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Beckhoff PLC Ignition Gateway Integration

Enhancing Industrial Automation

At Pigler Automation, we understand the importance of seamless communication and integration within industrial control systems. Our recent project addressed a customer’s need for effective Beckhoff PLC Ignition Gateway integration.

The customer, a manufacturer of oral implants for the dental industry, purchased an Ignition SCADA Control System to pair with their existing PLCs, including Beckhoff and Allen Bradley. They wanted to take advantage of Ignition’s MES module and data-collection capability to compile specific data on the performance of the machines manufacturing the oral implants. Their goal was to fine-tune the equipment they used to manufacture these implants to increase efficiency while decreasing costs. They set up the Ignition control system with their machinery and PLCs; however, they still were not getting the data they needed. They were stuck. They had invested in an advanced control system but did not have the in-house expertise to make it as beneficial as their business demanded.

Undeterred by the initial setback, the customer proactively reached out to Pigler Automation with a clear set of goals. They were determined to define the communication between their PLCs and Ignition without relying on APIs and to define PLC-to-PLC communication. The customer also sought to access the digital data on their PLCs to identify opportunities to maximize system architecture. Lastly, they were eager for a roadmap to build a fully optimized system.

Turning an Industrial Controls System Investment into an Operational Advantage

After carefully listening to the customer’s challenges and goals, we recognized the need for a two-pronged approach to addressing them. Understanding that the customer’s Ignition control system was relatively new and mostly ran out-of-the-box programming, we knew the much-needed development and integration required a build from the ground up. We were confident that our LAUNCHPOINT™ solution was the best fit for addressing the customer’s goals and helping them turn their control system investment into an operational advantage. In the interim, to provide more immediate support for the customer’s factory, we initiated an EXPERTCONNECT+™ support contract to help maintain operations as we compiled our LAUNCHPOINT™ findings.

System Review

Our first step was to conduct a comprehensive review of the current system. Starting with the current system architecture, we meticulously developed a package of architecture diagrams that depicted the current structure of the overall network along with details of the subsystem architecture. Next, using the Ignition tag exports from the customer’s Ignition Gateways, we carefully reviewed the current IO List to gain additional context about the system. We created detailed documentation of the current system architecture and IO List that the customer could use as a living document to reflect changes and updates to the system.

Customer Goals

Our next step was to address the customer’s goals, starting with the customer’s desire to establish communication with Beckhoff PLCs without APIs, define PLC-to-PLC communication, and access the digital data available on the existing PLCs. We outlined an overview of the customer’s current Beckhoff System and how it communicates within the Ignition Gateway using API scripts, and then we reviewed Beckhoff PLC Communication options. Beckhoff PLCs have built-in, industry-standard Modbus and OPC-UA communication functionality, making them easy to integrate with Ignition without reliance on API scripting. Beckhoff PLCs are not the only PLCs the customer utilizes in their factory, so it was essential to define effective PLC-to-PLC communication and develop with varying levels of difficulty based on the manufacturer’s setup using Consumed & Produced Tags and Ethernet/IP scan communication.

Future Growth and Integration Solutions

After assessing the customer’s current system, we identified many opportunities to improve and optimize their Ignition, PLC, and Cybersecurity Framework. These recommendations included scripting changes in the customer’s Ignition system and improving how Perspective is utilized when monitoring the manufacturing equipment. This would involve developing a full package of HMI screens to display data, alarms, and warnings.

The PLC recommendations included setting up OPC-UA communication from the Beckhoff PLCs, which would allow for removing the current APIs handling communication and adding new PLCs as a funnel to streamline communication between different plant locations and the Ignition Gateway. We would also utilize virtual machines for PLC software installation to minimize compatibility conflicts between PLCs. Working with the customer’s IT team, we made recommendations for the system’s security, including maintaining an updated control system, staying informed about security updates, regularly updating software packages used in the system, replacing any outdated hardware, and performing routine firmware maintenance and updates.

Using our findings and recommendations, we created a detailed report providing a roadmap for future growth and outlined how our recommendations could be implemented. We understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so our recommendations to the customer needed to include a few different options.

Tailored Solutions for Lasting Partnerships

Using our findings and recommendations, we created a detailed report providing a roadmap for future growth and outlined how our recommendations could be implemented. We understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so our recommendations to the customer needed to include a few different options:

  • EXPERTCONNECT+™ Contract: Extension of the existing support contract for addressing real-time issues.
  • EXPERTFUSION™ Contract: Providing dedicated engineers for part-time or full-time support to assist with implementing Beckhoff PLC Ignition Gateway integration recommendations.
  • Open Consulting PO: An open purchase order invoiced hourly for flexible project support.


From Stuck to Unstuck

The customer came to us feeling stuck and wondering what they needed to do with their current control system setup. They had invested in a control system that offered efficiency and data collection but required a more intensive setup than initially anticipated. We provided them with the immediate support they needed while building a roadmap and recommendations for future growth. Now, they have the necessary options to create a successful path forward and establish a lasting relationship with Pigler Automation to support them.