It is not always possible to retrieve information automatically from a data source. Some information is just not available in a data source. For this reason, Flow allows the insertion of information into your Flow System by people.
Examples of where you would use a Flow Form to manually enter information include:
- Instrument data that isn’t available in your control systems and historians
- Calculation factors that you will want to change over time
Flow Forms can also be used to validate and modify retrieved data. This is important in any reporting system, since there will always be times where systems fail and provide incorrect data. For example, you may be collecting summary information for a Mixing Tank Level by retrieving data from a level transmitter tag in your Historian (e.g. 101-LT-001.PV). What happens if that level transmitter is removed from service for maintenance or re-calibration? During the time that it is out of service, the Retrieved Measure in Flow would have no data to summarize. However, an estimated level value could be inserted by a person, with a comment if required.
Let’s create a Flow Form for your Boiler. Select the “Forms” tab at the bottom of the “Information Model” view. Similarly to the “Reports” tab, you can create a structured model to organize your forms.
Create a new folder in the “Forms” tab for “Engineering”. Now create a new form in this folder by right-clicking on the folder …
Double-click the new form definition to open its editor …
A Flow Form consists of one or more “tabs” (similar to “sheets” in an Excel workbook). A tab then contains one or more measures. Let’s build the form definition:
Right-click in the “Tabs” section and click “New Tab” (or drag a folder from the Flow Zone). Name the new tab “Boiler”. Now drag the “Steam” metric from the Model View and drop it onto the “Boiler” tab …
Flow adds all the measures from the metric to the “Boiler” tab. Individual measures can also be dragged to a Form tab.
View the Form and Edit Data
Now that you have defined a Flow Form, open the “Flow Client” by double-clicking the shortcut on your desktop.
When opening the “Flow Client” for the first time, you will need to create a named “link” to your Flow System.
Follow these steps to link your Flow System:
- Name – this is a friendly name that you can use to describe the link to your Flow System. You are going to link "The Juice Factory", so name this link “The Juice Factory”.
- Server – this is name (or IP address) of the Flow Platform where you have deployed the “Flow Client Server”. Confirm this by checking the “Deployment” view.
- Username and Password – this is for your Windows user account. This cannot be left blank.
Click "Connect". The Flow Client will authenticate your user account, and then open your Flow Forms.
Flow Client Orientation
The Flow Client has been designed to provide the familiarity of Microsoft Excel. Notice the “spreadsheet” feel.
Even though your “Boiler” tab configuration included hourly and daily measures, Flow will only display the measures as per the “Interval Selector”.
After selecting a cell, you can start typing a value to insert or update data. Select one of the hourly “Steam Temperature (˚C)” cells and edit its value to 101.5 ˚C (press enter to accept the new value). Notice how the “Limit Exception” indicator is displayed, showing that the new value you have entered has exceeded the High “Site Target” limit you configured for this measure.
Take note of the “Access Indicator” icon in the column header. If a column displays an “Access Indicator”, it indicates that the values for that measure cannot be edited directly. The only measures that can be edited directly are Manually Entered and Retrieved Measure types. To edit a Calculated or Aggregated Measure, you need to edit the source measure’s data. This enforces the integrity of your Flow System’s data. Let’s put this into action. To edit the “Steam Production Efficiency (%)” Calculated Measure, edit a value of the “Steam Production (tons/hr)” Retrieved Measure. If you click “Refresh” fast enough, you may see the following:
The “Steam Production Efficiency (%)” measure is in a “Calculation Pending” state. Flow has determined that one of the dependencies for that measure has been updated, and that a re-calculation of its value is required. Refresh again and the new calculated value should be visible:
Right-click on the active cell (the one that you have just edited) and select “Add Comment” …
Add a comment explaining why you needed to change the retrieved value. Click “Ok”. A small triangle in the cell indicates that a comment has been entered. Flow allows more than one comment to be entered for each measure value.
Right-click on the active cell again and select “Details” …
The “Details” panel displays the history of any changes to the measure’s value for that time period. In this case the 1st version was retrieved from the Historian and summarized to 13.28999 tons/hr. The 2nd version was entered manually. The 2nd version is set to the “Preferred” version, which means it will be the version presented in reports. Expand the “Comments” section to view any comments that have been entered for this measure’s value.
Similarly to the group based permissions applied to Reports and Dashboards, the same group based permissions apply to Form folders.