Software Toolbox Technical Blog

4 min read

Migration to State Based Control Increases Production via OPC UA

By Kevin Rutherford on Sep 5, 2019 2:00:00 PM

If you're unfamiliar with state based control, it's a process automation design that essentially defines that all process facilities should operate in a recognized, definable state with previously defined normal and abnormal conditions with defined actions for each.  State based control is intended to allow company's in virtually any process industry to greatly reduce factors of human error and inconsistency, significantly increasing the efficiency of all processes.

In this blog post, we cover how a large chemicals manufacturer migrated to state based control using OPC UA and increased their efficiency, production levels and profitability as a result.

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4 min read

Keeping Process Control Decision Makers in the Know

By Win Worrall on Jul 11, 2019 2:00:00 PM

If you've heard of the Cogent DataHub, you may be aware that it supports email and/or SMS notifications of defined conditional events based on a variety of data from it's various supported interfaces (MQTT, OPC UA, OPC DA, DDE, ODBC and more).  Having the right people receive alerts (such as when a tank has reached a critical level or a critical piece of machinery is offline) in a timely fashion can be the difference between simple downtime and a major liability.

This blog post will discuss how to use variable distribution lists in conjunction with the Cogent DataHub's Email/SMS capabilities to ensure the right decision makers will always receive important notifications as quickly as possible.

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2 min read

Video Tutorial: Redundant OPC Connectivity with Cogent DataHub

By Win Worrall on Feb 21, 2019 2:00:00 PM

For many industries, where having access to process data is critical, it's common to implement redundancy on many levels to ensure there is no disruption to data collection.  While there are different levels of redundancy, the one we see users most interested in is with OPC data source redundancy.

The following short video blog demonstrates step-by-step just how easy it is to configure the Cogent DataHub to handle redundant failover between OPC UA data sources, OPC DA data sources and more.

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4 min read

New 2019 Automation & Control Software Learning Resources

By Kevin Rutherford on Jan 22, 2019 2:00:00 PM

The New Year is a time of renewal, new projects, new challenges, and for some of you, new roles, or new people on your teams.

In this blog post, we provide a quick reference to resources from the past year that should be helpful to you and your colleagues.  If you aren't already subscribed to our blog, we encourage you to subscribe. We publish new content about once a week, sometimes more often, and you can control when you are notified about new content.

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6 min read

OPC Data Client Development Toolkit Update – UA Platforms, Security, & Interoperability

By John Weber on Nov 13, 2018 10:00:00 AM

The 2018.3 release of the OPC Data Client toolkit continues to make OPC UA client development easier, more secure and interoperable, while continuing to support OPC DA, A&E, and XML-DA development.

In this blog post I have taken the release notes and boiled it down to the key benefits that might drive you to upgrade, get back on support, renew support, or, if you’re new to OPC client development, try our OPC Data Client toolkit.

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3 min read

Linux MES to OPC Operations Data Integration in Aluminum Smelting Operation

By John Weber on Sep 13, 2018 2:00:00 PM

Recently we worked with an aluminum smelter operation that has doubled in size since it first opened and has made a significant positive impact on the local economy by supplying aluminum to local industries which has fueled their growth.

Like any growing business, this user is always seeking ways to improve operations and reduce risk of downtime. In the end they need to deliver returns to their shareholders while continuing to support the local community, all of which requires consistent predictable operational results.  In this blog post, we'll cover how they used an off-the-shelf solution for integrating varied systems to reduce life cycle costs.

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3 min read

Namibia Brewing – Enterprise Data Integration Update & Award

By John Weber on Aug 16, 2018 2:00:00 PM

Earlier this year, we shared the story of how Namibia Breweries Ltd is using off-the-shelf open OPC software in their operations management system.  In that story, we shared how we had learned making beer in one of the world’s driest places takes some unique approaches to power sourcing, water management, and really all resources.

We visited with Namibia Brewing again recently when they attended the X-Change 2018 conference in the beautiful Central Drakensberg region of South Africa.   I had the chance to sit down with Annemarie Kruger, Renaldo Du Pisani, and Andre Engelbrecht and, in this blog post, you'll learn about how they have continued to evolve their system since I visited their site in 2017.

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1 min read

Video Tutorial: Using OmniServer with System Platform via OPC

By Kevin Rutherford on Jul 19, 2018 2:00:00 PM

OmniServer's core connectivity and data parsing abilities are only part of the equation when integrating non-standard devices with Wonderware.  How does that device data then make it up into Wonderware?

In this video blog, part of a series on connecting Wonderware to OmniServer, I'll show you how to make a basic OPC DA connection from Wonderware System Platform to OmniServer for integrating process data from all of your "other" devices that don't have a standard, off-the-shelf driver - all without having to write custom code.

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4 min read

Building Custom CRCs for Non-Standard Protocols

By Kevin Rutherford on May 17, 2018 2:00:00 PM

If you’ve been following our blog series on custom error detection, you’ll remember that OmniServer provides a large number of pre-defined Error Detection Codes (EDC) for use in different protocols for non-standard device communication.  And, again, it’s not uncommon to find an EDC from a vendor that is not pre-defined due to some specialized handling by the device manufacturer.

As we covered in our previous posts on creating a custom checksum and LRC, OmniServer gives you the ability to build custom EDCs in an OmniServer protocol to handle these situations.  This post, the final of three on custom Error Detection Codes, covers the basics steps to creating a custom CRC (Cyclic Redundancy Check) in an OmniServer protocol.

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4 min read

Building Custom LRCs for Non-Standard Protocols

By Kevin Rutherford on Apr 19, 2018 2:00:00 PM

You may be aware that OmniServer provides a wide variety of pre-defined Error Detection Codes (EDC, also known as CRC, LRC and Checksums) for use in protocols for non-standard device communication.  However, it’s not uncommon to find an EDC that isn’t pre-defined due to some specialized handling by the device manufacturer.

To handle such situations, OmniServer provides the ability to build your own custom EDCs in an OmniServer protocol.  This post, the second of three on custom Error Detection Codes, will cover the basics of creating a custom LRC (Longitudinal Redundancy Check) in OmniServer.

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4 min read

Building Error Detection Codes for Custom Protocols

By Kevin Rutherford on Mar 15, 2018 2:00:00 PM

If you’ve worked with OmniServer to connect your non-standard devices in the past, you may be aware of the large number of pre-defined Error Detection Codes (EDC, also known as CRC, LRC and Checksums) available.  However, as is the nature of custom protocols out there, it’s not uncommon to find an EDC that isn’t pre-defined due to some specialized handling by the device manufacturer.

To that end, OmniServer provides the flexibility to define your own custom EDCs in an OmniServer protocol.  This post, the first of three on custom Error Detection Codes, will cover the basics of creating a simple custom checksum in OmniServer.

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7 min read

Namibia Breweries Ltd leverages off-the-shelf OPC software for sustainable manufacturing in a tough environment

By John Weber on Mar 1, 2018 2:00:00 PM

When you live in a remote region that is one of the most arid places on earth, you import your raw materials, and you’re making millions of hectoliters of beer a year, you have to make the most of all the resources you have and leverage what is in abundance in your location.  Namibia Breweries Ltd. (NBL) has a long history of success in a tough environment at their Windhoek, Namibia location.  They have received numerous awards for their innovative approaches to meeting their information system needs.

In this blog post, we’ll share their look into how they use off-the-shelf software and their teams' intellectual know-how and creativity to empower their manufacturing success.  If you read the stories in Automation World or Pro Food World, you learned about how Andre Engelbrecht, manager of industrial control systems at NBL, and his team unlocked data sources and built a digital smart manufacturing platform across the entire facility.  In this article, we’re going to share the rest of the story of NBL’s integration points, problems solved, and how they leveraged Software Toolbox’s full value proposition as part of their team effort.

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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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