Why We’re Implementing The OPC UA Spec. – And How It Will Benefit Our Customers

Going back 15 years now, dataPARC had the notion of a “Process Area” that allowed tags from multiple systems to be organized by Asset, providing filters (like Grade or Product) for all tags assigned to an Asset and for other useful associations to be applied globally. Building on this experience, the next major version of PARCview takes the next step in Asset Management and includes an adoption of the ISA 95 companion specification to OPC UA. The implementation will allow end-users a familiar, standards-based architecture for organizing their plant data.

In a previous post we talked about how the OPC UA ISA 95 companion spec provides a model that allows programs to exchange all the relevant information throughout a manufacturing organization. Through this model an asset framework can be built to connect various information sources, all sharing data associated with standard objects.

An Industry Standard Information Model

It is clear to us that a standards-based approach to Asset Management and the Industrial Internet of Things is best for manufacturers, equipment vendors, and solutions providers alike. While some vendors have decided to forge their own paths to the interconnected plant, their proprietary information models actually make it more challenging for manufacturers to fully integrate each of their plant’s assets. How can subscribing to a unique information model, developed by a single, private company, benefit manufacturers on the whole?

There are a number of reasons why dataPARC is implementing the OPC UA spec, chief among them is the belief that a standards-based approach to asset management is most beneficial for all. The OPC-UA ISA 95 companion spec is the most fully-developed model and provides an excellent framework for the interconnected plant. The main benefits of an asset framework are:

1. Improved tag organization

Finding related tags becomes simple and it eliminates the problems caused by inconsistent tag naming conventions. All related tags can be linked together for quick and easy access. For example, you could be looking at a PV tag and easily pull up a trend that includes all other variables associated with the control loop with just a couple mouse clicks.

2. Consolidation of hierarchies

Currently, dataPARC has separate hierarchies set up for process areas, logbook entries, accounting cost centers etc. With an asset framework this eliminates separate hierarchies.

3. Integration of people

Personnel information can be integrated with other manufacturing resources. Training material and operator qualifications can be easily tracked and accessed from the same screens that are used to look at process data.

4. Tracking of physical assets

Adding the ability to track unique physical assets to the process data system is powerful. Maintenance activities can be triggered with integrated equipment monitoring and insights into process conditions can be improved.

The video below shows dataPARC’s demo system built according to the OPC UA standard. This provides an explanation of the main concepts with real examples to help show how the standard is applied.

dataPARC’s implementation presentation begins at 26:00

An Industry Standard Information Model

  • Hierarchy structure – see how objects are related and organized 
  • Object properties – see real examples and how properties are inherited from different parent objects. Static vs. dynamic properties 
  • Role-based equipment vs. Physical Assets – see examples with properties and differences between these two object types. Also see how physical assets can be assigned and tracked 
  • Views – see how views can be used to organize objects so you only see the information you want in that view instead of searching the entire hierarchy 
  • Object copying – see how easy it is to move and/or copy objects into different hierarchies 
  • Information linked to equipment – see how easily information from other sources, such as maintenance work orders and safety videos, can be linked to objects and accessed from PARCview. This provides one-screen access to all information about a piece of equipment instead of needing access to multiple systems 
  • Process graphics – see how graphics displays are integrated with OPC UA. Example of tools that can be built to manage physical assets. 

More To Come

Currently, the dataPARC implementation includes equipment and physical asset models, but personnel will be added soon.