Egger Ltd at Hexam, Northumberland, UK, manufactures chipboard and associated products on highly automated production lines. The programs within numerous manufacturing systems and controllers are vital to the resulting OEE of the company and require frequent backup, version control, and automatic administration. Egger standardized on versiondog software from SolutionsPT to undertake and manage this task.
Egger is one of Europe’s leading wood-based panel producers, with a product portfolio that ranges from decorative products, such as melamine faced chipboard, decorative MDF, laminate and edging, to construction products, such as Chipboard and OSB. Egger products manufactured at the 75 acre Hexham plant include EUROSPAN® chipboard, EURODEKOR® melamine faced chipboard, and EGGER tongue and groove flooring panels. There is also another site at Barony, Ayrshire, in Scotland, which also manufactures EUROSPAN® chipboard.
Egger has standardized its manufacturing technology across its entire operation, versiondog being the solution for automation program version control. versiondog has proved to be vital to the continuous operation of the plant as it automatically captures all changes made to networked controllers, and can be used manually to ‘log out’ a particular program, make changes, and then return it. This includes fully commented code, which allows its use as a maintenance diagnosis tool to be much more transparent and easier to work with.
Version Management of Automation Devices
At Hexham, all PLCs, SCADA systems, and increasingly Inverter Drive programs (or parameter sets) are fully managed by versiondog. At the site, they have approximately 50 Simatic S7 PLC’s, 15 Wonderware InTouch applications and numerous Inverter Drives, each having parameter sets that are important for optimum operation, which are at risk of being lost if a drive fails. A network connection is provided by a backbone fibre system with Profibus over Ethernet at the device level.
All original and developed versions of program software are stored in the versiondog server. These are checked out, copied to a local hard drive, changes made, and checked back into the system. Security is provided by layered password-protected authorization levels, and new versions (as opposed to trials) can be marked as such. In some cases, as many as 200 versions of a particular device’s program are stored.
Additionally, the company uses Rittal’s EPLAN electrical CAD system, drawing files being backed up and managed by versiondog. When an amendment to an EPLAN drawing has to be made, the latest copy of the project is checked out from the file server via Version Dog. This automatically saves the file to a location on the local hard drive. EPLAN is then opened, and the EPLAN project opened manually from EPLAN, unlike InTouch and Siemens S7, which open automatically from versiondog when the edit function is selected. Once making amendments is finished, the project is checked back into versiondog and can have a comment added to say what has changed. Other file types are supported, such as Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF.
In addition to version management, versiondog also provides a complete backup and restore service; this being of particular importance when a hardware failure requires a replacement unit to be fitted. Vital programs (or parameter sets) can be quickly restored, cutting downtime to a minimum and restoring production more quickly.
About 20 people on-site at Hexham have access to and regularly use, versiondog. When asked about versiondog’s importance, John Ewington, Egger Deputy Electrical Engineer, said, “versiondog is vital to the smooth running of the plant and life without it on a day-to-do basis would be a nightmare.” John added that the administrative procedures for checking out and checking in a program were easy and effective, and they had become part of the maintenance regime at the plant.
versiondog has integrated reporting for all changes and backups; this is received by email, making sure that the system is running and required procedures have been adhered to. Owing to its access control procedures, versiondog is able to determine not only what was changed, but who made that change.
Version management is more than simply good practice, having the latest software version to hand means that using it as a trouble-shooting aid can be done with 100% confidence and key programs and parameters are never lost. Loss of drive parameters is a known cause of extended downtime, with extensive tests and procedures having to be made to re-commission a replacement. PLC and SCADA programs may be backed-up, but how long ago? versiondog (at Hexham) is set to back up everything over a two-day cycle automatically. The summation of all this, when equipment is under the control of versiondog, results in shortened MTTR (Mean Time To Repair) when unavoidable downtime does occur, and also provides basic maintenance procedures that exceed those normally found in ISO 9000. This has a direct and immediate beneficial effect on OEE KPI’s.
versiondog in use by Egger at Hexham automates a great deal of maintenance tasks, such as recording changes and backup. versiondog also provides a background infrastructure to the use of device programs to troubleshoot, implement continuous improvement, and to stay in control. When there is a hardware failure, all programs can be quickly restored, in the full confidence that they are the latest version. By its very nature, versiondog carries on working in the background, day in and day out; while it may not receive the visibility of OEE dashboards to senior management, the resulting KPI improvements will inevitably have a direct contribution from the company’s use of versiondog.