Is Dream Report a dream come true?
Dream Report, from France-based Ocean Data Systems, is marketed as a real-time reporting generator solution for industrial automation. It is interesting to note that the company is trying to get Dream Report recognized as the global standard for reporting in automation. This is a new development, and while it is unclear to me what this really means, it is worthwhile to examine the technology.
Reporting is paramount in any business, but with some reporting tools, it is difficult to identify the contents, let alone aggregate disparate databases for the information that may be required for maintenance, operations and/or management.
Dream Report is a very comprehensive product. Covering all aspects is beyond the scope of this column, so I will keep it basic.
There are many reporting tools available, and if you use Wonderware InTouch and only that, for instance, Dream Report may lose some of its shine since you are paying for the ability to use multiple disparate databases for the reports. It may not be worth the investment if you aren’t going to take advantage of this feature.
Integrated access to industrial data sources is Dream Report’s claim to fame. It seems it can get to any data anywhere from most any system, so the time spent on the learning curve is a good investment. Big data, KPIs and the Internet of Things are all buzz words that Dream Report addresses, so the scalability of users is an important benefit, along with information distribution locally or via the web.
The product is tag- and concurrent user-based. The pricing reflects these two parameters, but it doesn’t seem like the differential should be that much of an issue.
The interface for the product is very slick. It’s icon- and mouse-driven, which allows the company to declare a programmatic-free zone for reports. It can be a bit overwhelming, so you need to take your time.
I like scripting, but for a quick and relatively easy report generation process, I ran the project wizard on startup. The rich interface is a pleasure to build with. Once you have defined the reason for creating the report, you need to name it and define the data connection, which can vary from real-time OPC or various historians, as well as open database connectivity connections. Real-time or historical reports can be created, which makes a dashboard somewhat easy to deploy.
This is where some of the concepts can get confusing. Reporting by definition is historical, so having a report generated (or a web page updated) in real-time data is a novel idea. Couple that with a pre-defined template approach and a web browser, and your mobile device can become a window into your metrics.
While I am not suggesting that Dream Report is or could become a SCADA/HMI solution, it can most definitely be a connector to your process or machine sequences. One of the report triggers is on an event such as data change. Select the data source and tag, along with the condition such as change by ‘x%’, and the report gets triggered.
Other report definitions, such as frequency of report generation, are part of the wizard. Once the dataset is created, it is now time to design the presentation. I was duly impressed with the myriad of templates available so that you can create simple reports easily, but also aggregate reports with relative ease.
Using your own backgrounds and other images, your custom presentation can make you a rock star. At the end of the wizard, you add components such as charts and tables, which you would select based on the report audience.
While I only had the RSView historical database and a network OPC server for the data, I was able to put together a report within 30 minutes. It was simple, but I would not say that the learning curve is easy. You have to behave in the way the software needs you to behave. Unlike code, your innovation may take a back seat.
But for most of the control guys out there, this could be the ticket to creating very usable reports for a varied audience. It’s definitely easier than Excel!
This column originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.