Connect to value

Network organization representatives would like OEMs, system integrators, and end-users to get over their indecision about which network to choose and get going with implementation. (An atypical user in an "Application Update," this issue, is moving along after looking at 26 networks.) Industrial networks—fieldbuses, device buses, or sensor buses—deliver valuable information about ...

06/01/2002


Network organization representatives would like OEMs, system integrators, and end-users to get over their indecision about which network to choose and get going with implementation. (An atypical user in an "Application Update," this issue, is moving along after looking at 26 networks.)

Industrial networks—fieldbuses, device buses, or sensor buses—deliver valuable information about processes to locations where it can do the most good. But benefits don't happen without implementation. (See also your May 2002 issue's cover article.)

Do you know people who are still using typewriters because they're still waiting for the really big advance in computers to come along?

So what's in the way?

Well-documented savings

"I've been doing this [representing network technology] for 10 years. I've never had anyone come back say this is the worst thing ever done. There's 30-40% savings on every project," says Michael Bryant, executive director, Profibus Trade Organization and AS-i Trade Organization (Scottsdale, Ariz.; www.profibus.org ; www.as-interface.com ).

Richard Timoney, president and ceo, Fieldbus Foundation (Austin, Tex.; www.fieldbus.org ) says implementation hesitation isn't because of lack of products. "There are now 120 FOUNDATION fieldbus registered devices across every product area. Peoples' favorite vendor may not have been an early adopter." There's some fear out there about economic situations, Mr. Timoney says, and, despite huge benefits during and after implementation, it's still not cheap.

Larry Komarek, representing Interbus Club, (Middletown, Pa.; www.interbusclub.com ) lists a number of drawbacks, as well as simply finding time for the learning curve with any new technology. Plus, he says, "The U.S. is very conservative in adopting new technology in plants. We all need instant payback for Wall Street. A major implementation goes beyond wiring up a few I/O points." He sees savings at 30-50%, "but it requires an up-front investment in time" and money.

Beyond less cost

Katherine Voss, executive director, ControlNet International and Open DeviceNet Vendor Association Inc. (Boca Raton, Fla.; www.controlnet.org , www.odva.org ) admits that adequate network implementation requires a change in thinking for users and machine designers.

"Quantifying benefits is difficult and often capital cost concerns win out. People aren't thinking differently about how they design their machine" and the benefits that could result if they move beyond simply demanding that the machine cost 5% less than last year, Ms. Voss says.

All four played down competition among networks. "Main competition is hardwired systems," adds Mr. Bryant.

All agreed there's a need for more education. Control Engineering editors have been doing their part, in-print, online, in technology webcasts, and in e-mailed newsletters. The network organizations and vendors have been educating and marketing. There are training centers, seminars, certification, councils, user or interest groups, and many great application examples out there.

Do you feel educated yet? It's time to put the typewriters away.

The four experts above made their comments at National Manufacturing Week, www.manufacturingweek.com , during the Fieldbus Industry Roundtable Panel on March 20 in Chicago. I moderated the panel.


Author Information

Mark T. Hoske, Editor-in-Chief mhoske@cahners.com




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