Software Toolbox Technical Blog

8 min read

DataHub Enables Modular Procedural Automation at Air Liquide

By Win Worrall on Feb 20, 2020 2:00:00 PM


If you're unfamiliar with Modular Procedural Automation (MPA), it helps automate start-up, shutdown and other data-driven procedures in a process, increasing efficiency, optimizing production, and reducing wear and tear on equipment.  Additionally, MPA helps increase operator productivity and confidence.

Adapted from the case study in Control Magazine, this blog post covers how Air Liquide, a world leader in chemicals manufacturing, is migrating to MPA using OPC UA and OPC bridging to lower startup time by over 60% and increase production to over 500 additional tons of liquid oxygen (LOX) resulting in increased profitability.

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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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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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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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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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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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1 min read

Video Tutorial: Easy Integration of Your OPC DA/UA Data with MS Excel

By Win Worrall on Apr 5, 2018 2:00:00 PM

With DDE (Dynamic Data Exchange) fast becoming obsolete technology (Microsoft superseded DDE with OLE years ago), OPC DA and, more recently, OPC UA data sources have become the primary go-to for process data integration.  Recently, Microsoft even disabled certain DDE functionality in MS Office applications due to security concerns and malware exploitation targeting the DDE interface.

But the usefulness of MS Excel for data analysis across many industries even today is still undeniable and the primary mechanism for MS Excel to connect to a data source is via DDE.  So what do you do if you're still using MS Excel for process data analysis and reporting via DDE?  What's the alternative?

The following short video blog demonstrates step-by-step how to easily read/write data from process data sources (OPC DA and OPC UA Servers) using MS Excel (without DDE) with the Cogent DataHub.

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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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1 min read

Video Tutorial: Tracking the Health of Your Servers

By Win Worrall on Mar 8, 2018 2:00:00 PM

Knowledge is power and knowing the current state of your underlying server hardware for your process can be very powerful indeed.  Keeping a pulse on information like CPU usage, available memory, memory consumption by a process and whether or not critical process are still running can be the difference between hours of downtime with thousands of dollars in lost production and being able to proactively avoid any downtime.

The following short video blog demonstrates step-by-step how easy it is to use the Cogent DataHub to monitor vital system statistics on your servers that can be shared in real-time via supported client interfaces such as OPC DA and OPC UA or even send email/SMS notifications.

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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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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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