Software Toolbox Technical Blog

Marc Holbach


Recent Posts

4 min read

Optimizing Heat Reclamation Process with OPC Data Logger

By Marc Holbach on Nov 7, 2019 2:00:00 PM


At Software Toolbox, we commonly hear from users seeking a solution for connecting and gathering data from this or that type of hardware.  Beyond that, though, is what users do with the data once they have it.  A common need is reliably logging process to a database such as Microsoft SQL server.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss a specific use case of a German R&D firm needing to collect data from multiple OPC data sources and log that data to a SQL database for further analysis geared towards a pilot project developing a model for optimizing Combined Heat & Power Partnership (CHP) technology for transferability to many enterprises where heat and power generation are essential to the process.

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3 min read

LGH History Data Facilitates Predictive Maintenance

By Marc Holbach on Oct 3, 2019 2:00:00 PM


If you're interested in LGH history data and are reading this, you likely have your own use case for working with InTouch LGH history files.  Given that LGH files are a classic method for InTouch users to log historical process data, the use cases for LGH history data are similar to any other use cases for historical data.  Trending and predictive analytics can be key methods that utilize historical data for identifying process issues and resolving them in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

This blog post covers a specific use case involving an engineering research student working on a condition and performance monitoring system for subsea hydraulic systems targeted at identifying the health of the system and supporting predictive maintenance.

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3 min read

OPC Data Logger Features to Be Excited About in the V3.7.0.1 Release

By Marc Holbach on Aug 15, 2019 2:00:00 PM


As you are probably aware, OPC Data Logger is an OPC lab-certified solution for dynamic, event driven logging of process data to standard SQL/ODBC databases, including Microsoft Azure SQL, or text/CSV files.  As part of the continuous improvements process for OPC Data Logger, we have regular product releases that provide updates to existing features and new functionality.

In this blog post, I'll cover some flexible new features that you may not be aware of from our most recent releases of the OPC Data Logger available now in V3.7.0.1.

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5 min read

Did You Know? OmniServer Can Integrate Most Printers with Your Process

By Marc Holbach on Aug 1, 2019 2:00:00 PM


Whether your role is IT or OT, there tends to be an almost universal dislike of having to work with printers. It is likely, for this exact reason, that when tasked with integrating a printer (be it a laser jet printer for labelling packaging, or a label printer to track your products) many users are simply forgoing the integration completely.  That might mean opting for limited integration with a PLC on the line or simply choosing to not integrate at all while continuing to make any configuration changes manually.

In this blog post, continuing our OmniServer Did You Know series, we’ll discuss several methods that users have implemented over the years when needing to use printers in a process and how OmniServer provides an off-the-shelf, easy-to-use alternative for direct integration of most printers with your process control systems.

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8 min read

Tech Support Corner: "It has to work, I can ping it, right?"

By Marc Holbach on Apr 4, 2019 2:00:00 PM


As you are probably aware, the Ping command is one of the most widely used diagnostics tool when troubleshooting communication issues on Ethernet networks. I would accredit this popularity to the fact that everyone knows how to use the command, it's extremely simple to execute, and the results are not really open to interpretation (i.e. it either works or it doesn’t); or are they?

When troubleshooting communication issues, the most common line we hear when something isn’t working is “but I can ping it” as if this alone should serve as definitive proof that everything is working as expected and the communications server is choosing to not communicate.

Continuing our Tech Support Corner blog series, this blog post covers some common misconceptions about the Ping command, particularly how it can be used efficiently, and when it may not be the best tool for the task, as well as, better alternatives to Ping that actually provide actionable data.

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7 min read

How to Integrate Your S7-1500 via OPC UA using TOP Server for Wonderware

By Marc Holbach on Mar 7, 2019 2:00:00 PM


In recent years, many of our users have let us know they are adopting the latest Siemens technology, particularly S7-1500 controllers.  And, with that adoption of those controllers, users have been asking for connectivity via the symbolic optimized block addressing.  So we added a Siemens Plus Suite to enable connectivity to new and legacy Siemens devices.

This post focuses specifically on the general steps required to integrate S7-1500 controllers by connecting to their embedded OPC UA server using TOP Server for Wonderware.

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1 min read

LGH File Inspector Enhances Global Log File and Time Support

By Marc Holbach on Dec 6, 2018 2:00:00 PM

The LGH File Inspector is used for many different application types as a way for users to gain added value from Wonderware InTouch local history or LGH files.  With our global user base, it’s common to have different time zone and time format requirements.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some key enhancements in the LGH File Inspector Version 1.4.2 release that increase flexibility for users with unique time zone and time format needs.

Topics: Wonderware CSV LGH
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5 min read

Your Data Logger Wouldn’t Just Throw Away Data. Or Would It?

By Marc Holbach on Feb 1, 2018 2:00:00 PM


What is the most important feature for any data logger to have? At the end of the day, we are trusting a data logger to take our data and store it.  Now whether that is for reporting, optimization, legal reasons, or simply to retain process data over some period of time in case it might be needed later, we expect the data to be logged without any losses.

This is particularly true in the industrial automation space, where the amount of data that is being logged is growing almost as exponentially as the speed at which the data is needed in order to have a business impact. As such, the prospect of losing data can very quickly result in lost jobs, thousands of dollars in lost production, and legal or financial penalties in case of an audit.

So how much do you trust your data logger to really be logging 100% of the data that it should be? In this blog post, I will address these concerns and highlight the ways OPC UA provides capabilities that software applications can leverage to provide peace of mind.

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5 min read

Logging Smarter - Dynamic Table Selection at Runtime

By Marc Holbach on Oct 26, 2017 2:00:00 PM


Does your data logging software force you to define the location where you're logging your data ahead of time?  Wouldn’t it be nice if your logging software could evaluate your data and make a decision on where the data should be logged?

In this first of two posts in a series on dynamic SQL logging, I'll show you how the OPC Data Logger can easily be configured to switch between SQL Tables at runtime, reducing any post-log sorting you have to do in SQL and saving you time and effort in the process.

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6 min read

Logging Only The Data You Need When You Need It

By Marc Holbach on Sep 14, 2017 2:00:00 PM


Do you need to log specific process data to a database or text file based on some predefined variable or condition? We typically refer to this concept as "conditional" or "condition-based" logging.  It sounds simple enough but without a plan, it can be a tricky task to implement.

In this post, I'll introduce you to the considerations involved with conditional data logging and cover how OPC Data Logger can easily be set up to log data based on a variety of conditions without a lot of headaches.

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4 min read

Did You Know? You Can Initialize Your Device with OmniServer

By Marc Holbach on Jul 13, 2017 2:00:00 PM


Does your non-standard instrument connected to your COM1 serial port refuse to communicate without being told how? Do you need to tell the instrument what bank of memory to use before you can extract any data? Does the instrument require setup parameters before it will work? Do you not want to script this in your client application, and don’t want to expect a user to manually initialize a device before doing anything else?

With OmniServer, there is an auto-activated message flag that's exactly the feature you have been looking for when communicating with your non-standard devices and instrumentation.  This fifth post in our "OmniServer Did You Know?" blog series focuses on how to use OmniServer's setting for auto-activating a command protocol message to initialize communications with your device automatically on startup.

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4 min read

Did You Know? Monitoring OmniServer Polling Statistics

By Marc Holbach on Jun 22, 2017 2:00:00 PM


A common question I run into when talking to OmniServer users is "How can I gain more visibility into what is going on with my OmniServer."  After all, a primary concept for an OPC Server is to be invisible – to be a transparent converter between the protocol used by a device, and that used by your SCADA or HMI (i.e. OPC, Wonderware SuiteLink, etc.).

While there are a number of answers to how you can be more aware of what is going on with your system, this fourth post in our "OmniServer Did You Know?" blog series focuses on the importance of system tags, and specifically how they can be used in the OmniServer to query the health of the server as a whole, as well as individual device connections.

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Working in industrial automation since 1996, the Software Toolbox team has seen a lot. The level of automation system sophistication of our integrators and users has evolved, each driven by the demands of their market and clients.  Everyone's learning continues as technological change accelerates.

This blog is about sharing from these journeys.  From tips on implementing software, successes our clients have experienced, or new ideas and things to consider in your journey, we'll be sharing them here.

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