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Case Study


Solving the PLC problem: Copa-Data provides automation expert with independent software solution


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As of 2015, the booming industrial automation industry is worth more than $200 billion globally.

Enabling organisations to mass produce commodities and complete tasks with increased speed and quality, industrial automation has become an unbeatable ally in manufacturing environments. Although automation may reign supreme when it comes to choosing machinery, identifying the right automation software can cause headaches.

Based in the United Kingdom, DBIS provides cargo, asset, automation and resource control to enhance performance and profitability for bulk and break bulk terminals. Serving the automation, rail, marine and conveyor industries, DBIS, a leading terminal operating system (TOS) provider, has perfected a solution for smoother integration of SCADA software for all of its models of programmable logic controllers (PLCs).

The requirements

For the majority of PLCs, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) provides proprietary SCADA software, tailored specifically for use with the respective machinery. Any engineer will know the headache of finding compatible PLCs for manufacturing environments. However, for an organisation that uses a wide range of PLCs in its projects, finding software to work across the entire portfolio can prove incredibly difficult.

While having an incompatible PLC and a SCADA system does not necessarily mean the project cannot go live, it does mean that a long and tedious reengineering process is required before the transfer can take place. Often, projects will need reengineering at both at front and backend, a longwinded operation that is costly for both the organisation and its customers.

DBIS had this exact problem. As a result, the organisation started looking for a software solution that was not specific to one PLC manufacturer alone and, therefore, was capable of working across DBIS’ range of projects, regardless of the make and model. The obvious solution was to find software independent of any hardware provider. Seeking software that could be standardised for all automation platforms, DBIS sought help from independent supplier of industrial automation software, COPA-DATA UK.

The solution

By choosing COPA-DATA UK and its industrial automation software, zenon, DBIS could ensure there would be no issues integrating the software onto PLCs of different manufacturers.

zenon is open control software for SCADA and HMI applications. Organisations can use zenon for process control and visualization. zenon’s open design allows the user to create fast and user-friendly interfaces, compatible with any hardware, regardless of the machinery.

By using hardware independent software, like zenon, DBIS was able to deploy this standardised software across all its projects. Now, with zenon, DBIS can offer its tried, tested and trusted solution across the waste, mining, tunnelling to materials handling, conveyor and rail industries. However, the benefits of choosing zenon did not end with improved compatibility for hardware.

One of the greatest benefits DBIS gained from implementing zenon came from using it in the company’s waste projects. When developing standard components for use in SCADA systems for the waste industry, DBIS was able to specifically tailor these components and construct a comprehensive system in just a few days – all with the help of specific project, object and symbol tailoring from zenon. As a result, the excepted workload of these projects decreased dramatically, meaning DBIS did not need to hire additional engineers, saving both the organisation and its respective customers’ money.

Since COPA-DATA established its Partner Community in 2012, the collaboration has grown from strength-to-strength. Several DBIS engineers have since completed COPA-DATA’s bespoke training programs and now, DBIS can boast a team of engineers with zenon expertise.

“Compared with some other automation software, zenon was incredibly easy to pick up,” explained Glyn Thomas, Sales Consultant at DBIS, “Of course, there is always going to be some anxiety surrounding new software, but we find that the best way for our engineers to understand it better is to train them as early as possible.

“COPA-DATA UK offered a concise, short, but incredibly efficient training course for its software,” continued Thomas. “In fact, several of our engineers have joined the course and returned as self-confessed zenon experts, in as little as three days.”


DBIS is an official member of the COPA-DATA Partner Community. Aside from the financial benefits of joining the community, DBIS is now among the first companies to hear of zenon developments and upgrades. What’s more, whenever DBIS implements a zenon update, many of their customers are also able to reap the rewards, due to the useful support contracts.

In addition to the satisfaction of continual upgrades to the latest versions of zenon, the reactions from DBIS end customers have been positive. Customers have expressed their contentment with the graphical elements of the software, specifically for the design of reporting features and the simple usability of the software as a whole.

DBIS has been working with COPA-DATA UK and its software, zenon, since their initial collaboration in 2008. With over 7 years’ experience of working with zenon, and as an experienced member of COPA-DATA’s the Partner Community, DBIS can offer advanced and proven industry solutions to the waste, mining and tunnelling, materials handling, conveyor and rail industries helping customers make the most of the latest generations of smart industrial automation equipment.


COPA-DATA is the technological leader for ergonomic and highly dynamic process solutions. The company, founded in 1987, develops the software zenon for HMI/SCADA, Dynamic Production Reporting and integrated PLC systems at its headquarters in Austria. zenon is sold through its own offices in Europe, North America and Asia, as well as partners and distributors throughout the world. Customers benefit from local contact persons and local support thanks to a decentralised corporate structure. As an independent company, COPA-DATA can act quickly and flexibly, continues to set new standards in functionality and ease of use and leads the market trends. Over 100,000 installed systems in more than 50 countries provide companies in the Food & Beverage, Energy & Infrastructure, Automotive and Pharmaceutical sectors with new scope for efficient automation.

On zenon

zenon is COPA-DATA`s highly versatile product family for industry-specific ergonomic process solutions: from sensors through to ERP. It consists of zenon Analyzer, zenon Supervisor, zenon Operator and zenon Logic. zenon Analyzer provides templates to create tailor-made reports (e.g. on consumption, downtimes, KPIs) based on data from IT and automation. zenon Supervisor, an independent SCADA system, allows comprehensive process monitoring and control of redundant systems, even in complex networks and with secure remote access. zenon Operator guarantees, as an HMI system, safe control of machines and simple, intuitive operation – including Multi-Touch. zenon Logic, which is an integrated IEC 61131-3-based PLC system, allows optimum process control and logical data processing. As a platform-independent portfolio for process solutions, the zenon Product Family integrates smoothly into existing automation and IT environments and provides set-up wizards and templates to enable easy configuration and simple migration from other systems. The principle of “setting parameters instead of programming” is a characteristic feature of the zenon Product Family.