Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Think Customer - Cell Phone Addition

This is somewhat off-topic from a strict process control sense, but a company named Asurion deserves a shout-out. Let me explain.

I have a 14 year old son who is on his second cell phone. When we replaced phone #1, the saleswoman at the Verizon store suggested we get the insurance plan on his phone. For something like $2 a month, we’d have the peace of mind of a $50 replacement program. Sure, what the heck. But the cynic in me thought “wait until they need to make good on this, the fine print will contain a loophole the size of Montana”.

Now fast forward almost a year. I come home from work one evening and there’re a long, sad face looking at me. Apparently, my son’s cell phone attempted to pull a Michael Phelps in the washing machine. And while now very clean, it was also very non-functional.

But wait – I have insurance! I went out to the Verizon web site and found the online link for submitting a claim. The link opened a new tab to the Asurion web site. Oh boy, passing the buck, this can’t be good.

Well I was dead wrong. The Asurion web site was the most intuitive and easy to use experience I have ever had online. It was obvious these guys had done their homework. And the spin cycle seems to be a common ELE (extinction level event) for cell phones.

And the best part? Even though I filled out the information at 7 pm, I got a confirmation email that the replacement phone was on its way for next day delivery! That’s think customer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Work Order Integration, the Sequel

Hollywood usually waits months if not years to come out with a sequel, especially when the first movie is a blockbuster. Now my DeltaV to SAP integration video won’t win an Oscar (maybe a Golden Globe or Duncan), but I wanted to get the companion video out quick.

The DeltaV to Maximo integration video isn’t as exciting the original, but what’s neat about it is that there’s no operator or technician intervention required when a HART or Foundation Fieldbus device alert is triggered. The work order is automatically generated in Maximo using AMS and Asset Portal.

Check it out at www.YouTube.com/AcmeBiotech or at the Process Automation Usability Project.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Grab a Bucket of Popcorn...

I went ahead and setup a YouTube site - www.YouTube.com/AcmeBiotech

You can check out the first Work Order Request video - DeltaV to SAP integration.

Monday, December 14, 2009

One Stop Shopping

We’ve just finished putting together a couple of very compelling demos that really showcase the tight vertical integration that’s possible with DeltaV. I’ll describe them below, but I’ll be posting a couple of videos on the Process Automation Usability Project YouTube web site.

First, we configured a Rosemount HART temperature transmitter in DeltaV and enabled its device alerts. Since DeltaV and AMS Device Manager are fully integrated with each other, we only had to configure Asset Portal 3.2 and connect it, via a web service, to Maximo. The result? A device alert from a broken RTD wire automatically generates a work order in Maximo. No intervention required.

For the second demo, we simulated a drive fault in an AB Powerflex 70. When the alarm comes into the module in DeltaV, the operator can navigate to the detail display, determine the exact fault, and press the Create WO button.

The module then builds up a URL string and issues it to AMS Asset Portal 4.0 (powered by Meridium). A work order screen pops up, with many of the required fields already populated for the drive. The operator then enters some additional information and saves the work order request. Asset Portal then automatically transmits the request to SAP, which returns the WO number.

So why is this important? It demonstrates the power and simplicity of a single interface for operating and maintaining your plant. So now when you’re ready to start an order, DeltaV can check if the operator is trained, the equipment is clean, the instruments are calibrated, and there are no outstanding work orders. Just like going to Wal-Mart.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

SharePoint and the iPhone

Things have been really busy lately – trips to Austin, strategic project wins, and lots of proposals. But I still make time to cross-pollinate technology.

No, I’m not doing anything like on “Fringe” – I try to find different, cutting edge technologies and get them working together. So you know I’m already a huge SharePoint fan. And I’m constantly looking for cool apps for my iPod Touch. Now typically, SharePoint doesn’t work well outside of Internet Explorer. But I’ve found an app that joins these two – Attaché.

The blurb from the App Store said it worked with WSS 3.0, but I’ve found it also works with 2.0. Setup is easy, but don’t expect the results to look like your site – it’s more of a folder view of your libraries and lists.

What’s cool is it understands the nature of the data in your lists and provides the interoperability with other functions of the iPhone or Touch, like contacts and phone numbers. It also understands most file types and allows them to be opened.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Be Careful What You Ask For...

Dawn Marruchella, DeltaV Batch Marketing Manger, sent me this user suggestions link for Emerson Process Management.  I thought I'd pass it along to everybody - http://www.userideas-emerson.com/

Monday, October 19, 2009

Surfin Safari

Here's just another reason to run out and get yourself an iPhone or iPod Touch:

A SharePoint dashboard insdie the Safari browser.  Or how about a SharePoint-based, web part enabled batch cycle time comparison screen:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

DeltaV in HD

In version 10.3 of DeltaV, Emerson included support for wide screen monitors. To protect customer’s investment in their 4:3 format displays, a migration utility is included in 10.3. This utility allows the user decide how best to make use of the extra real estate on the glass when using a 4:3 graphic on a 16:10 monitor.

16:10? Wait a minute, Bruce – you mean 16:9, right? No, for some reason the computer world decided that wide screen for PC’s should be different than wide screen for TV’s. I’m sure it was a very good reason (like most reasons you get from IT folks). So what you’re looking at is a 1680 x 1050 format. Now if you’re starting a brand new project on a brand new system, you can use the new 1680x1050 template to create all your displays.

Back to your 4:3 displays. When you run the utility, you have to specify whether to right, left, or center justify the 4:3 inside the 16:10. But to utilize the remaining space, you need to adjust the layout file. Layout files were introduced the same time quad head monitors were. Books Online is somewhat sparse in detailing how to modify the layout files, so here are some tips and tricks from Scott Thompson:

  • Layout files can be created for specific workstation names just like the Usersettings.grf files. Save the layout file with the name [workstation]_Picture.layout and it will only be applied to the matching workstation name. The workstation name restrictions are the same, so no dashes are allowed and use underscores with care as they tend to prevent customized user settings files from loading. You also won’t want to start a workstation name with a number even though DeltaV will allow it in DeltaV Explorer.
  • If you have any errors in your layout file the entire file will be skipped. If what you get isn’t even close to what you expected there is probably an error and the default layout file was used instead.

  • A custom layout file overrides settings that are common between the layout file and the user settings file. Since the layout file specifies initial graphics, toolbars and alarm banners the ones that load are those in the layout file, regardless of what is in the user settings file.

  • In a multi-monitor system the layout file can be used to change what monitor is used for what purpose. For example, in a quad-head system monitors are numbered 1 through 4 by the operating system. The default layout makes monitor 2 the primary display (behaves the same as a single monitor system) and monitor 3 the secondary display (behaves like the second monitor on a dual-head system). Monitors 1 and 4 are defined as “user” monitors and are pre-defined for alarm list and alarm filter graphics by default. To rearrange the monitor usage without changing cabling (some furniture makes it difficult to get to after everything is installed) you can change the [MonitorAllocation] section (commented out initially).

  • To add an additional picture to the layout definition you must make three changes. First, change the value of “Count.” This is the total number of pictures that are defined in the layout file. Don’t forget to decrease the value if you remove a picture. Second, add a “Picture#=” line that has the relative path to the graphic and graphic name without the extension. The base path is assumed to be the Pic folder of the workstation. Third, add a section that has the relative path and graphic name inside square brackets. This section will have entries for the screen, picture type, upper left corner position (X & Y coordinates), height and width.

  • Easy trip-up prevention tip – if you change the picture name in the “Picture#=” line, don’t forget to change the name farther down in the file where the name is in square brackets.

  • Picture height and width values don’t have to match the actual graphic that will be displayed. The graphic will stretch/shrink to fit the defined space reserved by the height and width numbers unless that functionality has been disabled for the graphic. This will require some testing to make sure all the displays you have defined or that may be switched to will appear correctly in the reserved area.
  • Picture widths may not be what you expect. On a test system at 1920x1080 resolution, the alarm banner and toolbar widths needed to be set to 1914 instead of 1920 to display without extending onto the other display. Test often and try making minimal changes between tests.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Going Bolding at Emerson Exchange 2009

I’ve known Terry Blevins for years and if I was only half as smart as he is, I’d be happy. Terry was manning the Advanced Process Control booth at Emerson Exchange and he was demonstrating something he’s been working on for 3 years now – Online Batch Process Analytics.

So for the first time in a process automation system, there’s a tool to monitor the quality and predict the endpoint of a batch based on a PCA/PLS developed model. He implemented a really cool technique call Dynamic Time Warping (beam me up, Scotty) which is based on logic used in voice recognition software to remove the time variation in batch to batch runs in developing the models.

Through a presentation layer making use of Microsoft Silverlight, operations and engineering personnel can then monitor, via Internet Explorer, the progression of a batch in real time and not only identify deviations, but quickly determine if the variations will effect the overall batch quality based of critical quality parameters.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Emerson Exchange 2009 – Charming

One of the big stories unveiled at Emerson Exchange today was DeltaV electronic marshalling and the introduction of Characterization Modules or CHARMS. You can now bring in a group of IO signals at a very granular level and distribute the signals to different controllers – clouds of IO to clouds of controllers.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Emerson Exchange 2009 Preview

I finished up 3 days of Emerson Sales training yesterday, moved over to the Gaylord Palms today, and begin 5 days of the Emerson Global Users Exchange tomorrow (yes, my wife is a saint – the gift shop better have something really nice).

I don’t want to steal any of the thunder about what folks are going to see tomorrow from Emerson, but I thought I’d a least post the updated DeltaV logo:

More to come from Exchange over the next several days – stay tuned…

Monday, September 21, 2009

Numatics/DeltaV Integration

Back in May, I wrote about the interest we got during our annual user group get together for the Numatics smart manifold/remote IO product. We finally got a unit into our proof of concept area and have been putting it through its paces.

We have it connected up on one of our DeviceNet segments and have one of the solenoids connected up to a Crane Saunders diagram valve with a conventional switchpack. We used our standard valve module template in DeltaV, but instead of the output going directly to the solenoid, it goes to a register input within the Numatics.

We then constructed some logic, using function blocks available in the Numatics, to provide local interlocking based on another discrete input (a make-believe tank high level switch). One more switch allows us to turn the Numatics logic on and off, so comparisons between it and DeltaV can be demonstrated.

This puppy if FAST. I’m in the process of putting together a video I hope to upload to the Process Automation Usability Project website sometime after Emerson Exchange. We also constructed a valve sequence within DeltaV and ran it as fast as we could, simulating the valves around the bowl of a centrifuge. We then put the same logic in the Numatics and using another register, triggered the sequence from DeltaV. We actually had to slow the sequence in the Numatics down just so we could see it!

Friday, September 11, 2009

So I’m trying to “get” this whole Twitter thing, and I’m not sure I’m doing it right. I apologize to the few folks who have decided to follow me – at least they won’t be inundated with posts, at least not for a while.

I have, on the other hand, been following a few folks to try and figure it out and hopefully pick up some useful information – honestly, I’m not just lurking.

Along with my engineering and management responsibilities, I dabble on the sales side of automation and have been introduced to the concept of the “elevator talk”. Either Jim Cahill or Mike Boudreaux, on one of their recent twits (is that what they're called?), provided a link to a blog (which provided another link to another blog) on the topic of the “customer’s elevator rant”, a prequel to the elevator pitch. It’s very enlightening, and a must read in preparing for the upcoming Emerson Exchange.

Hey, good news – in getting the hyperlinks to include in this post, I think I’ve made a small breakthrough in my twitter adventure. Maybe I’m not too old for this stuff after all. Ready to check me out - click here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Data View Web Part, Part II

So we’ve done some more playing around with the data view web part. I think I’m warming up to it because it does have a lot of capabilities and Drew’s doing the heavy lifting.

So we’ve put together a really good Batch Duration example. It’s a combination of 3 data view web parts, feeding each other in series. The first data view allows the selection of a formula, which populates the second data view with a list of batches that meet the formula criteria. By clicking on a particular batch id then populates the third data view showing durations. We even took advantage of the web part to highlight durations that exceed a fixed amount of time. Great for doing batch to batch comparisons.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Data View Web Part

I came across a web part for our dashboard development that makes access to SQL data a little easier. It’s from a company named Lightning Tools Ltd, and it’s the LT Data Viewer Web Part. Its claim to fame is not requiring SharePoint Designer to drop a table, view, or stored procedure on to a SharePoint site.

In the screenshot below, I’ve used the web part to display data from a stored procedure, showing recent batches run on our demo system. The web part has the ability to highlight values or whole rows based on expressions. In this case, I’ve highlighted batches whose duration has exceeded a predetermined limit. Makes it easy to quickly identify the outliers.

Of course, it would be really neat if I could just click on the Batch ID in the list and get access to a report or launch a tool like History Analysis…

Monday, August 17, 2009

SharePoint As An Automation Dashboard

We’ve been doing some heavy experimenting lately, exploiting SharePoint (specifically WSS 3.0) as a dashboard tool for DeltaV. And while we’re messing around with some 3rd party tools specifically developed for accessing real-time data, I also wanted to see what we could do using the out-of-the-box web parts.

SharePoint is SQL based, so it’s SQL aware, almost SQL friendly. And since DeltaV has lots of stuff stored away in SQL (batch data, Syncade data, alarms and events data), this seemed like a good place to start.

First thing though, you’ve got to have Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer. The good news, it’s now free from Microsoft (Bill Gates must have been feeling especially generous one day). Click here to follow the link to the download site. You’ll want to get a good book on Designer and SharePoint (I’m still looking for one).

The specific tool we’ve been experimenting with is the data view web part. So to get a summary of orders from Syncade, you create a data source into the DMI_EBR database, looking at the vOrders view:

Note how sorting and filtering are possible right within creating the data source. You can then check to make sure you’ve set everything up right by looking at the data:

Then it’s just a matter of dropping the data source on a SharePoint web page. You can even link one data view web part to another. For example, selecting a particular Syncade order in the upper web part populates the lower web part of all the work instructions executed during the order:

Is it really just that easy? No way – you’ll need to spend a lot of time with this, but the benefits are huge. Next post I’ll talk about other techniques for unlocking the hidden value of your data.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Prolific Comment

Our Site Services manager, Mark Moore, brought this to my attention and I thought it was such a prolific observation, not to mention one of my favorite topics for presentation, I’d share it here.

When a pharmaceutical company representative remarked “We’re awash with data, but we have no information”, Alison Smith of Aspen Technology she commented “this was a very apt statement. It applies to any environment in which technology has been deployed in the absence of an information design…”

Data to information, information to knowledge – a holistic approach to the application of S95 is key to keep all those thousands of terabytes of data from gathering electronic dust.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Webinar Series for SA Customers

Electronic Signatures within DeltaV has been around for years now, but at least in my experience, it’s one of the most under utilized features of the system. So with that in mind, we have initiated a Webinar series for our Service Agreement customers the first topic being the use of Electronic Signatures and ESIG Policies.

Our goal is to provide helpful insight in our product and technology offerings and to help our Service Agreement customers get the most out of their systems.

I hosted the inaugural Webinar just this morning and we had excellent attendance from throughout the Carolinas.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Batch Events Whitepaper

I'm sorry I jumped the gun last time in directing you out to the Acme Biotech site to download my whitepaper on Batch Events in DeltaV version 10.3 - I've got it finished now, so head on over to Acme and follow the links to the document.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


With batch event and LOG EVENT information going into the DeltaV version 10.3 Event Chronicle, you can start putting together simple views or what I’ve affectionately termed as Poor Man’s Batch Reporting (PMBR).

Process History View just doesn’t have the horsepower for the types of queries required. And that’s OK, because the Event Chronicle is a SQL database. So what I’ve done is link the alarms and events table into Access. This was easy because the ODBC data source is already setup for you in DeltaV:

Then I created two queries – one to get unique Batch ID’s and one to get the batch events. The Find Unique BatchIDs query looks like this in SQL:

SELECT Right(Events1!Attribute,Len(Events1!Attribute)-InStr(1,Events1!Attribute," ")) AS BatchID
FROM Events1
GROUP BY Right(Events1!Attribute,Len(Events1!Attribute)-InStr(1,Events1!Attribute," ")), Events1.Attribute
HAVING (((First(Events1.Attribute)) Like "@*") AND ((Count(Events1.Attribute))>1));

Executing this gives:

The Batch Events query required a parameter (well it did for me, anyway, but I am no SQL guru – I’m sure someone out there can do a better job), its SQL looks like this:

PARAMETERS BatchID Text ( 255 );
SELECT Events1.Date_Time, Events1.State, Events1.Desc1, Events1.Desc2
FROM Events1
WHERE (((Events1.Attribute) Like "*" & [BatchID])) OR (((Events1.Desc1) Like "*" & [BatchID]))
ORDER BY Events1.Date_Time;

When I run the query, I get prompted for the BatchID:

And the results look like this:

The pressure drop data was captured with the LOG EVENT function in the FERM_PTEST phase.

So here's a way to generate some simple batch reports without dealing with those pesky EVT files. Head over to my website - I'll be consolidating the 3 posts about batch events/reports into a whitepaper.

Batch Events in PHV

Back in April, I wrote about how major batch events can now make their way into Process History View. So what’s that look like? How do I find these batch events? Well, there’s a new Category named BATCH-EVENT. So if I go into PHV, and filter on Category equal to BATCH-EVENT, I get something like this (I’ve hidden some columns that don’t pertain to batch events to make it easier to read):

One of the first things to note is the Parameter column contains both the unique Batch ID as assigned by DeltaV and the Batch ID as entered from the Create Batch view. The State column gives you a taste of the different “major batch events” now being captured. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of major batch events:

Manual Phase Started
Mode Change
Operation Finished
Operation Started
Operation Started with Equipment
Phase Finished
Phase Started
Phase Started with Equipment
Procedure Finished
Procedure Started
Resource Acquired by recipe
Resource Released by recipe
State Changed
Unit Procedure Finished
Unit Procedure Started
Unit Procedure Started with Equipment

Noticeably absent from the list are report parameters. If I could somehow get report-like parameters into PHV, I’d have some pretty useful information. Enter the LOG EVENT function. The LOG EVENT function has been around a long time (go to BOL on how to use it), but the cool thing is how it looks in PHV. And it looks different, depending if it’s used in a regular module as opposed to phase logic:

When it’s used in just a regular module, the Desc1 column is empty. When it’s used in phase logic, the Desc1 column contains the Batch ID!

So for this example, if I look at the Parameter column to contain Acme11May2009 or the Desc1 column to contain Acme11May2009, and sort the result by Date/Time…to be continued.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Transitional Analysis and PAT

I was with a customer last week and I was going over my Transitional Analysis application. As I described it in more detail – its ability to non-obtrusively measure chromatography column viability prior to applying product – the customer got more and more animated. Finally, he looked at me and said “Why, that’s PAT!”

So check out www.transitionalanalysis.net for more information about the application. And by the way, the customer I was talking to doesn’t have a DeltaV system. He does have a bunch of chromatography skids with proprietary (vendor supplied) method controls. The TA application is platform agnostic.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Become a Fan

I've added this followers widget over on the right hand side of my blog page for Fans of Process Control Musings.

If you’re a regular reader (or even if you’re just a lurker) become a follower. Now, you won’t be getting any discount coupons for MX controllers, but you’ll be letting everyone know you’re part of something bigger.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Keeping Focus

I’m just back from a week of vacation at the beach. Very relaxing (except for having to get my presentations done for Emerson Exchange).

I got a call yesterday from one of my customers who’s just upgraded to version 10.3 of DeltaV. In case you haven’t heard, Emerson has equipped the new versions of control and recipe studio with Microsoft’s ribbon technology (ala Office 2007).

So Ray asks me “how do you know which control studio session has focus”? I hadn’t looked that close at 10.3 yet, but from past experience, the title bar at the top of the window is usually darker if that window has focus:

So I open up 10.3, launch three control studio windows, put them next to one another and damn if you can’t tell which one has focus:

Not a show stopper, but something to watch out for (BTW, the CS window in the upper left had focus).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Another 10.3 Nugget

Not everything that’s new in DeltaV version 10 is in the New Features section of the release notes – some new stuff is detailed in the Enhanced Functionality section.

Case in point – Linker utilities have been added to the batch toolbar to make linking the ActiveX buttons and lists in DeltaV Operate easy. Prior to version 10, a little under the hood magic was required to tie the objects together.

Just mouse over the buttons in the DeltaV Batch toolbar and you’ll notice the 3 new linker utilities:

Select the linker of your choice (below is the batch list control linker).

Be sure to select the linker after you’ve dropped the two items to be linked on the graphic – otherwise, you won’t be able to select them and complete the operation.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Shareware Behavior

The powerful little workhorses inside of the work instructions of Syncade are called “Behaviors”. I wondered where this terminology came from so I turned to the one true source of all knowledge on the Internet – Wikipedia. Once you wade through the animal and psychology sections, you get this definition:

Behavior as used in computer science is an anthropomorphic construct that assigns ‘life’ to the activities carried out by a computer, computer application, or computer code in response to stimuli, such as user input. Also, ‘a behavior’ is a reusable block of computer code or script that, when applied to an object (computer science), especially a graphical one, causes it to respond to user input in meaningful patterns or to operate independently”

Out of the RA (Recipe Authoring) box you get some behaviors as part of Syncade. You also get a nifty Behavior Editor program for developing your own. As part of our in-house development work with Syncade, Scott Thompson came up with a clever new behavior to generate an email REM_SIMPLE_EMAIL.

You could conditionally notify a supervisor his attention is need – based on events. You could generate the status of an order, from inside the order, to folks who aren’t normally monitoring the batch. You could automatically notify your local business partner to dispatch a site services engineer because of an equipment or instrumentation failure.

I think there’re so many uses, I’ve posted the behavior up on the acmebiotech.com web site and made it available as a shareware, as-is download. Follow this link to the page for both the behavior and detailed instructions.

If you like it (or hate it), tell Scott and I about it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Remote Terminal Sessions with Monitor Spanning

Here’s another cool feature on DeltaV version 10 – maybe enough to get you to run right out and upgrade this week!

Version 10 now supports spanning monitors of DeltaV Operate on a remote terminal session. So for instance, if you connect to a remote session from any old PC with a couple of monitors attached, DeltaV Operate is smart enough to automatically give me a dual head session.

There are a couple of caveats:
  • The monitors have to be in the horizontal configuration
  • The maximum horizontal pixel width is 4096

The pixel width limitation means you can have 2 widescreen monitors side by side, or 3 1280x1024 monitors, or 4 1024x768 (but nobody uses that anymore, right?).

So you’re asking “Quick, tell me how to do this!” – It’s pretty easy. Most folks are familiar with the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box:

The thing is, there’s this /span option, and it’s not a selection as part of the Desktop dialog box. To use it, you need to use the mstsc command prompt. After creating the above .rdp file, you create a .bat file with the mstsc command:

By double clicking on the .rdp file, you get a single monitor session. Double clicking on the .bat file, you get a double wide!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kit Bashing a DCS

So why is it that some third party integrators think they can build a better mousetrap? It’s one thing to go to Home Depot, buy a bunch of nails, screws, 2x4’s and build you a storage shed. And if you want to “kit bash” a prebuilt shed by adding a bay window, that’s cool, but be real careful turning around and trying to resell your new and improved shed if you haven’t taken into account the structural implications of that window.

And while the conversion van business has been around for a long time and has done well, I can’t say the same for the DCS “kit bashing” I’ve seen. Four times now I’ve had customers get caught in one of these “better” mousetraps, kit bashed from various control systems. The integrators don’t have a dog in the fight so it’s really easy for them to blame, after the fact of course, the hardware platform or system level software.

So the options to the end user are usually to do a major rewrite or hope and pray that hardware platform enhancements (faster processors, more memory) will somehow come to the rescue.

Be wary of someone pitching a DCS agnostic package that will have the same look and feel whether you use, for example, DeltaV or a SLC 5/05. Chances are if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Friday, May 15, 2009

UGOC 2009 Day 2

What a turn out yesterday! We had over 100 customers pack our campus. The most popular presentations were our wireless talks and Syncade – it was standing room only when Scott Thompson and I presented our Syncade in Depth talk.

One of the big hits during the product showcase was Dick Beverly from Emerson ASCO Numatics showing off their line of smart valve manifolds/remote IO. And I do mean smart. Not only do they handle analog and discrete signals in addition to the manifold outputs, talk all the major busses including Foundation Fieldbus and Ethernet, but their DeviceNet version supports a DeviceLogix module, allowing high speed (5 ms) function block or ladder logic.

I’m excited about now being able to offer a one stop shopping controls and automation solution. For example, handling high speed valve sequencing around the bowl of a centrifuge in addition to all the other required skid batch automation is now possible as part of a total Emerson solution.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

UGOC 2009 Day 1

So yesterday was Day 1 of the 2009 version of the User Group of the Carolinas get together. Attendance was on par with previous years for the first half day session.

One of this year’s cool attractions is the Emerson Wall – it’s a 20 foot long PlantWeb dreamscape with enough eye candy to keep folks coming back. Al Lee and Gordon Lawther from Emerson are here to put it through its paces.

Today should be a big day with most of our 120 plus attendees showing up. I’ll have more pictures and comments tomorrow.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cold Enough For Ya?

So in preparing for the 2009 version of our UGOC (User Group of the Carolinas), I came across an interesting new nugget in DeltaV version 10.3. Interesting because it’s not documented in the Release Notes.

So now there’s a new drop down menu on the Controller tab of a controller node for additional selections of Cold Restart. "Always Disabled" is really no different than setting the timer to 0. "Enabled Within A Time Limit" allows you to set the time (no difference than now). The new choice is the "Always Enabled (maximum time)" selection, just in case being without power for more than 30 days just isn’t long enough.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Documentor 2.0 Goes Global – SharePoint Gets an Upgrade

Talk about the power of the web! We got our first international order for our Documentor 2.0 package just the other day. We worked jointly with Emerson in Europe and beefed up the capacity of Documentor to meet their customer’s needs.

Who knew a single Procedure could have over 3000 recipe parameters? So keep those cards and letters coming (actually, any and all opportunities for DeltaV Phase and Recipe documentation). Check out the Documentor 2.0 product datasheet at http://www.acmebiotech.com/Documentor%202.0%20Data%20Sheet.pdf

We were cutting edge (well, at least I think we were) when we started using SharePoint for our project collaboration sites. And while these sites have been highly successful and well appreciated by our customers, we’ve been using the same underlying platform (WSS 2.0) for 4 years now.

So I’m pleased to say that we’ve taken the first step in upgrading one of our servers to Windows SharePoint 3.0. Even though Microsoft has made SharePoint Designer (the replacement for Frontpage) available free of charge, some of the customizations I’ve been able to do in the past just aren’t possible with the new SharePoint version.

But that’s not to say there aren’t some really cool features – a Gantt chart view is available, built in to the Task list. The available 3rd party web parts is quite impressive, many available free of charge. And lots of them use Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, including some impressive charting web parts for dashboard components.

Check out http://www.codeplex.com/, Microsoft’s open source project hosting site.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Batch Events and 10.3

We’ve just finished successfully upgrading our DeltaV batch demo system to version 10.3, so I thought I’d share my hands-on experiences with some of the new and enhanced features.

So one of the first one’s I was excited about was the ability of the batch executive to have “significant batch events” flow to the event chronicle. And while I’m sure OSI is happy about this one, everyone should be.

Let’s be clear as to what “significant batch events” are – it’s NOT everything that’s currently in the batch journal, but all events associated with creating, starting, ending, and unloading of procedures, unit procedures, and operations get to the event chronicle.

Note in the screenshot below how the batch ID is displayed – you get both the ID entered by the operator and the internal ID DeltaV uses for tracking in the historian:

Now, silly me, I thought that once I upgraded to 10.3, I’d just run a batch and BAM, the data would be in the event chronicle. Well, I should have known better – you have to enable it. Where you might ask? About the last place I’d look, but now that I’ve found it, maybe I’ll save you some time.

Launch the Batch Application manager, and on the Batch Executive tab, select the Advanced tab, then select the Configuration Settings tab – here you’ll find all sorts of BE trivia selections. Scroll down to the Enable Alarm and Events Journaling, and double click it:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

PAT, QbD, and the ISA

The Process Analytical Technology (PAT) guidance from the FDA has been out for several years now. And the concepts of Quality by Design (QbD) are certainly nothing new. Interestingly, some of the references associated with the rollout of PAT had to do with the marked differences in fundamental process understanding between the pharma/biotech world and the rest of manufacturing.

I’ve taken a keen interest in all things PAT related (I’ve written about this before), because I truly believe we folks in the automation industry can provide the technological muscle, hard and soft, for the pharma and biotech industries.

So I was really pleased by the cover story of the March issue of InTech magazine from the ISA titled “If you build it in …”


It brought into the mainstream of process control and automation the challenges and potential rewards of PAT in providing better process understanding. This understanding translates into increased yields, shorter production cycles, less “bad batches”, and ultimately, lower manufacturing costs.

And I guess there’s somewhat of the proud grandfather complex in me (thanks, Larry Wolfe), but checkout the section in the article labeled “Real-time quality by design” and Talecris Biotherapeutics in Clayton, NC. The water system monitoring and control described was our first DeltaV installation at Talecris and has been one of early PAT wins by any company in the industry. While some of the innovative principles have moved on (Joydeep Ganguly is now at Biogen Idec and Gerrit Vogel is back in the Bayer family), Phil Culberson continues to drive innovation at Talecris as they expand the PAT and QbD concepts, leveraged by their use of DeltaV.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Abstract Submissions

Hey, don't forget to submit your abstract for the 2009 Emerson Exchange - it's due this Monday, the 16th of March. Visit www.emersonexchange.org for more information.

In the current economy, it's a great way to increase your chances of getting to go to Orlando this fall.

Friday, February 20, 2009

In 30 years...

OK, remember back in the late 70’s/early 80’s when SNL was really funny (debating this is a whole other blog)? They used to have a fake commercial after the opening monolog. The fake commercials were sometimes campy (the circumcision in the back of the Town Car comes to mind) and other times very realistic until the punch line.

They had this one where a guy is shaving with a new, innovative, 3 blade razor. The first one gets most of beard, the second gets what the first one missed, and the third one gets what the second one missed. The final tag line was “…we gave you 3 blades because you’ll buy anything…” But here we are, 30 years later, and a 4 blade razor gives me the best shave ever.

So what’s that got to do with anything? Quad-head monitors, that what. I don’t get it. Dual-head monitors, I get – I think their great, best thing ever. Quad-heads, no way. Way too much real estate for a single keyboard and mouse, especially if you have to react or acknowledge something quickly. Doesn’t matter whether it’s 2 over 2 or 4 in a row. I don’t like them.

And in 30 years, I’ll have a nine head monitor setup without a keyboard or mouse – I’ll just think it and it’ll show up…

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Linkedin Groups Lame?

OK, so in some ways Linkedin is pretty cool – it’s gotten me back in touch with folks I haven’t heard from in decades. And I’ve joined several groups – including the DeltaV Automation group and the MES group.

Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but almost all the discussions are headhunters offering up career opportunities. Now my sampling is certainly not statistically valid, but I find it annoying.

I’m sorry, but I really want technical based discussions in these technical groups. Aren’t there enough venues on the web for headhunters?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sync With Syncade

So what’s the first thing we did after getting our full-blown install of Syncade? We developed a utility.

Syncade (Emerson Process Management’s Smart Operations/MES suite) is a great collection of modules for Material Management, Order Management, Equipment Tracking, Training and Development, Document Control and Archiving, etc.

And while it’s tightly integrated with DeltaV’s batch engine, it needed a little help when it comes to tying non-batch processes and events to its suite of modules.

So that’s where Sync With Syncade comes in – it bridges the real-time world with the transactional one. OPC flags are used to trigger events associated with equipment in the ET module. These events can then cause workflow to automatically begin.

The cool thing about Sync With Syncade is that it installs on an OPC server – anyone’s OPC server. The communication to Syncade is handled by a web service call.

This was our first implementation using web services – definitely more to come.

You can check out the product data sheet for Sync With Syncade here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Automation Forum

Happy New Year.

I've known Tim Alosi of New England Controls for many years now. And in the spirit of out with the old and in with the new, Tim is overhauling his old DrTim site into www.ControlDoctors.com. Check out all the different control and automation offerings. Don't forget to sign up for some of the different forums.