The 5 Most Pressing Problems Of Industrial Companies (And What To Do)
Published on: May 18, 2023

If you’re here, it means you’re experiencing one or several of these problems of industrial companies:

1. You have legacy systems that aren’t connected, are expensive, and integrating or replacing them is a nightmare. 

2. Your data is siloed – isolated in different areas/departments/systems. Accessing it is hard enough already, let alone integrating it into a unified form for data retrieval and analysis. 

3. You’re doing a lot of manual, tedious tasks to get some data out of your system (trigger warning: USB sticks). 

4. Information on how to use certain standalone solutions is proprietary to some employees and when they’re not available, you’re left in the dark. 

5. You’re operating on old, limited systems/solutions that simply make your work harder. 

… and that’s not all, but let’s focus on these challenges for now. 

Legacy systems that aren’t connected 

Here’s how to navigate this using Ignition by Inductive Automation (sorry if you’re not interested in Ignition, we’re an Ignition-only company, so we’re going to approach everything using it). 

  • Identify what you want to achieve 

A caveat here: it’s easy to fall into analysis paralysis trying to specify your project to death. 

What I mean by identifying what you want to achieve is to get down in the trenches (the plant floor), talk to the operators, and see where you can start small by connecting some things and getting some data. Use that as proof of concept for automated data retrieval. 

  • Ok, but how do you connect things? 

Use Ignition’s universal connectivity. You can connect to virtually any type of legacy system or database, regardless of the vendor or platform. You don’t have to replace your existing systems, but rather connect and integrate them with Ignition.

  • How to start small? 

Ignition is modular. Once you identify a problem, you can start with a basic package that reduces the cost and risk of getting started with something new. You calculate the price on Inductive Automation’s website, which makes it easier to get buy-in, along with the unlimited client and tags. 

Getting started with Ignition is, in my opinion, easy. Heck, I had an intern years ago come to me with data 1 hour after downloading Ignition (granted, he’s now Enuda’s CTO, so he may be a bit special, but still). 

Inductive Automation offers a myriad of video and written tutorials on how to get started. And we do too. 🙂 

And hey, don’t worry about downtime, you can build something in parallel.


A few years ago, we were working with a big utility company in Denmark getting started with Ignition. Because nobody wants to rock the boat of the existing system, we suggested a safer approach: build a small pump station for the first trials. 

  1. Connect Ignition to the PLC on the pump station (Siemens PLC)
  2. Build a small pump station in Ignition – more or less similar to the existing SCADA HMI
  3. Test 1: Do we have the same data (process values) in the Ignition solution compared to the existing SCADA?
  4. Test 2: Open the pump station in both Ignition and the existing SCADA. Turn the pump down in the existing SCADA and see if you get the right data in Ignition. 
  5. Then the other way around: Turn the pump up again, but this time in Ignition and observe in the existing SCADA.

Essentially, we have two different systems: Existing SCADA and Ignition. Now, you can compare: can you control and supervise the pilot plant from both solutions?

That is what we mean by building something parallel. Nobody, like in NOBODY AT ALL, likes to mess around with a live system. But most PLCs can handle two or more parallel connections to the device. 

Siloed data 

The aim must be to have a good overview of your data from the plant floor to the enterprise level. That means that you need to connect your systems in order to have a single source of truth and a seamless flow of data throughout the organisation.

It may sound complex and hard. Well, it’s definitely not “easy”, but if you go with our proven way of starting small, it’s more than achievable. 

You want your data integrated because you want to make decisions based on it, right? The right tools and processes turn data into valuable insights that benefit everybody. All organisations focus on knowledge sharing and getting people to engage. Data turned into insights is the ultimate democratisation of knowledge sharing. 

It reminds me of a statement from one of my previous bosses: “Is this something we know or something we think we know?” It’s a great question, and with the appropriate data, we can move more in the direction of something we know. 

To sum up: Everybody should have access to data because it is the ultimate form of knowledge sharing. And because everybody makes decisions, large and small, every single day. 

What to do: 

  • Identify the sources of data 

Go with the bottom-up approach. Start with the plant floor – what critical systems (databases, devices, processes etc) can be connected? Identify them, and start small by connecting just a few. 

  • Use Ignition as a platform

As I’ve presented above, Ignition’s connectivity power is unmatched. Using OPC UA, MQTT, or other standard protocols, it can communicate with different types of equipment and devices, such as sensors and controllers, and retrieve data in real time. This allows you to collect and analyse data from the plant floor and integrate it with other systems.

How to build a simple architecture: watch the video. 

  • Build a Unified Namespace for standardisation

A unified namespace helps break down data silos within a company. It’s represented by a centralised platform where all data generated by different systems, devices, and sensors within a company can be accessed and integrated. A platform like Ignition decouples the applications from the devices and can be used to provide a common interface and data structure for all the different systems.

We like to call it “tag structure on steroids”. But convince yourself: here’s our video walk-through on how to build a UNS. 

Note: Remember, the goal is not the mother of all UNS solutions but to get started. To get buy-in from your organisation, you must prove feasibility. Getting lost in all the considerations concerning how to do the UNS correctly is easy. But that is not your objective. You must demonstrate how easy it is to flow data across the existing data siloes seamlessly.

Manual tedious tasks 

Ah yes, the usual walk to a machine on the plant floor, armed with a USB stick, lots of patience and mental power to witness, once again, the dreaded Excel spreadsheets that nobody really understands being spewed onto the USB stick. 

For real now – this is what an automation engineer from a huge manufacturing company told us. He was triggered every time he had to do that. And we understand. 

Ignition has built-in features such as data analysis and visualisation tools that can help you make better use of your data. These tools can be used to automate data retrieval and analysis, identify patterns and trends, and optimise manufacturing processes.

Essentially, you use Ignition to connect things, bring data to one place, and have fun with it from there. 

Having data in one place opens a box of opportunities: 

  • Do you need Ignition to calculate a standard report or KPI (Key Performance Indicator) and email that to someone?
  • Do you need Ignition to monitor a specific value and inform you when a limit is reached?
  • Do you need a customisable KPI tool that the end user can adapt according to actual needs?

The above are just a few examples of data usage we have seen once the data is available.

Information proprietary to a few brains (or worse: one brain)

The automation engineer from a large manufacturing company in Europe tells us that they already have a software solution for their recipe management, but the guy that built it left the company. That solution could’ve been part of a cool MES system, but, instead, it’s a standalone solution with a separate database. And now, it’s also completely useless. 

We’re huge believers in transparency and know-how sharing. That’s why we love the idea of open platforms like Ignition making data available to everybody at all times. With support, training, and documentation, anyone can have the level of understanding they need to do their job better—from engineers who want customisation to end-users who want to see the production data presented in an easy way. 

Ignition is built on standard IT solutions. It integrates with standard SQL databases and protocols like MQTT and OPC-UA. Your IT folks will recognise the architecture as a typical IT format and be happy about how easy it is to maintain. Not only do you get an open platform in the sense of sharing data, but you also get a non-proprietary solution.

Old, limited systems 

Upgrading your systems is no longer just a nice-to-have, but a must-have, and horrifying articles about aging infrastructure failing prove it. 

In our talks with all of you, we often hear “our systems are obsolete” or “we want to bring our systems to the 21st century”. Sounds a bit funny, but it’s the reality. In 2023, we’re still in the early days of modernising our operations—but things are moving faster and faster. 

Thankfully, technology has evolved enough to keep up with the ever-evolving demands of customers, operations, the industry, and cybersecurity. 

However, you may be reluctant to do it because of downtime, risks, costs, and the inability to justify them all through clear ROI. You don’t know where to start, what tools to use, what problem to solve, and how to get people on board. 

To get you going:

  1. Start small with a problem you can solve in the daily work of the operators.
  2. Don’t replace anything yet. Build something in parallel to show and tell. 
  3. Communicate the progress to the stakeholders (from operators to IT and top management) every step of the way.

Find more information on our YouTube channel:

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