Can We Talk?

It seemed like a simple enough question. "How many pages we will have in the September issue?" I asked our managing editor. "That depends on who's counting," he replied. Our business department monitors pages according to ad revenue; the post office counts pages by demographic distribution; and we editors count pages in terms of articles, news, and other information in the magazine.

09/01/1998


It seemed like a simple enough question. "How many pages we will have in the September issue?" I asked our managing editor. "That depends on who's counting," he replied. Our business department monitors pages according to ad revenue; the post office counts pages by demographic distribution; and we editors count pages in terms of articles, news, and other information in the magazine. Who's right? It doesn't matter, as long as we have a common language with which to communicate our results.

Webster's Dictionary defines communication as "a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior." The more complex the information, the more sophisticated the communication system needs to be.

In automation and control, the information to be communicated has become increasingly complex. With 4-20 mA as the standard in most instrumentation systems, communications were rather simple and straightforward. Even RTDs and thermocouples follow prescribed tabular values.

Smart sensors, digital networks, and intelligent control devices have added layers of complexity to the automation solution—so much so that an entire market is dedicated to developing and promoting network standards for industrial automation. Some of the more familiar brand names include DeviceNet, FOUNDATION fieldbus, Interbus, LonWorks, Modbus, Profibus, SDS, and Seriplex.

'Year of the Network'

To help our readers sort through the communication tangle, Control Engineering has declared 1998 as the "Year of the Network." Our continuing coverage on the topic includes two feature articles in this issue. Networked I/O Strategies, on p. 156, summarizes how suppliers are incorporating network standards in communication products. Industrial Network Applications, on p. 165, profiles users of the new network standards. Search our web site at www.controleng.com for more "Year of the Network" articles.

For controller-to-controller and controller-to-higher level communications, TCP/IP over Ethernet is emerging as the standard industrial network. Some would argue that Ethernet is suitable even at the device level. Articles later in the year will examine the use of Ethernet in process and manufacturing control.

Terminology standards are as important as network standards to industrial communications. Our cover stories—on Abnormal Situation Management (ASM), p. 68, and process safety regulations, p. 81—define ways for us to "speak the same language" when it comes to avoiding process disasters.

The ASM consortium is a unique blend of technology suppliers, users, and researchers. The members have teamed to demonstrate the technical feasibility of collaborative decision making to improve operator performance and avoid a disaster. The consortium has examined next-generation technologies, such as object-oriented programs and relational databases, as well as people issues. Like a good internist, ASM seeks to define the tools for situation monitoring, diagnosis, and recovery.

While you're thinking about communications in your control system, don't forget the importance of interpersonal communications. This issue's Career Update notes that "technology-minded people often go into their line of work because they enjoy data or things. When thrust into management, they adjust more easily by upgrading people skills." As in automation, effective communications can mean the difference between failure or success.


Author Information

Jane S. Gerold, Editorial Director jgerold@cahners.com




No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn more about methods used to ensure that the integration between the safety system and the process control...
Adding industrial toughness and reliability to Ethernet eGuide
Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving
Virtualization advice: 4 ways splitting servers can help manufacturing; Efficient motion controls; Fill the brain drain; Learn from the HART Plant of the Year
Two sides to process safety: Combining human and technical factors in your program; Preparing HMI graphics for migrations; Mechatronics and safety; Engineers' Choice Awards
Detecting security breaches: Forensic invenstigations depend on knowing your networks inside and out; Wireless workers; Opening robotic control; Product exclusive: Robust encoders
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
News and comments from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
Anthony Baker is a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration.
Integrator Guide

Integrator Guide

Search the online Automation Integrator Guide
 

Create New Listing

Visit the System Integrators page to view past winners of Control Engineering's System Integrator of the Year Award and learn how to enter the competition. You will also find more information on system integrators and Control System Integrators Association.

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.