Software Delivers On Multiple Fronts
EP Editorial Staff | May 27, 2019
Manufacturer cites benefits throughout its entire production process.
JMA Wireless (jmawireless.com) designs and produces in-building and outdoor mobile wireless systems. These technologies enable LTE, 5G, and other services on mobile-operator networks around the world. Based in Syracuse, NY, JMA has manufacturing, R&D, and sales operations in more than 20 locations worldwide. As a global leader in wireless communications, the company has systems deployed in numerous industries, including transportation, manufacturing, healthcare, real estate, and sports and entertainment. Its products are found in almost every NFL stadium, NBA and NHL arenas, Major League Baseball parks, numerous college stadiums, and soccer stadiums.
With a growing business and worldwide demand for its solutions, JMA wanted to increase the efficiency of its manufacturing operations. That’s why it began using the Ignition software platform in 2017. Ignition, from Inductive Automation, Folsom, CA (inductiveautomation.com), is an industrial application platform with numerous tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
“I use Ignition every day,” noted Greg Jasek, manufacturing engineer at JMA. “I look at how our manufacturing processes are doing, our test results, our build logs. Are there any issues that could come up soon? Are there any issues that are already happening that we need to take action on?”
According to Jasek, the company leverages Ignition for all troubleshooting in the manufacturing area. “It gives us a lot more agility when looking at problems, and issues,” he said, “and it gives us a faster response time.”
JMA has built more than 20 applications on top of the Ignition platform, and plans to create even more. The software’s flexibility allows the company to quickly design whatever it needs. The software also provides JMA with numerous options when it comes to absorbing and analyzing data. The result has been a rise in productivity.
At its Syracuse plant, the company uses Ignition for data acquisition, historical analysis, overall equipment effectiveness, product testing, part tracking, and reporting. It is also able to collect more data than ever before, which improves analysis of root causes and trends, and helps employees make faster, better decisions.
Analysis of that collected data is providing valuable insights. “We can track each person who has touched a particular antenna,” said Jasek. “So, if something has gone wrong, we can go back to that operator and correct things. Maybe they need more training, or maybe they need a tool. Ignition gives us a lot of power on that. And we can compare measurement data to our build log, and see that particular operators maybe have a higher average test yield than other operators.”
As Jasek emphasized, Ignition makes his job much easier. “It allows me to look at data much quicker, compile data much quicker, and take action much quicker and more effectively. It’s much better than looking at paper and asking people what their opinion is, or trying to form theories without having data to back them up.”
Jasek is not alone in his appreciation for Ignition. Connor Maynes, a JMA automation engineer, described his reaction to the software the first time he used it. “I was completely blown away, by both the simplicity and the power,” he said. “Ignition’s WYSIWYG editor makes it extremely easy to build HMIs. It takes no time at all. There’s no programming every single button, no making each component individually. It’s just drag and drop. And then write the code. It’s very, very simple. And making changes is a breeze.”
Francis Blanchard, automation manager at JMA, is also impressed with the software and its interoperability. “One of the reasons we like Ignition is that it’s really easy to integrate with a database system,” he explained. “And it’s also easy to exchange data with PLCs. We do a lot of data acquisition on the factory floor. We have more than 30 PLCs, so we collect a lot of data on a daily basis.”
Prior to implementing Ignition, JMA was compiling data on paper, and the amount of that paper was causing a space issue. The digital transformation associated with the software is cutting down on paper, and will continue to do so. It’s part of the company’s desire for constant improvement.
“Ignition is really the foundation of our manufacturing-improvement process,” Jasek observed. “We have to collect the data first, to be able to analyze it, and then take appropriate actions. Without data collection, we would be guessing.”
Reporting is also easier. JMA built a program to create numerous options for report users. People can apply a variety of filters, merge reports in different ways, schedule reports, and send them out to the right people, quickly and easily.
JMA plans to leverage its Ignition software even more in the future. “The longer that we’ve used Ignition, the more powerful it has become for us,” Jasek said. “We use it for continuous-improvement operations more and more frequently now than we did to start.”
The company also plans to soon take advantage of Ignition’s mobile capabilities, which will let service technicians in the field see test data while doing installations. It’s all part of keeping pace. As Blanchard put it, “The wireless industry is moving fast, so it’s really helpful to have Ignition help us easily deploy new applications.” EP