What's next?

What's next? Let's get back to automation and controls now that we've survived Y2K. I admit I enjoyed watching the world throw a lot of time, talent, and money at a global challenge. It was supposed to be Yawn2K, and it was. Now let's apply our efforts to the next global problem to be solved.


What's next? Let's get back to automation and controls now that we've survived Y2K. I admit I enjoyed watching the world throw a lot of time, talent, and money at a global challenge. It was supposed to be Yawn2K, and it was. Now let's apply our efforts to the next global problem to be solved. After saving the world, don't overlook our world—automation and controls projects that may have been postponed, while resources went into Y2K remediation. Connect that new IT software and hardware with relevant information from where the money's made—on an ever-more automated plant floor and in a more intelligently monitored and controlled process.

National Manufacturing Week 2000 is around the corner, March 13-16, in Chicago's McCormick Place. Even the busiest automation and control user, integrator, or OEM has to admit it's useful and fun to touch the technologies, view multiple competing product demonstrations within a few hours, and talk to the people who engineer, service, and sell what we want to buy. To preview some of National Manufacturing Week's innovations at the National Industrial Automation Show read Jim Montague's article in this issue; Laura Zurawski's Cyberpage "tours" online National Manufacturing Week resources. Stop in and see us (Booth 5809), if you attend in person, and/or follow developments from the show at www.controleng.com .

Information integration is among the unfolding trends in automation. "The next evolution is tying the shop floor to business systems to improve the agility of customers," explains Keith D. Nosbusch, president, Rockwell Automation Control Systems. "The next thrust for customers and the company is on the services side, integration and asset management, helping them to do things in their facilities and on the plant floor. The control platform should integrate multiple disciplines, drive down cost, and improve time to market," says Mr. Nosbusch, in an interview with Control Engineering on Dec. 9, 1999, at the Allen-Bradley Automation Fair in Long Beach, Calif. (See more of this commentary online at www.controleng.com ).

Automation suppliers do their part to optimize the enterprise, in efforts to help customers make more money. This issue's cover story explains how it's done, in part by rooting out process variability, says senior editor Dave Harrold. Another part of the equation involves integrating the best system components in an open-platform control system. Gary Mintchell's article offers practical advice for making open systems work. Frank Bartos illustrates how "medium-voltage ac drives shed their custom image," using design approaches and system tools similar to those that made lower voltage drives popular.

Disparaging remarks punctuate news about the broadening of International Electrotechnical Commission 61158, the so-called bandwagon fieldbus communications "standard." We can't concur on what side of the road to drive, which of multiple wireless telecommunication protocols to use, or how much voltage should surge through what style plug. Perhaps the dichotomy of a multi-protocol standard isn't a reflection of disagreement as much as a mirror of ourselves.

Whatever's next, the diversity of human circuitry seems to require that a certain number of technologies remain as diverse as we are.

Author Information

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

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