Using Standards-Based Stylesheets for Electronic Batch Records - Emerson Automation Experts

Using Standards-Based Stylesheets for Electronic Batch Records

In an earlier post I discussed common transactions between enterprise, manufacturing execution, and control systems. At the heart of this exchange of information is Extensible Markup Language (XML) to pass types of data between systems in a standard, text-based way.

For instance, if you subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed, it means you have an RSS reader which translates the XML data in the RSS feed and displays it in a readable format.

Another example is our Google search appliance that crawls the Emerson Process Management website to help you find things faster. The search results are in XML with eXtensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) to make the returned search results readable. Also, the latest version of Microsoft’s Office (Office 2007) switched from saving data in a binary format to an XML format.

The uses for XML extend far beyond these examples and include the work being done with OPC Unified Architecture standard and many more.

I caught up with Dave Marschall who is an integration consultant in our Life Sciences industry center. He shared with me how he and his team were using the XSL/XSLT stylesheets in the process of creating custom electronic batch reports which contain information from the enterprise planning systems, manufacturing execution systems and control systems. XML is commonly used to store this batch report data from these various systems.

The XSL/XSLT stylesheets allowed the team to create different renditions or views of the same XML data. A production view might include process operations events and alarms, operator comments, equipment usage statistics etc. A quality assurance/quality control view might contain material usage, lot history, expirations, environmental data, laboratory data requests/results, etc.

Dave described a recent project where the addition of Quality Specifications data allowed the customer to add intelligence to these views of information. Instead of just displaying the data in a tabular format, the XSL/XLST stylesheets could perform comparisons between actual results versus the specifications, and change the color or highlighting of any discrepancies.

This change of colors was used to help the process manufacturer quickly scan dozens of pages of report data and identify areas of concern like out-of-spec conditions. The logic also triggered additional batch details where these abnormal conditions occurred to assist in the review process. The net effect of embedding this intelligence into the batch end report was quicker reviews of the batch which meant quicker release of the final product.

By using a text-based standard XML and XSL/XSLT approach, the solution can be well documented and more easily changed over time to meet the changing needs of the process manufacturer.

Update: Welcome readers of Gary Mintchell’s Feed forward blog! Also, it was interesting timing to get a email this morning discussing The ABCs of XML, Parts 1, 2 & 3.

Posted Monday, February 26th, 2007 under Life Sciences & Medical.


  1. This is a great blog entry. Because I’m a dreamer, I’m often wondering how RSS/XML can be integrated into a sea of automation practices. Protocol driven devices all networked and smart, intuitive is a better word, and data gathered and stored like RSS feeds as data flows… with feeds being organized into aggregators that could be on a cell phone, a watch, a PDA… and processes more easily controlled, and archived…

  2. Will XML/RSS lend to greater ‘ease of use’ within the industry, greater control over assets, both, or?

  3. Nick, Thanks for your comment. It’s interesting because some things in our world of automation like Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) are based on this same text-based structured data principal, although not based on XML. I think you’re correct that the trend will be for greater use of XML, following the lead of the Microsoft’s and Google’s of the world.

  4. Thanks Jim and Dave. This is a topic I’m very interested in and find your articles and comments valuable in learning just where such technology is headed.
    I think there are ways such XML/RSS technology can be used that haven’t even been dreamed up yet. I’m sure as new integration into Windows comes about, there will be new ways to implement via both the Web and through Windows interfaces.
    I envision an internal corporate blog feed with RSS data attachments that updates itself, as well as text can be added and multiple users can subscribe to the RSS data flow. And then from there, charts and graphs and such are all automatically updated and archived… the information builds itself into easy ways for users to view and analyze!

  5. Dave Marschall says:

    I would say both.
    First, the technology will simplify things like configuration, documentation and reporting.
    Second, it enables integration with a larger number of systems and applications such as Control systems, Asset Management systems, ERP systems, etc. The integration permits a broader and finer control over assets both within the process and the enterprise.

  6. I agree with Dave. Just like RSS has enabled us to have information come to us in a publish/subscribe model, I see this model coming into our space. The end result for process manufacturers is to get the information from their planning, execution, and control systems to more efficiently do their job.

  7. There’s a good quote over on the ProSoft Technology blog on this topic where one of our experts writes that the “underlying infrastructure of Prosoft products (and I am sure many other automation vendors) is changing to this technology.”

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