Going South of the Equator

Reliable Automation with versiondog at Aluminum Producer ALUAR 

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The Backstory

Aluar is one of the largest aluminum producers in the world and Argentina’s only producer of primary aluminum. Since the beginning, Aluar has maintained its commitment to delivering the highest quality in both its products and services. Aluar’s commitment to excellence in all processes matches its commitment to continuous improvement and development. Naturally, this approach also applies to its automation department.

Between 2005 and 2010, Aluar went through a large period of growth, resulting in upgrades at several production facilities. These upgrades included an expansion in the number of PLCs (predominately Siemens S7-300 and S7-400), increasing them from 100 to 300.

The Need: Better Documentation and Version Control

Not long after problems began to arise in the established workflow and version control procedures for managing the control program software. Before Aluar’s growth phase, these procedures were done using manual backups and documentation. An increase in the number of automation and maintenance staff (>100 users) also coincided with more reports of infrequent and incomplete documentation of software versions. These inconsistencies required additional work when it came to bug tracking and detection. It also increased the risk of incidents that could affect operations, result in production interruptions, and increase safety hazards.

Critical Requirements

  • Version control for binary/proprietary data
  • Customizable user permissions
  • Automation of audit tasks

The Solution

Aluar installed versiondog at its main facilities, where it worked with the casting process, electrolysis process, anode manufacturing, and peripheral equipment used for fume treatment and material flow. Additionally, versiondog supported areas such as transport and infrastructure when it came to climate control, gas, and water supply.

Aside from its central role in version control, versiondog also helped in other areas. All the processes, tasks, and equipment that Aluar used needed auditing for quality reasons. Backups of all controller units were made automatically every week. If the last version that was backed up did not match the version running on the system versiondog would detect it. This gives the maintenance staff the ability to react quickly and correct the problem before having to suffer greater consequences.

Aluar also chose to add versiondog’s EasyClient, which contains all the basic functions necessary for managing data in an automated production environment. Due to its ease of use, versiondog EasyClient is a favorite of maintenance staff members who do not have an in-depth knowledge of the versiondog software. The versiondog EasyClient list of functions includes Check-Out, editing, creating versions, and Check-In of components. These functions allow users to make changes, create documented versions and backups of software development stages quickly and easily. 

Case Closed

versiondog gives Aluar ongoing documentation, clarity, and traceability, which provides more certainty, safety, and security. Federico Ares of Aluar says: “At no point has Aluar regretted its decision to introduce versiondog. On the contrary, the software and the benefits that it has brought are so great that nowadays none of us would want even to consider the idea of working without it.” 

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“In my opinion, the greatest benefit that working with versiondog brings is that it gives us the chance to take our best practices to the next level, allowing us to keep our repository structure in order, review changes quickly and efficiently, lock components to avoid conflicting versions, all this while reducing considerably the management effort. Naturally, machine safety and dependability is greatly benefited as a result of this.”

 

Federico Ares, Automation Project Engineer bei Aluar

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