In 2002 John March and Co, Melbourne's oldest electrical contracting company, had a nice, steady business making control panels for high speed, clear plastic roller doors for factories. The door mechanisms were being made to measure in Australia by John March's customer, under license to a German company, with controls added locally using an off the shelf Japanese PLC.
Then the whole thing looked as though it might unravel for John March. The principal in Germany
switched from using a simple cam and microswitch arrangement for sensing the door position, to
using a rotary encoder (actually, one out of the steering of a well-know German prestige car).
This rotary encoder had an RS422 serial interface with a proprietary protocol. There was no
way they could interface the encoder into a regular PLC, and it looked like they might lose
However, Graeme Morse, managing director of the company, decided not to give up without a
fight. He instead approached SPLat Controls for a solution. In Graeme's own words: "SPLat
had been trying to get a foot in our doors for a while, and this seemed like the time to
test their claims of inventiveness and problem solving".
We got hold of a sample encoder, and in under a day had its data format reversed engineered.
A few weeks later the first prototypes of a custom SPLat controller board were delivered,
complete with an encoder interface. In the process of designing the board we also discovered
that a new safety sensor was also somewhat unusual, and quietly incorporated a solution for
that into the design.
The custom SPLat controller not only costs less than the PLC it replaced, it provides better
functionality with a nice LCD operator interface and intelligent configurability. It has been
in production ever since.
That's how we rescued John March's business.
John March and Co
High speed roller doors for factories, loading bays, cool rooms
Controller type:Custom SPLat
Key features:Interface for proprietary rotary encoder, interface for unusual safety sensor
Programming:Done by SPLat
SPLat advantage:Enabling technology, added product features, support