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Thread: Connecting PLCs and Sensors to the Cloud

  1. #1
    Member The Automation Blog's Avatar
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    Connecting PLCs and Sensors to the Cloud

    Life would be so easy if there were only one PLC manufacturer, one Communication Protocol, and just one Cloud Solution.
    Unfortunately,...

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    Member tspisak's Avatar
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    My question - just because we can connect to the cloud, should we?

    I understand that we could connect all of our sensors so we could look at them with our smartphone or via a webpage remotely - my question should we? Does the cost justify the benefit? Most of my customers do not have any of there manufacturing cells connected to a plant network. A few bigger companies have all of their automation networked together and do part tracking and data collection.

    None of my customers have asked for anything to be attached to the cloud. Upper management has requested that we offer this but this comes from the same management that keeps asking for lower cost control systems (smaller operator interface screens, lower cost PLCs)

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    Administrator Shawn Tierney's Avatar
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    @tspisak,

    Great points!

    Between mega corps trying to sell multi-million dollar upgrades to companies with slim profit margins, to plant managers who think they can control a million dollar machine with a $49 device, there's just a lot of people out there without any common sense.

    I've been in hundreds of meetings with both types of people, and just can't stop shaking my head when I think about it.

    One time a vendor proposed a $100K control system for a $50K machine.

    But even better, a maintenance manager wouldn't buy a $99 cable to support a $250,000 machine, and wanted me to drive down and provide free support to get his $10 USB cable from Best Buy to work (I said no lol.)

    In the end, too many vendors only think about their commission checks, and too many users forget how much a machine makes the company each hour, and budget like they are spending money from their personal "home" budget (and these same people typically don't blink at spending $1,000 on a new smartphone!)

    I also don't see any reason to connect sensors directly to the Cloud, since when the internet goes down you lose the historical data.

    But, most companies have a HMI or SCADA system that has alarm and data logs, and in some cases it makes sense to have a website or "dashboard" to view that data as it can be used monitor production and fix issues.

    One example I've seen is when an operator lowers the line speed because of an issue with the machine. That may be necessary, however it could also cause the company to lose a big contract because they can't produce enough parts for their customer. So pushing a notice to a plant manager when this happens could make sense.

    So yeah, whether it's an internal system or in the Cloud, I have seen these system help companies, but to your point they aren't for everyone.

    Sincerely,

    Shawn Tierney,
    Instructor at The Automation School
    Looking for affordable automation training? If you are, check out my courses at TheAutomationSchool.com!

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