Internet helps users see the process; deliver intelligence

Today's ultra-competitive world requires that ''looking at your process'' delivers more than a sense of what's going on. Measurement, analysis, visualization tools and software can deliver business intelligence to the right persons, in the required units, at the right time to optimize decision-making.


SIDEBARS: Webcasts on manufacturing productivity | Devon Energy application | Design tips in browsers | Related reading


Trend and analysis

Today's ultra-competitive world requires that ''looking at your process'' delivers more than a sense of what's going on. Measurement, analysis, visualization tools and software can deliver business intelligence to the right persons, in the required units, at the right time to optimize decision-making.

That's state-of-the-art software and network capabilities of today, often enabled with Internet-based technologies. Browser-based tools allow greater insight into how the process, manufacturing line, or batch interacts with other areas of enterprise, how it aligns with business goals, and how it fits, at any moment, with others in the supply chain.

Pressures are many, including global competition; price, cost, and time-to-market pressures; customer needs; customization pressure; outsourcing; quality and efficiency; and need to improve and connect business processes. Raw data easily overloads users without providing information needed to make decisions to improve the plant or enterprise. Rather than simply collecting and viewing historical information, there's a need to gather real-time data from many sources within the plant, combine and analyze it, and turn it into useful information, personalized for individual users.

A relatively new class of software shows key performance indicators for manufacturing, design, sales, logistics, or whatever needs monitoring. These tools and others can be rapidly customized to fit users' needs and changing business goals. Several follow.

Chris Colyer, Group Industry Marketing Manager, Manufacturing, Microsoft Corp ., (Redmond, WA) discussed how Microsoft technology helped Air Products and Chemicals, a $5.5 billion gas and chemical company. The company operates in 30 countries and has 17,500 employees. Competitive pressures are forcing Air Products and Chemicals to get products to market ever faster-which requires more efficient information sharing among departments. The problem of sharing information among nearly 18,000 employees-or even among 100 employees in a department-became acute as time-to-market pressures forced the company to find better ways to share intellectual assets and collaborate. Old linear product development processes weren't fast enough. Departments need to be able to work together efficiently, in parallel, to get new products out the door quickly and respond to customers faster. Air Products' old ways of sharing information were failing to hold up in the Internet Age. Each department had created its own file share containing its own documents. Over time, however, the folder structure in these file shares became disorganized and out of date, and even the people in the department had trouble finding what they needed.

This requirement list led Air Products right to Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2001. Microsoft's new portal solution allows knowledge workers to easily find, share, and publish information. SharePoint Portal Server, based on the Microsoft Digital Dashboard Framework, provides an easy way to create corporate Web portals and integrate document management and search capabilities. SharePoint allows knowledge workers to: Browse through information by categories, Search for information, Subscribe to new or changing information, Check documents in and out, Review a document's version history, Approve documents for publication, and Publish documents.

According to George Witmer, Technical Manager of Research and Development for Air Products, "Better knowledge management is helping Air Products scientists share information and best practices more easily, and consequently should help the company get products out the door faster. ''Because users will be able to locate the information they need more quickly, SharePoint will allow us to be more responsive to customers and reduce our cost of doing business,'' Witmer states. ''Better knowledge management directly benefits customers because it enables us to offer more value to our customers than our competition can.''

Kevin Roach, Vice President, Global Solutions Business, GE Fanuc (Charlottesville, VA), part of GE Industrial Systems, says the Cimplicity Digital Cockpit, ''Collects, aggregates, and disseminates data from multiple disparate back-end sources, provides critical measurements that leaders need to run their businesses, leads to rapid, proactive and informed decisions, and allows viewing of data in real-time from anywhere.'' That includes enterprise-wide sharing of production data, data sharing with suppliers/customers, for billing, offline quality or process analysis, maintenance scheduling, inventory tracking, and machine utilization/scheduling, Mr. Roach says.

''Some analysts and leading companies believe that in two to three years, businesses that are not making daily decisions based on real-time data will struggle to survive. By implementing your own Digital Cockpit now, you can gain a competitive edge and acquire the data to make a difference for your customers and business,'' Mr. Roach adds.

The Honeywell (Phoenix, AZ) interface, ''Workcenter PKS (WPKS), picks up where ERP systems end,'' according to Jamie Bohan, Business Manager for the Honeywell Industry Solutions Uniformance product line.

''From an ERP portal,'' Ms. Bohan says, ''a user can drill down into the Workcenter PKS environment. WPKS then delivers three main functions. First, it provides the tools to monitor, analyze, and visualize information of interest to each user. Second, it allows users to capture and manage knowledge about their operations. This enables efficiency and continuous improvement. Third, and most exciting, it helps customers to integrate their use of the information with their daily work practices and to collaborate with others across the organization. This solution breaks down the organizational barriers that prevent our customers from moving to the next level of operational performance, by reaching across barriers that exist due to various disparate systems, databases and applications. It enables not only the integration of data, but also the integration of views of the data and collaboration at any level.''

She adds that Honeywell heavily leverages Microsoft .NET technologies, as well as industry standards like OPC and XML to deliver Workcenter PKS.

Intellution (whichrent view of what's important and require different ways of viewing this information. Said to leverage strength of the award-winning Intellution iHistorian plant-wide data historian, infoAgent delivers powerful analysis and visualization of production data. It presents an overall view of Key Performance Indicators (KPI), production efficiencies, and other critical production metrics, to quickly see how the plant, business, is performing. 

Iconics (Foxborough, MA) Genesis32 HMI/SCADA connects automation software, control hardware and field devices, and enterprise-wide MRP/ERP and MES systems. The Genesis32 WebHMI option is said to provide Web-based visualization via the new GenBroker Web delivery agent. The software uses OPC over TCP/IP and XML to communicate alarms, trends, and graphical data over intranets and the Internet, as well as through routers and firewalls.

Liebert Corp . (Columbus, OH) offers SiteScan Web, a client-server application supported by Microsoft and Netscape browsers to manage and maintain enterprise equipment/space monitoring.

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For additional information-

This Control Engineering Online Extra was referenced in the Control Engineering , p. 21, October 2002 Editorial, ' You look and do not see .' Click on the title to read that editorial online.

Learn more from Oct. 16 and 17, 2002, webcasts at and . The event is archived online through Jan. 17, 2003. See webcast sidebar for more information.

Search the Buyer's Guide and Automation Integrator Guide for additional resources (site registration is required).

Articles for further reading (from Control Engineering except as noted otherwise):


Devon Energy gets real-time results on system performance

To hear it from the engineer involved, it's been a dream implementation. Easy configuration, installation, and start-up, no operator training, and very satisfied users, according to Kathy Carrizales, SCADA specialist, Devon Energy (Oklahoma City, OK).

The experience causing the evangelization is Wonderware (Lake Forest, CA) SuiteVoyager 1.0, applied to the Devon Energy natural gas pipeline, providing about 75 screens of pressure, flow, product status, maintenance issues-about 75 screens showing more than 75 different sites, including compressor sites and delivery areas.

'We were seeking a solution to provide real-time, or close to real-time data to managers. Before, they had to wait for printed reports or call into gas control, then wait for a print copy fax or e-mail. By the time they saw it, it could be several hours old, sometimes.'

June 2002, Devon Energy installed SuiteVoyager. 'I don't have a big background using Wonderware, but it was quite easy to set up and for managers to use, with a few simple instructions.' After an initial test with a temporary license with a few screens, a proposal was made to management for 50 user licenses. The system now has 13,000 tags and monitors hundreds of sites. Right now Devon Energy has it set just to see information, but could enable two way communication and control.

Managers appreciate it because they have access to information they need, whenever they need it, and can dial-in from home, using appropriate security. Because it can avoid a drive to a site, Ms. Carrizales says, 'People have told me how much the like dialing in on weekends and nights.' Because the software is browser based, there's very little overhead required for users or for communications.

Added features in SuiteVoyager 1.0 will allow ability to pull data in about weather to see the full impact of ice and storms to all locations. Ms. Carrizales credits a distributor, Standard Automation (League City, TX) with helping out.

Ms. Carrizales spoke to Control Engineering on Aug. 19.

Control Engineering presents webcasts on manufacturing productivity

Control Engineering worked with four participants to do two webcasts focused on automation productivity. The webcasts-part of the Oct. 16 and 17, 2002, SupplyChainLinkExpo , an online tradeshow and conference-are archived through Jan. 17, 2003, in the Conference Hall, 'Make' Pavilion area. A Q&A session followed of each presentation. Both sessions are moderated by Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering editor in chief. Find out more about the sessions and speakers, link to the wider effort and access free event registration by clicking here .

''Everything you need to know on one screen'' talks about software that shows key performance indicators for manufacturing, design, sales, logistics, or whatever needs monitoring. Panelists advise on how to get the most from this software: Jamie Bohan, Business Manager for the Honeywell Industry Solutions Uniformance product line; Kevin Roach, Vice President, Global Solutions Business, GE Fanuc, part of GE Industrial Systems; and Chris Colyer, Group Industry Marketing Manager, Manufacturing, Microsoft Corp. This webcast is sponsored by GE Fanuc .

''Standard roadmap to manufacturing productivity'' shows how OPC Foundation improves manufacturing by delivering non-proprietary technical specifications-a common roadmap to productivity. Speaker: Tom Burke, OPC Foundation president and advisory software developer at Rockwell Automation.

Other presentations include speakers from IBM, Segway, Unilever, Microsoft, 3M, and Amana.
Click here to visit virtual expo booths, learn more, and register online.


Top 5 design tips for graphic windows in a browser environment

Fast retrieval and content is most important for users (clients) of browser-based software. Here are five design tips for graphic windows for browsers.
1. Combine real time information from multiple plants/HMI's on one window to enable users to see an overview
2. Replace moving graphics with screens showing lots of information
3. Use JPEG, GIF graphic formats
4. Use remote tag referencing to obtain real time information from any I/O Server
5. Use ActiveX controls but be aware of their limitations. They may not be designed for the Internet and will work in Intranet only situations.

Suite Voyager 2.0 enables users to view and control applications using XML based InTouch graphical windows in a browser environment.

Source: Control Engineering and Wonderware

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