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Why Using a PI Historian May be Right for Your Manufacturing Process

Posted By: Craig Davis on
Jul 31,2017

If you are trying to troubleshoot or optimize different aspects of your manufacturing process, consider adding an historian. This software is used to store and analyze vital process and industrial data. Historians fall into their own category in the world of industrial software due to the critical role they play in the success of analysis and decision making. Unfortunately many companies have lots of data, but do not use it effectively.


Many companies are looking for ways to determine the root causes of why their plant’s performance is not at its best on a consistent basis.  For example, a plant manager may know that the plant is losing money because a process is taking an extra three minutes. However, determining why this process is taking those three extra minutes can prove to be challenging. Using historian software may provide the needed insight into this issue.  

Historians are designed to capture and store a large amount of data from many different sources using disk space efficiently so that years of data can be quickly retrieved. For instance, OSI’s PI Historian can handle millions of points, archive thousands of events per second and quickly retrieve data from a million gigabytes of data (many years of data for most users!).

In a process control system, very common items that are historized include temperature, flow rate, pressure, level and other types of analog data. Also common is the historization of digital data, such as the output or feedback states associated with valves, pumps and other discrete control devices. Integration with other software systems, such as Laboratory Information Systems (LIMS), allows the comparison of process data with lab results.

There are many advantages to adding historian software to your manufacturing process.

These include:

  • Visibility Across Different Systems/Vendors

If a site has multiple, separate systems, historian software can bring all those disparate systems into one view.

  • For example, if a plant has a boiler on one control system, say an Allen Bradley CompactLogix, and a production area on another unrelated control system such as Emerson Delta V, by bringing both systems into the historian, the production control room operators can watch the data to see if the boiler has enough capacity to handle more production.
  • All sources of energy/material (steam, water, electricity, raw materials) that flow for the entire plant can be pulled into the historian for a complete picture of consumption by all users. This allows businesses to determine how much it really costs to make that particular grade of product on a particular line.
  • It’s also possible to determine how making a particular product in one area of the plant can affect another section of the plant, such as production affecting wastewater treatment, when both areas are brought into the historian.
  • Throughput/Quality Improvement

The historian can be used to analyze data for Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and batch cycle improvements. 

  • The data from numerous batches can be analyzed to determine the optimum values for important parameters to create a “Golden Batch.” Once that’s done, batches can be monitored, in real time, to see if they’re deviating from ideal, so that corrective action can be made immediately to reduce waste and reduced quality.
  • Users can determine bottlenecks by monitoring cycle time. For example, a custom application created by Avid Solutions allows operators to enter a reason code when a given time for a step in a batch is exceeded, and that reason code is stored in the historian. Then, the process data and reason code for the long batch are in one place, making it easier to understand how to reduce cycle time.
  • Increased Availability of Data
  • If network security is properly implemented, control system data is visible in limited areas of the plant, but historian data can be made available throughout the entire corporation.  
  • Displays can be created to mimic the control system displays allowing the operation to be monitored at office desks, at home, or on the road. This way, the information that needs to be viewed is accessible, but the control system security is not compromised. 
  • Efficient Storage of Data and Quick Retrieval when Needed

A historian can store many years of data and make it available for immediate retrieval. Some of our customers have systems that were installed more than 15 years ago and all of the data since the initial installation can be easily retrieved for analysis and viewing. There are some installations where the historian can display historical data better than the control system.  In one instance, operators actually preferred pulling up trends in PI Processbook because of the faster performance and the more convenient user interface. 

  • Connectivity with Other Business Systems

By connecting the historian to business systems, it is possible to reduce downtime and more accurately report material consumption.

  • For example, by monitoring plant assets and connecting with maintenance management systems, the historian can facilitate predictive/preemptive maintenance. Instead of calendar-based maintenance, condition-based maintenance can be used. For example, when an asset, such as a motor, has been in operation for a predefined number of hours, a signal can be automatically sent to the maintenance management system to generate a work order.
  • At Avid Solutions, we've also helped a customer understand the raw material usage by configuring their historian to send totalized material data to the ERP system at the end of the batch.

If you are interested in adding historian software to your manufacturing process or using the data you have more effectively, consider Avid Solutions. We have installed many historian systems including those from OSI, Rockwell, Honeywell, Wonderware and GE in a variety of industries, and our teams have interfaced with PLC and DCS control systems as well as a myriad of business systems. We work with a wide variety of industries including life sciences, chemical, food/beverage and consumer packaging, power, and pulp & paper.  We understand the type of information your engineering, operations, technical services, maintenance, and business groups need.  Big data is the wave of the future, don’t be intimidated, it is possible to use large volumes of data to improve your processes.

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