Case study: the right change management software can radically reduce downtime
15 Nov 2017
One company’s change management and version control software minimised the risk of machine downtime for 400 programmable devices.
Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron facility, based at the Harwell Science and Innovation campus in Didcot, Oxfordshire.
Funded by the Government and the Wellcome Trust, it harnesses electrons, accelerating them to near-light speed when they give off light 10 billion times brighter than the sun. The beams are directed to laboratories (beamlines) where scientists utilise the light to study a huge variety of subject matter.
Users of the facilities book a certain amount of beam time, from just 20 minute slots to two or three days, in order to carry out their research, explains Simon Lay, senior PLC engineer at the site.
Lay is in charge of 500-plus PLCs that are critical for the control and protection of an extensive range of machines used in the process, as well as 100 HMIs.
We therefore needed a better way of managing our PLC projects, which would ultimately help to improve our MTBF rates
Simon Lay, senior PLC engineer at the Diamond Light Source site
“The demand for our beamlines is increasing and so we need to find ways of minimising downtime and getting more from our existing beamlines. We therefore constantly measure our performance and the mean-time-between failures [MTBF] of machines and equipment,” he explains.
A single stoppage can result in costly downtime of around £10,000 per hour, adds Lay. Diamond Light Source is constantly commissioning new equipment along its beamlines and its SCADA system must deal with an estimated half a million process variables.
“We therefore needed a better way of managing our PLC projects, which would ultimately help to improve our MTBF rates.”
Yet until this year there was no formal system for managing version control or PLC programs, with the site relying instead on manual backups and a paper-based version control system.
We are minimising the risk of errors and helping to ensure our beamlines can continue uninterrupted
A contractor recommended MDT Software’s AutoSave change management solution for which MAC Solutions was the UK seller.
The system unifies plant automation software under a common user interface that enables automatically scheduled compare procedures to identify unauthorised program changes and notifies designated users; combining tracking, saving and protection.
Said Lay: “No other change management software provider could offer us a similar ‘open’ solution that enabled communication with multiplevendor PLCs, HMIs and remote IO configuration files.
”MAC Solutions was also able to tailor the privileges of different users [such as drawing office engineers] to provide only the access required by each.”
MAC Solutions implemented AutoSave at Diamond Light Source for PLCs and HMIs. As these are not connected to the primary network, it used Wi-Fi connections of AutoSave Client to the AutoSave Server and then local connections to the PLCs from AutoSave Client. Lay and his team meanwhile began the migration from the paperbased systems to AutoSave.
“We can now be in front of a PLC on a machine and we can just grab the correct PLC code from the AutoSave server using Wi-Fi. We know we’ve got the latest version of the code and so we know we are minimising the risk of errors and helping to ensure our beamlines can continue uninterrupted,” concludes Lay.
Over the next months, MAC Solutions is assisting Diamond in configuring the remaining PLCs and HMIs not already in the AutoSave system.