Control Engineering Software eNewsletter for July 2002

By Control Engineering Staff July 24, 2002

In this issue:

  • Shape of things to come
  • Linux for PLCs — July Control Engineering
  • Rockwell Automation Tracking Pro
  • Real-time software from Microsoft
  • Your comments from last month
  • Web-based report generator
  • Software for power industry
  • MachineMate wins in Rockwell CNC agreement
  • More OPC drivers
  • Control Engineering Buyer’s Guide

Shape of things to come

While writing this newsletter, I had an opportunity to visit with Kevin Roach, vp, Glenn Graney, commercial marketing manager, and Rich Carpenter, MES business leader and senior technical advisor at GE Fanuc Automation. So I asked what are the things that customers need these days and how they are responding. Their response was that managers expect control engineers to be able to automate processes and machines. That’s a given. What customers really need now is to look at bigger business issues and use automation to improve business measures like return on investment (ROI), return on net assets (RONA), inventory turns, reduce work in process inventory, and facilitate ties with partners in the supply chain.

Another new business driver is the implementation of support and services to customers. For instance, GE Fanuc has a ‘command center’ where GE service engineers can remotely monitor a manufacturing process and provide services like predictive maintenance, real-time troubleshooting, and datalogging with analysis for manufacturers. GE has, in fact begun implementing such a system.

Rockwell Automation Global Manufacturing Solutions has just announced such a service as a product. In.Site Continuous Support is a suite of engineering and process monitoring services provided by directly connecting Rockwell’s command center to customer process systems. It includes 24×7 monitoring and analysis of process line activity, Web-enabled tools, and troubleshooting support from trained process engineers. Secure, high-speed direct network connection to instruments and process systems provides real-time access to production information to allow diagnostic, analysis, and problem resolution support.

Connect to GE Fanuc via

Click into Rockwell Automation at

Have any of you begun to see pressure from management for pumping real-time production data to enterprise systems to support supply chain management? Actually, have your companies even begun to look at supply chain management? Are controls experts part of the implementation team? Have enough engineers and technicians been laid off during this last downturn that you seriously would consider one of these solution services?

Let me know about this or anything else on your mind at .

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Linux for PLCs — July Control Engineering

The July edition of Control Engineering included an article on embedded control. As part of the article, I asked the group of engineers developing an open source PLC based on Linux if they would like to explain what they were up to. Joe Jansen took the challenge. His sidebar to the article can be found online at

The group has put in a lot of effort and has some parts being tested. You can subscribe to the list at or check out the home page at

Aiding the open source cause, Sixnet has released VersaTRAK IPm Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) operating on an embedded Linux platform. It is designed for datalogging, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and control applications. User programs may be created using industry standard ISaGRAF IEC 61131-3 programming tools or a free Linux compiler. A Linux Web server runs Web pages created using any standard HTML development tools. Networking includes 10/100 Ethernet and four serial ports. Included Linux firmware provides a suite of Ethernet and Internet protocols and capabilities.

Visit Sixnet at

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Rockwell Automation Tracking Pro

Rockwell Automation’s Tracking Pro provides access to real-time information on products as they move through production stages by identifying production parts, tracking part movements through a process, and recording specific part attributes. The information is accessible throughout the plant via operator screens and can be stored in a tracking database that will signal alarms as needed, as well as produce in-depth reports for further analysis. Rather than providing a broad process overview, the product provides detailed information that enables organizations to make faster, more accurate, decisions. Its Web-enabled approach allows users to take advantage of a common standard human-machine interface (HMI) to increase accessibility and reduce licensing costs. A modular design enables adaptation to specific applications.

Visit Rockwell Automation by clicking on

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Real-time software from Microsoft

Real-time, embedded control developer and president of Real Time Development Corp., Nat Frampton, recently spoke out on Microsoft embedded software related to real-time control.

According to Mr. Frampton, it is becoming more difficult for the embedded community to meet time-to-market goals while customers are demanding integration with many technologies. ‘We must leverage commercial operating systems in order to meet our goals,’ he states. ‘Microsoft is the de facto standard in industrial automation. This acceptance makes Microsoft-based technologies the most obvious solution.’

Real-time is divided into two areas: hard and soft real-time. The classic definition is that hard real-time applications fail if their operating system timing requirements are not met. Soft real-time applications tolerate large latencies in what they have requested from the operating system.

He continues, ‘Through the OMAC user group, I was able to study hundreds of applications and their real-time requirements. Systems were categorized by their frequency or heartbeat. This is the frequency at which they read their inputs, execute logic, and write their outputs. Each system was classified by this heartbeat and the maximum amount of deviation from it. For example, if a system was to run every 1 ms, and it occurred 1.1 ms after the last cycle then there would be 100 micro seconds of variation or jitter. In our study, hard real-time systems required cycle times of less than 10 ms and cycle variation of no more than 100 microseconds. Soft real-time systems had both cycle times and variations greater than this. Windows CE .Net has moved into the industrial automation definition of hard real-time. Windows XP Embedded is a soft real-time operating system.’

For more, go to

Read the whole ‘Expert Opinion,’ which includes tips for embedded developers to improve performance at

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Your comments from last month

Regarding the question about whether anyone was considering Instant Messaging technology in a manufacturing environment, I heard from a reader whose SCADA group was talking about the benefits of this technology, but they were understandably worried about security. He asks if anyone has thought about this issue. The companies that I read about were not specifically in the automation space. Has anyone come across an answer to this?

When it comes to the greatly increased complexity of modern software as the trade off for greatly increased functions, one reader wrote to say that learning a new application from scratch can be a real pain. Once learned, however, he says that he wouldn’t want to go back. Does this sound familiar?

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Web-based report generator

Need to provide a way for a management-type who is familiar with Microsoft Office to obtain reports from the process without the need for you to create each report? Opus Software Technologies has an answer with Opus, a business intelligence and reporting tool enabling report generation in an Office application.

The report generator is Microsoft Windows based, allowing access and configuration of reports to take place through a normal browser. All reports are saved as XML structure, using SOAP for configuring reports across the Web. Information can be accessed simultaneously from a variety of standard data sources including standard databases, such as Access and SQL Server, OPC, SCADA, XML, and Excel.

For more, visit

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Software for power industry

BJS Industrial Computing, provider of Microsoft Windows-based SCADA for electricity applications, announced that iPower Version 2.11 includes new functionality to address operator, engineer and integrator needs of electric utility SCADA systems. The product is developed on top of the iFix system from Intellution Inc. and enables SCADA users in the electricity industry to benefit from this product with features specific to the electrical power industry. This new release extends operator services with mouse-driven pan, zoom, and de-clutter. Internationalization is advanced with inclusion of regional-specific symbol sets. System reliability and security benefits from new robust handling of fail-over, shutdown, and restart occurrences.

Visit BJS at

For more, go to and

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MachineMate wins in Rockwell CNC agreement

When Rockwell Automation and Power Automation GmbH announced a resale agreement for PC-based CNC products, MachineMate (Fond du Lac, Wis.) became the supplier to Rockwell in North America. The company will also provide technical support and training. Rockwell Automation will integrate its SoftLogix 5800 control platform, RS View visualization software, and Kinetix integrated motion products with MachineMate soft CNC products.

MachineMate is a September 2000 spin-off company from Giddings & Lewis (Fond du Lac, Wis.). The majority stockholder is Power Automation GmbH of Germany with a minority interest held by private investors. The entire workforce at MachineMate consists of former Giddings & Lewis employees.

Visit MachineMate at

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More OPC drivers

Kepware Technologies has released OPC servers supporting Aromat, Fuji Flex, Toshiba, and Yokogawa DXP drivers. All Kepware software including these new drivers now supports Web-based installation and include a new help system. Aromat driver provides OPC access to the Aromat FP PLC family via the ET-LAN interface card. Fuji Flex Serial driver provides OPC access to Fuji Flex PLC models NB0, NB1, NB2, NB3, NJ, and NS. Toshiba Ethernet driver provides OPC access to Toshiba and also will be offered with the Toshiba Serial driver as a complete suite. Yokogawa DXP Ethernet driver provides OPC access to Yokogawa DXP100 and 200 chart recorders.

Go to Kepware’s web site at

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Control Engineering Buyer’s Guide

Control Engineering Online Buyer’s Guide includes more than 35 software subcategories that may be useful. If you’ve registered on the website, you can gain access through the following link. If you’re not logged in or if you need to register, the link will take you to a page where you can register, enter your username and password, or use the ‘forgot my password’ function.

For more, visit /buyersguide

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