Control Engineering Software eNews for March 2003



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''Focus on business processes,'' says software company executive

Web services may be what everybody is talking about at the moment, but the real emphasis should be on business processes. This view is from Rick Bergquist, Chief Technology Officer at PeopleSoft (Pleasanton, CA) in response to a request from his company to look ahead and make some predictions about the enterprise applications market for 2003.

''There is too much focus on the technology underlying web services instead of their practical application to solving business problems,'' said Mr. Berquist. "Although we are certainly going to be hearing a lot more about them in 2003, the amount of hype is frankly rather worrying and brings back memories of the craze. The real issue is how to achieve real-time business using streamlined end-to-end business processes, not replacing one technology with another. In this context, it doesn't make much sense to talk about individual applications anymore. My hope is that 2003 will be seen as the year when people stop thinking about ERP, CRM, and SCM, and shift their attention to business processes.''

Read more of Mr. Berquist's predictions .

Marriage assessment: GE, Intellution appreciate combined strengths

Foxborough, MA - The 100-plus-day integration period has ended and the union of Intellution and GE Fanuc (Charlottesville, VA) still seems to be going well. Among the most positive signs of success is the way representatives on each side speak as if they think their side has the sweetest deal. In addition, there seems to be no talk of ''us'' or ''them.'' As they say, ''It's all `us,' now.''

The tone of mutual admiration was reinforced the day the acquisition was final, with an immediate, two-day session bringing together lead personnel from every major functional area, to set goals, establish metrics, and assign deliverables. It began, though, even before then, when several major customers, under nondisclosure agreements, were consulted about their concerns and visions for such a combination. Correspondence and attention to customer needs continue to be core to the strategy.

For more on the state of the union, read the news analysis article on the Control Engineering website

Or visit the Intellution website.

Autodesk agrees to buy three software firms

Chicago, IL - Autodesk, Inc. (San Rafael, CA) has successfully completed asset acquisition of VIA Development Corporation (Marion, IN), which includes the VIA Wiring Diagram product line and all intellectual property associated with it. The move is helping the Autodesk Manufacturing Solutions Division fulfill its mainstream product lifecycle management strategy, aimed at small and medium-sized companies. Using VIA Wiring Diagram technology, Autodesk will deliver an important tool to help mechanical and controls engineers complete their designs faster with logical wire diagramming and automate their processes with the shop floor.

Autodesk is also acquiring the assets of two other software companies-truEInnovations, Inc., and Linius Technologies, Inc. Each acquisition solves a different product development issue faced by Autodesk's customers. VIA Development creates software to automate the process of generating wiring and other logical diagrams of machinery systems built upon AutoCAD based software, the tool of choice for many controls engineers.

truEInnovations develops file and data management software that is very tightly integrated into the Autodesk Inventor software environment and is specifically created for small- to mid-sized companies whose only alternative has been expensive product data management software.

Linius is the leading independent supplier of cable and wire harness modeling automation solutions, enabling customers to improve performance and productivity by building virtual prototypes of cable and wire harness assemblies and automatically generating manufacturing documentation.

''This is a strategically important step in the delivery of a complete product lifecycle management solution to the mainstream market-the thousands of small- to medium-sized companies who want technology that is quick and easy to deploy, value-priced, and offers a very fast return on investment,'' said Robert Kross, vice president of the Manufacturing Solutions Division at Autodesk. ''These technologies were selected for their strong synergy with our existing solutions, and this translates into a huge benefit for our customers.''

For more, visit the company websites:

Read the Control Engineering news story on the acquisitions .

New products, new software from NMW

National Manufacturing Week, held early in March at Chicago's McCormick Place, saw the introduction of a variety of software and software-related products. Here are some highlights from several:

RailDesigner software from Weidmuller Inc. (Richmond, VA) features true-to-detail product display and a graphic user interface to help users select articles in intelligent databases and libraries, which contain everything required for rail assembly and mounting. Cross connections, markings, end plates, partitions, end brackets, open slots and external cable bridges are graphically displayed, while automatic numbering functions prescribe labels to be quickly generated.

The detailed construction of the terminal rail can be presented in the form of installation or ordering lists. Any construction questions can be asked, and errors detected, by using the ''Installation Tips/Help/Advice'' function. A navigation window conveniently displays an overview of all used terminal rails, and an export/import interface provides direct access to CADdy++ET, which makes it possible to exchange data with other systems.

Also on display at NMW was the extended the power of National Instruments' (Austin, TX) LabView and motion control software with its new Piezo Tuning Wizard software. NI says this software lets users more easily tune and control piezo-based motors in high-precision applications by eliminating unwanted velocity spikes and reducing oscillations.

The software tool also cuts development time with an easy-to-use interface for characterizing and tuning piezo motors, and helps developers take advantage of the new static friction compensation feature in the company's NI-Motion 5.2 driver software. Without compensation, static friction develops between two stationary surfaces, slowing responsiveness and building potentially unstable systems. However, when developers combine NI-Motion 5.2's static friction compensation feature with the Piezo Tuning Wizard, they can create high-precision piezo motor applications with steady target positioning and quick reaction time.

With the addition of NI's Motion Assistant point-and-click configurable software, developers can quickly create motion profiles for a wide variety of high-precision applications, from semiconductor wafer alignment to biotechnology automated micro-array handling. NI Motion Assistant software can also generate NI LabView code to simplify integration of motion control with vision and data acquisition tools, and help developers create seamless measurement applications.

On another front, Invensys plc announced it is extending its strategic alignment with Microsoft by embracing the Microsoft .NET rich client strategy for its enterprise asset management (EAM) solution. Through the use of ASP.NET , a Microsoft tool, Invensys Avantis delivers the power and functional depth of traditional client-server desktop solutions with the low cost of deployment associated with web applications. Leveraging Microsoft's .NET technology lets Invensys assist customers access critical business data more quickly and easily.


And a few more new software products

Delta Tau Data Systems Inc. (Chatsworth, CA) introduced PMAC HMI software, a powerful, flexible and robust operator interface design tool for the PMAC motion controller. . PMAC HMI reduces the time and training required for an engineer to design custom operator interfaces for the PMAC controller. The PMAC HMI lets a custom operator interface display be created using a comprehensive suite of ActiveX graphical control objects, including buttons, indicators, strip charts, bar graphs, gauges and sliders, etc. Powerful design wizards in HMI permit the user to perform complex tasks much faster. The interface can be enhanced using the fully integrated Visual Basic for Applications development and runtime environment.

Communication with the PMAC motion controller is based on PCOMM32, allowing a reliable interface with single or multiple PMACs through any available communication port. Multiple PMAC HMI interfaces can be linked over a network to work together seamlessly and transparently as one interface.

SoftIntegration Inc. (Davis, CA) has released Ch Control System Toolkit version 1.5 . Ch is a superset of C interpreter for scripting, 2D/3D plotting and numerical computing. Ch Control System Toolkit is designed for modeling, design, and analysis of continuous-time or discrete-time linear time invariant (LTI) control systems. The new release enhances Web-based control and analysis capabilities. The modeling, design, and analysis of control systems can be easily performed on-line. Ch Control System Toolkit supports most classical and modern control techniques through object-oriented programming based on a control class. It is simple and easy to use.

PeopleSoft integrates instant messaging capabilities into its enterprise solutions

Hannover, Germany - PeopleSoft Inc. (Pleasanton, CA) recently announced plans to integrate instant messaging capabilities from IBM, Microsoft and Yahoo! into its enterprise applications. By integrating PeopleSoft's products and technology platform with leading instant messaging technologies, users will be able to collaborate in real-time with their customers, suppliers and partners. This may be of interest because automation software is increasingly making two-way connections with enterprise systems. Also, automation software vendors may be considering greater use of instant messaging, as well.

The new capabilities let customers take advantage of instant messaging features such as presence detection, 'follow-me' functionality and privacy settings. Presence detection allows users to immediately determine whether or not a messaging partner is on-line. 'Follow-me' functionality enables messages to be forwarded to different devices such as mobile phones or converted into speech and delivered through voicemail. The privacy settings ensure that users are not subject to unwanted communication. Instant messaging capabilities from IBM and Yahoo! will be generally available worldwide in Q2.

Instant messaging capabilities from Microsoft will be generally available in Q4.

Read previous Control Engineering discussions of instant messaging at:

Software suite enhances mobile service capabilities

The latest edition of FieldCentrix's (Irvine, CA) software suite ports the company's full FX Mobile application to the Microsoft Pocket PC platform and provides identical smart mobile client software functionality across all supported hardware and wireless platforms. FieldCentrix targets service organizations that dispatch personnel and parts for equipment installation, repair, and maintenance, in areas including high technology. This could be useful for OEMs and service organizations that take care of automated technologies on the plant-floor. Version 3.5 was introduced mid-March in New Orleans at a joint Microsoft and FieldCentrix executive briefing held during the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association show.

The new software gives service technicians using PDAs running Pocket PC access to the same feature- and data-rich mobile application as technicians using handheld PCs, laptops, or desktop computers. FieldCentrix's FX Mobile smart mobile client architecture addresses the reality of technicians not always being in wireless data coverage. It allows information to be recorded on the mobile device at the time of service, and automatically sent to the server as soon as the wireless connection is re-established -- without manual intervention.

Version 3.5's ability to offer a variety of alternative device types, platforms, and communications also better meets the needs of enterprise-class customers. General availability is scheduled for April 2003.

From the files of Control Engineering

Don't miss the latest in automation and controls software information in the March issue of Control Engineering :

  • In the feature pages : An exclusive article, ''5 lessons from transitioning to eXtreme programming,'' illustrates using two-person teams to write software code.

  • Software Review : ''Simulation software reduces commissioning time'' focuses on ''mimic'' process simulation software from Mynah Technologies (St. Louis, MO)

  • Application Update : ''Bulk container start-up optimizes with plant efficiency solution'' includes a look at Rockwell Software's RSBixWare PlantMetrics software.

  • In the news pages : Software is among the new products summarized in ''Solutions soar at National Manufacturing Week.

  • In the products and software pages , see: ''Server, software target FDA 21 CFR Part 11'' and ''Linux-based platform provides production info.''

Control Engineering welcomes new publisher, editorial director

Control Engineering has a new publisher and a new editorial director.

Michelle Tegtman joined Control Engineering as publisher on Feb. 24. Ms. Tegtman was formerly director of corporate communications at PTC (Needham, MA), a manufacturing software solutions company, also was with Intellution (Foxborough, MA), and Nematron (Ann Arbor, MI). She has worked extensively in the automotive, aerospace, electronic and consumer packaged goods industries in delivering the control engineer's message.

Read more about Michelle .

David Greenfield assumed the role of Editorial Director on March 19. Mr. Greenfield will manage the publication's content direction to ensure that Control Engineering's editorial evolves with today's industry trends, and continues providing thought-provoking, practical, and useful information for its readers. He has served in key editorial roles at manufacturing publications for more than 10 years. Most recently, he was associate publisher and editor-in-chief at Alchemy and Software Strategies magazines. He has also worked on APICS-The Performance Advantage, OR/MS Today, Intelligent Manufacturing, Intelligent Systems Report, Modern Paint and Coatings and Robotics World.

David will be covering automation and controls software, among other areas. Watch for his byline in upcoming Control Engineering material.

Read more about David .

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