If many moons have passed since you began working with programmable logic controllers, then you will undoubtedly have memories of sitting in front of a laptop, hoping that it will boot, because it contains the most up to date copy of the PLC program that you need to connect to a processor with.
Without it, there are no comments and troubleshooting will be difficult, if not, impossible. You could also remember dragging that same laptop to dozens of PLC’s to upload backups in case a future failure occurs.
Before networks were available to gain remote access to PLC’s, everything was done manually. Troubleshooting was done locally, backups were done locally, changes and documentation were all done locally.
Thankfully, networking capabilities have made these tasks simple in recent years. This evolution has allowed control engineers to focus on other tasks without the burdens of mundane administration tasks.
A good solution to the administration side of PLC’s is Rockwell’s Asset Centre. After the initial setup, Asset Centre can monitor controllers for online changes as well as log them, perform backups of project files, run backup and compare reports to report changes and organize your PLC environment to assist with project location and ease of PLC connection.
Prerequisites for a successful install
The Asset Centre agents that will monitor and collect data will need to have a path to communicate with each of the PLC’s or other intelligent devices in your OT network.
A well-planned PLC network that does not interfere with the PCN is best practice to implement instead of increasing network traffic across your PCN. Each PLC connection should have a dedicated network communication module to the PLC network to communicate with Asset Centre agents.
Deciding how to organize your facility layout in Asset Centre so that “agents” can run in their respective areas and collect for only that area is a good practice. Asset Centre only comes initially with two agents, so keep that in mind when ordering licenses. If you have a large facility with many different networks, you may need more agents to keep the areas segregated.
Organization in the Asset Centre project tree will also make finding projects easier for anyone looking to gain access for various reasons.
Asset Centre clients are the gateway for use. This software connects to the Asset Centre server and synchronizes so that the server keeps up with what projects are checked out, by whom and other events that are taking place.
Only one client can be in “Design” mode at a time to make changes to the Asset Centre project. These clients will also be the engineering stations loaded with other Rockwell software for programming and other engineering functions.
For me, I am appreciative that the days of keeping up with control system files manually are a part of history. Anytime I need change logs, an archive of backups, drive files or a myriad of other types of backups, it is all at my fingertips, organized and ready for use. I can focus on other tasks instead of trying to maintain backups and documentation for dozens of devices on my network.
Written by Brandon Cooper
Senior Controls Engineer and Freelance Writer