Too Much Information?
Do PI and similar solutions carry the risk of overwhelming end users with all the data that this type of system can churn out? "Yes, that's possible," admits Stoffel. But the engineer says that the key is to learn what data is important to which person and to help that person turn the data into useful knowledge. At the same time, Stoffel believes in archiving more rather than less data. Currently the Calvert City's system is archiving 16,000 individual data points, or tags, in the PI solution. "Maybe some of them you really don't need, but you never know," he says. "The key is to throw it all in there, and then someday, if you have a safety incident that you have to investigate, you can use all the available data to try to get back to a root cause and solve that situation."
Looking ahead, Stoffel says he is exploring new ways to increase the utility of the PI System to the business side of the company. He's started with a small project to merge information from the plant's SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) system (such as daily production numbers and yields) with PI information (specifically, data on energy use) to generate daily reports on how much energy it takes to generate a pound of a certain product. Plant managers can monitor those reports and use the information to find ways to improve the plant's efficiencies, with the potential for much greater returns for ATOFINA. The plant also has long-range plans to take advantage of OSIsoft's certified interfaces to SAP and to use PI to supply greater information to the company's supply chain.
Of course, beyond the hard and soft savings that the Calvert City plant has achieved using the OSIsoft products, the PI System has had one additional benefit that, for Stoffel at least, may be priceless. "This is the one piece of software," the veteran engineer says, "that I don't hear people complain about."