At the service of Solution Providers
Automa's mission is to produce reliable and easily to implement software for Solution Providers, giving them concrete and professional support.
By the Editorial Staff
Automa has been producing software to make Solution Providers' work easier for about twenty years.
Whereas until a ten or so years ago the products offered only regarded the automation level, i.e. supervision and control of machines and plants, nowadays Automa also offers its customers solutions for production management (managing a work plan, making out production reports, managing stock, data collection, maintenance, traceability, etc.).
Ten years' experience in integration among the various information system levels has, in fact, led the company to study the problems in the world of EPS (Enterprise Production Systems) and MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) and to produce its first applications in this field. Following numerous direct experiences, while providing some customers with support in developing integrated solutions which went beyond their competence, the company now offers products to make supervisor communication with information systems easier and to allow Solution Providers to develop applications for production management. This process of setting up standard solutions, which fulfil numerous customers' requirements, follows down the path successfully used at the beginning of the '90s for Super-Flash - the development system for guided realisation of SCADA/HMI applications - dedicated to those who know the problems linked with PLCs well, but who are not necessarily experts in traditional procedural programming languages.
Although over the past ten years Automa has progressively specialised in integration and in the EPS/MES level of information systems, the company is strongly linked to its roots and continues to supply products for the HMI level, such as Super-Flash, with which it is possible to rapidly develop even complex supervision applications, capable of communicating efficaciously with the field. There are two main characteristics which have made this software so well-known and used worldwide: its intrinsic reliability, guaranteed by an architecture based on a sturdy and well-tested Runtime engine, and then the quality and stability of its more than 70 communication drivers. Super-Flash allows a gradual approach to the various capacities of the development system: it is possible to make HMI applications, complete with typical supervisor functions, without having to be programmers, thanks to the "aided configuration". The software has been studied to help gradual growth of users towards a more advanced level. In fact, for the more expert programmers, MicroC is available - a problem oriented scripting language, which is among the most powerful on the market and allows the potential of the development system to be extended.
Apart from Super-Flash, Automa has also developed products for specific sectors. For the pharmaceutical market, for example, the company proposes Spylog, the monitoring software conforming to "21 CFR part 11", which manages data regarding analog values collected from instruments, machines and plants.
While for the power sector Automa has produced Argo - software for environmental monitoring conforming to MD 21-12-95.
The need to make its products for supervision and monitoring communicate with the higher levels of information systems has led Automa to get to know some matters regarding the EPS/MES area and make them their own.
SIR is a system which can automate data collection from production departments, as well as communication between these and the management systems on the one hand and the field on the other. The system has already been experimented in some sectors, but, by using appropriate personalisation directly by Solution Providers, its architecture can be applied to all the production departments.
In the food sector, where having an efficacious and efficient traceability system has become a basic requirement to safeguard consumers' health and to implement the European Standards correctly, Automa offers X-Prod. The software manages traceability of materials (raw materials, semi-finished goods and finished products) in the various parts of the plant and is also able to: manage a processing order, make out production reports, manage stocks and control progress of production.
Still in the EPS sector, we found MainteX, the software for managing preventive maintenance, able to communicate with HMI level software, among which Super-Flash, and to collect the data needed to support the maintainers in their tasks directly from the field, with the aim of improving efficiency and efficacy of their interventions.
Noting the interest shown in some of Automa's solutions by expert Visual Basic and Visual C programmers, the company has decided to dedicate a line of products to them as well, to make its programs communicate with physical field devices, other supervisors or HMI applications. Where implementing the basic functions of a protocol can already be demanding, making a truly reliable communication driver can be a real undertaking. The drivers in the Communication Tools line solve the communication problems between the application and the peripherals (PLC, regulators, bus, etc.). Again for these users, Automa also offers Programming Tools - a line of "general purpose" products: kits for protecting software, 2D and 3D graphic libraries, calculation libraries, etc.
The need to face up to the subjects regarding integration, whether this be vertical (between the different levels of the company information system) or horizontal (between different applications of the same level), has led Automa to "speak different languages". In fact, to "integrate" two levels or two different types of plants/systems it is necessary to understand the problems and requirements of both the "worlds" which are to communicate with each other. This has meant the company has also been able to gain experience in spheres other than industrial automation, among which are Building Automation, CAM and web-based and web-services applications at the service of company communication.
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