Help from the 100-Year-Old Engineer

Nov. 3, 2008
PlantTriage Attacks the “Too Much Data” Problem That Afflicts Many Process Operations

Version 8 of Expertune’s PlantTriage plant performance supervision system brings to users a cyber version of that all-important employee, the “100-year-old engineer,” the one who knows everything there is to know about your plant and its operations, says ExperTune vice president of product development , George Buckbee. PlantTriage software gathers data from the control system or historian and monitors the performance of hundreds or thousands of control loops. Analytics in the system then enable users to find the root causes of problems, see where interactions are affecting quality and production, find bottlenecks and upsets, and zero in on production problems before they become serious.

“We’re addressing the loss of skill sets affecting large, continuous processing operations,” he says. “PlantTriage monitors control-loop performance 24/7 and elevates important issues so people can fix them. It tracks on-going performance and calls attention to exceptions. It’s the software version of that veteran engineer with many decades of experience.”

PlantTriage has a foundation of fundamental technical expertise and information regarding process manufacturing. It gathers information as far down as the one-second-data-point level and through graphic presentations and context-sensitive, drill-down menus, shows the performance of control loops in real time and enables users to focus on actual performance issues.

PlantTriage attacks the “too much data” problem that afflicts many process operations. “We can measure a zillion things, but that doesn’t matter unless you can take action on the information,” says Buckbee. “Show me what leads to a quality problem that I can actually do something about. PlantTriage helps people address small problems before they become big ones.”

Version 8 of PlantTriage is expanding its utility far beyond the responsibilities of the control engineer. Version 8 users can configure the software to meet their individual needs. They can instruct it to show them only the parts of the system relevant to their particular job.

Furthermore, Version 8 has added more information-rich “Problem Solvers,” pre-configured reports that point to solutions to common process and control problems. The new reports and diagnostics pinpoint specific issues, such as a flow meter on the verge of failure.

New to Version 8 are “Interaction Hot Spots” that graphically highlight interactions across the plant. Using this tool, engineers can quickly find the root cause of process interactions and see where upsets to quality, energy and shut-downs are apt to occur.

Buckbee says the Interaction Hot Spots are a boon to advanced control projects because they can quickly identify the appropriate project scope. Drilling down on the Hot Spot leads users to the Process Interaction Map that graphically illustrates cause-and-effect relationships between control looks.

Keith Phillips of SBIC Innovative Plastics, Burkville, Ala., says, “We use to have to use qualitative arguments to explain where we could reduce operating costs, but now we have the data to back it up. We can now show how tightening control with smaller tolerances can save money.” 

The “treemap” feature—a graphical representation of all the control loops in the plant—has also been upgraded. Size differentiation on the treemap displays the economic importance of the particular loop, and its color indicates any problems. Buckbee compares the treemaps to the control “walls” common in process operations in the 1970s and 1980s.

PlantTriage 8 runs on a Microsoft Server platform with Internet Explorer for the clients. It imports data via industry-standard OPC  technology, including support of OPC-HDA for data historians. 

For more information on PlantTriage V. 8, call ExperTune at 262-369-7711, email [email protected] or log on to