Control Engineering Newsletter for Software -- March 2002


In this issue:


Coming in Control Engineering

XML will become one of the most important ways of moving information from manufacturing to enterprise software applications. My January article discusses XML and related technologies including OPC. A follow up article in February discusses using the Internet in manufacturing.

Look for the January article on controllers by senior editor, Dave Harrold. Dave and I sponsored an online survey of controller manufacturers. Dave discusses controllers and the survey generally in his January article, and I follow up in February discussing specifying and applying controllers.

A comprehensive controller matrix with all the responding suppliers will be posted on Control Engineering Online along with the January issue. Take a look and let us know your thoughts on the changing face of controllers.


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Feedback - programming and question of the month

A reader wrote regarding my September 2001 article on software tools for programming. I tried to respond in order to initiate a discussion, but his e-mail server did not accept my messages. So, here is the discussion in public.

In that article I surveyed a number of cool development tools for developing programs. This reader wondered why I didn't discuss Visual Basic and ActiveX controls.

Maybe unfairly, I've always thought of VB and ActiveX as HMI development tools, not for control programming. Therefore, my software question of the month:

What languages do you use for control programming? IEC 61131? Relay Ladder Logic? C or C++? VB? VC++? Java? E-mail me at and let me know what you use, and why it's good.


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Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems

Jay Lee is a professor and director of the Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems (IMS) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. We've been in touch a few times, and he has pointed me to a white paper on the Center's web site, 'Smart Machines and E-Manufacturing Systems for e-Business Transformation.' Check it out at .

The premise is that as production systems are characterized by short production life cycle, high production diversity, and customer demand for both excellent quality and timely delivery, it is necessary to monitor and control automated manufacturing systems. The business pattern will change from on site service to remote/electronic service. Hence, there will be a growing demand to connect the various applications. Professor Lee proposes a neural-network based multi-symptom-domains behavior assessment methodology, called a Machine Psychology-based watchdog agent.

Check out the site and let me know what you think of a watchdog agent monitoring your equipment and how that might help your productivity.

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Service solutions

Solution can be an overused, and sometimes inaccurate, term when referring to a company's products. Here are three offerings that can truly be a solution to some of your problems.

Automation software has become large, complex, expensive, and necessary. Encompassing HMI/SCADA functions along with production scheduling and reporting and interacting with other company databases, this software is beginning to absorb scarce personnel resources. Enter 'hosted applications.' These companies offer ways for you to manage different facets of your software and your maintenance.

EI3 manages the software on its fault-tolerant computers at its site providing secure Internet access to customers who need only a browser. Other capabilities include managing recipe version control and the ability to learn the behavior of a machine, model it, and then generate alarms or notifications.

Indus International also leverages the web along with its expertise in servers to offer a hosted application. This company provides ways to encourage collaboration either among a company's engineers and managers or even including suppliers and customers where appropriate. Its mantra is 'content, community, commerce.'

Rockwell Automation's Reliability Online is a hosted Condition Based Maintenance program to help you enhance machine uptime.

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Book of the month: e-Business in Manufacturing

Walt Boyes, marketing consultant and ISA vp of publications, and Shari Worthington, president of Telesian marketing, have teamed up to write 'e-Business in Manufacturing: Putting the Internet to Work in the Industrial Enterprise.' The book is published by ISA and now available on . It is a tour de force of Internet technologies and standards, what happened to some early industrial Internet commerce companies, and, especially, packed with practical advice about how to actually accomplish what the title promises. I recommend it.


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CASA/SME LEAD award winners

I'm a member of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the Computer and Automated Systems Association (SME and CASA), which is part of the organization. CASA publishes occasional Blue Books and presents an annual LEAD Award to a company that has incorporated an innovative, leading edge integrated manufacturing enterprise initiative into its operations.

Analyzing 20 years worth of winners, some common factors were gleaned. Do these match any of your needs? Need to reduce costs, improve quality, decrease cycle times, increase flexibility, and ultimately achieve a higher level of customer satisfaction. A common aspect was involvement from a large number of people. In fact, people were the key for the winners.

Oh, yes, the 2001 winner? Machine tool manufacturer, Mori Seiki Co. of Nara, Japan.

Check it out at

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Browser security upgrade

Microsoft is taking a proactive approach in encouraging users to check security. It has recently broadcast e-mails to users with a web site that will check your browser for the latest security fixes as well as a download site to obtain them.

Check it out at .

Find additional information at

Also find recommended online security practices at .


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Cool products

RealVision's RPM is a preventive maintenance program that manages many tasks including inventory control, warranty, tool and part kitting, equipment history tracking, and much more.

Sytech's XLReporter v2.1, performance reporting application utilizing interface to Microsoft Excel, extends from earlier versions with a real-time, persistent database and ability to monitor field-based variables.

GE Fanuc's enhancements to its Next Step Program ease conversion of Series Six PLCs to Series 90 PLCs. S6-PIO module provides connection between older Series Six and newer Series 90-70 PLCs. An upgraded software conversion tool allows GE Fanuc's engineers to convert older PLC ladder logic to Series 90 ladder.

Keithley's latest version of ExceLinx software enables collection, analyzing, and charting of test data within Microsoft Excel using the company's Model 2700 and 2750 benchtop instruments.

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Control Engineering News

  • Is your company involved in FDA's 21 CFR Part 11 Electronic Records and Signatures regulation? Please take a survey at ; results will appear in an April 2002 Control Engineering article.

  • Register for a free Control Engineering -moderated webcast: 'FOUNDATION Fieldbus: An Open, Integrated Architecture for Information Integration.' See details at /webcast/archives/fieldbus.htm

  • Control Engineering Online includes eight topical e-mailed newsletters, Daily News, Control Engineering Europe , and searches of the site, Control Engineering Buyer's Guide , and Automation Integrator Guide Online ; go to / .


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