Integrating Live Production Data with Business Applications

Propal benefits from quick, reliable and secure access to high quality data using standards-based connectivity.

Propal Paper Production in Valle del Cauca, Colombia recently upgraded their plants as part of a strategy to enhance profitability, stay competitive and maximize their Return on Investment (ROI) in the demanding paper market. They used standards-based OPC industrial connectivity to provide a complete off-the-shelf solution to give them quick, reliable and secure access to highly accurate data.


Figure 1 - Propal, Off Machine Coater

Prior to upgrading, limited data was available from four paper machines during and immediately after the production of each reel of paper. The data that was available was stamped on the end of each reel, and never stored electronically. Limited access to the existing data impeded Propal’s operating capacity and their ability to make timely and efficient decisions at the business level. Without instant access to the data from every reel, Propal’s ability to minimize cull and improve quality to meet customer requirements was disadvantaged. Their ability to plan, schedule, manage inventory and accurately determine operating costs was hindered by a lack of data. These deficits made staying competitive in a challenging market and improving overall business performance very difficult.

To optimize their upgrades and eliminate these deficits Propal needed to interface their ABB AC450 Quality Control Systems (QCS) with their new Manufacturing Execution System (MES). This interface would involve three paper machines and one Off Machine Coater (OMC) located in Plant 1, and one paper machine located in a second plant on a remote site.

The QCS system was only able to provide real-time data, not historical data typically needed for reporting and analysis. The new interface system would have to obtain real time data from the paper machines and OMC, store it and then present it to the OptiVision MES provided by Honeywell via an OPC Historical Data Access (HDA) server.

Process Control Network (PCN) security was also a major concern for Propal. Before the implementation of this interface, the PCN was secure and isolated from the corporate network. Interfacing the PCN with the corporate network represented new opportunities and potential risks. In today's aggressive paper market, production facilities must improve the timeliness and effectiveness of their production decisions to stay competitive. This involves the integration of real-time production systems with business applications to streamline the flow of information. However, security issues with Windows & Internet-connected business networks have caused significant reliability issues for systems in Operations. Incorrectly configured firewalls, viruses and un-installed or outdated system patches are some of the primary causes of lost production that lead to financial loss.

Propal had two main integration objectives. First, acquire high quality data, store it, and present it to a number of local and remote sources. Second, maintain a high level of PCN security.

One option for Propal was to use vendor specific protocols and write proprietary interfaces between the systems. However this would require custom coding, delay implementation, drive up costs and limit Propal to vendor specific solutions while leaving the security issue unaddressed.

Figure 2 - Using standards based OPC, Propal captured plant data and transfered data to Corporate Historian for reporting and analysis

Another option would be to use OPC standards based industrial connectivity technology. OPC technology is used to transfer data between devices and applications which is an inexpensive, easy to use, and commercially off-the-shelf solution. Based on industrial connectivity standards, OPC is quick to integrate and provides a stable, reliable and secure environment.

Propal chose MatrikonOPC technology because it is based on the OPC published standard. This provided a number of advantages for Propal, most importantly, mitigating proprietary problems between their ABB and Honeywell systems enabling them to operate with more agility and efficiency.

To address these issues, Propal’s Process Control Engineer, Mario Lopez integrated the MatrikonOPC Desktop Historian, Transporter, and Tuneller into their mills.

QCS data was acquired from Propal’s ABB AC450 control systems and stored in multiple MatrikonOPC Desktop Historians which were combined to create a total history solution. The MatrikonOPC Desktop Historians enabled Propal to collect, analyze, and manage data at the operation level using their ABB 800xA client applications. This became part of a total enterprise data historian solution.

For Propal to use QCS data at the enterprise level, a vital part of process optimization and production tracking, the data had to be transferred to Honeywell’s Optivision MES.

Propal integrated the MatrikonOPC Transporter as a quick and easy way to transfer historical data. No custom programs or scripts were required to move the data. The MatrikonOPC Historical Transporter is an off-the-shelf application that makes transferring data from historians quick, easy and seamless. It also enables Propal to transfer archived data from an off-site facility to Honeywell’s OptiVision for MES on the Corporate Network for off-line analysis.

To address the issue of Process Control Network (PCN) security Propal chose MatrikonOPC Tunneller to provide an easy, reliable and effective way to communicate between networked computers. OPC Tunnelling is a secure way to transfer data between different network domains. Once MatrikonOPC Tunneller was installed on the network of each domain, Propal could seamlessly transfer data between the two systems. They achieved this by simply installing MatrikonOPC Tunneller on the OPC client and OPC server nodes, stipulating a computer name and the port setting. MatrikonOPC Tunneller eliminated any need to re-configure the existing IT infrastructure.

One of the significant results for Propal according to Mario Lopez, Process Control Manager, was that the cost of using OPC was considerably less compared to proprietary solutions offered by ABB and Honeywell. No vendor specific protocols and proprietary interfaces requiring custom coding were needed.

With 6,000 QCS points connected and updated every 30 seconds, Propal’s production efficiency is steadily increasing. Quality paper manufacturers like Propal cannot tolerate defects either in the paper itself, or in the coatings applied. Their web inspection systems inspect paper at the speed they need, and now offer real-time detection and imaging of defects. While cutting paper products to meet customer requirements, Propal is now able to section out bad sectors of the roll leaving significantly less cull and reducing production costs.

In addition, Propal is able to take full advantage of the historical PCN data in their corporate environment while keeping the PCN secure. Off line data analysis with Honeywell’s OptiVision MES has resulted in timely and effective decision making for Propal. More effective planning, scheduling, inventory management and accurately determining operating costs has made staying competitive in a challenging paper market and improving overall business performance a reality.

Propal is growing into the advantages of their new scalable system that amply meets current needs and enables continued expansion and improvement as required.

About Propal
Propal was founded in 1957 by W.R. Grace. In 1961, International Paper Company became an equal partner, until 1997, when they sold their interest to the Carvajal Group. PROPAL is the largest fine paper producer in Colombia and the Andean countries. Its basic raw material is sugar cane fiber –bagasse-.

About MatrikonOPC
MatrikonOPC is the world’s largest OPC company. MatrikonOPC is a charter member of the OPC Foundation. With a collection of more than 500 OPC products and interfaces and over 100,000 installations worldwide, MatrikonOPC is the world's largest developer, trainer and distributor of OPC products. For free downloads or more information visit