The Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) now enjoys better monitoring and control of all its mechanical and electrical equipment at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, following an extensive upgrade of the information and automation systems involved.

Benefits ranging from lower licensing fees to better alarming functionality, prevention of data loss in case of a server failure and increased availability of information, are flowing from Randburg-based Process Control and Integration Technology's upgrade of ACSA’s Infrastructure Monitoring and Control System (IMCS). This system’s functions range from applications such as controlling lifts and escalators to providing historical data for management reports, such as how many times a lift has broken down over a specified period.
The project, which ran from September 2005 to May 2006 due to network infrastructure changes on the ACSA local area network (LAN), primarily revolved around upgrading the existing system to Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk View SCADA Package.
“Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk View’s main benefit is that it is a much more stable platform than the previous generation SCADA software,” explains Process Control and Integration Technology’s Ulrich Brahim. “The network capabilities allow it to be distributed further with greater reliability than before.
"Direct reference tags, as part of Rockwell Automation’s integrated architecture approach, also offer huge benefits, ranging from faster installation times to reduction of human error and more efficient system operation. Another benefit was that the migration from RSview32 to FactoryTalk View was a seamless process and reduced the engineering time considerably.
“The support from Rockwell Automation during this intense project was excellent,” Brahim enthuses. “Their software department assisted us throughout installation and their technical help desk was also very pro-active with regard to any problems experienced.”
ACSA’s IMCS consists of many stand-alone systems that individually monitor and control different sub-systems. Each sub-system gathers information from the monitored variable and the information from the IMCS servers is then displayed graphically, while also being logged and processed. All these sub-systems are interconnected using various protocols and network topologies.
Information is gathered using various network types – Ethernet, DH485, Modbus and Profibus. The servers and all the main controllers are connected using Ethernet. DH485 is mainly used where a connection between two or more controllers is necessary, while Modbus and Profibus are used in the case were the controllers are connected to third-party devices.
All programmable logic controllers are Allen-Bradley PLCs, using software such as Rockwell Automation’s RSLogix 500 to function and integrate with the overall system. All existing controllers are in the process of being changed over to the ControlLogix software platform, in line with the Integrated Architecture approach.
"If you look at the benefits of the new system to ACSA, FactoryTalk View’s redundancy capability means that data loss in case of a server failure is no longer a problem. The data and HMI servers can be configured for full redundancy,” Brahim explains.
“The software package now allows the system to gather data related to availability, downtime and MTTR (mean time to repair). ACSA makes extensive use of this data in its monthly performance reports. And, due to FactoryTalk View’s central alarm and data logging functions, the alarm functionality is easily configured with greater reliability.
"The cost saving on license fees was on average about 25%.”
Tessa Clase, Head of Department: Systems and Support at ACSA, says the ease of use and seamless connectivity to clients have been the most impressive features of the new system. Data reliability through redundancy measures, data precision and variety and integration across reporting platforms have transformed the overall system into a modern day tool upon which the company relies heavily on a daily basis.