Machine and Process Management

The top six uses of an Historian. Number 2 may surprise you…

Wonderware surveyed their customers with the question, “What are the most important uses of an Historian in your business?”

The results are interesting and typical of what we see in the market in general. Here is the Ocean Data Systems interpretation. I’ll start by pointing out that these results are not optimal for running your business at its best, and we’ll explore how things should be different.

Note:  This is a multiple choice question - response percentages may not add up to 100.

Note: This is a multiple choice question – response percentages may not add up to 100.

#1 – Diagnostics/troubleshooting: Obviously, an Historian is a long term repository of data.  It stands to reason that an Historian is the go-to when diagnostics and troubleshooting (D&T) are in order.  With data at your disposal and a variety of vendor tools to enable ad-hoc queries, trending and analysis, every company should benefit from an Historian for diagnostics and troubleshooting.

#2 – Regulatory reporting:  This is a particularly interesting one. The reports that you need to produce rank second in the minds of Historian users.  These are compliance reports, a category of reporting that is mandatory for various market regulations and agencies, including EPA, FDA, LEEDS, AMP, GAMP, AMS-2750 and many, many others.  Without these reports, you’re out of business, BUT, they aren’t core to running your business better. They are just the paperwork required for compliance purposes.

#3 – Identifying process improvement opportunities: This is another category of reporting, the performance reports.  Performance reports are the ones you would like to have in order to run your business better.  You want to improve quality, increase throughput, reduce downtime and costs and gain agility.

#4 – #5 – #6 – Production/cost accounting, downtime tracking and energy consumption are additional types of performance reports which focus on specific application areas.

Obviously, to run your business at its best, Historian users should be focusing on items 3 – 6. If you’re managing your business most effectively, then your Historian should be used first and foremost to give you a competitive edge, then be the go-to for diagnostics and troubleshooting, and finally be the foundation for paperwork (compliance reports) required to operate a business.

But why is this the situation today?  Simple, because the tools that are currently available to make sense out of the ocean of Historian data just aren’t easy enough to use.  You become buried in data, without an easy and efficient way to turn it into actionable results.  When there’s a problem, you have the means to troubleshoot. You’ve also spent the time and effort to generate your compliance reports, but it was so painful that users recognize this use as the second most important reason to have an Historian.  Most Historian users generate reports with tools like Microsoft Excel, SAP Crystal Reports and Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).  If these are your reporting tools, then it’s no wonder that you’re only using the Historian for diagnostics and troubleshooting when there’s a problem.

You need a simpler way to generate performance information, and it isn’t in the form of advanced applications for downtime analysis, production/cost accounting tools or energy analytics.  While these are important tools, there is a better first step to take. What you need is a tool that will turn your Historian data into a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will become the basis for day-to-day operations. There are now such tools on the market. Once you’re generating your performance reports and dashboards and sharing that information widely across your organization, then and only then can you effectively make use of layered advanced analytics. Contact us if you’d like to find out more.

Roy Kok, Ocean Data Systems

Roy Kok, Ocean Data Systems

Roy Kok is an automation industry veteran of over 30 years, having worked with HMI/SCADA and reporting technologies addressing all markets around the world.  Roy is also the vice president of sales and marketing for Ocean Data Systems, makers of Dream Report.  Dream Report is the leading solution for reports and dashboards in industry.  Roy can be reached at  @RoyKok  @OceanDataSys


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