Feedback: Balkanization of instrumentation and control profession

Stephen Curyk provides further insight on specialists, engineers, and experts, as they relate to control architecture.

10/06/2010


Dennis Brandl’s article “IT and Engineering Insight: Control architecture, who needs it?" highlights the troubling symptom of balkanization in the Instrumentation and Control Profession. Instead of having a team of Instrument and Control Engineers on a project, we now have a gaggle of specialists both inside and outside a project. There are specialists for safety systems, control valves, flow instruments, level instruments, and other field instruments. These specialists may be the engineering companies engineers, the client personnel, vendor personnel, who may or may not be engineers, specialty company personnel, such as DCS experts or PLC programmers, analyzer experts, from the engineering company or the vendor and other, so called, experts.

All of these people have to be able to communicate with, not only each other but also with process engineers and other disciplines. In addition many of these specialists show little ownership of the project. They expect process data and if the data is faulty, have little or no reason to point the anomaly to a process engineer or project manager from a different company. In addition they may be reluctant to point out a possible mistake or a point of confusion to, what they consider, a client.

In addition, each specialty group becomes a fief unto itself and resents any interference by any other specialty group. Errors and mistakes are always the other specialists, the process group or another discipline’s fault. Is it any wonder that a vendor seeing an opportunity, in this confusion, to create another profit center springs on it and invents a new discipline – control architect.

I am put in mind of an old instrumentation joke that if a control system had enough old fashioned relays, the control system would never work because one of the relays would always be failing. In a like manner, if we continue to create new instrument specialists we will get to a point where no projects will ever be free of unsolved problems because communication with all parties will be impossible.

The only saving grace is that the field technician and engineers will always be there to fix design engineering mistakes.


- Stephen Curyk, P.E., Lago Vista, TX


Have a comment? Put Feedback in the subject line of an email to controleng(at)cfemedia.com.

Also submit advice online in the Tips and Tricks section at www.controleng.com/events-and-awards/ce-tips-and-tricks.html.



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Learn how to create value with re-use; gain productivity with lean automation and connectivity, and optimize panel design and construction.
Go deep: Automation tackles offshore oil challenges; Ethernet advice; Wireless robotics; Product exclusives; Digital edition exclusives
Lost in the gray scale? How to get effective HMIs; Best practices: Integrate old and new wireless systems; Smart software, networks; Service provider certifications
Fixing PID: Part 2: Tweaking controller strategy; Machine safety networks; Salary survey and career advice; Smart I/O architecture; Product exclusives
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Look at the basics of industrial wireless technologies, wireless concepts, wireless standards, and wireless best practices with Daniel E. Capano of Diversified Technical Services Inc.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.