Process Analytics Finds Process Problems

In this whitepaper, Canary Labs outlines how companies, by using process analytical software, can gain great insight into their process operations to find problems and improve quality.

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Process Analytics and Intelligence—sometimes called Manufacturing Intelligence—has transformed the way companies produce goods, understand their manufacturing processes, and ensure a quality product in ways we could not have foreseen ten years ago.  Process Analytics and Intelligence can take many forms—from basic trend charts that highlight a single process variable to complex statistical analysis of multiple variables. Trending process variables allows you to go back in time and see what happened over the past minutes, hours, overnight, or over a weekend. When trend charts show that the data from the system is not typical, you can quickly determine the problem and resolve it before it becomes a major problem.  

The cornerstone of any real-time Process Analytical and Intelligence solution is an effective data storage and retrieval capability. In manufacturing applications, data is generated from a multitude of sources, from devices as simple as a weigh scale to as complex as a PLC controlling a high speed bottling line. To capture this data, it's important to look toward standards, and in manufacturing we have a ready-made standard for the interconnection of devices: OPC ( Using OPC simplifies integration of manufacturing devices to a process historian and ultimately to a trending solution.

Process historians are specifically designed to handle the high speed, high volume data generated by manufacturing processes. Historians capture the data and store it in a highly efficient format. Some historians compress the data, resulting in gaps or voids, while others capture and store it using lossless compression.  

The trending of process data is a quick and effective way to see what's happening.  Creating and displaying trends can be done in a variety of ways: trends can be embedded within an HMI/SCADA application, a separate software package can produce standalone trends, or trends can be displayed on a web page.  

Trend software must be easy to use and configure, so users can focus on improving the process, without learning a programming language just to create a trend. The trend tool must offer a rich feature set geared toward process analytics with capabilities like support for OPC-HDA and OPC-DA data sources, real-time updates and plotting, stackable pens (auto banding), user configurable time domains, and legends that include engineering and real time data.

Trend charts are great tools for presenting a summary of how the process is performing and highlighting instantaneous problems. However, in many situations you need to get at the details behind the trend to better understand how the process is performing. For this, having access to statistical data can be very useful. For example, to understand the overall distribution of data values you'll want to view the data in a Histogram.  Along with the Histogram, it's useful to display some general process statistics, such as mean, standard deviation and the percentage of samples the chart represents.

Real-time Process Analytics and Intelligence has the potential to expose a significantly greater amount of process data than traditional reporting is capable of delivering. This requires that we must manage how the data are collected, distributed and presented.  Real-time analytics helps to bring process issues into focus. While graphical analytics may not answer all the questions, they help to expand the understanding of the issues behind the data.  

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