Data collection and reporting the cheap and easy way

Most data collection and reporting software requires a lot of upfront capital to get started with. But there are ways smaller companies and manufacturers can get access to all the same tools without the high cost.

Brian Fenn, Avanceon
Brian Fenn, Avanceon

Inspector Gadget was impractical. You can’t have every conceivable device you might need for any possible, or even plausible, situation at the ready. And that’s before we get into the size of those contraptions he seemingly pulled out of his chest. Batman, however, was much more functional, although hardly any less fanciful. In his utility belt, he had a number of tools that were extremely useful and effective for the situations he was most likely to find himself in.

At Avanceon, we have been working on our manufacturing insight utility belt. We see so much manufacturing data running around—much of it uncollected or neglected, often misunderstood and under-utilized—and we yearn to herd, order, and harness that potential into actionable information. We are looking to tackle data of every social stratification and not just that of the wealthy and elite manufacturers.

In other parts of the computing landscape, we have seen a similar transition with the rise of things like Microsoft’s 365 offering. Back in the day, if you wanted your organization to use the Microsoft stack, you had to buy and load copies of all of the software on each machine, as well as set up and maintain servers to house company-wide offerings (e.g. email, SharePoint, Project, etc.). Also, you would need to configure and maintain all of the interoperability between Microsoft software, as well as all of the client and server interconnections.

There was a large upfront cost for both software licensing and server/hardware infrastructure, and a significant support staff was required to proliferate and maintain these systems. Today, Microsoft offers these tools on a monthly, per-user basis where they handle all of the back-end maintenance, update, and interconnection. As a result, a small startup of just a couple of people has access to all of the same tools and systems a large corporation has at a price point that is accessible to them.

In the ever-expanding world of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), cloud-based offerings, and subscription services, we are getting exceedingly close to realizing our ultimate data Batman, or Batwoman, self. Just recently, I was with a new customer doing a workshop on Aveva’s Wonderware InSight, which allows one to push data into a central repository. The data can then be analyzed, dashboarded, and integrated for a better understanding of operations in real time. Being a subscription-based cloud offering, the software requires very little in terms of upfront capital or installation effort. It also serves as the backbone for a manufacturing execution system (MES) offering that provides many of the basic MES functions in a simple and cost-effective package.

This represents one of the key tools in our data Batman utility belt. We are tuning and polishing up some others and are ready to strike fear into the hearts of data that has previously just been allowed to wander around and show up if and when it wanted. Instead, we will capture and wrestle that data with many kapows and zowies until it has become useful information. So, if you need us, just call or email; that whole bat-signal thing is very impractical.


Brian Fenn is vice president of operations at Avanceon, a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Avanceon, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

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