Preferred Utilities turns to Ocean Data Systems' Dream Report to enhance performance monitoring | Automation.com

Preferred Utilities turns to Ocean Data Systems' Dream Report to enhance performance monitoring

Preferred Utilities turns to Ocean Data Systems' Dream Report to enhance performance monitoring

December 29, 2016 - Preferred Utilities is a source for products and services in the area boiler instrumentation and controls,  burners and fuel management systems across North America. Their markets include both small and large boilers, those typically found in hospitals, schools & universities, manufacturing facilities and emergency power systems.

Their automation systems are a mix of both internally developed and third party combustion control systems, combined with an HMI/SCADA operator interface and data management system from various suppliers.

The operator interface is designed for real-time management of the systems.  Communications with field equipment is typically based on MODBUS.  This offers the operator the ability to read and write setpoints, tuning parameters and interact with the system to manage and optimize performance.

Preferred has delivered a variety of performance reporting solutions over their history.  Early on, reporting solutions were based on custom software.  More recently, report generation was based on an automated Microsoft Excel solution.  Today, performance report generation is based on Ocean Data Systems’ Dream Report.  Many lessons were learned and this story is intended to highlight some of the issues and concerns that plagued earlier solutions.

Every equipment OEM evaluates the tradeoff between creating and maintaining their own solution, potentially having a competitive advantage through a unique offering vs. leveraging third party tools that deliver the functionality they need.  In early technology markets, the software tools that users want may not exist or are too basic for the task.  To an engineer, this looks like a development opportunity.  Preferred developed and offered their own technology for reporting.  While a workable solution in the early days, a privately developed and custom solution doesn’t benefit from the feedback and varying customer demands that comes from a broad market solution.

Lesson 1 – While custom developed solutions may get the basic job done, they are ultimately quite limiting and costly to support in the long term.  You are better off identifying and sticking to your core competencies.

Preferred Utilities relied on Excel based report generation for several years and they experienced many limitations that left them looking for other options.  Over time, another solution emerged on the market, a solution built for the world of industrial reporting delivering “All in One” functionality technologies.  That solution is Dream Report.

Preferred found, among other things, that the use of Excel for automation related reporting presents challenges in the areas of missing data, bad data quality, rollover data and the required definition of a wide variety of vertical market statistics.

Lesson 2 – Have a look at new solutions that are on the market.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the features and benefits that new technology and a “purpose built for industry” solution can offer.

Today, with Dream Report, Preferred Utilities is offering an advanced reporting and dashboard solution.  Their reports are an ongoing validation of Preferred Utilities combustion controls and fuel management systems.

Features delivered with the Dream Report solution include:

  • Provide data/reports needed by some customers for environmental compliance.
  • Reports are used to present information in human readable format and also to provide redundancy for the information retrieved from the equipment.
  • Provide a measure of equipment for use in operations monitoring & maintenance purposes.
  • Plant & individual boiler efficiency
  • Energy consumption

Preferred Utilities heard about Dream Report from a distributor.  Their first step was to review marketing materials and videos on the Ocean Data Systems Website.  The second step was to arrange an overview Webinar with Ocean Data Systems, which took about an hour.  Step three was the download of a trial package and the building of reports based on real customer data.  Within a few days and some how-to support calls, Preferred Utilities had their first performance report, a template that will be used over and over in customer solutions.  Dream Report offers a wide variety of features specifically developed for OEM use.

These include:

  • Report Templates that allow for the creation of either standard formats for background and style as well as complete reports with pre-canned statistics and objects.
  • Virtual Report Instances deliver the ability to handle repetitive environments such as those with multi-burner or multi-boiler installations. A report may be replicated for use, with the ability to tweak data sets to be used.
  • Web Portal that allows branding and variable access based on user permissions.
  • Project Deployment Tools enable Preferred Utilities to package new reports for end customers and deploy them at customer sites without needing system engineers.

When asked about his experience with the first Dream Report project, Paul Peterkin – systems engineer for Preferred Utilities stated:

“Every time I had a question about how to handle something in Dream Report, their support team was accessible and eager to help.   I could build our first project, learning as I went along.  Dream Report is certainly a very powerful tool and addresses our needs perfectly.  We are very happy to be able to migrate from our earlier Excel based solution to a solution that is much more modern, flexible and addresses our market needs perfectly.”

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