Cutler-Hammer's Move to Open Automation Takes Multiple Paths

Several developments are underway as Cutler-Hammer/Eaton migrates from PLC-based controls to Open Automation (OA), DCS- and PC-based systems, and soft-logic software. So C-H's new $2 million, state-of-the-art training center here is just the tip of the iceberg comprising its recent expansion effort.

01/01/1998


Several developments are underway as Cutler-Hammer/Eaton migrates from PLC-based controls to Open Automation (OA), DCS- and PC-based systems, and soft-logic software. So C-H's new $2 million, state-of-the-art training center here is just the tip of the iceberg comprising its recent expansion effort.

"Customers and distributors will receive hands-on experience with the latest products at the new center," says Dave Adams, general manager of C-H's control and automation division. The company's OA solution includes computer controls, operator displays, networked devices, and related software and services. C-H's goal is to supply as much of customers' total product and support requirements as possible.

C-H's newer systems offer the advantage of embedding intelligence in all devices to produce useful data that can be fed back as diagnostics, says Rob Ellis, strategic business development manager. "It makes local control decisions possible and allows the delivery of interchangeable multivendor products," he adds.

David Wathen, CH's new senior vp, stresses the company's strong support—actually "pressure" from top management—for this technology shift. "It's an investment in the future. There is only one message: We're committed to this migration," he says.

Cutler-Hammer's new direction intends to leverage the PC market, which is much larger than the mature PLC market. "This is not to say that PLCs are going away tomorrow. Some customers feel comfortable with PLCs today. However, 30% of C-H's 1997 sales were in the soft logic arena," says Mr. Adams.

Logic, software, objects

During the training center's opening, Cutler-Hammer officials also emphasized that logic and software will play a large role in C-H's ongoing migration to OA and PCs. "Logic will continue to migrate and be executed in places other than where it's done today. For example, logic could be executed in different form factors, or run without a physical CPU," adds Mr. Adams.

Software development is moving "from device profiles to object profiles," says Brian Brickhouse, C-H's automation product line manager. "The idea is to take underlying object technology and via object methods make it work just like other human-machine interface system configurations. In object-based products, it's very easy to add another object via software. Entirely scalable systems are possible."

The opening also included highlights of network architectures, related products, training staff presentations, and demonstrations of open automation equipment. As a founding member of ODVA, Cutler-Hammer's view on bus networks is somewhat DeviceNet-centric—though it also interfaces with Profibus-DP and Interbus networks.

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