Control Engineering Online

Besides carrying all of the in-print magazine for electronic viewing, CE Online runs the gamut from fresh daily news to "Web Exclusive" articles and Online "Extra" pieces that add value to feature articles. Here are highlights from recently posted items at


Besides carrying all of the in-print magazine for electronic viewing, CE Online runs the gamut from fresh daily news to "Web Exclusive" articles and Online "Extra" pieces that add value to feature articles. Here are highlights from recently posted items at / .

'Software Review' analyzes cycle times

Pinpointing constraints on equipment and cycle times as well as potential logic errors in discrete manufacturing processes is the objective of AutoMod, a 3D-simulation package from AutoSimulations (division of Brooks Automation, Bountiful, Ut.).

Tracy J. Coates P.E., consulting editor (and a consulting engineer at PCE Engineering, Johnson City, Tenn.), reviews Version 9.1 of the software operating under Microsoft Windows 98.

AutoMod is designed to model, analyze, and develop discrete-event systems, including automated material handling systems (AMHS). Each process step in an AMHS has a unique function that requires resources and time to complete. Cycle times for each step are often hard to synchronize.

Models in AutoMod are built using parameterized systems. Development takes place in a 2D environment that works similar to a computer-aided drafting display. at

'Back to Basics' calibrates temperature

In this month's "Back to Basics," J.R. Madden, temperature applications engineer for Moore Industries International (North Hills. Calif.), looks at Temperature Measurement Calibration—a vital area for plant operators who rely on the accuracy of instrumentation for optimal production and safety. Temperature calibration consists of comparing a temperature measurement system's output against a known precision standard. During calibration, differences are noted and adjustments made to regulate the instrument to the correct temperature.

Proper selection of a sensor-transmitter assembly is key to success. The best way to achieve highest accuracy is to calibrate the temperature transmitter and sensor as a unit under very carefully controlled conditions. This method, known as sensor-to-transmitter trimming , allows the user to adjust for the sensor's output deviation from the ideal curve.

Over a sensor-transmitter assembly's lifetime, the savings due to temperature calibration more than justify the initial cost.

Read more at / ; at

Take aim with troubleshooting in 'Career Update'

"Troubleshooting: A required skill for success" is the theme of October's Career Update. Time-measured exercises show that students can gain 80% average improvement in troubleshooting efficiency after a two-day course, according to Gary Cliett, president, IEC Simulations (Port Arthur, Tex.). IEC Simulations' course introduces a three-step troubleshooting method to improve process and equipment troubleshooting skills.

As problems become more complex, it's crucial to develop a common troubleshooting methodology among team members. Troubleshooting tips that can lead to quicker "on-line" operational status and improved profitability, include:

  • Develop a common language/terms/knowledge base among team members;

  • Assemble disparate pieces of documentation/evidence to examine the problem as a whole; and

  • Agree on a repeatable method to gain consistent improvements over time.


Interconnect plant floor with the supply chain

Plant-floor systems and process automation software suppliers are linking with enterprise systems and the supply chain, and vice versa. This article by Mark Hoske, Control Engineering , explains that without adequate interconnections with the plant floor, the supply chain's just guessing about where orders are, what inventory is needed, and what the most profitable use of resources should be.

In the most competitive markets, it's no longer company versus company, but supply chain versus supply chain. Enterprise resource planning and related systems must interconnect with manufacturing processes to maximize use of resources.

Automation and control software, manufacturing execution systems, plant portal and information systems, and other software aim to provide the interconnectivity and two-way information flow needed.

"The typical model for interfacing plant floor systems with enterprise and supply chain systems is direct database access to a production database," explains Ron Wiles, Lockwood Greene Engineers (Spartanburg, S.C.) Such a database maintains production information required for supply chain management, machine maintenance, quality control, and management reporting, he says.

A sidebar from Gary Mintchell, senior editor, covers how web technologies aid computer numeric control integration.

For more on this topic from a variety of sources, visit / .

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