102. Idea – Integrating Microdrives with Ethernet IP Transcript

Matthew: 00:00 

You can do more as an integrator. You can do more with your control system design. You fortify it to be as user-friendly as a possibly can be for the end user specifically the end user’s maintenance personnel. These are things that, that you should, in my opinion develop your control systems too.

Chris: 00:27

Welcome to EECO Asks Why. A podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights the heroes that keep America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger. And on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features and benefits on products that come to market. Instead, we focused on advice and insight from the top minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world.

So welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we have an idea episode and I’m very excited to have back with us, Mr. Matthew Simmons, he is a controls engineer at Anco and joining Matthew I have Harvey Eure who works at EECO as a product manager and very excited. We’re going to be talking about a topic. That’s pretty cool. We’re going to be talking about integrating micro drives with Ethernet IP.

And Matthew has a lot of experience with this at Anco and he’s been very gracious and willing to talk with us about this topic. And we know this type of information a lot of people are trying to do this in the future, or maybe trying to do it now and figure this out. So we thought why not bring in an expert and help us walk through it?

So welcome Matthew and Harvey. How you guys doing? 

Matthew: 01:41 

How you doing? Thank you. Thank you for having a meeting once again, Chris, I greatly appreciate it. 

Chris: 01:47 

Tell us just a little bit about Anco and what you guys do. 

Matthew: 01:51 

All right. Absolutely. Well,as you stated, I am the controls engineer currently for Anco Rendering Equipment and Anco is a OEM machine builder.

It’s been around for 105 years, so we have quite a bit of longevity here in the rendering industry, but really what does that mean? It means that we build OEM equipment for different rendering processes for the meat processing industry. So anywhere from batch, continuous cookers, all the way to odor control systems all the way down to individual DOA grinders we manufacturer all of that equipment and house. And then myself, I’m the one that would go in and actually develop implement and commission the automation processes that go along with our various types of OEM equipment. 

Chris: 02:53 

Cool, man. So did I hear that right? 105 years old. 

Matthew: 02:57 

That is correct. The company has been in existence for now over 105, so probably 106 years. Yep. So Anco has been around for a long time. 

Chris: 03:08 

Oh doubt. That’s impressive. That’s great. And for the listeners and people watching, if you want to learn more, we’ll put in the show notes, all the links to to Matthew directly, as well as to Anco so you can check out some of the cool stuff they do.

So maybe get a started Matthew and Harvey. And let’s start with the basics is always good. Particularly when you’re talking to somebody like me, who’s not as sharp as you two guys, when you talk  microdrives what are you talking about there? 

Harvey: 03:34 

I can take that one. Micro drive is typically 40% smaller than a traditional drive and traditional industrial drive.

It’s a smaller footprint because it’s meant to be put into a control panel. It typically doesn’t have the higher horsepowers. It goes up to 40 from zero to 41 to 40 horsepower, and typically used in smaller motors, like conveyor motors. And it also has a electromechanical interference filtering so that it doesn’t interfere with the other electrical components inside the cabinet. And it’s used typically inside control panels. 

Chris: 04:15 

Gotcha. Gotcha. Cool. And I guess, so Matthew, you guys started primarily using a lot of micro drives in your process there? 

Matthew: 04:21 

Not typically. So when I first learned about this with the Yaskawa, I was very excited. Harvey pretty much nailed it.

A smaller footprint and my automation in the applications we use. There are a lot of machines that are using low horsepower, have 220 horsepower. To go from the traditional VFD to a microdrive, it was very advantageous for, as it, in terms of my design. 

Chris: 04:51 

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And when you think about drives and how they’re traditionally installed you’re talking about Ethernet IP, maybe help us, the people who are not familiar or don’t know so much about the traditional wiring methods, what does that look like?

Matthew: 05:08 

Great question, Chris. So traditionally you have a hard wire signal from the PLC to the VFD for your speed control your reference, your speed reference back to the PLC and whatever other signals that you want to get back from the VFD drive. That can be pretty laborious, it gets the job done without a doubt, but what Ethernet IP allows you to do which that being a communication protocol it allows you to extract that same data that I just mentioned along with much more data from the drive, from a KPI standpoint. 

Chris: 05:51 

Sure. Sure. So you can pull a lot of stuff, versus just I think I’m hearing you right. Versus just those inputs and outputs that you wire hard-wiring with that app, with that Ethernet connection you’re getting everything.

Matthew: 06:07 

You can get everything, but most importantly, you’re getting customized information from that drive that pertains to the end-users process. So say you want to not just know the speed that the job is actually running at versus the command that you give in it. You can now monitor the drives, the motors, RPM, the torque.

You can get that kind of information. You can get alarm information as far as, what may be going wrong with the drive. Traditionally that’s information that you don’t have access to through a hardwire connection. Primary example is, if there’s a fault in the drive and during the process running an operator is not going to know that. And more importantly, the system is not going to be able to provide that type of information because it’s only going to be looking at a hard-wired alarm signal, whereas a, Ethernet connection can give you what that alarm or fault is and give you a specifically what’s going on and what’s wrong with the drive.

And that information is going to be very important for a maintenance technician to know, so that instead of trying to figure out, “Okay what’s wrong. What’s going on with this drive? Why isn’t it Working?” They have that information more readily available to them, spending less time trying to figure out what’s going on with the drive and they can react and respond faster to resolve an issue.

Chris: 07:51 

Cool. Cool. At the core of it, though, when you’ve talked about Ethernet IP, and we’ve talked about that a lot on the show and just that network protocol but why did you choose Ethernet IP? Why have you guys walked that route? 

Matthew: 08:05 

So there’s a lot of different protocols, Ethernet IP just happens to be the most popular for one in this part of the world.

And it has its advantages of course you have Modbus, which that’s also another protocol that I’ve used to communicate with these microdrives. But again, Ethernet IP, it’s the protocol along with Modbus that seems to work best for my particular systems. Yeah. And this is the network protocol that you use.

You got to curated to your application. So Ethernet IP, it just happens to be very functional and makes a lot of sense for my applications. 

Chris: 08:48 

No doubt. For Harvey, I know you support drives all across with a lot of different types of clients and applications. Are there any other network protocols that you’ve seen out there that people used it work similar or just that you have experience with?

Harvey: 09:02 

Yes. Probably the the Siemens of Profinet, Profibus is as popular Modbus can yeah, there’s a number of different protocols that are used, but definitely Ethernet IP as one of the most popular, 

Chris: 09:19 

I guess you’re seeing the same, a lot of the same factors that Matthews is pointing out to why they chose a network protocol over the hard wiring with a lot of these different applications too.

Harvey: 09:30 


Chris: 09:32 

Okay. Very cool. So Matthew, thanks for that. How about, people watching and listening, when they’re digging into topic like this, they want to know bottom line, a lot of times that comes down to the financials. What type of impact do you see going this route versus traditional.

Matthew: 09:46 

What I’m observing in the industry that I serve in and not just that industry is there’s becoming a greater emphasis, placed them on preventative maintenance. We understand as system integrators anytime a production system is down or a component of that production system is down downtime equals loss and money.

So the ultimate goal and why Ethernet communication with drives is so important is because what we are creating is the opportunity for a maintenance manager, a maintenance team member to now go from reactive maintenance to preventative  maintenance. Ethernet IP allows maintenance personnel, greater insight into the actual performance of the production system.

They can extract if they have access to specific data, whether it comes from drives or the PLC, they can get a better, they can get more insight into how that system is performing and maybe get ahead of some pitfalls that typically aren’t noticed until it’s already too late. So there is a big financial impact to implementing Ethernet IP with VFD drives and that’s the main driving factor right there.

Chris: 11:12 

Yeah, that’s really cool. And I typically think of a financial impact maybe being that installation cost. Can you speak to that too? Is that it’s being done as a lower cost. You had that one cable to land versus all those different hardwired data points. Does that factor in, at all for an OEM like yourself?

Matthew: 11:30 

Absolutely. Absolutely. It does. Like I said, you’re traditionally, you’re typically looking at least a minimum of, to hardwire connections. And people don’t often people aren’t into, you know, control panel design. You don’t think about that, that’s a hardwire connection, that’s a component in the PLC cabinet. Every time you have to send a hardwire signal to a job and vice versa, and then if you get a specific list of the type of information that the customer wants to get, that’s a hard wire connection. So that’s more physical IO points that drives up, not just the cost of the fabrication itself, but that could potentially drive up the cost of the actual PLC hardware itself.

So having just one, either led connection per drive, going to a managed or unmanaged switch, that’s also talking to your PLC you have reduced your wiring footprint in the control panel. And you’re still getting more data than you would get from the traditional hardwire methods. 

Chris: 12:41 

Gotcha. But man, there’s people out there, Matthew and Harvey, you too.

Maybe you can help with this one. That’s thinking, “Yeah, but I don’t trust that blue hose.” What would you say to people like that? 

Harvey: 12:53 

Internet has been proven. It’s been around for a while. One of the nice things about these drives is that it comes with communication cards and make it very easy to Daisy chain from one drive from the switch from one drive to the next.

Chris: 13:08 

Okay. So basically just, Do it right. And do it. 

Matthew: 13:13

I understand the reservations but at the end of the day Harvey really spoke a lot of truth to the matter Ethernet IP and the use of it is a sign of the times. It is part of the progression of automated control systems.

And honestly, even from a maintenance standpoint, if you are troubleshooting a system and you’re relying on control prints as much easier to know that all you have to worry about is unplugging, Ethernet connection. If it comes down to it, replacing the microdrive itself. And plug it back in and you’re back up and running in a matter of minutes where it could be a little bit more laborious, when you’re having to deal with the hardwire connections.

Cause now you’ve got to makes sure that you keep track of, “okay, this connection goes to this, these set of terminals on the drive.” So on and so forth. I’ve seen this in the field and I’ve experienced this in the field and it’s a pain, it is a pain. 

Chris: 14:21 

So you guys are painting a wonderful picture and you make me question why everyone had to go do a dry start-up traditionally, but I did have to do it back in the day.

And so what now I know it’s not all cupcakes and rainbows. There’s gotta be some headwinds somewhere, maybe something that you’ve learned along the way, either one of you, with projects like this and with implementing a technology like this, or a solution like that. Talk about that because that could really be helpful for people watching 

Matthew: 14:47 

From my standpoint, just not understanding how to use it with the drive. Harvey alluded to this earlier, these microdrives can accept and work with different protocols. So there’s different option cards available. You have to know the right type of card to use. You have to know how to correctly integrate the add-on instruction for that option card, with the PLC otherwise you’re going to have communication issues. 

Harvey: 15:16 

That’s one of the important thing is that when you specify the drive that you understand the communications network, that’s like basic questions. Like how big is the motor? What does the full load amps? What’s the horsepower. I just need to understand what the communication network is to be able to provide the right card with drive.

Matthew: 15:36 

And it becomes even more important, Chris, when you’re integrating this into an existing end-users control network. It’s a little easier to manage when you’re doing this on a private network, but say you’re integrating drives or you’re doing a retrofit and you’re having to place these jobs on an existing end-user’s network it that all becomes even more important.

Chris: 16:02 

Now you primarily use, I’ve tried just going off memory Rockwell solutions for a lot of your control, your PLC. So you mentioned the add-on instruction that you had to incorporate any tips there for people viewing or listening that may want to, that could help them once when you’re specifically talking about add-on instructions with the drives that you’ve learned?

Matthew: 16:25 

Yes. Yes. The most important thing is offer a pretty intuitive and wide range of add-on instructions that pertains to the amount of data that you can send or receive from the drive. So as one, it’s very important to pick the right add-on instruction for your application in terms of the information that you want to extract. And from the drive and the information that you want to send to the drive. 

Chris: 16:56 

Okay. Is that because let’s say I pick the wrong one. What’s the factors there? Am I potentially impacting process time and speed of the equipment? I’m just curious of what the driving factors are.

Matthew: 17:06 

Really, it comes down to how much information the end user wants to, extract and store. Yaskawa did a great job of having just a basic, your basic, very minimal add-on instruction and then building up from there in terms of with this add-on instruction you can extract and view on the HMI or pulls in the PLC this set of data. If you go to this AOI, then you’ve got this much more data that you can view  and essentially control. 

So you do have to do your research, but as far as integrating it directly with Allen Bradley you have to get the add-on instruction sizing correct.

It has to be, it has to be compatible so that the PLC can properly recognize all of the parameters within that animal destruction. I’ve ran into it. I ran into that issue where I did not size the AOI correctly, the Allen-Bradley program, it created a communication error. So that’s something that you do have to be mindful of as a system integrator.

Chris: 18:25 

And I guess you had to chase that for awhile. So you found that problem. 

Matthew: 18:28 

Yes, I did. 

Chris: 18:30 

Yeah. That’s where you learned though, man. That’s what it’s all about. 

Matthew: 18:33

Yeah, correct. That is when you learn.

Chris: 18:36 

You talked about process improvement a little bit earlier where you were talking about PMs and how that has improved that part of the process, any other areas of the overall process that you’ve seen improved by putting the drives on the network?

Matthew: 18:51 

Yes, I have I have a customer that actually did comment on just being able to view. One, they were surprised that they had, such that they had access to the data that they did have. And that was that was a surprising find for me to know that there was a lot of end-users who they have these processes.

They want to know certain data and they want to be able to have a way to record and store that data and report that data. They do not know to the extent what kind of data they can actually pull. So it does all come back to having greater insight into the control system that allows our end users to better navigate their production systems get a better insight to this motor’s towards the end of his life. Maybe it’s time to schedule some maintenance before it goes down or, “Hey, I’ve got this set of data now, we may need to make some adjustments to our process throughput”, et cetera. 

Harvey: 19:58 

One of the benefits of variable frequency drives is there’s less stress on the production. There’s less stress on the belts used to transfer the power from the motor to the conveyors. There’s less inrush current so you don’t have as much pull on your main electrical system. So it’s just helps to extend the life of your mechanical systems in your production area. 

Chris: 20:24 

Speak to the mechanical or electrical technician. That’s out there in the plants that are working on this equipment and they get a call because the drive never fails at eight o’clock Monday morning. It’s usually about one o’clock in on Saturday night. So what does that process look like for swapping them out? Getting them back online. Do they need a controls engineer like yourself to do that? Or is it a simple matter of plug and play? Just curious on what that process looks like for when something happens and you need to make a change.

Matthew: 20:54 

Yes. It really is as simple as plug and play. It really is if any day traditionally you used to need someone in my role when they come in and actually put the parameters back in manually on a ke pad Yaskawa has done a great job of really eliminating that. Whether you’re still using a touchscreen method or excuse me, a keypad method, or you’re using Ethernet IP communication. 

Chris: 21:26 

Okay. Very cool. So I learned something there. I thought there may be some configuration, but it sounds like it’s plug and play, which just made my day even easier if I’m having that happen in the middle of night. So thank you for that, man. 

Matthew: 21:37 

And again, that does one important thing to keep in mind, Chris. It all comes down to how the control system was designed at the end of the day. And the great thing about the Yaskawa drives that I really enjoy is the complimentary software. So Drive Wizard is an awesome figuration software for these jobs and that’s where all the parameters are.

It really doesn’t matter if they’re using Ethernet communication with the drives or not. There’s an ability to dump the parameters right in and be up and running in a matter of minutes versus hours or even days.  

Harvey: 22:22 

The maintenance process should be to back up the data on your drives. It’s as easy as looking in a USB cable, backup your profile for each drive. That way, when the drive does go down and you have a backup copy, you’d install the new drive, and then you upload the new parameters to the new drive and you’re up and going.

Matthew: 22:40 


Chris: 22:41 

Both of you guys are very excited, obviously about drives and how they run. I’m just curious on the the free software ,brought a question to mind and this is a funny one. 

So you got free software door over here and you have the open bar door over here. Which door are you walking through? Man? You’re going through the open bar. You’re going to get that free software. 

Matthew: 23:00 

Both doors, but I’ll walk them through the the free software door first. We’ll go through that one first 

Chris: 23:11 

And then we’ll slide over. 

Harvey: 23:13 

It’s a free telephone call 1-800-YASKAWA. They have excellent application engineers that will help you walk you through any of the setup process. 

Matthew: 23:22 

One other benefit  that really excited me is, from a maintenance standpoint, you don’t even need to install the drive before you configure it, because it can be configured without any AC or DC, power on it.


Chris: 23:37

cool, man. Very cool. We also love to just give advice and to help people in their journeys when they’re trying to figure it out topics like this. Man, what did, what have you learned anything in particular that really stood out when you started making that transition to integrating the VFDs on a network that you feel could really help others and along the same path?

Matthew: 23:57 

Yes. And the biggest thing for me as a system integrator is this. Moving to that protocol has streamlined my development process. My overall engineering process, from the programming to configuring to commissioning in the field is just, it’s brought a lot of ease to my overall.

Chris: 24:20 

Okay. Call it EECO Asks Why Matthew, you’ve been on here before, you know how have this wraps up with the why. Because we’re really want to get down to that to help people. So when you think about embracing this technology, you got people talking about Ethernet IP, and they’ve been dealing with drives for forever, but why is it important for them to embrace this type of technology to, really grow in the future for manufacturing?

Matthew: 24:45 

It makes too much sense. When you’re working with drives many people in my position, work with various brands of drives. We’ve all seen and been through and lived through some horror stories in terms of working with drives when it comes to Ethernet IP and using that communication protocol, or even a communication protocol, Modbus, TCP, you can do more as an integrator. You can do more with your control system design. You fortify it to be as user-friendly, as it possibly can be for the end user specifically the end users maintenance personnel. These are things that, that. You should, in my opinion develop your control systems to.

So at the core that you’re talking about, whether it’s you have a customer that wants to integrate or report data to a kept server or an ignition server. So if you’re talking data acquisition, if you’re talking about reducing operation downtime when you’re talking about, just having a better design control system. You need to seriously consider implementing and integrating  Ethernet IP communication into your design. 

Harvey: 26:09 

Yaskawa has made it very easy to put in the Ethernet IP communications card. Very easy to install, very easy to set up, and easy configuration to the network. 

Matthew: 26:21 


Chris: 26:21

I think when I heard both of you talking and Matthew, you went through the why there, I wrote down four words that it really stood out, that I think is at the heart of our conversation.

You can do more. And that you can do more out there. There’s so much available out there and, inside the smart devices and drive is a very intelligent device. But using this type of approach makes it a lot easier to access that data. And then once you have the data, like you said, Matthew will not, you put it into the kept server or how you’re utilizing it. If you have the access to the data and you can do so much with it and make so much better decisions in the moment. 

Matthew: 27:00 

Correct. And so the biggest thing for me has been helping my customers gradually understand the importance of why their control systems are configured the way they are to help them get the information that they may want or that they need from an industry standpoint.

Again. There are a lot of companies out there that do leverage the use of ether, net RP. There’s also a lot that don’t and they are missing out on the vast benefits of having their control system configured with either net IP communication.