Software Defined Automation (SDA) empowers industrial automation engineers to increase productivity and improve factory security. Their centralized PLC management and code development platform enables single source of truth for all your PLC programs across different vendors, providing visibility into code changes, easy code retrieval and backups. Increase your factory’s security with advanced role-based user management. Reduce dependencies on proprietary control hardware through PLC virtualization on standard IT servers taking your automation to the next level.  

SDA was founded by cloud, industrial software, and industrial automation experts to empower Automation Engineers with a PLC management and code development tool to become more productive and efficient in managing heterogeneous PLC technology stacks.

Interview with Josef Waltl, Founder & CEO of Software Defined Automation.

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

Josef Waltl: Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are industrial computers controlling various processes in manufacturing and other automation environments, often called the heart and brain of industrial automation. Factories use hundreds or thousands of PLCs in their day-to-day operations. These operations, their operating conditions, or the environment around them may change over time. When they do, these PLCs need to be reprogrammed to adapt to these changes. The large number of PLCs, the differences between vendors, and their lack of connectivity make it challenging to manage and keep track of projects deployed to every individual PLC.

Software Defined Automation empowers factories to manage all their PLCs in one platform, manage them remotely and deploy the code to thousands of PLCs in minutes, which significantly reduces factory downtime. 

E.E: What’s the news about new products?

J.W: Software Defined Automation (SDA) disrupts the industrial automation technology space with an Industrial-Control-as-a-Service platform. We abstract the industrial control layer and create digital twins of physical PLCs, providing manufacturers with the ability to monitor all of their PLCs including all code deployments and changes on the shop floor, across different vendors, in one easy-to-use platform.

SDA has recently launched new features: detailed versioning with Code Change Visualizations, Code Integrity, and a client for the workstation of automation engineers. Combined, these new features allow Automation Engineers to maintain a single source of truth for PLC code across the SDA TechOps platform, engineering workstations, and the PLCs themselves. 

Code Integrity guarantees that the code on the PLC matches the single source of truth on the TechOps platform at all times. The client for the workstation of automation engineers synchronizes all code changes with the TechOps platform, enabling them to collaborate locally and in the cloud without any data loss.

These functionalities are available for current and legacy systems, like SIMATIC Manager from Siemens. 

E.E: What are the ranges of products?

J.W: Our products:

SDA TechOps – PLC management and code development platform. Single source of truth for all PLCs across different vendors. 

SDA virtual PLC – A virtual PLC running on commercial off-the-shelf IT servers with deterministic and real-time behaviour and a comprehensive vPLC management interface in the cloud. vPLC enables factories to improve flexibility, productivity, and security while at the same time gaining independence from vendor-specific industrial automation hardware and software.

E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?

J.W: Deloitte, 2023 Manufacturing Outlook: Manufacturers have increased their digital investment over the past few years and accelerated the adoption of emerging technologies (Statista, “Robotic process automation (RPA) market revenues worldwide from 2017 to 2023,” accessed September 19, 2022). Companies with higher digital maturity have shown greater resilience, as did those that accelerated digitalization during the pandemic (Amit Sinha et al., Digital Supply Networks: Transform Your Supply Chain and Gain Competitive Advantage with Disruptive Technology and Reimagined Processes (New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2020). For example, they were able to pivot faster than manufacturers with limited digital capabilities (Paul Wellener et al., Meeting the challenge of supply chain disruption, Deloitte Insights, September 21, 2022). Similarly, companies with higher digital implementation tend to have increased supply chain visibility and are better able to adapt to supply chain challenges (Ibid). Continued investments in advanced manufacturing technologies can help develop the required agility.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

J.W: Market trends: 

Lack of IT/OT tools tailored to manage complex heterogenous Industrial Automation environments.

Shortage of skilled workers – attracting and retaining talent remains a top priority.

Having the right IT/OT tools will significantly increase the workforce’s productivity and motivation within the team – having access to cutting-edge tools tailored to the needs of the 21st century makes work more efficient and fun! 

The goal of SDA is to help manufacturers unleash the full potential of their Industrial Automation Teams and empower them with a centralized PLC Management and Code Development Platform.  The platform is a single source of truth for all PLCs, even from different vendors. It simplifies the daily work of Engineers and helps them be more productive.  In addition, Automation Engineers can reduce factory downtime with deployments at scale, easily keep track of PLC code changes and make code retrieval and backups real. 

E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?

J.W: Industrial-Control-as-a-Service – cloud-based platform to manage industrial control systems in factories.

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2023?

J.W: The challenges faced by the manufacturing industry in 2022, such as supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and economic uncertainties, are expected to persist into 2023. This has led to an increased need for innovative solutions, particularly in the realm of PLC management. As the labor shortage continues, businesses are realizing that traditional methods of automation are no longer enough, and are turning to more advanced PLC management solutions to increase productivity and efficiency.

Furthermore, the trend towards leaving the silos of big automation vendors is growing, as businesses seek integrated and flexible solutions. With the continuous uptake of virtualization, companies are moving towards more open, modular systems that allow IT and OT convergence. 

While challenges remain, the industry is poised for growth in 2023, driven by the adoption of new technologies and the pursuit of greater productivity. With the increasing demand for PLC management solutions and the shift towards more flexible and customizable automation systems, companies are well positioned to overcome the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities ahead.