I don’t really think about report tools that much, to be honest. Maybe because most people seem to default to Microsoft Excel to draw information from their operations information system.
Roy Kok has been VP of sales and marketing for Ocean Data Systems / Dream Report for some time now. He’s an industry veteran whom I’ve known for probably 20 years. We’ve had occasion to chat about his product several times over the past few months. So, I had to ask, just what do you do and what kind of market is there—really?
[Note: He’s a new sponsor of the site, trying us out for a while. I don’t actively go out and sell ads, but I certainly appreciate the companies that do—hint. I actually probed about the market before he decided to buy.]
I guess I never thought about a custom report writer in the same genre as dashboards and other visibility tools. I stand corrected.
Kok tells me, “I believe Dream Report to be the number one product of this type in the world. We are currently shipping in the thousands per year. As you can imagine, this is giving us great market penetration and visibility, but Dream Report is not a very expensive product, so our company is still relatively small at 18 employees. Dream Report is all that we do, so from that perspective, we are a significant scale for a single product company. I believe we hold 5% or so market share. 85% market share is held by business products being applied to industrial applications. These products include Crystal Reports, Microsoft SSRS and Excel. That would leave 10% for the plethora of other tools, vertical market solutions, and smaller competitors.”
Why did this market become so dominated by business tools? “One simple word – History,” added Kok. “In the late 80s and early 90s, HMI/SCADA was still in its infancy and competition was tremendous. Vendor focus was on reliability and capability of HMI/SCADA. There was another invention at that same time – ODBC – in the business world. ODBC was the way third party products could interact with databases of all types. Also in the late 80s, Crystal Reports came on the market and in the early 90s, Microsoft delivered SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services). Excel was also available and leveraged ODBC. The result of all these developments was that HMI/SCADA vendors chose to enhance their products with ODBC and could thus leverage the variety of business tools on the market. That set the path for most of the industrial market. To be fair, some HMI/SCADA vendors dabbled in report generation, typically focused on connectivity too their own products.”
This becomes part of the IT / OT situation. Part of the continual divide between the organizations lies in the tools each use. Both thrive on information, but the type of information and its format is different between the two areas. Often business tools are much more expensive, since the cost can be spread over a much larger application framework. Kok posits that OT people have been hesitant to look at report applications from fear of cost and complexity. Therefore, the benefit of his product.
Adds Kok, “Our challenge is to re-educate the world that reports are easy to create and are actually your shortest path to continuous improvement. A report (or dashboard) can be fast and easy to create. It can then be scheduled for automatic generation and delivery. We argue that the step after installing a historian, should be the installation of a report and dashboard solution like Dream Report. Then, when KPIs go askew, you can use Dream Report analytics or other advanced tools to better understand the root cause. Dream Report can actually bridge the gap and help to justify advanced analytics like those from Seeq, Falkonry, TrendMiner, Tableau, Pentaho, and others.
And that, I think, is the next step forward—how to integrate advanced analytics into OT in a sensible and useful way. We keep talking about predictive maintenance. And have been for many years. Maybe that one really begins hitting. And we’ll watch for which application strikes next.
Ocean Data Systems has been growing organically since 2006. Major OEMs private labelling and reselling Dream Report include Schneider Electric, Wonderware, GE, Eurotherm, Indusoft.) Here is a short video.