Read Part 1 here.
We began this series reminding readers that OSIsoft would be retiring its popular data visualization tool kit, ProcessBook. Since ProcessBook’s introduction thirty years ago, the industrial analytics marketplace has become quite crowded, with dozens of companies providing analytics products for everything from broad industrial applications to niche manufacturing processes. In this month’s conclusion, we’ll provide point-by-point comparisons of different ProcessBook alternatives already on the market: dataPARC’s own PARCview; OSIsoft’s ProcessBook successor, PI Vision; GE’s Proficy CSense; Canary’s Axiom software; TrendMiner; Seeq; and Inductive Automation’s popular SCADA platform, Ignition.
Any of the applications we discuss below could be the right choice for your needs, but identifying which aspects of industrial analysis these different tools emphasize will determine which specific choice is right for you. As mentioned in the first part of this article, we’ll be analyzing these software applications via five aspects: ease of integration, diagnostic analytics capabilities, operations management capabilities, advanced analytics capabilities, and cost.
OPTION 1: DATAPARC’S PARCVIEW
A real-time data analysis and visualization toolkit developed by the end user for the end user, dataPARC’s PARCview application, has long co-existed with OSIsoft’s PI Server in process facilities around the world. In fact, over 50 percent of all dataPARC installations are built on top of PI historians. If you value ProcessBook primarily for its trending and interactive process graphics, dataPARC is a superb alternative, featuring diagnostic analytics and operations management capabilities that are significant upgrades from what you’ve been accustomed to with ProcessBook.
With native integration allowing users to connect and begin visualizing PI historian data in a matter of minutes, dataPARC integration with PI Server is extremely simple. By utilizing the latest PI SDK technology and other performance focused features, most ProcessBook users will find improved performance. Likewise, dataPARC’s ProcessBook conversion utility allows users to bulk import their existing ProcessBook displays without losing any functionality.
Widely considered the best time-series trending application available for analyzing process data, dataPARC’s greatest strength is in its ability to connect and analyze data from various sources within a facility. In addition to its powerful real-time trending toolkit, dataPARC is loaded with features that support root-cause analysis and freeform process data exploration, including: Histograms, X-Y plots, Pareto charts, 5-why analysis tools, and Excel plug-in. As likely the fastest ProcessBook alternative you’ll find on this list, dataPARC’s Performance Data Engine (PDE) provides access to both aggregated and lossless datasets, allowing the best of both worlds—super fast access to long-term datasets and extremely high-resolution short-term data.
dataPARC offers a complete set of tools for operations management. dataPARC’s display design tool offers the ability to create custom KPI dashboards and real-time process displays using pre-built pumps, tanks, and other industry standard objects. dataPARC even allows you import existing graphics or entire ProcessBook displays.
All the standard reporting features are included here, along with smart notifications that can be configured to trigger email or text alerts for downtime events or other process excursions. dataPARC’s Centerline tool is one of the platform’s most powerful features, providing operators with an intuitive multivariate control chart with early fault detection and process deviation warnings, so operators can eliminate quality or equipment issues before they occur. Additional operations management capabilities offered by dataPARC include a robust module for data entry (manual or electronic), notifications, advanced calculation engine, and a task scheduling engine.
dataPARC doesn’t make claims to artificial intelligence or machine learning, but the platform provides a solid interface for advanced analytics, offering a data modeling module that uses PLS & PCA to power predictive analytics for maintenance, operations & quality applications. Lastly, dataPARC provides an unlimited user license for PARCview, which makes it a good fit for organizations wishing to get production data in front of decision-makers at every level of the plant.
OPTION 2: PI VISION
OSIsoft’s ProcessBook successor, PI Vision is branded as being the “fastest, easiest way to visualize PI Server data.” PI Vision is a web-based application that runs in the browser, which can be a significant change for ProcessBook users used to a locally-installed desktop app. PI Vision likely offers the most straightforward integration with PI Server, as it’s part of OSIsoft’s PI System. Migration of existing ProcessBook screens to PI Vision is supported by OSIsoft’s PI ProcessBook to Pi Vision Migration utility, however many users have reported difficulty retaining the full functionality of custom displays and graphics after moving them into Pi Vision.
Many users report that PI Vision’s trending tools provide less firepower than ProcessBook and competitors for root cause analysis and ad-hoc diagnostics, but it is perfectly capable of performing the basic trending functions of plotting time-series and other data against time on a graph. OSIsoft also offers their PI DataLink Excel plugin, which is often used for more advanced diagnostic analytics efforts.
Process Displays are the heart and soul of the PI System and, if you’re moving from ProcessBook, you’ll likely feel at home working in PI Vision. Although it’s not a 100 percent feature-for-feature replacement of ProcessBook (the SQC module, for instance, isn’t available in Vision), some of the ProcessBook features lacking in early versions of PI Vision are being added via periodic updates. In addition, there are some new capabilities in PI Vision that don’t exist in ProcessBook. The PI Vision displays use HTML5 and are integrated into PI’s Asset Framework (AF), which results in pretty intuitive display building. Basic reporting is available as well, but like much of the PI system, the data must be extracted to Excel via PI DataLink.
PI Vision doesn’t include any built-in data modeling tools or other advanced analytics components. PI Server data can be brought into 3rd party analytics apps via PI Integrator for advanced analysis. PI Vision uses a per-user pricing model, which is great for small organizations with only a few people accessing the platform. For larger manufacturers, or enterprise implementations with teams of operators, process engineers, and data scientists accessing the product, PI Vision can become quite expensive.
OPTION 3: PROFICY CSENSE
GE acquired CSense back in 2011 to provide better data visualization and analytics tools for use with their own Proficy Historian. CSense is billed as industrial analytics software that improves asset and process performance. Trending and diagnostic analytics is the focus here, with less emphasis on robust process displays. CSense is optimized for integration with Proficy, GE’s own time-series data historian. An OSIsoft PI OLEDB provider is required to integrate with OSIsoft’s PI Server. This interface may affect performance for users familiar with native PI integration.
CSense’s trending and diagnostic capabilities likely exceed what you’ve experienced with ProcessBook. Dedicated modules for troubleshooting (CSense Troubleshooter) and process optimization (CSense Architect) provide modern trends, charts, and other visualization tools to analyze continuous, discrete, or batch process performance., Regarding operations management, GE takes a modular approach to their data visualization products. Much of the operations management functionality provided in a single product like ProcessBook is spread over many separate products within the Proficy suite. There’s a fair amount of overlap in these products, but somewhere among GE’s iFIX, CIMPLICITY, Proficy Operations Hub, Proficy Plant Applications, and Proficy Workflow products you’ll find operations management capabilities that greatly exceed those of ProcessBook.
CSense marketing materials are filled with mentions of industrial advanced analytics, digital twins, machine learning, and predictive analytics. Like PARCview’s approach, this advanced functionality is enabled by the insights mined from the powerful data visualization tools of the core platform, though models can be developed in CSense to help predict product quality and asset failure. Finally, CSense licensing is offered in three editions: Runtime, Developer, and Troubleshooter, all which come with different component combinations and data connectors.
OPTION 4: CANARY AXIOM
Like CSense and PI Vision, Canary’s Axiom was designed as the visualization component of a larger system. Axiom was built to support analysis of data stored in Canary Historian. Canary’s Data Collectors can connect to process data sources via OPC DA and OPC UA, but they don’t have a dedicated module to connect to PI Server like some of the other options on this list. Axiom is browser-based trending application that, while not as powerful as some other ProcessBook replacements, is easy to use and capably performs basic diagnostic analysis. It lacks the more powerful features of products like dataPARC and CSense, but Canary does provide an Excel Add-in for performing more advanced analysis. If you were perfectly fine with the trending and diagnostic capabilities of ProcessBook, you’ll likely be satisfied with what Axiom provides.
Axiom offers dashboarding and reporting capabilities alongside their trending tools, but ProcessBook users may notice the lack of emphasis on display building provided here. Canary also lacks support for migrating existing ProcessBook displays, which is a feature that both dataPARC and PI Vision have. Canary avoids making flimsy claims to current buzzwords like Industrial AI or machine learning. Axiom’s focus is on nuts-and-bolts trending and analysis of time-series data, though their Excel Add-in does certainly open the door to more advanced analytics applications.
Canary helpfully posts their pricing on their website, with Axiom fetching a per-client fee in the form of both a one-time and monthly charge. This pricing assumes you’ll be using the Canary Historian, so the info on the website won’t be much help if you’re looking to connect Axiom to PI Server data only.
OPTION 5: TRENDMINER
Offering “self-service industrial analytics,” TrendMiner provides a complete suite of web-based time-series data analysis tools. Like dataPARC, TrendMiner offers native integration with PI Server. You can expect connecting to your PI historian to be very easy, although TrendMiner doesn’t appear to support the transfer of existing ProcessBook displays. With a name like TrendMiner, you’d assume that trending and diagnostic analysis is key for the Software AG brand. And you’d be correct—tag browsing, trend overlays, and data filtering are all favorite features of TrendMiner customers. Root Cause Analysis is a core use case for TrendMiner, but some users have mentioned difficulty learning to use the system to identify process issues.
Monitoring is at the core of TrendMiner’s operations management capabilities. The platform provides a number of tools that support smart alarming and notifications of process excursions, but visualization of processes seems limited to trends. ProcessBook users who depend on interactive process displays to manage and monitor plant performance will need to look to other options on this list to replace that functionality.
TrendMiner’s monitoring features extend the platform into “predictive” analytics territory. Like dataPARC and some of the other ProcessBook alternatives on this list, predictive performance is enabled via models based on historical data. TrendMiner pricing is dependent on your particular use case and they don’t list pricing on their website, however you can expect them to be on the higher end of the ProcessBook alternatives listed here.
OPTION 6: SEEQ
Founded in 2012, Seeq offers advanced analytics for process manufacturing Data. Analysis is the focus with Seeq, and their products are heavy on diagnostic and predictive analytics, without as much support for operations management as some of the other ProcessBook alternatives on this list. Like dataPARC, Seeq is optimized to connect to various different data sources within a plant, including OSIsoft’s PI Server. You should expect a pretty seamless integration with your PI historian data.
Seeq’s browser-based Workbench application powers the platform’s diagnostic analytics, offering a powerful set of trending and visualization tools. Advanced trending, bar charts, tables, scatterplots, and treemaps can all be employed to perform rapid root-cause analysis, and represent a significant upgrade in diagnostic capabilities from ProcessBook. Also, Seeq offers the ability to configure alarms for process monitoring, and their Seeq Organizer application allows users to build scorecards and dashboards for KPI monitoring, but they don’t provide anything approaching the display-building capabilities that ProcessBook provides. Therefore, engineers looking for a ProcessBook replacement, and an option for migrating or even replicating their existing displays, will likely want to look at other alternatives.
However, advanced analytics is an area where Seeq shines. Claiming predictive analytics, machine learning, pattern recognition, and scalable calculation capabilities, it’s clear that Seeq intends to be your solution for sophisticated process data analysis. Most of Seeq’s advanced analytics capabilities come from their Seeq Data Lab application, which provides access to Python libraries for custom data processing. Seeq’s pricing isn’t listed on their website, but they reportedly use a per-user pricing model which starts at $1,000 per year per user.
OPTION 7: IGNITION
Inductive Automation’s Ignition application is a popular SCADA platform with a broad set of tools for building industrial analytics solutions. Ignition offers the ability connect to virtually any data in your plant. While it lacks the easy native integration capabilities of some of the other ProcessBook alternatives on this list, Ignition supports various methods of connecting to your PI historian, including JDBC and OPC.
While Ignition shines as an HMI designer or MES, it ranks quite a bit lower than others on this list in its diagnostic analytics capabilities. But, to be fair, it wasn’t designed for root cause investigations and ad-hoc data analysis. Trending in Ignition is basic and integrated into displays, similar to what users may be familiar with in ProcessBook. Ignition’s Designer, on the other hand, is an extremely capable application for building process graphics and HMIs for real-time process monitoring and KPI tracking. While perhaps lacking the interactivity that ProcessBook users are familiar with, Ignition modules are available to help manage SPC, OEE, material tracking, batch processing, and more.
Inductive Automation offers unlimited users for a single server license of Ignition, with pricing based per-feature, starting at around $12,500 and going up from there. Ignitions price very much reflects its standing as one of the industry’s most popular SCADA platforms.
We know you have a lot to consider and want to avoid the headache of making a less than ideal decision. Presented with the prospect of discontinued support for ProcessBook, your challenge is twofold: First, you must figure out how to replace the displays, trends, and other features that made ProcessBook valuable. Second, you should evaluate potential replacement candidates for capabilities like predictive and prescriptive analytics that didn’t exist when you got started with ProcessBook.
All ProcessBook replacement options we listed above feature different tool sets. Now is the time to identify priorities and determine which solution is the right one for your organization.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Kevin Jones serves as the director of sales and marketing for Capstone Technology’s dataPARC division. Founded in 1997, dataPARC is a leading provider of industrial analytics and data visualization tools for process optimization and decision support. With a focus on serving the process industry, dataPARC offers historian and real-time analytics software for vertical markets such as oil and gas, pulp and paper, mining and minerals, food, chemicals and refining, and power and utilities around the globe. For more information, visit www.dataparc.com.
MODERN PUMPING TODAY, November 2023
Did you enjoy this article?
Subscribe to the FREE Digital Edition of Modern Pumping Today Magazine!