Control Engineering's Process Control Newsletter for August 2000


In this issue:

Reader feedback on last month's open system question

Last month I asked for your thoughts about open systems and whether or not they were meeting expectations and living up to the hype. Several readers were less than bashful about sharing their thoughts and a few were quite frustrated with the computer-related issues open systems add to the control and automation solutions available today.

One responder at a big-name company was struggling to find a way for maintenance technicians to determine if a PC's (personal computer) motion control card was bad, the drivers were corrupted, important DLL files had been accidentally deleted or modified, another application was hogging the interrupts, or some other PC-related problem existed. He thought his company's IT department could help, but he was told they didn't have time to get trained on all the new PC technologies, especially when some were only going to be around for a short while.

At almost the other extreme was a reader who was quite pleased with the migration their distributed control system (DCS) vendor was making in using PC-based solutions, and was looking forward to continued migration as long as they didn't lose the 'outstanding administrative features' offered by the proprietary DCS. He added he expected to see improved merging of DCS and PLC (programmable logic controller) platforms when software was able to reduce the burden of engineering support.

Continuing on that thought, another reader said he would prefer not to support two databases-one in the PLC and another in the HMI (human-machine interface)-but was not ready to give up his proprietary PLC because it rarely failed. He couldn't say the same for his PC-based HMI's.

And of course there were a few responders (Linux promoters) who claimed the 'open' control system moniker was a fallacy until the user could select an application and run it on any hardware or operating system platform they wanted.

What came across loud and clear was users don't really care if the control and automation application meets a strict definition of 'open' as long as one application is easy to make 'interoperable' with other applications.

Pay attention control and automation software vendors-I'm about to say something profound! 'Open' systems are being installed and maintained by controls and manufacturing/process knowledgeable people, not necessarily computer gurus. They want the control and automation applications they purchase and install, every subsequent bug fix revision, and every subsequent enhancement upgrade to come with four things. First, they want a list of every 'system' file used by the application (e.g., required_file.txt). Second, they want an intelligent analysis wizard that checks the system, and collects and stores information about missing, corrupted, or out-of-date 'system' files needed by the application (e.g., current_file.txt). Third, they want an intelligent installation wizard that doesn't mindlessly install files, but interacts with them in understandable (not computer geek) terminology. And fourth, they want every bug fix revision and every enhancement upgrade to come with ALL the files needed to run the application. Mr. Vendor, these are your customers and this is what they are saying to me.

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Honeywell IAC donates PlantScape system to Purdue University

If you're someone who hires newly graduated chemical engineers, you may be interested to know that students enrolled in the chemical engineering program at Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.) will graduate with hands-on experience using a Honeywell (Phoenix, Ariz.) PlantScape hybrid control system. In accepting the PlantScape system, associate professor Jay H. Lee said, 'We very much appreciate Honeywell's contribution of the PlantScape system to our Integrated Sensing System Identification and Control Laboratory (ISSICL). In ISSICL we have an ongoing project sponsored by the National Science Foundation in which we are developing computational methodologies and tools for converting process data into mathematical models. In the long term, the PlantScape system will allow us to reduce the gap between industrial practice and research done in our laboratory.'

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Sequencia's gRecipe available

Sequencia 's Responsive Manufacturing suite has grown by one with the addition of gRecipe, an application that allows internal and external parties to collaborate about products and where they could/should be produced. gRecipe follows the ISA S88 batch management standard and provides an electronic representation of a product that allows exchanging and translating from corporate-level general recipes into detailed manufacturing instructions that can be executed in recipe management applications, such as Sequencia's OpenBatch or Intellution's iBatch.

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Process Safety Institute Courses

If you're responsible for complying with OSHA and EPA regulations in the areas of hazard analysis and operability (HAZOP) studies, what-if checklist, writing effective operating procedures, mechanical integrity, etc., you might want to check out the available courses offered by the Process Safety Institute (Knoxville, Tenn.).

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August in Control Engineering

Cover: Covering Your Assets: Reader Survey
Compare yourself to other Control Engineering readers in this North American Reader Profile study. It will examine readers' work experience, salaries, evolving job descriptions, information needs, and career issues-including the influence of mergers and acquisitions.

Training for Process Engineers
This collection of short stories quantifies tangible benefits gained by chemical process companies that invested in employee training. Includes information on courses.

Displays: Flat-Panels, Touchscreens
Operator interface hardware increasingly relies on flat-panel technology, and users demand touchscreens. This article will look at the latest developments in these areas, as well as the latest configuration tools.

Communicating across the Virtual Network
Information sharing and integration of plant floor information among manufacturing sites, upward in the organization, and through the supply chain has required creation of virtual networks. Who's sharing what information, how, and in what form? Is this kind of information sharing doing any good?

Pre-Show Coverage
Control Engineering examines technologies likely to be introduced and discussed at the following events.

Product Focus: Servo Motors
Original Control Engineering research examines trends and user issues in servo motors. Recent product descriptions from leading suppliers will be included, along with research results.

Back to Basics: ISA Symbols
This is a brief tutorial of how to interpret instrumentation symbols that appear on plant documentation.

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Short fun quiz helps determine if you're a 'professional'

We have a four question quiz obtained from Andersen Consulting designed to help decide if a person is a 'professional.' This is certainly not a scientific quiz, but according to the folks at Andersen Consulting, 90% of the professionals tested missed all four answers, but many pre-schoolers got several answers correct. If you dare, click here to view and print a copy of this quiz. No, we're not capturing names and sending them to your boss. In fact, if your boss is anything like Dilbert's boss, he won't get past the first question.

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