Benefits of Calculated Variables

As an engineer in a manufacturing facility, you are excited that management has purchased and implemented a plant wide Information Management system, or PIM. This gives you the ability to collect and store process data, and to display both real time and historical process graphs which allow you and the operators to better understand the process. You can finally trend important process variables next to each other in order to visualize relationships that you suspect exist, and to use historical data for accurate diagnosis of problems, for example, was it lube oil pump failure, or loss of cooling water that led to the recent shutdown of a compressor?

Not long after you start doing your time based analysis of data, you develop the desire to trend not just raw process data, but modified versions of that data. In the simplest example of calculated data, a single trend might be modified by a constant. A chemical addition flow may be reported as gallons per minute, but you want to discuss and track that value as pounds per hour.

Another common scenario involves combining  two or  more tags. Perhaps you have an inlet and outlet pressure to a scrubber.  As the flow through the scrubber changes both values change and it would be better to monitor a single differential pressure rather than comparing two changing trends.

A second example of combining tags would be multiplying the total flow of a stream by the concentration of a component, perhaps the consistency of solids in the stream, to create a flow rate of just the solids. Even if the consistency value comes from a lab test, PARCview will pull the value in, and properly time synchronize and combine it will the flow value. The ability to observe and trend these created variables vastly increases the usefulness of the presentation system. The more you become involved with data analysis, the more you see the need to be able to manipulate the time based raw data to display the information you and others need to monitor. DataPARC has three techniques of somewhat increasing complexity which give users the ability to manipulate raw data. All involve creating a new “calculated variable tag.”

The first technique is available to all users and is very easily implemented.  Using the example of combining a total flow and a concentration to create a component flow tag, the procedure starts by dragging the total flow tag onto a trend. Simply clicking on the variable name within the header block at the top of the trend activates it for editing.  The tag can be modified by appending the text. Once that text is correctly entered, all the points for the current time span are calculated and a new calculated trend displays a total flow trend. The minimum and maximum values of the tag may need to be modified to properly display the trend. This new tag is called an “Expression” and can be dragged or copied to other trends.

The second technique for creating a calculated tag, a “simple formula”, involves a few more keystrokes but offers a number of key advantages. To create a simple formula, the Script Editor window is opened. Note that instead of an arithmetic expression the tag is followed by a name. This name is associated with programming code which is entered in a workspace on the Script Editor window. This code acts like a programming subroutine, accepting the tag name as an argument, and returning the evaluated value of the tag as an output.

The formula creation environment offers more flexibility in terms of logic than an Expression, it gives access to all the functionality of the VB.NET programming environment.  Another advantage of this approach is that formulas are saved by name and can be reused by others. A “standard “routine such as the conversion of Celsius temperature to Fahrenheit temperature can be created once, by one person, and then applied by anyone else in the future. Simply associating a different input tag with the formula name will create a new output tag. If the new tag is saved, it is placed in the master tag browser and becomes available to everyone.

The third technique for creating calculated tags is to create an “advanced formula”.  There is very little difference in the creation of a simple vs. advanced calculation tag.  The primary difference is in how the data is handled within the procedure. In the simple formula, if the timing of the data of different tags used in the calculation is not exact, the output points are automatically associated to the input times by PARCView.  In an advanced formula, the user has the opportunity/responsibility for the correct association of input and output data. For example, pulp consistency data may only be available only once an hour, because it is a lab test. If this data were being combined with a continuous total flow to find a dry fiber flow, it would be more accurate to multiply each flow value in the past hour times an average of the 1 hour old consistency and the most recent consistency, as opposed to using the one hour old consistency for the whole past hour.  This level of control is also desirable when creating some statistical functions.

In addition to providing users the capability to easily combine and customize tags,  the formula creation functionality of dataPARC  has been used  to build a number of named advanced formulas which can be or can be applied directly to tags with no programming at all. For example there are routines which allow the user to introduce a fixed time lag to a incoming signal, perhaps to simulate flow through extended pipe runs.  There are routines to totalize values over specified periods of time. A more sophisticated routine will totalize, and average, and even create a standard deviation value for an input tag, but only when a trigger tag, such as a grade or product is equal to a specified value.

Whether you used pre-built functions or program your own, the ability to easily configure calculated tags considerably expands your ability analyze process data, and to display the actual information which will help you and others operate and optimize the process.

 

What Makes a Great User Interface?

We all experience user interfaces on a daily basis whether in our cars, on our mobile phones or on our personal or work computers. A user interface is a gateway; it is a visual path to an experience as well as information or functionality. A user interface is also a language of its own that allows one to navigate a program or application.

When a user-friendly, well-designed user interface is effective, it makes tasks so much easier and makes better use of limited time. With effective design, a person does not have to spin their wheels trying to get a task done or access necessary information.

Remember the last time you tried to complete a task on your phone, computer or other digital interface to find it did not work, or you could not get the information that you wanted?  We all know that feeling of complete frustration when what we tried to do did not work!

This brings us to the million-dollar question – what does make a great user interface? What specific features make using a program or application a breeze to use?

After doing research, the following is what we found tended to be the predominant features in a great user interface:

Simple Navigation

Getting around in a program is very important.  Programs and applications with a simple, user-friendly navigation scored high. Words like concise and succinct came up frequently.  Concise navigation enables the user to interact with the user interface by featuring less extraneous imagery or information that could potentially make an action confusing.

Intuitive Features

Designing interfaces with next steps that are intuitive are very important in this busy day and age when time is limited. Nothing is better than trying to do something in a program and having it seamlessly cooperate the way that would most make sense.  An effective user interface is designed in a way that is intuitive, feels familiar, and is natural and instinctively understood.

Effective Graphics

Effective, relevant graphics represent functionality that is easily accessed by visual representation and recognition. In a matter of seconds, a user knows what the graphic represents and how it can help them accomplish a task, or locate information.

At Capstone, we are happy to report that our dataPARC user interface scored high in all three categories and here are some of the reasons why:

  • dataPARC offers drag and drop features: Users can add tags to almost any display and immediately get live feedback. Using the drag and drop feature is very intuitive.
  • dataPARC offers a multitude of visual ways to access the same information. Whether it is a visual display, a number display, charts, bar graphs or customizable reports, we have the information for you in the way you want it.
  • dataPARC’s customization possibilities are endless. The data format may be different for specific roles in the process industry. While a plant manager may need specific overview information, an operator may need very detailed data.  dataPARC has you covered with customizable reports in the way that you want them.
  • dataPARC is YOUR tool. Unlike the competition, you can change and customize what you see without the use of a third party application.

Want to know more about the dataPARC software suite and how its intuitive interface can benefit your business? Contact us and someone will be in touch with you shortly.

The 2017 dataPARC User Conference Was a Networking and Learning Success Story

Over 121 people gathered for the 2017 dataPARC User Conference in beautiful Portland, Oregon from May 15 through the 18th.
Attendees traveled from Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, China and Lebanon to experience the presentations, networking and training. 
Keynote speaker and emcee Rennie Crabtree helped facilitate nine internal presentations and eight client presentations on software integration, functionality and features.
Also included were six round table discussions on key topics which allowed attendees to share their experiences with dataPARC with fellow users.  Assigned seating ensured a mix of industries and a chance to get to know new people.
Among the favorite sessions were the KapStone  presentation and the Capstone training session “Tips and Tricks in PARCview.
Social events included a welcome reception on the first night and a fun dinner at the nearby Punchbowl Social with great food, games, including bowling, karaoke foos ball and cornhole.
85% of people surveyed rated the conference an 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10.  At the next conference attendees surveyed said they wanted more training and more hands on experiences.  Attendees also wanted to see more use cases and live examples of dataPARC in action.
 Stay tuned for the dates of our next user conference — coming fall of 2018!

Version 5.5.2.1 – Get the scoop on this minor release

5.5.2.1 Release

 

This version is a minor release improving on the features in the 5.5.2 series.

 

NEW FEATURES

Centerline

  • Added ability in Centerline Config to select a tag and then share it’s process to all tags in the Centerline.

PARCmodel

  • DMODXN/HT2N contribution tags will now be created for each of the input tags, allowing tag contributions to be viewed over time.

PARCgraphics Designer

  • Deadband support added to comparison operators < , <= , > , >= . Deadband can be set as either a constant or a percent.

PARCview Manual

  • New tutorials added to PARCview Manual.

System Configuration

  • New setting added to System Defaults (SystemConfig>System Defaults>General) allowing uncertain quality values to be treated as good quality. This flag impacts values in Trend and PARCgraphics.

IMPROVEMENTS

PARCvalue

  • PARCValue now provides a ValObj property to more easily see if the value is null,  the Value property will return a DBNull value which is more appropriate as a legacy capability.

PARCcalc Support

  • Adding an “IncludeEndBound” parameter overload to “NormalizeToStep” that allows it to include the interval that starts on the end time. When normalizing IV tags, the final interval will only be a one second interval. Previously the function was only including intervals >= start and < end. If includeEndBound is true it will include all intervals that are >= start  and <= end

PARCview Localiztion

  • Added ability to check for and load current culture
  • Updated Chinese Localization files (Chinese language)

Centerline

  • Refined bulk process update in Centerline Config to only update tags that have an undefined process.

PARChistory

  • Improved functionality and performance when performing backfill.

PARCIO

  • Add dead time feature to OPC DA sources, to allow avoiding artificial zero values put out when OPC DA server first connects.
  • Add options to wait between HDA tag registrations and sync reads.
  • Add flat file invariant culture parsing option.
  • Add option to wait between OPC DA tag and tag group registrations.
  • Add ability for OPC HDA sources to periodically check for new tags
  • Update PARCIO logging to include informational type messages in the log files.
  • Update max bad tag exceeded logic to only re-establish the connection up to the maximum retry amount.
  • Add ability to periodically check for changed or deactivated OPC DA tags
  • Add browsing for OPC DA servers from OPC DA source configuration window.

PARCtagSync

  • Add additional logging to log files.

Excel Add-In

  • Enable PARCxla SQL Calc sources work with Unicode characters in tag and source names.

PARCgraphic Designer

  • Modify “Symbol Compare Logic” to allow for more natural two-input connections and reverse inputs.