Control Engineering's Process Control Newsletter for July 2001


In this issue:

Making the Invisible Visible

In a 'former life' I sometimes listened to unit managers complain about the cost of control systems and what they perceived as poor ROI (return on investment). I knew some of what they said was posturing, but quantifying technology, and especially control system investments is a challenge even for the most creative among us. But maybe the control system community can make use of the information contained in a recently published book titled, 'Making the Invisible Visible' by Donald Marchand, professor of Information Management and Strategy at the International Institute of Management Development (Lausanne, Switzerland); John Rollins, managing partner of Strategic Information Technology Effectiveness for Accenture (New York, N.Y.), and William Kettinger, director of the Center of Information Management and Technology Research at the University of South Carolina (Columbia. S.C.).

The three expert authors took two years researching 170 companies representing 25 industries in 22 countries and interviewing over 1,000 senior managers and then developed a new metric they are calling 'Information Orientation' (IO) to identify and measure the effectiveness of a company's information capabilities.

The authors describe IO as a 'lens' into the three information capabilities a company must master.

  • Behaviors and values-Teaching employees behaviors and values that lead to effective use of information

  • Management practices-Long term information management includes sensing, collecting, organizing, processing, and maintaining relevant data

  • Technology practices-Harnessing IT applications and infrastructure to drive sound operational, decision-making and communication processes.

The authors emphasize that improving one or two of the three information capabilities will not lead to improved business performance.

If the authors stopped there, I would not have bothered mentioning this book, but they didn't; they developed a business matrix using an IO Dashboard to measure and present real-time levels of information capabilities.

What makes me think the information presented in this book has relevance to control system users and suppliers is it validates what we've been doing for a long time-sensing, collecting, organizing, processing (controlling), and maintaining data relevant to operational efficiency and product quality. What we lacked was a way to quantify what we inherently knew was true about control system investments into data and information that was believable by upper management.

If we learn what the authors are talking about and map operational information provided by control systems into the IO Dashboard described we could improve our ability to demonstrate a control systems ROI using a methodology consistent with other business information measurements.

I'm only guessing this will work, but from what I read, it seems like it would be worth a try.

For more information about 'Making the Invisible Visible,' visit .

To order a copy of the 320 pages, hardcover book, visit

Cost is $29.95 USD and the ISBN is 0-471-49609-X.

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FOUNDATION Fieldbus webcast planned for September

On September 28, 2001, Control Engineering Online will present the following webcast: 'FOUNDATION Fieldbus: An Open Architecture for Information Integration.' Sponsored by the Fieldbus Foundation, this webcast will help automation users seeking plant optimization solutions to find a quick path to the many performance advantages of FOUNDATION Fieldbus. Learn more and register for the webcast at: .


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Virtual conference and tradeshow planned for October

I know it's a few months off, but this is one of those things you can do now and then when October comes you are ready.

Control Engineering and the Cahners Supply Chain/OEM Group are hosting a two-day online conference and tradeshow, October 17-18. During this FREE event, you can enjoy all the benefits of attending an industry tradeshow, right from your desktop. No traveling, no expenses, no wasted time . . . just valuable seminars, product information, networking-everything you'd find at a traditional conference or tradeshow-but on the Web. Keynote speakers are Thomas Stallkamp, ceo of MSX International and former president of Chrysler Corp., and James McNerney, ceo of 3M Corp. (I'll be interviewing Mr. McNerney.)

Visit to register and qualify to win prizes: laptop, digital camera, and cash!

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Rating your control and automation suppliers

The June issue of Control Engineering included a supplement titled 'Global Support on Demand' that reported the findings of an in-depth survey of user experiences related to control and automation system suppliers. Among the information reported was that 35% of end-users work with 4 to 6 different control and automation system vendors but the survey allowed voting for only one supplier.

The company who administered and tabulated the June survey data is conducting a customer satisfaction survey designed specifically for the control and automation industry. If you are a control and automation system end-user and would like to participate in this ten question survey, please visit .

Visit /archives/2001/ctl0601.01/0106supp.htm to read the June supplement.

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NEMA releases standard

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) recently released 'NEMA KS1, Enclosed and Miscellaneous Distribution Equipment Switches (600 Volts Maximum)' standard.

This standard publication covers enclosed and miscellaneous distribution equipment switches that are rated not more than 600 volts and 6,000 amperes:

  • Do or do not have a horsepower rating

  • Do or do not have provision for fuses

  • Are equipped with current-carrying parts and mechanisms enclosed in metallic or nonmetallic cases

  • Are manually operated by means of external handles.

The standard cost $67 and is available by visiting .


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Performance-based safety standards article

A month doesn't go by that I don't receive an inquiry about safety systems, safety integrity levels, etc.

I find these inquiry's encouraging because it says a lot of people are trying to do the right thing, so if you have a question, feel free to ask. I may not have the answer, but I know how to get in touch with people who do.

Recently I read an informative article titled 'Performance-based Safety Standards are Challenging, but Worth the Effort' in Factory Mutual's latest issue of Frontiers. Actually this article was a continuation of a series of articles discussing the ANSI/ISA S84.01, IEC 61508, and IEC d61511 safety standards.

If you are facing the challenge of applying safety related standards you should take the time to read this four-page article.

Visit to download a copy of the article.

Related articles are available at .

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ARC releases process automation systems study

If ARC's recent prediction of the Process Automation Systems (PAS) market proves correct, the current US $7.8 billion market will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 3.9% to reach US $9.5 billion by 2005.

The study reviews the significant structural changes taking place in this market as automation systems continue to dissolve traditional process and discrete boundaries.

Larry O'Brien, ARC senior analyst and study author says, 'PAS and PLC suppliers will continue to encroach on each other's territory wherever new growth opportunities make it necessary to do so. A significant issue discussed in the study is if, a) PAS suppliers will strike at the heart of the PLC suppliers' traditional installed base in the automotive industry and/or, b) PLC suppliers will target traditional PAS markets such as refining.'

Further information on this study is available at .


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Control.Com opens 'open' source interoperability testing lab

The folks at (Westborough, Mass.) are strong advocates of the Linux operating system and development and availability of 'open' source software for control systems. A visit to's web site at reveals an almost continuous thread discussing the pros and cons of using open source-code for control and automation applications. One of the frequently cited fears and trepidation's of user-responders is the need for hardware and software to work 'out-of-the-box.' To address these concerns, recently hired Dr. Peter Wurmsdobler, a recognized leader in real-time Linux, to head up an open controls laboratory to provide interoperability testing for industrial controls.

Under Dr. Wurmsdobler's direction, the lab staff will test, characterize, and integrate open control products from many different suppliers to assess the products ability to interoperate with other Linux based products. Test results will be published for all to see and use.

Ken Carter, president of said, 'The open contols lab will look beyond the marketing hype to provide control engineers with the concrete information they need to make products work together.'

For more information, visit .

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GSE Systems upgrades D/3 system

The folks at GSE Systems (Columbia, Md.) recently released D/3 version 10.2 process control system.

D/3 has been around for well over ten years and the latest system upgrade allows users to migrate from the Vax/VMS operating system and computing platform to an Intel/Windows 2000 operating system and computing platform while preserving the application software investment or changing the I/O subsystem.

For more information, visit .


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Conferences, seminars, and exhibitions

  • July 23-25 Process Safety Management Course in Knoxville, Tenn. Visit for course details.

  • July 25-27 Compliance Auditing for Process Safety/Risk Management in Knoxville, Tenn. Visit for course details.

  • August 6-8 3rd Annual FDA and the Current Challenges of GMPs conference in New Brunswick, N.J. Visit for details.

  • August 7-9 Profibus Trade Organization's General Assembly Meeting will be held in Scottsdale, Ariz. Contact Mike Bryant at (480) 483-2456 or for details.

  • August 28-29 American Petroleum Institute PSM Best Practices Workshop in New Orleans, La. Contact Karen Haase at for details.

  • September 10-13 ISA Expo 2001 will be held in Houston, Tex. Visit for details.

  • September 17-20 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Ammonia Safety Symposium in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Visit for details.

  • September 25-28 Fisher-Rosemount Users Group Meeting (New Orleans, La.). Visit for details.

  • September 28, 2001, Control Engineering 'FOUNDATION Fieldbus: An Open Architecture for Information Integration' webcast. Visit for more information

  • October 17-18, Control Engineering and the Cahners Supply Chain/OEM Group are hosting a two-day online conference and tradeshow. Visit for more information.

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July in Control Engineering

Special Cover: Integrated control The power of today's programming software plus improved hardware configurations and connectivity are enabling a degree of control integration thought impossible only a few years ago. Not only motion control, but also machine vision, networking, and information handling are increasingly integrated into machine control. Keywords: PC-based control

System integrator application: Collecting data from thousands of instruments spread over the two square miles of a compressor station in the middle of nowhere was fast becoming inaccurate, time consuming, and expensive for Pacific Gas & Electric. George Gaebler, PG&E, and Read Hayward and Eric Unger of DST Controls discuss the hybrid Palm-based data acquisition system developed to do the job. Keywords: Instrumentation and process sensors

Product Focus: Discrete sensors Original Control Engineering/Cahners research examines trends and user issues with discrete sensors and related devices. Recent product descriptions from leading suppliers will be included, along with research results. Keywords: Machine control and discrete sensors, Control components

Back to Basics: Stepper controls Step-motor based systems still represent a simple and cost-effective means of motion control. However, the type of stepper control used affects step motor performance. Several kinds stepper drive alternatives will be covered and compared for step motor output. Keywords: Motors, drives and motion control

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Just for fun

The following quotes appeared in my local newspaper as finalist entries in a Dilbert-style Quote Contest. We can only hope they are 'tongue-in-cheek.'

'As of tomorrow, all employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken Wednesday and employees will receive their cards in two weeks.' - Microsoft Corp.

'What I need is a list of specific unknown problems we will encounter.' - Lykes Lines Shipping

'This project is so important, we can't let things that are more important interfere with it.' - United Parcel Service

'We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees.' - Switching supervisor, AT&T Long Lines Division

Have you a Dilbert-style quote or story to share relating to control and automation? Send it to me. I'll protect all parties, but that won't stop us from laughing anyway.


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