Control Engineering Software eNewsletter for August 2002

08/08/2002


In this issue:


Components, objects, and control software

It may be just a quirk of personality. I like to be organized, and I prefer to have my thoughts organized as well. Way back in 1978 when I picked up a Timex/Sinclair computer and a book on BASIC, I tried to find ways to organize the code. Then there was the cruel experience of working for a good company building automated machinery that went belly up in no small part due to excessive troubleshooting and commissioning time due long ladder-logic programs not sufficiently organized. So, I am enthused about something called component-based automation. My September article will serve as an introduction to several advances in this technology.

I was interested to discover that objects have been around for quite a while in HMI/SCADA software. Programmers can construct an object, say a pump, configure its properties, then drop it on the screen, and tie it to the 'real world.' I have an article coming up in a few months on this topic. In preparation for the article, I have a few questions for you. What are the things that most annoy you about HMI/SCADA software? What advances do you like? What would you like to know more about?

Let me know about this or anything else on your mind at gmintchell@reedbusiness.com . Perhaps it can be addressed in the article.

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Test suite for XML standard

The most important technology for automated data exchange in the next few years is XML (eXtensible Markup Language). This is a worldwide standard under the aegis of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Originally developed by Sun, some of the biggest proponents today include Microsoft and Oracle (a little irony there). Control Engineering has devoted several articles to this important subject with more on the way.

If XML is going to be successful, all the implementations must be able to communicate with each other. Therefore, the W3C has released 'XML 1.0 (second edition) W3C Conformance Test Suite.' This test suite, developed in cooperation with the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), allows developers to test an XML processor for conformance with W3C's 'XML 1.0 (second edition) Recommendation.' This is a giant stride toward making XML more useful and giving users assurance that this won't be one of those technologic 'black holes.'

Check it out at www.w3.org/XML/Test/

For more, visit www.w3.org and www.nist.gov

And refer to these Control Engineering articles:

'Information at Internet Speed' at www.controleng.com/index.asp

'Software Standards Propel Information Exchange' at www.controleng.com/index.asp

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Training studio

I write about training whenever I hear something good and innovative. I've been a lifelong training fanatic. It's gotten me to where I am today. Here's a new one. Famic Technologies has released version 4 of its Automation Studio. This software-based training develops hydraulic, pneumatic, and electrical automation skills. It offers dynamic simulation, flexible drawing tools, I/O module interfaces, and OPC training.

For more, go to www.automationstudio.com

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Invensys, IBM join for production software

We just keep hearing more about integrating control information with the supply chain and software services offerings. IBM and Invensys will be working together to achieve application interoperability to help streamline and optimize the manufacturing supply. Invensys Supply Chain Accelerator solutions will leverage the experience of IBM Global Services and IBM's WebSphere infrastructure technology to integrate the flow of material and information through discrete and hybrid manufacturing enterprises. The Invensys products provide real-time information about raw materials, manufacturing operations, and finished goods. Event-driven solutions work across multiple trading partners-including suppliers, manufacturing and customers-to support high-speed decision-making. Invensys Production Management includes Baan and Wonderware.

For more, visit www.invensys.com

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Your comments from last month

There was some additional feedback about Instant Messaging (IM). The most that I can discover at this point is that security experts warn against using the popular IM applications because they go right through a firewall and thus pose a security risk. I have read that several companies are trying to develop a secure messaging technology for corporate users. When I hear more, I'll report it.

I've heard many times that people expect to see information in Control Engineering about what will be available in the future, not what happened yesterday. That must be the case with both supply-chain software and these Web-based service application providers that I've recently reported. There wasn't a lot of feedback, and no one reported using any at this time.

Several companies are developing support organizations to help you with these situations. Notice the item above, where Invensys joins that fray. I have met IT managers who are very interested in working with control engineers to capture the very best data for various analysis needs. If they come your way, don't shun them. Working with IT in a cooperative manner can yield results for the corporation.

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SPC report writer

ASI DataMyte's latest offering in the Applied Stats software product suite, Applied Stats Report Manager, is a software tool for report generation. With it, you can automatically produce capability reports, raw data reports, and intelligent reports that allow you to drill down by part number, machine, operator, or other fields available in your data. It mines data from the Applied Stats ODBC-compliant database, and the user interface lets you create recurring reports that run on an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly basis. The report is saved as either an HTML file or a comma separated values (CSV) file. ASI DataMyte Inc., was formed from the merger of Applied Statistics Inc. and DataMyte. The company produces software and hardware products for the industrial quality control market under both the ASI and DataMyte brand names.

For more, visit www.asidatamyte.com

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Utilities aid SPC communication

Zontec Inc., developer of Synergy 2000 statistical process control (SPC) software, has announced two new programming utilities. S2K DLL and ActiveX DLL allow Synergy 2000 users to communicate with virtually any data source including SQL databases, enterprise requirements planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution systems, supply chain management applications, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), metrology equipment, or data collected with other software applications. The S2K DLL and ActiveX DLL are based on Microsoft's Universal Data Access strategy. They can be used in C, C++, Visual Basic, Delphi, or ActiveX.

For more, visit www.zontec-spc.com

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Control Engineering Buyer's Guide

Control Engineering Online Buyer's Guide includes more than 35 software subcategories that may be useful. If you've registered on the website, you can gain access through the following link. If you're not logged in or if you need to register, the link will take you to a page where you can register, enter your username and password, or use the 'forgot my password' function.

For more, visit /buyersguide

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Control Engineering plans October webcasts on manufacturing productivity

Control Engineering will conduct two October webcasts, moderated by Mark T. Hoske, editor in chief, on how automation tools boost productivity.

'Standard roadmap to manufacturing productivity' will show how OPC Foundation improves manufacturing by delivering non-proprietary technical specifications-a common roadmap to productivity. Getting participants to agree on the best course hasn't always been easy, but results benefit end-users. Efforts now extend into Ethernet to ensure interoperability advantages continue among automation/control applications, field systems/devices, and business/office applications. Speaker: Tom Burke, OPC Foundation president and advisory software developer at Rockwell Automation.

'Everything you need to know on one screen' asks if the ultimate productivity tool has arrived? A broad class of software shows key performance indicators for manufacturing, design, sales, logistics, or whatever needs monitoring. This 'digital dashboard,' a human-machine interface on steroids, can be rapidly customized to fit users needs and changing business goals. Panelists advise on how to get the most from this software. Panelists: Jamie Bohan, Business Manager for the Honeywell Industry Solutions Uniformance product line; Kevin Roach, Vice President, Global Solutions Business, GE Fanuc, part of GE Industrial Systems; and a representative from Manufacturing Industry, Industry Solutions Group (ISG), Microsoft Corp.

Other presentations will include speakers from IBM, Segway, Unilever, Microsoft, 3M, JC Penney, Amana, Honeywell. The webcasts are part of SupplyChainLinkExpo, a FREE online conference and tradeshow, October 16-17. Learn more at www.supplychainlinkexpo.com

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