We’ve used RTA’s gateways in the past, and the fact that they come with a five-year warranty and great tech support, it was a no brainer for this application. Top notch customer support and always a real person to assist. Can’t beat it.

Jacob Joseph, Sr. / Controls Engineer, Plenty

Keeping the Factory Floor Ripping Along

Between climate change and population growth, the global food crisis looms larger. Our client Plenty, headquartered in California, is a leader in vertical farming and is taking indoor-farming to new heights. Its indoor vertical farms grow fresh and nutritious produce without using GMOs or pesticides. The company uses its proprietary vertical farming systems—that combine engineering, software, and crop science—to deliver crops that require less water and provide healthy food all year long. They recently expanded their distribution of their leafy greens to all Whole Foods locations California.

Their challenge was to develop a beta test to see if they could implement some modifications that would work in their operation. They were looking to set up continuous imaging of items that were moving past a camera. Plenty’s goal “We were looking to shorten our cycle times to make our operation more efficient. Currently, we needed to stop, have the produce scanned and analyzed, then move onto the next. This was slow and tedious.” Our movement of the produce was controlled by a Allen-Bradley PLC, but our camera system was being operated by a proprietary software using AWS / MQTT for communication. We needed to bridge the gap from the PLC and AWS.

This required connecting the network of Rockwell PLCs (Compact GuardLogix®) to a SCADA system using MQTT for reporting, but they needed to keep the MQTT side and the operations side separate. “This is RTA’s bread and butter,” James Duckett, Technical Sales at RTA explained. “It’s a simple matter of connecting two disparate protocols so that the data generated by the devices on the one side can be collected, analyzed and used on the other side to make data-driven decisions. That’s what our gateways do.”

After discussing the full list of project parameters, RTA recommended the 460ETCQT which moves data between up to five Allen-Bradley PLCs and an MQTT application, AWS or Azure. Our client was able to tag data from the data table of their PLC and map directly to established topics in an MQTT broker. This allowed access to the PLC data with no alteration to the PLC program. Best of all, the SSL transport layer protects the data moving from their operations network to the cloud. “We were able to bypass our inefficient, stop / scan / move-on method and were able to have continuous movement for our cycles.”

Installation rarely goes as planned. However, during this installation our client needed just one quick call to the RTA tech support team and both sides were exchanging data with no problems and, just like that, they were monitoring their growth houses remotely.

Our client was ecstatic because he didn’t have to change any of the PLC programing to share the data to the SCADA system. And their IT department loved that the two systems would stay independent of one another since they were able to assign an independent IP address to their MQTT connection.

A Few Months Later…

Getting feedback is half the battle to knowing that once deployed, RTA’s product is hitting the mark and the desired results and level of quality we want to ensure our product has. Here is what Jacob had to say: “We have had the device deployed for a few months at this point. We have had zero interruptions. Very satisfied.”

Real Time Automation has been delivering innovative communications solutions to the industrial automation market since 1989. RTA products seamlessly integrate process equipment so control engineers and integrators can collect, analyze and interpret the real-time data needed to improve productivity and maximize efficiencies.

RTA is an employee-owned company that specializes in making easy-to-use connectivity products, including industrial protocol gateways, embedded source code stacks and customized OEM solutions. RTA’s products are used on factory floors all over the world and are backed by industry-leading Enginerd® tech support to help save time, money and aggravation. RTA industrial protocol gateways come with a five-year warranty, are made in the USA and are always in-stock, ready to ship the same day (with orders placed before 2:00 PM Central time).

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