The combination of Mitsubishi Electric’s MAPS software suite and Stratus’ ztC Edge platform delivers flexibility, advanced functions and continuous availability making the setup particularly suitable for plants running continuous processes and operations.
Merging Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) is a must when implementing an effective IIoT solution, part of achieving the interconnected ‘factory of the future’. Key elements that can support the convergence of these two worlds are SCADA systems and Edge computing platforms.
The former work close to the factory floor, feeding on information coming directly from data sources such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and sensors. In an IT/OT integrated environment, Edge computing is a crucial bridge for zero latency in control communications whilst rationalising the volume of data being pushed to higher-level enterprise platforms via the Cloud.
The collaboration between Mitsubishi Electric and its e-F@ctory Alliance partner Stratus, a global leader in edge computing solutions, leverages their respective capabilities and cutting-edge products to fully realise an active IIoT environment. In this way, it aims to help manufacturing businesses reap the benefits of virtualised Edge computing for process control and automation.
More than conventional data acquisition and control
The first element of this innovative solution is Mitsubishi Electric’s MAPS software suite. Jeremy Shinton, Solutions Manager at Mitsubishi Electric explains: “MAPS is much more than a SCADA platform. It is a powerful information portal. For example, in addition to offering the typical tools of conventional SCADA, such as visualisation, data logging, trending and alarming, it also features built-in MES functionalities.
“Even more, it empowers manufacturers to produce information, delivered to a web layer in a secure and regulatory compliant way. Ultimately, MAPS allows operators to push data to Cloud-based applications, databases and any other business intelligence area where information could provide actionable insight.”
In order to support the transfer of only the most critical data to the Cloud in a highly efficient manner, it is necessary for the SCADA system to process data via Edge computing. Greg Hookings, Head of Business Development – EMEA at Stratus, adds: “Processing data at the edge, close to its source rather than in central nodes, with platforms that ensure continuous availability supports fast decision making. Also, to reduce the burden of virtualised computing for IT and OT, the Stratus Edge computing platform is simple to manage and deploy as well as safely protected.”
At the cutting edge of innovation
In order to support MAPS advanced functions at the edge and in the Cloud, Mitsubishi Electric chose Stratus’ ztC Edge system. This is a zero-touch, virtualised and self-protecting Edge computing platform specifically designed for industrial control system environments.
Key elements of ztC Edge that Mitsubishi Electric deems as essential for MAPS applications are the system’s redundancy which maximises reliability and availability - plus the security features on offer. As a result, the solution ensures that MAPS can run at all times without any interruption. Shinton says: “This is particularly important for plants and applications that operate non-stop, such as wastewater treatment and power generation.”
Hookings explains: “By integrating MAPS onto our Edge computing platform, customers can utilise the SCADA system both on and off-site. MAPS can be deployed on a virtual machine locally to maximise availability. In the event of localised hardware or power failure, the software suite can continue to run, providing uninterrupted monitoring and diagnostics.”
Enhancements in uptime and accessibility aren’t the only benefits to customers. The small footprint of the combined solution makes it suitable for customers with limited physical space. In addition, the setup is particularly user-friendly as Peter Weeden, Applications Engineer at Mitsubishi Electric, explains: “As a plug-and-play technology, the fully-integrated solution from Mitsubishi Electric and Stratus is extremely easy to set up. As a result, it streamlines system configuration.
“There is also considerable value in the autonomous nature of the diagnostics capabilities offered by the ztC Edge platform, making it easier for operators to identify faults and subsequently reduce system downtime.”
A comprehensive solution for IIoT
For anyone interested in seeing the system in action a live demo has been setup at Mitsubishi Electric’s Customer Technology Centre in Hatfield. All the machines and applications running at the CTC including robots, inverters and servos are now connected to MAPS and plugged into the ztC Edge platform to show off both localised and remote visualisation and control. Hookings says: “We are really pleased with the outcome of this collaboration. Mitsubishi Electric’s expertise, coupled with its continuous support and the quality of its factory automation products such as MAPS have been key to the successful implementation of Edge computing.”
Shinton concludes: “Digitalisation means that customers are going to gather more and more data to maximise knowledge of and control over their industrial assets. The innovative solution we developed with Stratus will certainly provide added value for industrial customers. If early indications are anything to go by then it’s also likely to be a very popular solution as we have several customers already planning to integrate it into their plants and facilities.”