Bransom Tech Services
1371 E Pine Street
Lodi, CA 95240-0857
In Conclusion, you can increase your bottom line. Even older machines can be more profitable to operate after integration. They
have to be addressed as repair parts get harder to find. And if you cannot find a maintenance mechanic that has the skills required,
think about cleaning up that machine with an HMI/PLC. This is one option you won't regret.
We recommend wireless with
a modern twist. Forget IIoT. Make your controllers Wireless Network Clients. A Network Security staffer can configure the wireless
security or a good integrator can do it.
There are many integrators out there who can do this, not just BTS. If you are going
to maintain a productive company, increase safety and enjoy life, machines that can benefit from wireless integration have to
be sorted out. Your competition will use it to get production cost advantages over you. Call me if you need help. Or mention it to
your staff and see if someone wants to tackle this sort of cleanup. Believe me it is worth it.
Web-enabled Industrial controllers are inexpensive and easy to setup. How secure they are is under your control. My favorite
secure products are the D-Link DAP® series of routers or the TP Link® long range Wireless Access Point. You need a similar device
to enable wireless access to your machine. And you may have to design some custom screens.
Why would I want one?
This answer becomes obvious in the next example. If you have issues getting well trained maintenance staff
and you want them to be faster getting your equipment repaired, wireless controllers are the miracle you have been asking for.
let's say you have a complex machine. That machine could deliver less troubleshooting problems if you could see what is or isn't going
on anytime you want. For example, let’s take a single palletizing operation that is being fed by 3 machines. You have three machines
making widgets and one machine sending pallets of widgets to your expensive automatic stretch wrapper. Those machines would have
a lot of Photoeyes, proximity switches, conveyors, solenoids and motors. These devices fail at the most inconvenient times. And it
creates a giant backup in your operation.
What if the palletizer quit working? Now you have to unload your machines by hand while
you figure out what is wrong. It is probably a photoeye or proximity switch or some other device that has failed. But how do you know
exactly what is wrong? Most companies call the maintenance staff and tell them to hurry. These same companies spend money on backup
systems because they are used to the machine being down for a day or longer.
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This month I am discussing the "Industrial Internet of Things" (IIoT). When is
it right for your industrial equipment? Can you get the benefits without the risk? Is it worth the money to start investing
in wireless industrial controllers?
If you have it (IIoT), that’s great. But it might be insecure. Read this article about
IIoT Security Problems
. Here is a quote from the article:"As for IIoT security, 70 percent of security professionals in the energy
sector fear potential breaches that could lead to explosions and other catastrophic failures." Those of us who have enough to worry
about don't really need cyber-security problems as well. Do we agree? But we want that new level of efficiency to help us do our jobs
The image left is one of our industrial controllers using a secure, $90 Wireless Client to make it available to certain cell
phones and PCs at a facility. The operator or manager can use it to monitor devices, manually operate motors and check
I may briefly touch on other forms of access but this article is about wireless. My point here is if you already have industrial
wireless, fine. But if you do not have industrial wireless, and you are considering industrial wireless in your workplace, this article
is for you.
In this article, I cover these things:
1. What is an industrial wireless controller?
2. Where do you get them?
3. How should the wireless be
4. Why would I want one?
5. How do I make it secure?
You do not need to know "how" to do something that has taken me over 25 years to learn. But integrators like us can
be trusted to deploy these networks in a safe, secure and cost effective way.
Wireless control has improved each year since the early days. With the integration of Java language and web screens into controllers,
it is not uncommon to find a controller that is able to be managed wirelessly. You may already have a machine that uses
a phone line or Ethernet connection for remote troubleshooting. These machines are candidates for wireless access.
You can add web screens and teach yourself how to check them with your PC or cellphone if you team up with the right integrator.
Where do you get them?
Honestly, any controller with a serial or ethernet port can become an industrial wireless
controller. You need a router too. Many controller companies now include this "web-based" ability in their products. Rockwell Factory
Talk®, Siemens WinCC® with Webnavigator®, Schneider®, Automation Direct C-More® touchscreens and others are common methods of
control. There are many more. Don't forget the software. That can get expensive on some of the above.
I have used all
the above but I prefer the Maple Systems® HMI-PLC units. They are not any better or worse than the ones mentioned above. I just have
been dealing with them for years and like the people there. I use these for most of my industrial controllers.
They can easily replace serial controllers using USB, Data Highway or Modbus Serial. These are operated at the machine.
A wireless enabled controller is just like that, only now you can have additional and portable screens on your phone or PC. You can
walk around your machine and monitor/operate it at the same time.
How should the wireless access be configured?
There are many versions of wireless connectivity, but we only deploy two basic
Group#1 is the Wireless Client. A client means your controller logs into the existing wireless network. These are very
secure depending on your network knowledge. You simply purchase a wireless router and configure it as a secure Wireless Client. Then
you can open a web browser with your phone or PC, type in the address and start monitoring your machine. These use an existing network that
also gives Internet access as well. This is very handy for watching machines from your office, car or jacuzzi. And you can adjust
or troubleshoot a machine while observing it closely.
Group #2 is the Wireless Router. This means your controller is the wireless network. This is where the router you choose creates a
stand-alone network. You run an ethernet cable from the router to each machine you want on the wireless network. These are not connected
to the Internet or any network and are handy as a separate wireless in your facility. You use your phone or PC to connect
to any machine on that router. It doesn't have to be on the Internet. It seems odd to do it that way but it is quite common.
is a good thing by the way. If it is only the machines on that router, they are safe from long range attacks by hackers.
These are the most secure as long as you use good security practices. Later it can be integrated with Internet wireless safely,
securely and with great benefits.
What if you could pull out your phone and call up a screen showing every device: photo-eyes, proximity switches, solenoids, motor
starters and E-Stops? What if you knew what normal looks like and compared it to what you are seeing now? Do you think that would
The screen at the left tells me if my flowmeter is working. I can quickly test my wiring, check
my valves, check my E-Stops, check my pump, confirm fuses are not blown and so much more. I can do this all on one screen. And
this is a simple screen.
I narrowed down the checklist very quickly didn't I?
Another good reason for deploying wireless controllers, specifically HMI/PLC controllers, is shown below. Older machines are still
chugging away in factories all over the country. They have relay logic and wires going everywhere. Many companies have weighed the
option of replacement and it can get expensive. Plus you are throwing away a machine that works fine, but is hard to troubleshoot
and repair, not to mention compliance with modern safety standards such as UL 508A ratings and similar OSHA standards.
modern wireless HMI/PLC controller, you can clean these up and put them into overdrive working for your company. I will cite a few
examples we have done below. I call it "Messy to Dressy Integration" and I have been doing this to machines for over 45 years.
These panels are considered unsafe by modern standards. People could get hurt.
If you are a sharp maintenance staffer who reads more than most, you are already playing with ladder logic or you may be pretty
good at understanding it. We cleaned up these panels by taking the Photoeyes, proximity switches, solenoids and EStops and routing
them through one of our web-enabled HMI/PLC controllers using simple ladder logic. Afterwards, the maintenance people were able
to use their cell phone to monitor every device, operate it and determine if it was faulted or damaged. Messy to Dressy makes $$$
This machine caused hours of downtime. In a single day, I moved all the motor starters inside one cabinet using the space recovered
Now it can be tested quickly and downtime is negligible. Additionally, preventive maintenance has become
a pleasure for the maintenance people. They no longer put off the PM for this machine. It is a Win-Win for Messy to Dressy Integration.
How do I make it secure?
Wireless access to industrial machinery does open you up to cyber attacks or worse, operator error.
These are the two issues I will deal with.
Let's deal with Cybersecurity first. Hackers want to steal your secrets or cause
damage. Security layer one is the controller itself. Most machines do not have secrets. Some examples of machines that do have secrets
are those that log production values. To do damage, the hacker needs access to controls that would give them this information. In good
controllers, the access to this data is hard-coded as a safeguard. It has to do with compiling the code.
my controllers can only do what I program in. That code is compiled into a program that cannot be changed over a network without sounding
a pretty loud alarm. The machine has to go down in order to do it. My controller code and compiler are encrypted. If
some hacking event was going on, you would know it, believe me. Cybersecurity with well programmed controllers is not an issue
warranting much afterthought. We integrators cover that. I don't want my machine to be hijacked. I would be out of business.
layer two is the wireless route to the machine. WIthout advertising how I do it, there are multiple ways to block and disable cyber
attacks. At BTS, we have trained at Microsoft, Cisco, 3Com, Novell and Sun on cyber security. Attacking my controllers would be very
difficult. I imagine it is the same for other integrators.
Now let's deal with operator error. Can I make this machine fool
proof with a wireless industrial controller? That is where 45 years of experience comes in. Here at BTS we enjoy each other's stories
about things operators have done to screw up a machine. Don't get me wrong, we love those employees. In fact these are the
people who teach us the most about our product configuration. And if your integrator will not listen carefully to the customer and
their operators, you should get another integrator. I like to say that the lowest skill level employee will be my best resource.
Literally I gravitate to them seeking the most useful information. If they can understand the program I built for a machine,
then the project is a success. After deploying a controller, we spend a day watching the operation so we can make it safer and easier
The image on the right is what the panel looked like after we finished cleaning up the wiring. It took a single day on the weekend. When
it comes to cutting your down time, industrial controller cleanup (Messy to Dressy Integration) should be at the top of the list
in most businesses I have visited. If you are under pressure to cut costs, this is the low hanging fruit in many facilities.Fruit must be picked.
Jerry Bransom at the Bridgeport Mill. Thank you for reading this article.
What is an industrial wireless controller?
The devices are controlled by I/O (inputs and outputs) and a screen like this flases red for ON and green for OFF.
You can have your cake and eat it too.
My definition of an industrial wireless controller is a combination of 2 things: (a) an Ethernet enabled controller with a useful
Web Interface and (b) a secure router enabled as a wireless client or a router.
Before wireless, we used serial and ethernet cables. These require an expensive spider's web of wire inside buildings.
You see remnants of these bundles of wire in many locations. In the early 90's, here at BTS we began using Breezecom® wireless
technology, antennas and secure UNIX routers
Maple System HMC3070® and D-Link DAP-2553®.
Cell phone access to Industrial controller
Huge potential for arc-flash. No high voltage barriers, wiring messy
Parts are all obsolete, company absorbed by Eaton®
Arc-flash, open transformer, open power block
Arc-flash, exposed wiring, no covers, poor layout.
Same panel after UL approved re-installation of parts.
Roll Former Controller
Brake Press Controller
Ammunition Transfer Conveyor US Navy