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Maximizing Your Prism4 CMMS Data Assets
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Maximizing Your Prism4 CMMS Data Assets

Author : Eric Layland

Condition monitoring systems are evolving at an astounding rate. There are more capabilities, features; bells and whistles packaged into ever more expensive application suites. Many of these products are fantastic examples of software engineering and it shows by the hours required of specialist(s) to install and configure such solutions. No doubt about it, they can be nice once they work. But what about systems in place that are performing as needed but could use an extra boost? Do they need to be scraped for the latest and greatest CMMS-HMMI- MRP-ERP-XYZ solution? What they could really use is a dose of proven technology that won't break the budget and offers greater returns for an existing system.

Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) in the United States is the premier test and development center for flight simulation in the United States Air Force. The impressive facility is a vast collection of sophisticated laboratories, test facilities and support operations designed to put the most advanced systems for aircraft, space exploration and propulsion technology to the test. While you may not be involved with rocket science, it doesn't mean your needs are any less important.

In one of the center's instrumentation labs for analyzing vibration in electric motors and related components, an SKF Condition Monitoring Prism4 system is deployed. Prism4 provides a variety of pre-defined application functions, and stores equipment logging and test information in an embedded database within the software.

As system requirements evolved, engineers needed analyses not provided in Prism4, according to Mark Brandon, a civilian programmer/analyst with Sverdrup Technology's Diagnostics Instrumentation Branch, a contractor for AEDC, located on-sight. To build these capabilities, the development group planned to use National Instrument's LabVIEW, a programming tool used widely for building instrumentation measurement and control applications.

The LabVIEW component communicates with databases and other applications using the Open DataBase Connectivity (ODBC) industry standard. However, the embedded database in Prism4 provides only a proprietary interface, without the availability of an ODBC option. This left the team with two options, both costly. They could pull Prism4 from their integrated lab system and switch to a more compatible application. Or they could migrate to a new platform for collecting the data. The vendor of Prism4 had recently unveiled a new condition monitoring solution but the cost to migrate to the new product would have been prohibitive, Brandon says. Additionally, significant down time would be incurred, as the new system would need to be installed and configured. A lack of familiarity with the new system would further extend the time needed for the system to be operational as end-users learned new processes and procedures.

Adding value and adding features are two very different ideas. Particularly in difficult economic times when budgets are tightened, maximizing the usefulness of existing tools is the more prudent option to adding more "gee-wiz" features.

While researching alternatives, developers discovered an unexpected solution: ODBC technology for Prism4. The proven and cost effective industry standard would enable distribution of embedded data to other applications. Often over looked because of the noise created by emerging technologies, ODBC does one thing and it does it well; allow data to easily migrate between compliant platforms.

When Prism4 was developed, an embedded database was used to store and log data. At the time the Raima Database Manager or RDM technology was extremely sophisticated but lacked ODBC that would in time, evolve into the standard it is today. At the time of development, RDM was and continues to be, a very powerful database engine. But the lack of industry standard data access can hinder the system as data exchange requirements evolve into a necessity. Several years ago exchanging data was not a priority consideration on the manufacturing floor. Times have certainly changed!

Data not used is data lost. Lost data means incomplete information sets and decisions made with incomplete information are more likely to be wrong. Being wrong when deciding to hold off on maintenance of that 'troublesome' gas turbine is not the side of the fence you want to be on.

Which brings us back to ODBC for Prism4. Most commercial operations are not going to have the same requirements as the U.S. military but there is a need to distribute data into complementary tools such as the popular Microsoft® Access or Excel. Without RDMi, the data is effectively off limits to these and many more applications. The ability to use common tools and industry standards that are readily available reduces the need for costly custom development.

Robust enterprise systems are also likely benefit from incorporating condition monitoring data from Prism4. Although the components and configuration may be different in military versus commercial environments, the need is the same: access data and distribute it to where its value can be best maximized in a cost effective manner.

"RDMi connected easily and communicates with LabVIEW flawlessly," Brandon said. "With it, developers can access Prism4's embedded database and customize the system as much as they want. No one looks forward to the disruption of a system overhaul. ITTIA's ODBC technology for RDM eliminated this need, allowing us to get to data and to do our own analysis using methods and algorithms we've developed. Given our situation and needs, RDMi provided outstanding cost-effectiveness," Brandon said.

As the production plants and manufacturing facilities of the world evolve in complexity, the ability to manage the resulting flow of information is essential. If the data is not used, the resulting knowledge that can be leveraged is lost.

Everyday significant investments are made in technology to support operations. In trying economic times organizations will seek to maximize the returns of their investments and extend the value derived. Deploying processes and tools that enable more value to be gained, more usefulness to be realized and greater flexibility with existing solutions is good business sense regardless of the economic climate.

Information supplied by ITTIA, 1605 116th Avenue Northeast, suite 203, Bellevue, WA 98004; contact Eric Layland; (425) 454-8519; email; Internet

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Revised: Thursday, 08-Oct-2015 11:54:28 AEDT
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