Just like Legos: Digital transformation with PlantPAx DCS

Nov. 11, 2021

“The first step of a digital transformation is to gather up all the data points of your OT system,” said Shannon Chan, Rockwell Automation PlantPAx product specialist, at the opening of her Automation Fair presentation focused on increased connectivity and improved insights promised by the new PlantPAx distributed control system. “As you can imagine, this can create a giant pile of data. But what you do with that pile and how you use the PlantPAx system can transform it to something useful. That’s what this session is going to be about.”

For an analogy, the Rockwell rep went all the way back to her childhood. Chan compared raw industrial data to Legos poured out of a bag—a mess of different colors and shapes. She recalled how her younger sister taught her to organize Legos prior to working with them, which eased the process of building a house or a robot. “That’s kind of the similar to what you do with that giant pile of data for your plant or your system,” she explained. Sort by data type. Arrange by the industrial area to which the data pertains. Present the data in a manner that is readable by operators and plant managers.

Like Legos. Simple, right?

She then dove into the expanded reporting capabilities delivered by the PlantPAx tool—how you can generate reports with sharp insights, explore PTC experiences with ThingWorx dashboards, and create a wide system view to best understand the lifecycle of products in your system.

Expanded reporting capabilities

Within the Rockwell PlantPAx system there are multiple databases—FactoryTalk Historian that collects data, FactoryTalk Alarms & Events that houses alarm-related data, and FactoryTalk AssetCentre, which houses audit trails and traceability reports. These independent databases enable the system to stay evergreen while, working collectively within PlantPAx, create a centralized database to efficiently pool disparate data for reporting—alarm and event data, diagnostics data, historical data and asset-center logging data—all aggregated and contextualized to empower users to generate overarching reports and reports for each database. Data is not changed, clarified Chan, just manipulated to enable easier reporting.

So, what can you do with this? Comprehensive root-cause analysis, for starters. Then there is the fully contextualized data—easy to comprehend, easy to turn into actionable insights that can quicken maintenance by enabling operators a cohesive view of their full factory floor.

Report classes

The presenter then detailed the various report classes within PlantPAx:

Alarm & Events—Area- or object-based, allowing for controller or server-based alarms, following ISA 18.2 guidelines for chattering, fleeting and scale alarms.

Process Object—Provides information on the control module and captures insights by analyzing historical data, viewable in a monthly, daily or shift report.

Traceability & System—Provides audit trails while enabling users to highlight elements that are broadcasting excessive alarms. Provides state-of-reporting updates for systems.

PTC experiences

The PTC experiences within the PlantPAx tool allow for better user experiences and better data access, said Chan before explaining how these dynamic dashboard templates can speed deployments and enable immediate insights with detailed plant information. New templates range from Process Strategy Templates to Control Strategy Health Dashboards, which offer capabilities ranging from a starting point for users to analyze live and historical data to the ability to highlight individual alarms, which clarifies the view of customers’ most important issues. “We made them simple and able to be built upon,” she added.

System-wide applications

The goal of the new tool is to provide a broader, deeper view of operations, bringing to life historical  and live data with feature-rich dashboards powered by augmented reality that can simulate actionable faults and analytics.

Rockwell Automation’s solution enables users to tie all capabilities together, said Chan, providing an unprecedented view of what’s really going on inside a plant. “PlantPAx gives user a meaningful and robust foundation to begin their digital transformations.”

Or, using that childhood analogy of hers, turning that messy pile of data into something wonderful.

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