Data Communication between the PC and Plant Processes

1 - Background
2 - Concept
3 - Approach and Methodology
4 - Take-Home Value

1 - Background.        

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  • Head Offices in the Philippines normally run high level Management Information Systems.

  • The same company's manufacturing plant, likewise, take pride in the state-of-the art control system, "distributed control systems" (DCS) and similar systems.

  • For the heck of it, ask the question: "what is your current production cost per kilo of product?". It was "X" pesos yesterday as of 12:00 noon. "No, but I am asking what is it now?"

  • The frustration becomes even more pronounced if you ask the question: "what is the rate of change of the deterioration in production cost as a consequence of the quality of raw materials delivered but you are forced to use to fill the demand?".

  • One element in the solution to the lack of TIMELY, RELEVANT and ACCURATE information is to make the head office computer communicate with the plant process control computer at real-time.

  • But one may say, there are an awful lot of software and hardware solutions out there.

  • In this country, one pays a fortune for such solutions, in addition to maintenance contracts to be implemented by expats at expat billing rates and conditions.

2 - Concept.        

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  • The plant control engineers are the resources for the development of competencies in hardware-to-hardware communication.

  • PCs have serial ports and are readily available in the local market.

  • At the same time, most control systems are provided with serial ports that are RS232-compatible. If not, a simple low-cost hardware attachment could be built to make them compatible.

  • *.com (as opposed to *.exe) that have direct control of the computer's hardware resources are relatively easy to write.

  • Furthermore, those who are more comfortable with Basic, Assembler, and C should find writing programs for hardware control rather easy.

3 - Approach and Methodology.        

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  • The approach was strictly "hands-on". Students must have done the routines themselves.

  • The methodology was "show and tell". I show how things are done at my computer, which is flashed on to a screen and the students undertake something similar on their own.

  • The program runs for five days. At the middle of the 4th day, the students must be able to transfer the data presented on my computer screen to their own. Then, they must be able to upload data to my computer so that it is reflected on my screen.

  • At the latter half of the day, the students should be able to read a "Red Lion Temperature Monitor" at my desk, and later on, change the alarm setpoints of the Monitor.

  • They, themselves, solder the serial cables to their respective D25 or D9 connectors.

  • On the fifth day, the participants bring in actual cases in the plant to discuss ways of applying their learnings.

4 - Take-Home Value.        

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  • The participants were restricted to those plant control engineers who have experience and first-hand exposure to the plant process in question.

  • In this way, they would immediately apply the learnings and even install a running communication software when they go back to the factory/plant.