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Frequently Asked Questions
Welcome to our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.
If you have a question that isn't answered here, please contact us.
At Plantformance, we want to stay efficient, fast, and build something really designed for our clients... not something designed for us to make more money: 100% of our capital is owned by the founders, Dominique Wille & Rok Zupan.
A bunch of geeks with various origins. Rok Zupan is a self-made man that started his first company with almost nothing and raised-it to a significant level, after getting in touch with some projects for a large multinational company. Dominique Wille got multiple positions in large companies, worked a lot abroad with 3 expat positions. He is used to discuss with everybody from the factory floor cleaning technician to the group CEO.
At Plantformance, we are passionated by Industrial Control Systems, but also by latest IT technologies. We want to provide our clients an exceptional level of service, for a fraction of the price they would pay to some other companies. We want to give them the best, right now. As our grandparents said : you need good tools to make a good work... and in a factory you need good tools for operators to produce ! We want also give our clients the possibility of doing extraordinary things very quickly: for example installing a new application for root cause analysis, directly in the scada, in 2min
Yes... and what ? We are small but we are super-fast & efficient. We have low-cost. We can provide services that no medium to large company would be able to provide. Now the trick is that in the end we have only ONE PRODUCT. And we need to work... so our interest is that the product is just perfect, for our clients to stay with us forever. There is also a notion of respect very important to us: For Rok & Dominique it would be a personnal dishonor to get a client not happy of our services. You would not get that treatment and personnal relationship with medium & large companies ? You would just be a number
Industrial control system is not a cloud application, or something you would accept to stop tomorrow. And we understand that you could be afraid if we would stop operations tomorrow. Nobody never knows ! So what we can provide (as a paid option) is an Escrow agreement where we handle keys, schematics, passwords, etc... that becomes available should the company cease to exist. Nota: this is valid only if all contractual payments have been done on time. This way, your operations are protected on the long term.
We are based in two countries, Switzerland & Slovenia. Switzerland provides the finance, marketing, sales & management part, whereas Slovenia is the technical back-office. We have technical installations in Switzerland too, because of the long-term stability of the country, and because it offers very high level data-centers.
FactoryBrain is way more reliable than any solution on the market for industrial control system. Usually when purchasing a global solution for Scada/Hmi/Industrial applications, you will think to hardware at the end. At that point 100% of projects will start including generic equipment from major vendors. We have taken the job completely reversed, saying : how should look our hardware to be super reliable ? The answer is multiple but in a nutshell : remove all mechanical parts, remove all motors, reduce number of parts, use only high-end components (Intel),... etc... The result is a platform where software & hardware are perfectly integrated from the beginning, with an ultra-long operations time without downtime.
FactoryBrain number ONE criteria for design has been security (even in front of reliability). Daily news show that the world is changing and it is only a question of time before major issues will be published on manufacturing site breach. So we said: let's make it better than anything on market, let's use all the best-in-class technologies. We can not disclose everything but some indications are : Trusted boot, Root of trust, Keys handling, full drives encryption,... etc... your data is super safe. We even thought to fast wipe at the end of life !
This is first a consequence of the reliability design approach: we have removed everything that is not strictly needed. Today in a Rack you would find (if you dig) that there are dozens of low-voltage power supply. We have only 2 (for redundancy). That saves money drastically. We are also using a smart approach where we are buying components that are exactly what we need with a value/cost selection criteria, and finally we use all components at their full potential instead of piling solutions.
With rare exceptions (peripherals and our own boards), we use only Intel components in our appliance, with a vision on long term parts availability, and the support of a large company
Today, manufacturing sites are located anywhere in the world. Unfortunately if some countries have good infrastructures, the majority of others have still issues to provide high-availability network connections. So our FactoryBrain is designed to work independently of the factory internet or WAN connection, to allow for continuous operations. Of course in the case of WAN down, all functionalities connecting factory with overall client company network will not operate (like SAP front-end), as all services that Plantformance can provide (monitoring, support, troubleshooting, HMI services, etc...)
Your data is exactly where you it to be. In vast majority of cases, your data is in FactoryBrain, in you plant. First level of backup is as well inside FactoryBrain (or the redundant one). We can also configure backups to be made on your own systems. If you have company network (several plants), your data can also be synchronized centrally or in another plant... you choose.
Ignition is a powerful industrial application platform with fully integrated development tools for building SCADA, MES, and IIoT solutions. We do use Ignition in our FactoryBrain as it is one of the best performing industrial solution on the market today. The supplier, Inductive Automation, has 100+ engineers and sold more than 10.000 licences of the product today in the last 10 years, meaning it is something reliable with a reliable long-term support
(From Wikipedia) The human-machine interface (HMI) is the operator window of the supervisory system. It presents plant information to the operating personnel graphically in the form of mimic diagrams, which are a schematic representation of the plant being controlled, and alarm and event logging pages. The HMI is linked to the SCADA supervisory computer to provide live data to drive the mimic diagrams, alarm displays and trending graphs. In many installations the HMI is the graphical user interface for the operator, collects all data from external devices, creates reports, performs alarming, sends notifications, etc. Mimic diagrams consist of line graphics and schematic symbols to represent process elements, or may consist of digital photographs of the process equipment overlain with animated symbols. Supervisory operation of the plant is by means of the HMI, with operators issuing commands using mouse pointers, keyboards and touch screens. For example, a symbol of a pump can show the operator that the pump is running, and a flow meter symbol can show how much fluid it is pumping through the pipe. The operator can switch the pump off from the mimic by a mouse click or screen touch. The HMI will show the flow rate of the fluid in the pipe decrease in real time. The HMI package for a SCADA system typically includes a drawing program that the operators or system maintenance personnel use to change the way these points are represented in the interface. These representations can be as simple as an on-screen traffic light, which represents the state of an actual traffic light in the field, or as complex as a multi-projector display representing the position of all of the elevators in a skyscraper or all of the trains on a railway. A "historian", is a software service within the HMI which accumulates time-stamped data, events, and alarms in a database which can be queried or used to populate graphic trends in the HMI. The historian is a client that requests data from a data acquisition server.
Our experience is that in most of the cases (99%) the HMI design is based on the wishes of somebody in the organization, that might be management, operators, or the programmer. We have taken another path, as we worked with an industrial designer (not an IT guy) on the understanding of human brain, how to work with colors, symbols, to achieve a perfect match between machine & operator brain. What we provide is therefore way more efficient in operations because operator will see & understand way faster what is happening on his process. Make a trial : take somebody that does not know process of your factory, ask him to look suddenly at one screen 5 seconds and to turn to tell you what is going on. Generally he can not answer anything... With our solution, he would tell you: 2 alarms here & here, all the rest fine.
Automation integrators are great guys, that are really good at doing what you ask. But issue is that they can not focus on everything and in the end, they are not so much specialized ! We made a radical choice: one platform (ours), one scada (Ignition), and we do only that. This allows us to go very deep & very far into integration, competencies, training & knowledge. In the end we are super specialized and can provide AN INTEGRATED SERVICE, all included, without need to go out and call suppliers every minute.
Because we are using basically a generic HMI, we have built some tools that allow us to be in a ration of 1 to 10 with competitors. You factory will be probably available very quickly (talking about 1-2 weeks vs 6 months project for some integrators)
The main HMI is locked for security reasons, but it includes a complete technical support & change request system. We do modifications in general in few hours after request. This is probably faster than doing it internally :-)
It is possible to add an unlimited number of applications to the platform, but you would not get overall super-admin rights, and could not change gateway configuration parameters (but we can do it for you). Overall we are willing to provide super high reliability and this is not compatible with giving access to 100% of the system :-)
Contracting is pretty much simple: There is an initial setup fee that covers contract setting-up, build & ship appliance, design HMI & test. Then it is working on a monthly rent. If you want to stop, you just notify it with 30 days advance & contract will stop (we take back appliance). There is the possibility to buy back the equipment and HMI base to be able to continue to run your plant without us.
That's coming from experience of founders that saw very frequently clients unable to allocate enough capex to start a project, and also because we found so many systems that not attended, not updated, left in the same initial stage... we thought it would be great for our clients to use only OPEX, to outsource the difficult part of maintenance, and in the end have a single external supplier.
We also need to live from our -good- work ! Initial setup fee covers all the organization that will have to be put in place (visible part is FactoryBrain, HMI,.. but also not visible part how we will manage your equipment, your security, etc...). It covers also building the HMI for your factory, tests, implementation, and some IT-based training for users.
There is always condition that might delay invoice payment, etc.. So at beginning (3 months) basically not much because system is designed to operate in very harsh conditions... including no network or if invoice are not paid. However in this case we would not provide anymore service (HMI updates, system updates, security monitoring,...) which makes system risky to keep. After 3 months delay we will cancel service agreement.
There is no minimum duration of contract. Our solution is so great so we do not need to hook you with a multi-year contract like others. You are free to go after the first monthly payment (but please just call us to explain what did not make right for you before :-) )
Contract owner in your company has to send a scanned document asking to end-up contract. As simple as that. Of course we would ask you gently to understand why you stopped to work with us to improve our quality of service
Industrial control is a super serious domain as you would run your factory with us as a subcontractor. We are convinced we have the best offer on the market, but also that things are changing and you might want to change your strategy one day. We offer the possibility of keeping equipment & basic HMI as "buyback option". In a nutshell when deciding to stop the monthly service contract, you just indicate you want to keep equipment & HMI. In that case we will reformat box with a license of Microsoft Windows you have to provide and give you a clean install of Ignition, connected to your devices, and your HMI. Of course all the internal intellectual property and specific developments will be removed from that.
We have a very simple pricing policy that is visible on our web-site, and our margins have been already compressed to the extremes to provide our fantastic business model to you. Therefore there is no discount for mass contracting. However we like big clients and in that case we provide additional services like integration to SAP, connection to legacy systems, special global HMI at very cheap cost (or no cost)