Web-Based Reporting by Jim Batten, Engineer Engineered Software ...

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Nov 5, 2013 (3 years and 7 months ago)

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Web
-
Based Reporting

by Jim Batten, Engineer

Engineered Software Products

The Internet has changed the way we work, live and entertain ourselves. It is one of the most influential
technologies that is affecting our world.

The World Wide Web links computer
s and people around the world changing the way we communicate
with each other. However, the ability to network computers and access data from numerous sources is
not a new concept. The business and industrial sectors, educational centers, and the scientifi
c
community have been connected for decades.

What the World Wide Web has done is make a network of computers available to just about anyone
with access to a computer. The software, hardware and standardization behind the technology has
simplified and stre
amlined the way computers can now communicate. High
-
speed networks like T1 and
DSL provide fast connection paths that send and receive data at rates that approach real
-
time. Web
browsers, like Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, provide the software
framework to access and
interact with websites.

What are the possibilities when this technology is applied to your plant's control system? What is the
potential of such a system when the technology is applied to multiple plants, regional offices and
corpo
rate headquarters? The possibilities are limited only by the capability of your control system and
your company intranet design. The potential is measured by your ability to analyze and act on plant
data. Before we discuss the control system and intranet r
equirements needed to implement web
technology, let's first discuss the potential gains.

Say for a moment that you are a manager in a regional office with seven plants under your supervision.
It's mid
-
afternoon and you want to know the current status of y
our plants. What would it take to get that
information today?

By employing web technology you can be seated in front of your computer and, by simply opening up
a web browser, view real
-
time production information on all your plants in a consolidated repor
t
format. Web technology, applied to your plant's control system, establishes Plant Information/Web
Servers within your existing control system architecture.

When these Plant Information/Web Servers are networked to your company's intranet, the data that
resides on them can be made available to anyone on the network with security clearance. The most
significant feature of this technology is that any computer on your intranet with a web browser can
access this data.

As this is being written, the most widel
y used web browser, Internet Explorer, is still included with the
most widely used operating systems, Microsoft Windows. If you already use a Microsoft operating
system, you probably already have all the software on your computer required to retrieve plant

data
using web technology.

If you're responsible for multiple plants, you can now access data from any computer at any location
that has access to your company's intranet. You can even dial in from home and receive the same
information.

From a cost pers
pective, all this is possible without any special software requirements, expensive
licensing or configuration at the computers used for browsing the data.

So what kind of information is available from your control system? In general, if your plant's contr
ol
system is properly integrated, anything it controls or monitors can be made available in a real
-
time and
historical format.

At Engineered Software Products (ESP), we work with our clients to determine what type of data will
be most beneficial within th
eir operation scheme. Too much data can overwhelm the user, while too
little can stifle productivity.

Our approach provides a comprehensive database structure that incorporates all relative plant data. We
then provide standard report formats that can be m
odified and expanded upon. For example, our
OPENplant control system, for the aggregate industry, includes as standard a production report,
downtime report and maintenance report.

The production report is typically formatted to meet the presentation requi
rements of the plant. We can
provide production rates of tons/hr, tons/shift, previous days' production, average production, deviance
from average, etc.

The downtime reporting requires the operator to enter a reason for a downtime or idletime event (see
f
igure 1). If the plant is down because of a broken belt, the operator denotes the reason and it is stored
at the Plant Information/Web Server.

If you are not getting a 100% capacity out of each shift, the downtime report can point to potential
problem are
as that need attention. The maintenance report automatically tracks how much runtime has
accumulated on your equipment and reminds the operator when a maintenance task is due.

A preventive maintenance program is crucial for maintaining equipment in the ha
rsh environments
found in a stone quarry. Also, by tracking downtime reasons and maintenance tasks, correlations can be
discovered that point to weak links in your plant. Procurement departments can now use this data to
grade their vendors.

Repeated downt
ime due to motor failure coupled with high maintenance may indicate it's time to shop
for a new motor manufacturer. The ability to analyze data in this manner is only magnified when you
have multiple plant sites. What is learned in one region can then be a
pplied to other plants before the
same failures occur.

Analyzing what has happened is important to understanding how to prevent it from happening again,
but being able to predict what will happen before it happens is money in the bank. You may have seen
t
he commercial on TV where you watch a repairman ring the front door of a home. A woman opens the
door. The repairman proudly announces he is there to fix her refrigerator. The woman replies, "But my
refrigerator is not broken." The repairman responds, "Not

yet."

As intelligence migrates into almost every device imaginable the information we can obtain is mind
-
boggling. Device level networks like DeviceNet will already let you know when a motor is reaching its
current limit or thermal capacity. A motor that

constantly exceeds these limits will eventually fail.

The key is to put this kind of information in front of the people best equipped to fix the problem. A
Plant Information/Web server that is integrated with your control system and company intranet
prov
ides a low cost means to distribute data to virtually any computer on your network.

The amount of data you can retrieve is limited only by the design of your control system and company
intranet. The typical control system required for an aggregate plant c
onsists of a mid
-
size PLC, like
Allen Bradley's SLC PLC or GE Fanuc's 90
-
30 PLC. A high
-
speed interface is required to link the PLC
to the Human Machine Interface (HMI).

Both Allen Bradley and GE Fanuc offer Ethernet communication modules. Allen Bradley a
lso offers
ControlNet which is a deterministic high
-
speed communications LAN. The HMI needs to be computer
-
based with a software package like Wonderware's Intouch product.

The number of PLCs required will depend on the size of the plant and how it is segm
ented. The number
of HMIs will depend on the number of control rooms required. One HMI system is designated as the
Plant Information/Web Server and serves as the central data collection point for the plant's control
system.

Your intranet architecture will

depend on your company's structure. If you're a single plant operation,
your intranet may be as simple as a network of computers in your plant's main office. In fact, this is
very typical for plants that have some type of automation in their plant.

If yo
ur company structure is made up of several facilities, regional offices and a separate corporate
location, your intranet would consist of any office or plant that has computers that are networked
together via routers and gateways (see figure 2).

For most
plants, there is a gap between the control system network and the company's intranet. Larger
companies will have an engineering department that manages the control system networks and an
information services (IS) department that manages the intranet.

The
key to successfully implementing web
-
based reporting is bridging the gap between these two
networks. It is also important to bridge the two groups that manage these two networks. As you may
already know, engineering and IS departments usually have differen
t philosophies when it comes to
implementing and managing a network.

The bridge that links these two networks will most likely need to be customized to meet the
requirements from both engineering and IS. Consideration will have to be given to the amount o
f
network traffic that will be added once the bridge is completed. Steps may have to be taken to
implement a second level of Plant Information/Web Servers on the IS side of the network to help
manage the amount of traffic on your intranet.

The control sys
tem network is the lifeline that operates your plant. The intranet is the lifeline that
operates your business. Implementing a web
-
based reporting scheme will demand planned steps that
insure system integrity for both networks.

Once the bridge is complete

the potential will be measured by your ability to analyze and act upon the
data. Web
-
based reporting can be implemented by using standard off
-
the
-
shelf software available and
used by millions of people worldwide. With Internet Explorer you can view pre
-
co
nfigured reports.

Other software programs like Excel and Lotus provide a simple user
-
friendly tool that allows you to
analyze and create your own custom reports or even view raw data downloaded through the Web
connection (see figure 3). A reporting method

that uses web
-
based technology provides a low cost and
effective means to distribute data to a large number of users. Bridging the gap between your plant's
control system and your intranet unleashes the power of an open architecture system.