Control Engineering's Process Control Newsletter for December 2000


In this issue:

Seeking Employment?

If you hadn't noticed, Control Engineering has added job and resume posting services . Take a look-your next job might be waiting for you.


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Charge of the Light Brigade and Dot-Coms

I've been reading and hearing about dot-com employees and venture capitalists who are dismayed they are being laid off or losing their venture money, and I'm reminded of Lord Alfred Tennyson's famous poem, 'The Charge of the Light Brigade.'

You probably have heard the poem. It starts, 'Half a league, half a league, half a league onward...' It's about 600 soldiers who follow orders to attack, despite overwhelming odds and a poorly conceived battle plan. The similarities between the soldiers of the Light Brigade and the dot-com folks who frequently rush headlong into a business relationship with poorly defined tactical plans, even fewer defined strategic objectives, and a mere glimmer of achieving something good (like a profit) is remarkable.

So what's my point? None, other than maybe reading classical poetry might prevent 'The Charge to Get Rich Quick' from ending up to sound like Tennyson's 'The Charge of the Light Brigade.'

Anybody want to take a crack at writing 'The Charge to Get Rich Quick?' Send your prose, I'll select what I determine to be the best three and we'll publish them on our web site. Then you can add 'Published Poet' to your resume. (Oh, before I forget, don't even ask about voting for the best. There is one vote and it's mine; that makes recounts easier.)

The Charge of the Light Brigade
by Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the Six Hundred.
'Forward the Light Brigade
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the solider knew
Someone had blundered.
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundered.

Flash'd all their sabers bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonderder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondere'd.
Honour the charge they made,
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.


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Mergers, Acquisitions,and Divestitures

Fisher-Rosemount (F-R) recently acquired MDC Technology, a supplier of process monitoring and optimization software and services to an impressive list of customers including BP Amoco, Shell, BASF, Solutia, Aventis, Unilever, Rhone-Poulenc, Dow, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Phillips. One of MDC's products is SMOC a commercialized version of Shell's well-known Multivariable Optimizing Controller. Fisher-Rosemount has been working with MDC for nearly two years and introduced some of MDC's products at the 1999 user group meeting, so this acquisition wasn't a big surprise but I suspect F-R will waste no time further integrating MDC technology into their PlantWeb architecture and DeltaV control system.

Rockwell International recently announced plans to spin-off their avionics and communications division and their stock jumped 6%. This is mere speculation on my part, but this could signal Rockwell's attempt to make themselves attractive to a suitor. Do I smell acquisition on the wind?

The Daimler-Chrysler merge was big news in 1998, but from an investor's viewpoint, it's been nothing but heartache (-$512 M during July/Sept). A recent news story indicated that during the April 2001 stockholder meeting, there would likely be a call by stockholders for German based Daimler to dump Chrysler.

Recently GM announced they were phasing out the entire Oldsmobile product line, affecting thousands of Oldsmobile workers, 2,800 dealers across the nation, and thousands of additional workers in Oldsmobile supplier companies.

Ford recently announced a reduction in production plans for the first quarter of 2001.

When any of the 'big three' automakers are in trouble, there is a ripple effect. When all three are in trouble, the ripple becomes a tidal wave.

I don't know about you, but I'm taking a hard look at my investment mix. It looks like rough weather ahead.


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Airline Safety; What We Can Learn

As many of us get ready to jump on an airplane during the holidays, I thought you might like to know what a recent airline safety review by the FAA turned up.

Don't worry, despite the delays, overbooking, and other inconveniences of flying, the FAA reports American, American West, Continental, Delta, Southwest, TWA, United, and US Airways are meeting and in some cases exceeding FAA safety management programs. That's reassuring until you hear an airline gate agent announce they have a mechanical problem and there will be a '20 minute' delay. We all know that's, ah, likely not true.

Like the airlines, plant/shop floor personnel recognize unexpected equipment failures ultimately impact customers and we know that's not good. To help production understand the magnitude and overall impact of unexpected downtime, Intellution recently introduced iDownTime, a software solution that collects and organizes equipment and line downtime information and provides a complete breakdown of events and reasons by location. iDownTime can help identify under-performing areas and armed with that knowledge you can improve equipment efficiency and prevent your own '20 minute delay' announcements.

For more information, visit


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Security Concerns

During June and July of 2000 a hacker penetrated the University of Washington Medical Center computer system and downloaded the records of at least 5,000 patients.

The U.S. Department of Defense reports 5,844 hacker attacks in 1998, 22,144 in 1999, and 13,998 through August of 2000.

A recent survey conducted by SurveySite Market Research of 711 small business owners revealed eight out of ten small businesses, with a company hosted computer website, ranked data access and damage as their top concern (71%). Running a close second and third was fear of website attack and hacker intervention and protection from viruses. Surprisingly less than half of those same 711 business owners have actually invested in Web security.

A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Information Week Research predicts business assaults from Internet hackers and disgruntled employees will cost businesses $1.6 trillion globally in 2000, including $266 billion in the U.S.

This information made me curious, so I'm asking you to answer the following two questions.

A) My company's business systems are well protected against internal and external hacker attacks and virus intrusions!

1. Strongly agree
2. Agree
3. Disagree
4. Strongly disagree
5. Don't know

B) My company's control and automation systems are well protected against internal and external hacker attacks and virus intrusions!

1. Strongly agree
2. Agree
3. Disagree
4. Strongly disagree
5. Don't know

Send your answers to


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Training Seminars

Last month I included a section titled 'PID Control Information Sources.' If you are still seeking ways to improve your process control proficiency, you might visit and take a look at the seminars EnTech has planned for 2001. And just in case you're wondering, the folks at EnTech aren't just a seminar/training company. EnTech, led by president Bill Bialkowski, conduct a lot of on-site training and consulting to tune up processes in a host of industries--they know what they are talking about.

Does your job require you to identify root-cause problems? I don't mean 'the process shutdown because a pump failed.' I mean determining the process shutdown because a pump failed, and the pump failed because the process was operating outside constraint limits, and operating outside constraint limits caused the pump to cavitate, and the cavitation damaged the impeller and seals. If that's the sort of root cause analysis you need to identify, visit and take a look at their upcoming seminar schedule.


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December in Control Engineering

Cover: Fiber-Optic Sensing in Process Control
Use of fiber optics in process control can have functional advantages in both instrumentation and network applications. Here's a closer look at the technology and how it has been adapted to solve real-world instrumentation and control problems.

Integrated Motor and Controller Packages
An ac induction motor and its electronic controls combined in one complete package forms an emerging class of products attractive to some applications. This update will examine the realities of the technology, its growth patterns, and relevant developments and issues. Representative products will be covered.

Programming for Control
Tools continue to make programming easier while promoting data and tag integration among various control areas. Integrating diagnostics with control code adds value. An update on IEC 61131 and IEC 61499 will be included.

Product Focus: OI Terminals
Original Control Engineering research examines trends and user issues with operator interface (OI) terminals. Recent product descriptions from leading suppliers of OI terminals used in automation and control will be included, along with research results.

Back to Basics: CIP/SIP
For many process, batch, and hybrid applications, clean piping is one of the major 'products' produced. Here's some help with the basics related to clean-in-place/steam-in-place (CIP/SIP) efforts.


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Dave's public service announcement

I came across a web site I thought would be worth sharing. Among the normal 'how good are we' content Control Consulting is hosting an ongoing discussion forum focused on advanced process control (APC). Instead of a lot of 'marketing correct' questions and replies, the participants are very candid about their experiences with several different APC applications. Access to Control Consulting's BOARD requires registration, but if you're seeking peers willing to talk about APC issues and solutions, this would be a good place to start.

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