Stop exporting data manually, start automating reports for better visibility.
By: Allan Evora
Reporting as part of a SCADA system is one of the most underutilized benefits. Typically, reporting is something a SCADA system does well, but engineers fail to specify, and owners don’t take advantage of it.
- They don’t understand the capabilities. Reporting is strictly the processing of data on the historian. Because it’s software-oriented, it’s not as cut and dried as instrumentation, controls, real-time displays, alarms, and trends.
- It requires forethought. Reports are most beneficial when customized for a specific user. A great example is the Joint Commission, an organization that doesn’t dictate to an owner how to present the results of their monthly generator and ATS testing. In our experience, owners shy away from OEM formatting because it requires them to deviate from what they know. If an integrator can customize the report to a format they’re already used to, the owner is much happier.
- Customization comes with a cost. Some customers don’t explore reporting because they believe it’s cost-prohibitive. Most owners require information regularly extracted from SCADA for analysis purposes (load studies, energy reduction initiatives, performance analysis, etc.) What I’ve found is the recurring time to manually generate reports, extract information, and reformat usually exceeds the one-time cost to customize and automate a SCADA report. Instead of SCADA reporting, owners will extract data via Excel, CSV, or XML, then manipulate it in a preexisting Excel worksheet. Or, a customer will use an open API to the SCADA system to directly interface their spreadsheet or database to the SCADA historian.
Ultimately, both are a waste of time, because you should already have reporting built into your SCADA system!
5 key things you should do with built-in SCADA reporting
1. Build in analytical reports to customize reporting.
If a deep dive into analytics or tracking KPIs appeals to you, you must focus on reports that go beyond standard templates. Here are some great examples of custom analytical reports we’ve built for customers:
- Average load profile, with the ability to filter out off-peak times.
- Histogram showing when the facility peaks during the day.
- Utility shadow billing to help identify inappropriate electric, gas, or water charges.
- Alarm worst offender reports.
2. Schedule reports to keep you informed.
Certain reports make the most sense on a schedule, such as Joint Commission reports for emergency generator testing. Perhaps your generator testing commences on the first Saturday of each month. I suggest scheduling a Monday summary report that shows test results and documents which tests passed and which ones failed and required re-testing to comply with NFPA 110 requirements. Along with the summary, the report should include detailed information for each generator (% KW of nameplate, EGTs, fuel level, odometer readings, etc.) to bring attention to any needed preventative maintenance.
3. Trigger event or condition-based reports to track trends.
A SCADA reporting package allows you to trigger reports based on events. Say you need to keep peak demand below a certain level because your utility tariff charges based on the highest peak demand in the last 12 months. Because of a mistake that was made on equipment startup sequencing, you set a peak demand of 20MW last month, but you would typically never see it rise above 17MW. Your 12-month goal is to stay below 17MW to set a new peak level for next year.
Because 17MW is your goal, you would first set an ‘approaching peak demand’ alarm when exceeding 15MW, but also generate a report triggered by the 15MW that looks back over the last 7 days and emails trends to the plant manager
This triggered trend report allows the plant manager to see if the culprit is a spike or overall plant trend. It may help them start investigating a piece of machinery left running inadvertently, or a motor running inefficiently.
4. Distribute reports to reduce the overall licensing cost of your SCADA system.
Most SCADA systems charge per user, which means you must purchase client licenses for each person who needs access to the system. Many stakeholders may want the information housed in your SCADA system, but don’t necessarily need full access.
Instead of requiring users to login to a system to view reports, you can automatically distribute reports to any email or save to a network drive. Because most reporting packages do not have limitations on how many people you can distribute a report to, you can share information with a much broader audience, including other partners such as engineering firms or service providers.
5. Cleanse data to get a more comprehensive view into your facility.
In an ideal world, your SCADA system would run all the time and never have any missing data. But instruments need to be calibrated, networks go offline, and equipment fails. The ability to examine data and make decisions often requires gaps to be filled using reporting smarts. A system integrator can easily build a missing data substitution algorithm.
Here’s a great example of data cleansing in practice. Continuous emissions monitoring systems report emissions to federal and local environmental agencies. These agencies allow missing data to be substituted, producing a more comprehensive (although, somewhat conservative) reporting of pollutant levels.
If you are not currently taking advantage of SCADA reporting, but you are regularly needing information to determine or evaluate system performance, I encourage you to explore the options that your SCADA solution has built in. If your SCADA solution does not have reporting built in, perhaps a solution like Dream Report will work for you. While reporting may require investment of time and $, our experience has been that it will expedite the return on your SCADA investment. Let us know how we can help you with reporting!
Allan D. Evora is a leading expert in control systems integration and president of Affinity Energy with over 20 years of industry experience working in every capacity of the power automation project life cycle. With a background at Boeing Company and General Electric, Allan made the decision to establish Affinity Energy in 2002. Allan is an alumnus of Syracuse University with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, graduate of the NC State Energy Management program, and qualified as a Certified Measurement & Verification Professional (CMVP).
Throughout his career, Allan has demonstrated his passion for providing solutions. In 1990, he developed FIRST (Fast InfraRed Signature Technique), a preliminary design software tool used to rapidly assess rotary craft infrared signatures. In 2008, Allan was the driving force behind the development of Affinity Energy's Utilitrend; a commercially available, cloud-based utility resource trending, tracking, and reporting software.
Allan has been instrumental on large scale integration projects for utilities, universities, airports, financial institutions, medical campus utility plants, and manufacturing corporations, and has worked with SCADA systems since the early ‘90s. A passion for data acquisition, specialty networks, and custom software drives him to incorporate openness, simplicity, and integrity into every design in which he is involved.