Control Engineering's Process Control Newsletter for February 2001


In this issue:

Landmark Control & Automation Support Services Survey

How well are your control and automation system vendors meeting your support service needs? Do some consistently exceed expectations and others consistently disappoint you? Do they listen and match their service offerings to your needs? Your opinions about these and other service related questions are what Control Engineering is attempting to learn from our online Service Support survey.

Please take the time to complete this landmark survey. There is a link from the home page or by clicking the link below.

Control Engineering will report the results in the June issue and online.

When you complete the survey, you may enter a drawing for one of five $200 e-gift certificates. Eligibility requirements are included in the survey.

Click here to take the survey.


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Learning from Microsoft's 23 hours of hell

Recently Microsoft gained the dubious title of having the most dramatic Internet snafu to date as the result of equipment misconfiguration.

According to a report , Microsoft's Canyon Park, Washington server center encountered a series of problems around its collection of routers and acted like someone had nudged the first domino in an intricate network of dominoes.

Interestingly enough, Microsoft's problems were occurring while many of you were reading my January article titled 'How Manufacturing Benefits by Understanding ERP and IT' The article is also available online .

Part of the article discussed the need to address the 4R's (response, resolution, reliability, and repairability) to ensure the design of robust control and information architectures. Had Microsoft addressed the 4R's and used hazardous analysis and operability studies, fault tree, or some other risk assessment tools routinely used by control engineers, common mode failures described in the wirednews article would likely have been identified.

Microsoft's problems reinforce what I said in the January article, 'Since plant control system personnel understand the importance of applying 4R's to design, operate, and maintain high-availability systems, they have much to contribute in applying 4R's to other levels of the enterprise architecture.'


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Power & grounding feedback

Last month I ask your opinion on the importance of power and grounding in today's 'open system' environment as compared to proprietary systems of a few years past.

Apparently I hit a nerve because I received a couple dozen emails and without exception you said that power and grounding is no less important and may be more important when deploying open systems. Several of you encouraged me to pursue this subject further, perhaps to the point of developing a best practices series. To achieve that I need your help.

I've made request to the major control and automation system suppliers to provide an in-house contact to help with these efforts, but I know many of you have 'real life' best practices experiences. Please share your experiences of what works and what doesn't by sending an email to .


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Learning opportunities

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers has a host of professional and technical training sessions planned for 2001. Two that caught my eye are 'Automatic Control of Processes' and its advanced control companion session. Visit for additional information.

Unless you're a first time reader of this newsletter, you know I'm pretty vocal about properly applying safety instrumented systems. I'm not alone, and if you're in need of additional knowledge on the subject, ISA's EC50C course titled 'Safety Instrumented Systems: The Must Know for Implementation' is being held March 26 at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Kentucky. The instructor is Dr. William Goble, a recognized safety system expert and co-founder of, a company focused on helping users define, design, implement, and operate safe processes.

Visit to learn more about ISA training.

Visit to learn more about and Dr. Goble.


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ASP provides live process data via the Internet

Application service provider (ASP) Industrial Evolution came on the scene about a year ago, offering to make live process data available anywhere, any time. I was skeptical if anyone would be interested in such an offering, but apparently it makes a lot of sense for some companies, especially utility companies because Industrial Evolution keeps adding customers and applications.

Here's a list of their latest ASP application additions.

From Greycon:


  • S-Plan advanced planning and scheduling software; and

  • X-Trim integer-programmer optimizer software.

From Pacific Simulation:


  • FactNet multivariable patter analysis and recognition software; and

  • WinGEMS simulation software for the pulp and paper industry.

From Qisoft:


  • QIS statistical process control software; and

  • TrimTracker total quality process tracking software.

For more information and to see a live demo, visit


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It must be spring because....

When the crocus, conferences, seminars, and exhibitions begin popping up, you know it must be spring.

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February in Control Engineering

Cover: Automation investments
When is the best time to get off the dime and spend some dollars on automation, controls, and instrumentation investments? Even if your automation's working fine, there are a number of factors to help justify retiring the old and installing the new. Industry experts will discuss how to decide what's cost-effective for your applications.

Preparing PID for multivariable process control
I need to do what? Preparing a basic process control system (BPCS) for supervision by multi-variable control may seem a daunting task. Additional techniques and methods are required, compared to a stand-alone control system Considerations include controller functionality and how loops are tuned. This is an article designed to ensure you know what to expect when considering advanced control applications.

Has in-line sensing fulfilled its promises?
Process sensing and control 'on the fly' has always been an attractive proposition to control engineers. Being able to respond instantly to changes in a process variable can result in more efficient and less costly processes. Earlier attempts at in-line sensing were successful but less-than-stellar in performance. Here's a look at technology advancements and the in-line-sensing scene.

e-manufacturing for discrete industries
Everyone's been talking about e-manufacturing.... What do leading software vendors think it is for now and the immediate future, and what will that mean for how end-users purchase, learn, integrate, and use their software? This article focuses on discrete industries.

National Manufacturing Week (March 3-8)
National Industrial Automation Show at National Manufacturing Week introduces a wide array of technologies to users, integrators, and other suppliers. Conferences at the Chicago, March 3-5, event bring users together to explore technology issues. This article also previews the collection of events.

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

Back to Basics: Proximity sensing tips
Where and how proximity sensors are mounted make a difference. Here are some basic tips.


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