Customer Profile: Process Control

AspenTech Teams with SL for Data Visualization to Support Production Optimization Solutions

For over 20 years, process industries have turned to Aspen Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ: AZPN) for integrated software solutions that help maximize profit opportunities throughout the value chain.

The world’s leading petroleum, chemical, pharmaceutical, metals and consumer packaged goods companies have implemented AspenTech technology to design, optimize and execute their business processes in real time.

The company’s eBusiness initiatives include product development focused on enabling enterprises to integrate, automate and optimize strategic business processes across plants and the extended supply chain while leveraging the Internet. To this end, AspenTech has launched the Manufacturing Suite of product families to support the Production Optimization solutions, to provide improved operations workflow, optimization and automation of plant processes. For highly flexible, real time graphics functionality for the manufacturing products, the company has integrated SL Corporation’s unified graphical solutions.

Monitoring Plant Health and History for Increased Productivity and Uptime

The Information Foundation software component of AspenTech serves as a data gathering, collection, archiving and processing subsystem of the manufacturing automation system. Vast amounts of data get processed, stored, and served up directly to users or related applications. The software is installed on Windows NTLM networking environments deployed primarily on Windows NT and 2000 servers that communicate with distributed control systems (DCS). SL-GMS J/Developer and Custom Editor are utilized as a framework to develop process graphics for the Web clients. The application is layered on top of AspenTech’s Web.21 web server data access engine, which draws data from the InfoPlus.21 and Setcim process historians. Web.21 is designed to enable e-manufacturing by presenting process information in high value, predefined web pages (e.g. trend plots, alarm summaries, detail displays, calculations).


The SL-GMS J/Developer component delivers a comprehensive solution set for creating state-of-the-art graphical interfaces and includes a custom editor based on the SL-GMSDraw Dynamic Graphic Editor custom tool kit, a code generator for Java, a Java run-time library, features for model conversion and tools and source templates for applications and applets. For enhanced versatility, the editor component equips developers to assign graphical dynamic behaviors to graphic libraries. Such flexibility is integral to the AspenTech business strategy of tailoring solutions to companies in the process industry–-as each sector (chemical, petroleum, pharmaceutical, semiconductor, etc.) must address its own set of unique challenges and requirements.

Empowered by SL-GMS functionality, Web.21 provides a feature-rich data visualization tool for process data historians. Prior to the launch of Web.21, all access capabilities to the data historians were limited to traditional client-server environments. The new Java-based solution allows virtually every piece of data collected from the DCS to be published on the web. Data that are logged on the historian are pushed to the browser using a publish-subscribe method (the browser subscribes to the data on the page and posts that subscription to the historian). The historian then monitors the list for a significant change defined by a deadband in the historian and publishes that list back to the browser with updated data in real time. The historian – a layer on top of the real field values registered by the control system – continually scans the control system and compiles a history of the plant over months and years (well beyond the usual day/shift basis of a typical DCS).

The Web.21 application can be quickly deployed via automatic downloads to remote machines. Role-based security mechanisms are implemented to manage authorized access to Web.21 functionality. Using a browser and simple mouse clicks operations supervisors and process engineers can derive tremendous understanding of the plant health and operations from pictures and animations. Application specific, customized dynamic symbols can be created using SL-GMS J/Developer. Operators refer to the graphics in a supervisory capacity and are empowered to respond quickly to situations that might negatively impact plant operation. “In large scale, state-of-the-art plants, multiple systems can be deployed, each with heavy client footprints going into the hundreds that introduce a maintenance headache by tying up resources looking after them,” says David Elley, Technical Product Manager for AspenTech’s Information Foundation Division. “A system such as Web.21 with customized, SL-GMS graphics can help to keep costs down by leveraging the power of multi-tier architectures for maximum plant productivity.”

SL-GMS Object Oriented Design Reduces Development Time

The choice of SL-GMS as a platform for delivering Web-enabled process graphics was based on SL Corporation’s reputation, AspenTech’s previous experience with the technology and the SL Corporation track record of success in major customer installations. The capability to import graphics from existing AspenTech Manufacturing Suite applications was also a key factor. David Elley points to the SL-GMS object-oriented design and sub-model capabilities as key factors for reducing programming time and accelerating time to market. “We chose SL-GMS J/Developer because it allowed us to quickly deliver high functionality and flexibility to our customers. The tool kit and framework approach allowed us to effectively leverage our development team’s expertise–focusing on the business logic we wanted to deliver, instead of the delivery method itself.”


The AspenTech Web.21 web server data access engine is an ideal solution for two primary markets. The first group consists of an existing customer base that has been anxious for a new leading edge solution to replace legacy client-server tools. With the Java-based, platform independent graphical interface facilitated by SL-GMS J/Developer, AspenTech is positioned to offer a successor to previous GUI platforms that will carry customers into the future. In addition, new markets can be penetrated via stronger competitive advantages. “We take advantage of the underlying strengths of our data historians to build the best possible Web tool,” says Elley. “We provide a very tight feature map in our visualization tools and historians. Most significantly, with Web.21 and widely distributable tools like SL-GMS J/Developer we open up our systems to the additional components of AspenTech deliverables (such as supply chain, production management and optimization). So this foundation layer becomes a solid building block for a strong, high value competitive position.”