Control Engineering's Process Control Newsletter for September 2000


In this issue:

Let it out: Quality and service experiences

I have been following two stories related to quality and customer service. One is the Ford/Firestone tire quality fiasco ; the other is our local telephone company Ameritech (serving 2.3 million customers). Both companies have been through mergers, acquisitions, breakups, downsizing, and for Ameritech deregulation. Recently, both companies are suffering quality and customer service woes. Firestone's are well publicized. Ameritech's number of customer complaints filed with state regulators has gone from nine complaints in Jan. 1999 to 298 complaints in Aug. 2000. These stories got me wondering-over the past eight or nine years many control and automation companies have also experienced mergers, buyouts, acquisitions, breakups, and downsizing.

  • What's been the impact to you related to the mergers, acquisitions, buyouts, breakups, and downsizing of your control and automation system providers?

  • Is product (hardware and/or software) quality better, about the same, or worse than before the changes?

  • Is the level of service you receive before, during, and after the sale improving, remaining about the same, or getting worse since the changes?

Here's your chance to let it out! Send your experiences and thoughts, good and bad, about past and current control and automation supplier quality and customer service to . Next month I'll report what you say, but I'll protect who says it.


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Poliferation of webcast (Live Internet based presentations)

In the past few weeks it seems the number of opportunities to participate in webcasts are popping up like mushrooms in spring (excuse my Midwest colloquialism). I sat in on one during ISA and I've viewed the archieves of a couple of others. Like any presentation, webcast are only as good as the speaker's ability to make the topic interesting. There is no doubt they are a more cost efficient means of learning, but I'm curious how you feel.

  • Are webcast something you are likely to take the time to attend?

  • Are webcast better suited to broad or very specific topics?

  • What topics are most likely to attract you to a webcast?

  • On average, how much time are you willing to commit to attending a webcast?

Send your thoughts about webcasts to .

Upcoming Webcast that may be of interest to you include:

Sep. 19th - World Batch Forum is hosting AMR Research's Roddy Martin, who will speak about the 'Future of Plant Manufacturing Architectures.'

Sep. 25th - ABB is sponsoring a presentation on IndustrialIT for the new economoy and IndustrialIT solutions for eManufacturing.

Sep. 28th - Fisher-Rosemount (FR) is sponsoring 'Get results with busses.' Three customers and a FR consultant will participate in a roundtable discussion comparing bus technologies, including FOUNDATION fieldbus, AS-i bus, and Profibus DP.

Oct. 11th - Intellution is sponsoring 'Deliver to opportunity,' a panel discussion of order management systems that reach down to the plant floor to pull information that ensures available-to-promise and capable-to-promise committments can be met.


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Interesting fact about last month's quiz

At the very bottom of my August newsletter I invited readers to visit our web site and take a quiz on being a professional. Laura set up the quiz so the only way to find it was from the URL listed in the newsletter. Today we got the results. The newsletter is sent to about 30,000 email addresses. 1,428 (4.8%) of those clicked directly from the newsletter link to the web site survey. Another 502 (1.7%) visited the web site survey but not on a direct click through, meaning they accessed it from the web version of the newsletter. Certainly not a scientific survey but it does indicate a fair number of people read all the way to the bottom of the newsletter.

World standards week - October 16

Sponsored in the U.S. by ANSI (American National Standards Institute), the week includes meetings and celebrations of the voluntary consensus standards system. This year's theme is 'Peace and Prosperity' to recognize the influence that standards and conformity provide among world nations and their citizens.

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Safety system help is available

If you're responsible for process and safety systems and haven't recently visited Control Engineering's growing collection of articles related to safety systems for the process industry, click here .

There are also a couple of good related articles published in two recent Factory Mutual Research publications. Read ' Put your safety controls to the test! ' in Volume 77, #2 of 'Record.' Also read ' The path to S84 compliance ' by Dr. Angela Summers, president of SIS-Tech Solutions (Houston, Tex.) in the June 2000, Vol. 8 issue of 'Process and safety systems update.' Also a supplement in that same issue, titled 'Safety integrity level (SIL) analysis' can help you properly identify your hazardous events.


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Feedback from Software Toolbox

In my July newsletter I included the following:

I may be the only one who doesn't know about Software Toolbox (Matthews, N.C.) but just in case there are one or two others out there, Software Toolbox is both a control and automation software developer as well as a one-stop shopping for software from Fisher-Rosemount, GE Fanuc, Honeywell, Iconics, Intellution, Siemens, Symbol Factory, Think & Do, Westinghouse, Wonderware, Yokogawa, and more. When I recently visited Software Toolbox's web site I found 72 OPC Client/Server toolkits, 84 ActiveX & DLL toolkits, 60 Iconics Genesis toolkits, 111 Intellution Fix toolkits, 107 Wonderware InTouch toolkits, and 67 GE Fanuc Cimplicity toolkits available. And that was just a quick look. For more information, visit

And here is the response from Software Toolbox :

Thanks for the plug in yesterday's online newsletter from Control Engineering-we appreciate your thoughts and evaluation of the site. From noon to 5 PM yesterday we saw about a 150% increase above baseline in traffic to the site with the biggest spike from noon to 2 PM-your newsletter hit at 11 AM approx. so that is surely coming from there.

John Weber - President

September in Control Engineering

September Cover: Operating Systems for Control
New releases from Microsoft will have an impact on PC-based Control. The uses and differences of Windows 2000, Windows Embedded NT (NTE), and Windows CE will be explored. Will Linux be a viable alternative? A discussion of this operating system as well as Java as an operating environment will be included.

Differential Flowmeters
Differential flowmeters are the 'workhorses' of the flowmeter 'community.' Even with the amount of more sophisticated technologies available, these ubiquitous devices continue to provide reliable flow measurement for many applications. Jesse Yoder of Flow Research takes a look at the technologies available and how and when to apply them.

Digital Paper
A look at existing and emerging technologies that digitally deliver mission-critical and time-critical documentation throughout an enterprise.

Soft Motion-Motion Control in Software
A growing number of motion control functions are being handled by software. An industry expert will discuss the premise, background, current status, and limitations of so-called 'soft motion' methods. Also to be explored is how far can emerging soft motion evolve. Technology examples are a likely sidebar treatment.

Product Focus: Portable Test & Measurement Equipment
Original Control Engineering research examines trends and user issues with portable test and measurement equipment. Recent product descriptions from leading suppliers will be included, along with research results.

Back to Basics: Motion Amplifier Design
An expert from a technology supplier will discuss users' choices in selecting motion amplifiers and their power ranges, as well as amplification issues. When should users consider building their own amplifiers?

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There are about eight weeks until election 2000. If you're looking for a source that can help you vote smart, visit . There you will find factual information on over 13,000 candidates seeking public office's from president to state legislature. For the cautious, this is a completly free service and you don't have to register.

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