Dec 28, 2000

Open Channel Flow Reporting Improved and Streamlined

The environmental manager and maintenance supervisor of a large envelope manufacturing facility in the Springfield, Massachusetts, region requested the services of Pilot Electric in order to improve and streamline the data retrieval and reporting process associated with their Milltronics OCM II Discharge Flowmeter. Their involvement resulted in the development of Windows-based FlowReporter programs. Two programs are available; one dedicated to Milltronics OCM II flowmeters and the second dedicated to OCM III flowmeters.

FlowReporter programs can be adapted to operate with other microprocessor-based flowmeters provided the necessary technical specifications are supplied to accommodate such adaptations or program developments.

The maintenance supervisor at the envelope facility said, "The initiation of this program has resulted in fewer trips by plant personnel to the remotely located pump house, thereby reducing required and involved man hours associated with the reporting process. The implementation of FlowReporter II software has resulted in substantial cost savings and improved performance along with timely and accurate monthly reports for the respective authorities."

The problems identified were

  • Timely manual data retrieval from the flowmeter was needed to accurately record the instantaneous six-digit totalizer reading along with the 24-hour daily total stored in memory. If the readings were not taken within ten minutes of midnight, there would be significant discrepancies between the 24 hour totals and the resultant difference between the final six-digit and initial six-digit totalizer readings.
  • The recording process required that the appointed personnel drop whatever task they were busy with in order to retrieve the flow data. This was not practical.
  • The data-recording process was prone to transposition errors in recording the data on paper. In addition, data were prone to possible loss, through the possible misplacement or loss of paper documents.
  • Extensive time was consumed creating the monthly flow reports, preventing the maintenance supervisor and other management personnel from tending to other more pressing and urgent matters.

FlowReporter is designed to run on older and newer computers. The program will run through Windows 3.1.1, 95 and 98 and is Y2K compliant. Windows NT accessibility will be available soon.

The program can communicate with multiple Milltronics OCM II flowmeters. When communicating with multiple flowmeters, each flowmeter is addressed sequentially by its assigned site number through program.

The host (the assigned computer for the task) can be located up to 1.7 miles away. The separation distance is determined by the selected hardware to interface the OCM II or OCM III to the host computer. In this case an RS232 to 485/422 Converter Plus as supplied by Black Box was utilized. The maximum host distance of 1.7 miles is based on a baud rate of 9600 bps and 4-wire point-to-point 26-AWG twisted pair.

In the application developed, the client allocated a 386 host computer running 24 hours a day. If a break in communications occurs between the host computer and the flow meter, the program will automatically reset once the fault is cleared. All errors occurring are automatically cleared when the condition resumes to normal. This feature enables the program to run reliably and to resume operations without human intervention.

It is possible to retrieve data on a daily or weekly basis, if the user should opt not to leave the host computer up and running 24 hours a day. However, the date in such a scenario will need to be stipulated, before the host computer can retrieve the appropriate flow data from the OCM II.

Benefits of the program include

  • Improved and reliable record keeping of
    flow data,
  • Plant personnel freed up to attend to important maintenance/production operation tasks within the facility, and
  • Electronically stored data that can easily
    be retrieved.

The retrieved data can be exported to a spreadsheet, Quattro Pro, Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft Excel or other if desired. The program's export feature defaults to Excel 5.0. There are two options under "Export." The user can select Export OCM-1.xls or Export OCM-2.xls. The first option exports the respective dates, six-digit totalizer values and daily flow values for the month in question. The second option exports the respective dates, six-digit totalizer values, 15-minute flow average values, hourly average flow values as well as the daily flow values for the month in question.

A relational database is built into the program, enabling the user to seek out data meeting a specified criterion. The data retrieved and stored in our database can be backed up through the use of Data Backup. The user has the option of backing up the database to the A Drive, B Drive or C Drive.

The program permits the user to print out the displayed page of flow logs for a particular date or to print the monthly reports. Minimum and maximum flow rates are retrieved in the daily flow logs for each day along with the time of these occurrences. This information appears in the daily log printouts and also is printed in the monthly reports for each day.

FlowReporter III features
As with FlowReporter II, data can be retrieved from single or multiple Milltronics OCM III flowmeters. When communicating with multiple flow-meters, each flowmeter is addressed sequentially by its assigned site number through the program. The minimum and maximum daily temperatures will be retrieved along with the minimum and maximum daily flow rates.

This program enables the user to change certain OCM III parameter configurations such as selecting P, D and F parameters from a remote location.

The program has many features identical to those of FlowReporter II. If set up to do so, the logging rate of the OCM III will change automatically with a predetermined increase in flow rate. In this mode the OCM III will log more frequently, until the flow rate drops back to its normal rate. The program senses this change in the logging rate and retrieves all data accordingly on a daily basis.

Current data may be viewed by the user if the retrieved daily log is deleted for that day. However if left intact, the log automatically will be updated at ten minutes after midnight.

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