Right tool for the right job

I heard an end-user say, "These tools are killing us." Not too long ago, having the wrong tool meant barking your knuckles and muttering under your breath, or wasting time trying to troubleshoot with a multimeter when a more sophisticated diagnostic tool was needed to recreate a long-lost design diagram.


I heard an end-user say, "These tools are killing us."

Not too long ago, having the wrong tool meant barking your knuckles and muttering under your breath, or wasting time trying to troubleshoot with a multimeter when a more sophisticated diagnostic tool was needed to recreate a long-lost design diagram.

Now having the right tools means hardware, software, diagnostics, programming, simulation, design tools, and the knowledge to make them hum.

Easier and faster

Gary A. Mintchell, Control Engineering senior editor, points out in this issue's cover article that "Software programming no longer entails sitting before a blank screen and either entering contacts and coils or typing arcane commands and keywords that become long strings of spaghetti in ladder or text. Today's tools aid program organization and provide powerful command sets that make complex control easier and faster to accomplish. Many program editors now emulate Microsoft's Visual Studio format with multiple windows and toolbars, pull-down menus, and visible 'tree' structure for the project."

Going from the mechanical design—list of input and output devices, and function directions—to completed code doesn't have to be the mind-numbing project it used to be. Ideally, a programmer learns the objective of the process or machine from project inception. In writing any control code, programmers need to:

  1. Map I/O devices.

  2. Program subsystems.

  3. Coordinate subsystems, communications, and operator interface design.

Actions may differ, depending on tools, but the process remains about the same, Gary Mintchell says. Today's tools aid program organization, strategy, completion and troubleshooting.

In the second cover article, Dave Harrold, senior editor, says the right engineering tools help effectively implement, view, and manage data. Perspectives change from project design through operations. For planning and design, take a "top-down, define-and-design philosophy" that starts with an overview, then adds details through to the functional specification.

During implementation of the control system, things are more likely "bottoms-up," with I/O channel assignments, then equipment logic, and higher controls at unit, cell, and area levels.

Day-to-day, operators drill down into data and details to troubleshoot, with objects representing various aspects of operations, speeding the process.

Unified development environments help all around to simplify design and operations, preserve and extend existing investments, reduce training, and generally make life easier at a time when time and resources are likely reduced.

Online learning

While you're saving time and effort, please register for and attend online Control Engineering 's contributions to SupplyChainLinkExpo and other areas as well. SupplyChainLinkExpo is a two-day online conference and tradeshow, Oct. 17-18. See "News" for an update; learn more and register at www.supplychainlinkexpo.com . See other online learning opportunities at www.controleng.com/webcast and www.controleng.com/tutorials .

You weren't seeing double. In error, the July editorial ran again in August. Please read the August editorial, "Pick up free stuff," online at www.controleng.com under CE Issues, August 2001.

Author Information

Mark T. Hoske, Editor-in-Chief mhoske@cahners.com

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