60th Anniversary: CE History from 60, 30, and 15 years ago

Happy 60th, Control Engineering! Help us celebrate by looking at issues from 60, 30, and 15 years ago. Control Engineering magazine first published in September 1954. This monthly column in 2014 will review coverage in issues 60 (or 59), 30, and 15 years ago. While technologies have progressed since then, topics below (southeast industrialization, the lucrative industrial control field, and e-commerce) remain relevant today.
By Jordan M. Schultz March 17, 2014

April 1955: Controls pace Southeast industrialization

In 15 years, Florida’s manufacturing output has risen 500%. Nearly 44% of Georgians farmed in 1940, but today only 28% do. These figures typify the pace of industrialization throughout the Southeast. New and expanded factories have made the region a top market for instrument and control makers. And competition among the myriad small plants is so keen that even some relatively new ones remain steady customers. For example, the Macon Kraft Co., Georgia papermaker, now uses 50% more instrumentation than it did just seven years ago when the plant was built.

Southeastern industry is becoming increasingly control conscious. One power plant spent $2.5 million to reduce operators from 26 to 6 men per shift. A modern hospital being built in Atlanta has a boiler plant whose controls and instruments represented 50% of the boiler room cost. About the region, these generalizations seem valid:

  • More companies are hiring instrument engineers
  • Scanning techniques are becoming popular for assembling and collating the information on instrument panels
  • Process industries are building more central control rooms
  • Electronic control systems are interesting, but most plants are sticking to pneumatic systems. 

April 1984: Trends in control: The industrial control field, still lucrative

If current activities are any indication, the industrial control field has lost none of its glamour as a potentially lucrative growth business. After lackluster performance in recent years, two of the well-known process control suppliers changed owners, presumably switching to companies that will be better able to take advantage of their inherent capabilities. Newly formed companies with a better technological idea continue to come out of the woodwork, to be joined by major existing companies which in the past have had no interest in the industrial control field but have suddenly decided they better get in on the action. Strange things happen as well: a major supplier spins off a system integrating capability, which on the surface seemed crucial to accomplishing its stated objectives.

Programmable controllers and distributed process control systems are still the most popular areas, both in this country and overseas. Accompanying new basic PCs are an endless number of PC accessories, interface devices, documentation and programming systems, service businesses, and control software houses. All of this activity bodes well for the control engineering customer. 

April 1999: E-commerce is on the rise for manufacturing

E-commerce is emerging rapidly for factory automation and process control products. Internet usage has risen astronomically over the past four years, and it is estimated that the number of Internet users will reach one billion by the year 2005. Looking at current Internet trends, it makes sense that more services are focusing on online consumers.

Until recently, it was difficult to sell goods or services over the Internet, but the boom in web development tools, such as Java, server-side scripting, and secure servers has facilitated the introduction of e-commerce onto the World Wide Web. Nowadays just about anything can be bought via the Internet, including books, CDs, software, clothing, vitamins, airline tickets, and now, automation and control products.

So far, only a few manufacturing companies have set up online stores, but new site announcements keep coming in regularly as more companies sell their products online.

– 2014 edits, to fit this page, by Jordan M. Schultz, associate content manager, CFE Media.