Product used for 10 active projects—with more on the way
People enjoy their water in Lynchburg, Va. The city of nearly 80,000 is next to the James River, which residents use for boating, swimming and fishing. Meanwhile, the City of Lynchburg Department of Water Resources is hard at work providing water, wastewater and storm water service to the community. The department uses innovative technologies to improve its efficiency—including Ignition by Inductive Automation. (See the video here.) Ignition is an industrial application platform with tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA).
Previously, the department had two SCADA systems, which were becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. There were problems with upgrading and connecting to new programmable logic controllers. There was not enough data or automation for the department to operate as efficiently as it wanted. Ignition solved those problems and created several new opportunities.
The Department of Water Resources is a creative organization that uses the software in a variety of ways, seeing numerous benefits.
“Ignition is our engine of innovation,” said Jason R. Hamlin, plant instrumentation technician for the department. “There’s nothing I haven’t been able to do with it. One of the powers I see in it—that I haven’t seen in other platforms—is a versatility of unlimited projects. It gives us the ability to do much more than just SCADA.”
Now data flows throughout the enterprise, from the plant floor to the executive level—even via mobile devices. Operators have a holistic view of the plant, so they can better understand what is happening throughout the facility. Operators get advance warnings on overflow events, and the department sees time savings and other efficiencies on a daily basis.
Timothy A. Mitchell, director of the department, gets data on his cell phone. He uses the information in making decisions.
“It’s an effective tool in our planning, as well as in our day-to-day operations,” he said. “We can use the data to make decisions about allocating resources—whether personnel or money or whatever the case may be. Having the data helps us save money, improve our response times and improve overall operations.”
The mobile capabilities are a big plus.
“Before, we’d need a human resource to give me information that now I can get instantly on my phone,” Mitchell said. “This technology really frees up resources, provides information quickly and is the answer to being a more efficient operation going forward.”
Variety of Projects
The department has 10 active projects in Ignition, with more in development. Active projects include:
- SCADA for the main plant;
- SCADA for the dewatering process;
- Status board;
- Maintenance view;
- Alarm notification beyond the control room;
- Admin monitoring of combined sewer overflow events;
- Data entry to database; and
- Mobile applications and reporting of real-time data and key performance indicators for admin-level staff.
City employees are often surprised at what the software can do. One example is data entry performed by admin staff, who had been doing the work in Microsoft Access.
“Now they’re doing it through our Ignition front-end,” Hamlin said. “That’s very powerful to me. When we set this up, our administration people said, ‘We can use that for this? That’s our SCADA program.’ Well, no. It’s much more than our SCADA program.”
Hamlin values high-performance graphics (HPG), which are enabled by the software. When he introduced the concept of HPG, some operators were a bit skeptical—but that did not last long.
“Once we showed them a side-by-side of what high-performance looked like, they embraced it,” Hamlin said.
Operators also appreciate the time savings.
“We have more of our pumps attached to Ignition than we did with the previous system,” said Elizabeth Jensen, plant shift supervisor for the department. “So we can adjust the levels of our various pumps with the touch of a button. It’s so much easier than when we had to run all over the plant to do small adjustments.”
From operations to the executive level, Ignition plays an important role for the department.
“From a strategic planning standpoint, technology is foundational; it’s a critical component,” Mitchell said. “Moving forward, it’s essential that we really look at technology to be more effective in our service delivery. Because our primary purpose is to serve the public.”