A leading Whisky Distiller has multiple distilleries in remote locations all of which have their own Industrial and Automation Control Systems Software. The main challenges faced by the Distiller were:
- Ensuring the correct backups of all system software
- Keeping backups under full revision control
- To manage access to making changes to systems by vendors and technicians
- Record changes made
- Record who made the changes and why
- Record what backups of the new version had been made
- Notify a responsible engineer of all this information
- To manage access to programming tools
The Distiller had an Asset Guardian solution for a number of years and were storing their Industrial and Automation Control System Software backups in a centralised repository, keeping them under full revision control. There were multiple servers on various sites which synchronised together through Asset Guardian’s proprietary synchronisation module AGSync, and so the software was secure and available at all locations as required.
Software was checked in and out of Asset Guardian when changes were planned and made as part of projects or upgrades, however it was very common for OEM’s and 3rd parties visiting site to update software without notifying the correct personnel and as a result were not leaving a current copy of the software leading to uncontrolled software being downloaded to the automation systems.
- To control unplanned changes to systems integrated with the Asset Guardian solution: The AG Access Management module.
To overcome the challenge with OEM and 3rd Party access, the distiller requested the AG Access Control Management module. This required the AG Access Module to be installed at the Programming Workstation on each site. Once the Access module was initiated, the workstation was unlocked and key information was required to be recorded relating to the work being carried out by the engineer prior to access being given to use the requested programming tool.
- Asset Guardian and the AG Access Management Module allows the Distiller to track all changes made to their control system software across multiple remote sites, ensuring there are always up-to-date backups available at all locations.
- Correct versions are always used preventing operational and safety issues with the running plant, as well as the time to try and re-engineer these lost changes. The responsible engineer is notified and can ensure the relevant backups have been made. An e-mail notification is sent to the recipient’s email address and as a result, they do not need to be an AG Solution user.
- Asset Guardian’s advanced features on reporting and automatically scheduling reports minimises the time required by responsible engineers to monitor all their systems. Relevant information is sent immediately and notifications are sent when there are exceptions that require attention.
- Asset Guardian protects the integrity of files through automatic schedules which continuously run on the server, verifying all files against recorded checksums with Admin users being notified straight away of any mismatch found. This minimises the risks associated with corruption or infection of software backups.
- With multiple servers in synchronisation with each other, in a full Disaster Recovery situation, Asset Guardian can be relied on to provide all configurations and files to get the plant back up and running in the shortest possible time.
- Compliance with relevant industry and national standards has been assured with Asset Guardian’s full audit history allowing all actions to be viewed and reported. All this information can be presented during audits either internally or from outside bodies.
- The Distiller has expanded its use within the organisation. They are now controlling specifications and backups of standard blocks used in their control system software. Putting standard blocks under revision control and making them available through the Asset Guardian Solution has allowed them to standardise and streamline their system development lifecycle thus saving development costs.
- Downtime has been greatly reduced because the software is stored in a central repository. The current version of software is always available, and with engineers , OEM’s and 3rd Party Vendors using the standard blocks, helps during breakdowns and fault finding since support staff are familiar with the programming techniques.
- OEM’s, 3rd party engineers and technicians are now able to lock the workstation by logging out of the AG Access module which automatically sends a notification to Asset Guardian which records all the information within the audit history along with date/time stamps. Asset Guardian monitors the status of each workstation, and if it remains unlocked for an extended period of time, will send a reminder.
- Asset Guardian and the AG Access Management Module help the responsible engineers by automatically generating reports and e-mailing them directly to selected members of staff. These reports show the current status of the workstations (locked or unlocked) and summaries of the work done and changes made to the systems (both planned and unplanned). The reports also flag if changes have been made but the associated software backups have not been checked into the Asset Guardian Software Repository
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Written by Iain Rennie. As AGSL’s Product Development Manager, Iain Rennie is responsible for leading the company’s product development and technology strategy. Before joining AGSL in 2008, Iain was employed for 14 years as a process control and automation specialist for Elite Control Systems Limited, where he worked on projects in Europe, China, the USA and Azerbaijan. He is the company’s Quality Manager, and heads the Asset Guardian software solution development team. Iain holds a Bachelor of Science - Honours degree in Mathematical Physics from the University of Edinburgh, and a Master’s degree in Control Systems Technology from Edinburgh’s Napier University in Edinburgh, where he graduated with distinction. A Chartered Engineer, he is a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).