I'm just thinking, "Wow, these guys have got to be deadly to the competition – such ingenuity." Ingenuity certainly hasn't left America.