If you’re like most industrial report customers, you’re being pushed to deliver a report, likely due to some regulation. That can be EPA, FDA, or any of a slew of other agencies or recommenders of best practices.
In many applications, Reports are a requirement. We call those compliance reports. That’s true of water and waste water markets, life sciences, food and beverage. These and many other markets all have quality requirements that demand documentation. Other reports may be for billing purposes or custody transfer, common requirements for energy industries, the power, oil and gas markets. That demand has been the driving force for the world of industrial report generation since the advent of data logging. Rest assured, Dream Report excels in all these areas and can be your choice for compliance reporting. But more on that in a minute.
The industrial reporting market has been slow to evolve, and there’s been little to choose from, well, until now. Consider this, the typical scenario for acquiring a reporting solution. Your market demands a Compliance report and the boss says, “Git-r-done!” The Budget – typically not as important. Why? Because these reports are mission critical, they’re in the direct line of business, in fact – often you can’t be in business without them, and there can be fines if they’re not delivered. Getting that report is the focus, and a product or service is selected, and the check-box is complete. But the result isn’t the report you really want for running your business. And the solution that’s been implemented generally isn’t flexible enough or easy enough for anyone but domain experts to use. Your reporting solution gets the initial job done, and addressed the key requirement, but at a high expense. And you still need other tools, typically manual tools, for additional data visibility and ad hoc analysis.
Let’s talk about past options for reporting. Automated report generation began in the early 1980s. That’s when Lotus 123 and Microsoft Excel were first introduced. One of the first automated solutions for industry came in the form of Lotus @Factory in 1991. Automating a spreadsheet became easier in 1993 with the introduction of Microsoft’s COM technology. Some reporting companies leveraged COM, automated the insertion of data into a workbook and triggered workbook execution and printing. Other companies created specific solutions designed for niche industrial applications, but their applicability was narrow and they were cumbersome to apply and maintain. Significant improvements also started in 1991 with the introduction of Crystal Reports. Finally, there was a quality, flexible, and purpose built reporting solution for business applications. The competition increased in 2004 when Microsoft introduced SQL Server Reporting Services as an add-on to their Microsoft SQL Database. Since that time, Crystal Reports and Microsoft SSRS have dominated the business reporting market and through the efforts of IT professionals and System Integrators, have also been widely applied in the industrial markets, albeit with some shoehorning to make them fit the application.
Why would people apply business class products in industrial applications? We ask that question all the time, and the response is always the same. Industrial companies all say, “because we didn’t know any better.” We often get a follow-on response, “because our IT department is delivering that functionality, and it’s the only technology that they know.”
So, what are the differences between business and industrial reporting? Understanding this, will shed a whole new light on the subject, and why a purpose built “Industrial” solution is so important.
First, let’s understand that industrial data is fundamentally different. Business reports are typically about lists of information, counts, dollars and cents. In industrial applications, while you may have all that, you also have devices such as motors and valves that are on and off, generate 1s and 0s in a time series database, and there are common calculations that you’ll want to apply to them such as run-times, cycle counts, percent utilization. Other variables can generate incrementing values, like a meter reading. Calculations on meter readings require taking the last value and subtracting the first value for any selected interval, but also require you to pay attention to rollovers. Calculations need to consider when a meter gets to all nines or a PLC Register gets to 16383 or 65535 and starts over. Thermal processes require the monitoring of several sensors to determine when ramp and soak profiles are met, with associated rates of change or soak durations. Analog values are often stored with compression and returned values are not evenly distributed. Calculations need to be time aware to return the proper values for things like averages, or the integration for totalizations. Specialty markets have their own calculations such as those for sterilization processes (F0), thermal storage equivalence (Mean Kinetic Temp), BTU content for fuels and CO2 production through combustion and a myriad of other calculations not inherently understood by products designed for business purposes. An industrial product understands the intricacies of dealing with industrial data and removes the burden of customization when attempting to apply business class solutions. In addition to general purpose math and logic functions, Dream Report, as the leading industrial solution, offers a wide variety of industry specific statistics and addresses these requirements out of the box. You can just take that for granted.
Second, industrial data sources have fundamentally different data access methods from than those from business data sources. Hundreds of industry leading automation products offer support for special (generally proprietary) interfaces and industrial data access standards. These interfaces usually ensure a level of validation with respect to the date, time and data being transferred. That validation is commonly referred to as data quality. You know the data is good because the associated data quality says so. Their proprietary interfaces, and support for industrial standards such as OPC support TVQ, Time, Value and Quality data access. However, most automation products also support interfaces common to the business world, typically ODBC and OLE DB, enabling very generic access to products, typically business solutions that are unaware of TVQ methods. Business tools can access and perform calculations on automation data but the results will be far less sophisticated that those of a purpose built industrial solution.
Also consider this, Industrial applications make up a very small percentage of the overall reporting market. Business class products have little reason to adapt to the needs of industry. Only a “built for purpose” “Industrial” solution will continue to adapt and improve based in the needs of industry. It’s our market and it’s all we do. Today, Dream Report with a combination of over 80 – proprietary, industrial and business standards, based interfaces continues to improve significantly with each release, typically several per year, to perfectly address ALL industrial applications as well as typical business applications.
So far, we’ve discussed two very technical reasons why a purpose built industrial solution is fundamentally better than leveraging business technologies for report generation. But there are many more reasons. Let’s take, for example, ease of use. Business tools like Crystal Reports and SQL Server Reporting Services may be easy for IT professionals to use, but they are not easy for process engineers and industrial domain experts. And the customization for “Industrial” metrics makes them harder, not easier to maintain. Process Engineers are used to configurable software solutions that are quick to learn and easy to apply. We like to say that in the 21st century, there is no room for programming, scripting and extensive system integration. We are in a world of individual empowerment, where everyone should be able to select a tool and create the reports and dashboards they need, without needing to write specifications, create justifications and iterate on resulting deliverables to get what they want.
Dream Report is an industrial reporting solution created by automation experts for process engineers. Dream Report is the result of over 100 years in combined development effort, over 10 years of customer and industry feedback, over 20 release cycles, is available in 14 languages and has been delivered in 1000s of applications all around the world.
Reports can be much more valuable than you realize. While you may have been focused on the line of business reports that you must have, consider the value in having any report that you’d ever want. While many reports are a requirement of your business, more and more customers are realizing that reports are an excellent way to share information and drive continuous improvement. Back to the basics of saving money or making money for your company. We call these performance reports, and they have typically been out of reach in the past, due to the lack of ease of use of alternative reporting solutions. Performance Reports facilitate collaboration and drive a discussion. Generated automatically and distributed via email, ftp or a browser based portal, these reports become the way to pass knowledge from one shift to the next, and understand your important KPIs. Reports are an excellent archival document letting you revisit past information and the decisions that may have been based on them.
But success doesn’t just come about by generating and distributing a report. The report needs to be well designed, one that shows your KPIs and places them into context. That’s when you have enough information to drive action. Context means surrounding your KPI with comparative information. Don’t just deliver values in isolation. Compare values from one time to another, year over year or one batch to the next, or to the golden batch. This is very easy to do with the time and event awareness built into individual Dream Report objects.
Adding context will drive action. That action may be as simple as asking the question why. Why is my performance down? Why is my energy utilization higher? Why did that batch take longer? For these questions, you’ll need an information portal. You’ll need to perform some ad-hoc analysis around the KPIs that are included in your report. You could go to other tools for that, but today, with Dream Report, you can simply hyperlink from your report to its browser based portal, either on a PC or mobile device. Then, you’ll drill down into your data, getting to the root causes of the why, and affecting change for the better. Simple enough for anyone to use, the Dream Report portal is your “self Service” interface, enabling you and your team to access, review and export the data they need to make better decisions.
Casual users have a hard time relating to data from industrial systems. Data naming conventions (Tags) may be cryptic and unorganized. Users would benefit greatly from data sources that are organized, can be filtered, searched and browsed based on assets, plant areas or users. Unlike business tools, the Dream Report designers know that industrial data sources often offer cryptic tag naming conventions, and that legacy systems may not offer any tag management at all. Dream Report solves these problems with the ability to create data models, group and organize your tags in the ways that best support your report development or ad-hoc analysis. Dream Report can even rename your tags to make them as user friendly as possible. Dream Report clearly excels over typical business tools when it comes to ad-hoc analysis.
Dream Report is more than just a data generator. You also have the need to enter data, perhaps operator log data, or manage quality samples, annotate batches and alarms. Dream Report quickly and easily lets you build manual data entry forms. Now you and your users can enter data, notes and observations, and automatically include those in your reports and dashboards.
Your IT staff and management will want to bless your Dream Report recommendation. They’ll have requirements for operating systems, virtual machines and domain security. Check, Check and Check. Dream Report works on all current Microsoft Operating Systems, workstation and server, supports operation on virtual machines and will integrate with your corporate domain security. Best of all, once installed, Dream Report is a solution that you’ll be able to manage and support, without needing to involve IT for every little change or addition. If you have even more demanding applications, perhaps involving high availability, redundancy or Cyber Security, no problem – three Checks again. Try doing that with your typical business products.
Hopefully at this point, you are intrigued with the possibilities. You don’t have a budget? Not a problem. Dream Report is cost effective and scalable product. For small applications, just starting out, it costs a little. As your needs increase, you can easily expand your Dream Report installation by adding additional users or increasing your data source access (the Tags that you access). Dream Report always delivers unlimited reports and calculations based on your Tag use.
Want to try before you buy? You can test Dream Report against your own data and prove Dream Report’s value to others before purchasing. We’re happy to help. The Dream Report Website Download is limited to 30 minutes of runtime for up to 100 source tags, but if you contact us, we’ll be happy to offer you a 30 day, fully functional, free trial license.
There’s no reason to wait. Dream Report is the quickest and easiest way to see a return on investment. Your company will benefit from a broader sharing of your key performance indicators and your company will benefit from giving your team the ability to access the information they want, when and where they need it.
Pass the word, Dream Report is too good an opportunity to pass by. You’ll become a hero for taming your Ocean of Data, with Dream Report.