A reputation for quality is key to success for any business. And in the tight-knit North American lumber industry, word travels quickly.
“Everyone knows each other – and the sawmill owners regularly exchange information,” said Bruno Laplante, SCADA director, BID Group – an OEM partner within the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork™. “Fortunately, we’ve built a reputation for highly successful installations.”
As a result, BID Group is one of the largest suppliers to the wood processing industry and leads the North American market. With primary operations in Quebec and South Carolina, the company’s offerings range from equipment installations to integrated turnkey solutions featuring the latest digital technology.
“We’re the only company in the industry that offers smart, connected, turnkey manufacturing facilities,” said Vicky Drolet, marketing coordinator, BID Group. “Our unique scope of supply extends beyond the processing equipment and includes managing the civil engineering and construction of the facility.”
The Challenge: Scaling Testing to Match Demand
In recent years, BID Group has experienced dramatic growth in demand for its turnkey solutions. The high volume of simultaneous projects strained the company’s control system testing resources.
“We’ve always simulated and tested our control code before startup,” said Laplante. “But the existing emulation system relied on a limited number of physical PLC processors on racks in our facility.”
Typical sawmill projects extend across several acres, involve the integration of complex processes and disparate equipment – and require the processing power of 15 or more controllers. Given the scarcity of processors, BID Group engineers shared access and often waited until the end of a project to test it.
In addition, engineers had to convert their control programs to run the emulation software – and were losing configuration in the process. And because the final emulated project was not usable in the field, it had to be reconverted for installation on the actual physical hardware.
“The old emulator was no longer up to the task, especially given our increased project volume,” Laplante said.
From “Skeptics” to “Believers”
BID Group, relies on the Allen-Bradley® ControlLogix® 5580 platform for its turnkey solutions. To increase access to processing power for simulation and testing, the company implemented FactoryTalk® Logix Echo, a software application that emulates the behavior of the controllers.
Using the emulation software, engineers can fully test control code in a virtual environment. The software can emulate a machine, production line – or even an entire plant. Emulated controllers can also be paired with other software for a wide range of uses.
The BID Group team easily transitioned to the new emulation system.
“The process is exactly the same – whether you’re using the virtual processor or the real one,” Laplante said. “Our team was skeptical at first, because when something seems too easy that usually means something is missing in the big picture. But they came to realize it was real and efficient – and embraced the system quickly.”
The system is both efficient and cost-effective.