Author Archives: Brian Fenn

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DATA ANALYTICS: How to Get the Most Out of Your Plant Data

Everyone collects an exuberant amount of industrial data about their products, materials, and processes. And as we have also discussed at-length, manufacturers continue to struggle to completely leverage this data.  Raw data tables and reports tend to be the most common, but they are often tied to the plant floor or use specialized software that is limited in its accessibility so it cannot be beneficial for all of the stakeholders involved.
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Defense Against the Dark (PID Tuning) Arts

Sometimes it can feel like PID tuning is a cross between engineering, mathematics and the Dark Arts. There are some definitive engineering and mathematical steps to take when tuning a loop (for the first time or for the ninetieth), but there is also a lot to be said for experience and understanding how to tweak things based on the loop makeup and response you are seeing.
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Accessing the Far Netherworlds of Automation

Sometimes it seems like circumstances conspire against us and thwarts our efforts to help our customers. In particular, I’m thinking of a couple of our customers that we do break / fix support for. Since they don’t have strong IT infrastructure, any changes or troubleshooting has to be completed remotely. While it’s not that far to their location, because we have to deploy to engage, we are often called in onsite when they have no other options. That means the customer needs to fully identify the issue as accurately as they can, have different internal resources take a crack at it and then bring us in. While that may all happen in less than a day’s or shift’s time, that period that the facility is down or degraded versus the five minutes it sometimes takes us to get them up and running feels way too inefficient.
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The Training without Application Blues

We’ve all been there. You receive some scheduled training (probably even had to travel for it), only to not have to apply it for another six months. Maybe that was the only time the training was available. But the session was a while ago and you weren’t able to start the work and apply the skill until today. By now, the vast majority of what you remember / scribbled down doesn’t mean a whole lot. You struggle through trying to make those notes from long ago coincide with the task that you are now presented with and it’s a bit painful. Maybe even more than a bit.
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Manufacturing Data: “Like a Mule with a Spinning Wheel”

Manufacturing data. As The Simpsons’ Lyle Lanley once quipped to the assembled residents of Springfield, it’s “a little like the mule with a spinning wheel.  No one knows how he got it and dang if he knows how to use it.” Except this mule has, like, a LOT of spinning wheels. Industrial Historians are now ubiquitous at most manufacturers, data storage is cheap and many folks grab any and all tags they can find and send them to the Historian in case they ‘need them.’
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