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Tom Cutler

Editor's Ramblings
OPC Training and OPCTI

by Naeem Ismat (Guest Contributor)  |   2008

The rapid penetration of OPC technology into our existing controls infrastructure has left us no choice other than to learn how to use it. Proven improved system reliability gained by using this standards-based technology is one of the reasons behind its rapid growth and warm welcome in the industrial sector. So Automation/Control/Process professionals can’t run and can’t hide from OPC.

Four or five years ago, OPC products, and especially OPC communication drivers, were quite rare on the plant floor but now they are quite common. So it is very important to keep up to date with knowledge about the basics of OPC. To be successful, productive and competitive in your job, it is extremely necessary to understand OPC. It has become unavoidable to have an understanding of OPC terms, how it works, and how to troubleshoot and repair DCOM problems in your setup. If you don’t know what the OPC specifications are, what they offer and how OPC applications are expected to behave, then you can’t upgrade/expand your existing systems based on the latest trends in industry, and you may end up spending a lot more money and time. In addition to that, you may have to deal with OPC communication problems later on. So sending employees off for basic level OPC training in troubleshooting and repair is a good start.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Level 1: OPC & DCOM Diagnostics training offered by the OPC Training Institute.

Normally, I am very choosy in selecting training whenever I want to fulfill my learning drive, as wrong training causes loss of time, and of course money too. My first consideration is always the trainer and his hands-on exposure to industry. If the trainer can’t address and respond to all the questions he may get from the attendees, then I prefer to read the theory from manuals and books in my office. But normally, books don’t address plant floor realities clearly, neither do eBooks offer any hands-on troubleshooting sessions. When I really want to learn new stuff, I prefer independent product training.

The OPC Training Institute; the name of this institute is quite fitting in what it offers to students. They don’t offer vendor-biased information, they focus strictly on training and they don’t try selling you their own products. They try to educate you in all possible ways, so that after finishing the training you can walk away confidently and manage and integrate OPC products in your existing infrastructure. You are the one who can decide what types of product and infrastructure are best for you, as you know better than anyone your system and plant floor realities.

According to Randy Kondor, President, OPCTI, “The OPC Training Institute focuses on delivering OPC education that is independent of any vendors. The Certified OPC Professional course supplies End-Users with the knowledge necessary to secure the success of projects that use OPC. This includes the understanding of how to select integrators who are most suitable for the job, and purchase fully compliant OPC products.”

Attending OPCTI’s Level 1: OPC & DCOM Diagnostics training course is a full-of-knowledge experience. It enables automation professionals to quickly take on the challenging task of establishing a robust communication infrastructure by using OPC products. This training breaks down the wall that separates a technologist/engineer from everybody else who is using OPC technology. It puts attendees in touch with a new OPC era.

The OPC & DCOM Diagnostics training course is designed to educate all types of people from industry, including people from IT and management backgrounds.

The OPC Hands-On Workshop exceeded my expectations. Each workshop is composed of various units that increase in complexity and, in each unit, students first learn the theory followed by hands-on exercises that demonstrate common contemporary issues. Each unit has additional exercises to challenge even the most advanced students.

The trainer is one of today’s leading OPC experts, with excellent communication skills and good hands-on knowledge of common industrial issues.

All the topics are first discussed in detail with case studies and real-time examples, and then there are hands-on exercises. Relevant examples helped a lot in learning about DCOM issues and fixes. Every student had their own computer, connected to a network, and it was very easy to replicate issues, try various fixes and figure out the root causes of an issue.

This jam-packed class had people from a variety of backgrounds including IT and management. The trainer addressed different kinds of questions in detail and it was a very knowledgeable experience for all.

Out of many case studies, one particularly interesting one that I would like to mention here was about Proprietary solutions vs. OPC solutions (see below). With a proprietary solution, project cost and time were both very high when compared with an OPC solution. The proprietary network was very messy with many different drivers.

By re-structuring the data flow to use just four new OPC drivers, applications can be built with less integration and much easier maintenance in the future, leading to huge cost savings. Look at how using this OPC saved money and time....

Imagine how greater OPC awareness will bring changes to your systems, saving dollars and time which will lower your engineering costs.

Here are some comments from participants on the OPC & DCOM Diagnostics training course:

"The OPC workshop had a great balance of lecture and practice. Now I know what questions I can ask my vendors to choose an OPC product."
Jonathan Schreiter, Air Products & Chemicals

"Very good delivery of training and the hands-on tutorials were excellent. The OPC Hands-On workshop exceeded my expectations!"

"A well organised and delivered training course. This workshop explained the technical details I need to assure the success of future projects."
Chris Berendt, Drax Power

"Excellent presentation from the instructor using good material and examples. The hands-on portion of the workshop differentiates it from other workshops I have taken."
Sharon Perkins, Domtar

"Randy is a great instructor. He keeps the classroom lively, and really knows how to teach a course. The troubleshooting portion was great...the most valuable aspect."
Kevin Knight, FMC Technologies

"Very nice productive instruction and workshop. I will be able to know what is going on when I start using OPC."
David Navarro, FMC Technologies

"This workshop gives me ground-up knowledge on OPC products. The training is great. This was one of the best training courses that I have taken."
Chun Yang, SAIC

"The instructor kept my attention with easily understandable examples and he explained it all in easy to understand terms. I have a far better appreciation of OPC technology." John Martin, UOP LLC

For those of you who are just interested in finding out what OPC is all about and how it will help you to save money and time, I would strongly recommend this course, as the information was presented and explained in a clear and concise manner, and it addressed the needs of all types of participant. The instructor did a good job in listening to people and discussing any questions that they had. He is a well-known person in industry, he has a very good technical background with experience in the real world, and is able to explain things clearly with real examples. The vendor neutrality aspect of the workshop increased its effectiveness. Many end users on my course told me at the end that they now know what questions to ask of vendors when it comes to choosing an OPC product.

From this course, I have upgraded my knowledge about OPC Basics, OPC DA (Data Access), OPC Tunnelling, Client/Server Architecture, OPC Redundancy, OPC A&E (Alarms and Events), OCP HDA (Historical Data Access), OPC UA (Unified Architecture), delving into COM and DCOM, Windows security issues with OPC, and more.

Effective OPC training can bring amazing changes on your plant floor. OPCTI is offering many big things in this two day training. Don’t just spend on OPC, also invest in OPC and without trained professionals you can’t dream productivity and growth.

Until next time,

Naeem Ismat

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