Control Engineering's monthly newsletter for System Integration -- December 2001

06/04/2002


In this issue:

 

 


Eight ways to find automation system integrators

Advanced searching capabilities in the online version of Control Engineering's 2002 Automation Integrator Guide can help users find system integrators more easily. The guide lists approximately 1,000 system integrators, control consultants and automation engineering firms. By visiting www.controleng.com/integrators , users can register and search by:

  • Geographic area

  • Product experience

  • Industries served

  • Engineering specialties

  • Corporate affiliations-if the integrator is a value added reseller, authorized system integrator or a distributor

  • Annual revenue

  • Professional affiliations

  • By name

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CSIs survey finds sophisticated jobs increase profitability

The evolution of control engineering, from assembling controllers to designing and configuring complete automation systems, has led to the proliferation of control system integrators (CSIs). Many end-users and OEMs now rely on CSIs for contract engineering services. Using CSIs can augment and be more cost effective than maintaining a full-time, in-house control engineering staff.

Integrators surveyed in this and previous editions of the Control Engineering Automation Integrator Guide confirm this trend. Although hardware-oriented skills-such as implementing and maintaining process controllers, instrumentation and programmable controllers-remain among the most widely reported engineering specialties, software and design-oriented skills-such as factory-wide automation, human-machine interfaces and project management-are increasing. 'Computer software engineering' is now reported as an engineering specialty more than twice as often as 'computer hardware engineering.'

A related study, 'Industrial Automation and Control System Integrators' by Bull's Eye Marketing (Fond du Lac, Wis.), shows how control system integrators are becoming involved in automation beyond the factory floor. Based on a survey of 227 CSIs in discrete and process control, the study divided their work into 19 categories, and then asked them to rate for profitability on a 0-to-2 scale with '0' defined as low profitability and '2' defined as 'high profitability.' Mean ratings ranged from 0.59 to 1.34, indicating that some tasks were considered more than twice as profitable as others.

Least profitable tasks included installation, start-up, maintenance, panel assembly, PLC application, and CNC application. These are all closely related to implementing one machine on the factory floor, and they're fairly closely related to control hardware. Meanwhile, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), networking and communications, distributed control systems (DCSs), system design, system consultation and custom programming were rated as most profitable.

The study reports its results show a direct relationship between the skill level needed to complete a task and its profitability. Also, there are simply more engineers and technicians who know how to build panels, install electronics, and perform start-ups, and less who know how to perform SCADA, networking or DCS work.

However, once new tools ease the complexity of these tasks, these highly skilled professionals may seek new areas to conquer, such as enterprise resource planning and manufacturing execution systems. Another fertile area is expected to be improving the way organizations interact with customers and vendors to maximize information exchange and minimize human error.

In the next five to seven years, the study found that its respondents also expect to be much more influential in selecting vendors and growth-oriented products. With more traditional products, they expect purchasing power to remain similar to the present.

For more information about 'Industrial Automation and Control System Integrators,' contact Bull's Eye Marketing at Bulls_Eye_Marketing@juno.com .

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Control System Integrator Association (CSIA) certifies integrators

To help its members develop their business skills, the Control System Integrator Association (CSIA, Exton, Pa.) recently launched its 'Registered Member' program.

Previously, a panel of end-users and manufacturers picked criteria from CSIA's 'Best Practices & Benchmarks' that were judged to be the most important in selecting a control system integrator. Regular members, who pass an external consulting audit on these items, are granted 'Registered Member' status.

A complete list of registered members is available on CSIA's website.

CSIA adds that reviewing its new guidebook, 'Selecting and Working with a CSI,' can further aid the integrator selection process.

In general, CSIA states that integrators should be proficient in offering all six of the following services:

  • Consultation during the vision, planning, and auditing portions of a project

  • Preparation of functional requirement specifications

  • Development and implementation of control solutions

  • Project management

  • Installation and start-up support; and

  • Training development and on-going technical support.

The association adds that several more guidelines are also helpful in assessing a CSI's competence. First, a qualified CSI should have a wealth of plant-floor control and information experience. Second, a qualified CSI firm's personnel should have depth and synergy. Third, a qualified CSI should demonstrate established project execution practices. Finally, CSIA believes a good system integrator must also be good businessperson.

For more CSIA information, visit www.controlsys.org ; search for CSIA members at www.controleng.com/integrators .

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Largest mining truck challenges part-size variability

To produce axle shafts ranging from 17 to 180 in. long and 1.6 to 5 in. in diameter for its 360-ton Model 797 world's largest mining truck, Caterpillar Inc.'s (Decatur, Ill.) had to create a manufacturing cell flexible enough to run parts so drastically different in size. To handle the larger shafts and improve shaft straightness, Caterpillar purchased the largest slant-bed lathe ever built and an innovative induction hardener. It was important for the cell's new equipment to integrate well with some older equipment, and maintain a high degree of automation.

Caterpillar's heat treat engineers, Matt Voyles and Brian Luebbers, report the company decided to use Open Control Systems and SCADAware Inc. (Bloomington, Ill.), a system integrator, to design and integrate the cell's systems. New systems at the plant run on PCs, and those on new equipment, such as the axle shaft cell, run Steeplechase Visual Logic Controller (VLC) PC-based control software from Entivity (Ann Arbor, Mich.).

With the exception of its lathes and straightener, each machine in the axle cell is controlled by a VLC communicating to Wago Inc.'s (Germantown, Wis.) 750 Series I/O via Profibus protocol. The cell controller handles two sets of motorized queues with the same Wago I/O set, and communicates to all other VLCs over Ethernet in the real-time kernel, outside of Windows. It is via this real-time Ethernet that the cell controller efficiently orchestrates activities within the cell between the material handling robot and all machines.

Mr. Voyles says the new cell has allowed Caterpillar to reduce costs in its axle production, and make a quantum leap in quality. Automation has reduced staffing for these operations by 60%, and reduced machine use. This allowed Caterpillar's previously outsourced shaft manufacturing to be brought back in house to fill its freed-up machine capacity. Now, the fully burdened cell produces far more axle shaft parts than previously. This internal production volume has reduced Caterpillar's overall shaft manufacturing costs approximately 37%.

For more information on SCADAware Inc. visit www.SCADAware.com ; for Entivity, visit www.entivity.com ; for Wago Inc., visit www.wago.com .

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Servo retrofit improves Avon's mascara packaging line

Before introducing its new Avon Color IV mascara products, Avon Products Inc. (Morton Grove, Ill.) decided to upgrade its automated mascara package capping equipment to apply greater and more consistent torque to the mascara's bottle cap. The filling line needed on-line torque measurement/application equipment to apply caps with 7.5 lb-in. torque to reduce chances of dry out or leakage. The solution also needed to ensure that bottles with loose caps would be pulled prior to packaging.

Upgrading the capping unit's controls involved installing a new servomotor, drive and capping unit controller, and connecting them to the existing programmable logic controller (PLC), all while retaining as much of the existing application as possible. Automation Horizons Inc. (Des Plaines, Ill.) was chosen to engineer and perform this upgrade.

Prior to installation, the engineering team realized the solution needed to control the speed and the applied torque simultaneously and independently. The initial drive was unable to support those requirements from one programmed location. The drive hardware selected had three modes of operation: position, torque, and velocity. The drive and the PLC could control velocity and torque, but not independently through any one device.

To control both parameters independently, Automation Horizons added an analog card to control the applied torque, allowing the unit's motion card and drive to control speed and issue all drive alarms and faults. Velocity and applied torque are controlled through the operator station. The PLC then interprets the request, and controls the motor to yield the required speed and requested capping torque. Control of speed and applied torque is independent.

For more information on Automation Horizons, visit www.autohorizons.com

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John Deere's test stand equipment validates tractor cab systems

John Deere (Waterloo, Ia.) manufactures cabs for its 7000, 8000, 9000, and Sprayer Model tractors for distribution worldwide. These large tractors have up to 425-hp engines, a 111-in. wheelbase, four-wheel drive, 44-gal/min hydraulic systems, and 24-speed transmissions. Sophisticated controls in the operator cab provide simple and reliable operation.

Conveyor systems at John Deere previously moved its CommandView operator cabs within the plant to the mounting location for assembly onto the tractor bodies. Now, many value-added services are performed with test-stand equipment integrated on the line by Titan Inc. (Sturevant, Wis.), an authorized Phoenix Contact (Harrisburg, Pa.) system integrator. These new in-line cab testers also allowed John Deere to increase throughput, as well as maximize existing floor space.

CommandView cabs incorporate engine and transmission control, environmental control, system monitoring and operator diagnostics, and GPS receivers. To ensure cab quality and eliminate downstream defect passing, Titan's cab testers were incorporated on the conveyor line to test cabs before mounting onto the tractor body. This method is faster because problems are fixed before assembly begins.

Each cab's bar code is matched with an electronic production build sheet. The computer then reviews more than 600 option codes, and builds appropriate tests for each cab based on its configuration.

In the first four months of operation, Titan's testers reduced tractor final line electrical repairs by more than 50%.

For more information on Titan Inc., visit www.titansystems.com ; for Phoenix Contact, visit www.phoenixcon.com

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Providing a reliable, expandable process water control system

Yuasa Inc. (Sumter, S.C.) is the largest U.S. manufacturer of industrial motive power batteries and chargers, stationary batteries and electric vehicle batteries. Function Control Systems Inc. (FCS, Greenville, S.C.) recently provided the right control solution for a crucial lead-removing wastewater system at one of Yuasa's battery plant operations.

The facility uses about 1,700 tons of lead ingots monthly to make 2,000 batteries per day, including its stationary/motive power batteries, which power lift trucks, rail crossing signals, telecommunications equipment, and military applications. Ingots are melted, formed into battery components, and washed with process water, which is also used to cool the batteries being charged. Drainage pipes bring contaminated water into the wastewater system for lead removal. The water is cleaned at 150-250 gal/min. Approximately one-third of the water is reclaimed and returned to the plant, while the rest is discharged into the local sewer system, eventually reaching the municipal wastewater plant.

However, with the introduction of stricter state environmental protection requirements, the plant's 20-year-old, original wastewater system was unable to handle the new limit of 64 milligrams of lead per liter, the maximum permitted. When a new wastewater system was installed with new lead recovery technology.

FCS suggested ABB Automation Inc.'s (Wickcliffe, O.) Freelance 2000 compact computer system, which has graphic and analytical features similar to a DCS; an architecture similar to PLC; operates on a global database; handles the 130 I/O points Yuasa needed; was within budget limits; and also reduced configuration time.

For more information on FCS Inc., visit www.fxcontrol.com ; for ABB Automation Inc., visit www.abb.com

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Replacing Kodak's outdated sorter-conveyor control system

Eastman Kodak Co. recently asked Optimation Technology Inc. (OTI, Rush, N.Y.) to help replace the warehouse control system at its distribution facility in Rochester, N.Y. Almost all of the facility's shipments are funneled through one sorting conveyor, so any downtime in this conveyor would be catastrophic.

Though fast and efficient, Kodak's 10-year-old, STD Bus-based control system required rebooting to escape communication problems and database corruption. Also, the new system would need a new database to reduce downtime by eliminating daily data initialization. OTI, working with Eastman Kodak's engineers, was asked to implement a sorter control system that each second could: induct a variable-sized carton; read, track and confirm its length; read and send bar-codes to the Oracle-based ERP system and retrieve a lane assignment; read and verify carton weight; read tracking pulses every 10 msec; track and divert a carton to the appropriate lane; perform all tracking position updates, error checking, and divert confirmation logic; and insert a tracking history into the Oracle database.

After examining a PLC-based control system with new I/O points, Kodak and OTI chose a PC-based solution using existing I/O points after observing control code performance that used the PLC as a conveyor simulator and the Oracle database as a development system. Even though the Oracle database was located on a remote corporate network, reads and writes to the database happened in milliseconds, along with all tracking code running.

In addition, to avoid crushed boxes, the conveyor control system's most critical requirement was to scan its I/O points at least every 10 msec to capture every pulse from the its tracking encoder. The PC-based control's total execution times were about 1 msec.

Likewise, the I/O points' ability to be switched from the old to the new system in seconds was also an advantage. During downtime on the conveyor, the startup team moved one PC into the warehouse, and performed debug operations by switching a cable. As bugs in the code were found, they were fixed, which helped to bring the project in on time and under budget.

For more information on OTI, visit www.optimationtech.com

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More on this issue's integrator articles

Expanded versions of this issue's articles appear in Control Engineering's 2002 Automation Integrator Guide, which mails with the December 2001 issue of Control Engineering, and will appear online by next month.

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Please send system integrator news

Do you have automation system integrator news or application?

If so, please e-mail Jim Montague at mailto: jmontague@cahners.com .

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Webcast learning, general information resources

Participants can attend new and archived webcasts, and learn for free from Control Engineering , on a variety of topics by visiting www.controleng.com/webcast . Webcast topics include:

  • FOUNDATION fieldbus: An Open, Integrated Architecture for Information Integration

  • SupplyChainLinkExpo -- A Virtual Conference and Tradeshow

  • Use of Six Sigma in Supply Chain Management

  • Lifecycle Costs: Automation and the Supply Chain; and

  • Ethernet and Industrial Networks

Search for products at www.controleng.com/buyersguide

Search for automation integrators at www.controleng.com/integrators

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