Help for automation design, selection, implementation

Automation product design, system integration, and application advice follows from some of the 2019 Engineers’ Choice winners.
By Mark T. Hoske February 22, 2019

Engineers’ Choice winners were invited to provide advice for Control Engineering subscribers on product design, system integration related to the product, or application advice for the product. Experts from Emerson Automation, Endress+Hauser, Nidec Control Techniques, Siemens, and Universal Robotics offer insights.

Emerson Automation: Make it easy, extend value

Bob Halgren, DeltaV platform management director, Emerson Automation: Easier is not always easy enough as engineers spend hours integrating control systems on projects across the globe to connect systems. This work is even harder if an engineer has to re-engineer a product to do something it should do out of the box. Easy software should be intuitive with out-of-the-box functionality that reduces initial work. Other advice includes building on an existing innovation to extend value, reimagining preconceived notions, and knowing product innovation is about today and the future.

Endress+Hauser: Calibrate sensors in place

Keith Riley, national product manager for pressure/temperature, Endress+Hauser Inc.: The biggest risk for a thermometer in a hygienic system is the calibration process. Opening the device, removing the insert, connecting and disconnecting power cables, introducing the thermometer into the oil bath or block calibrator, or transporting the thermometer to the laboratory increases the likelihood of mechanical damage. Removing the sensor from the process or thermowell is the biggest reason for RTD failure. A related question is “What is the best way to return the sensor to the exact same measuring position in the process after removing it for calibration?” Risks are significantly reduced if the temperature sensor can be calibrated in situ.

Nidec Control Techniques: Open architectures

Mike Wolfe, product manager motion control, and Alex Harvey, director of marketing, Americas, for Control Techniques, a Nidec brand: Manufacturers should consider open architectures when designing new automation products for greater flexibility, innovation, and greater competitiveness. From mobile connectivity to industrial internet of things (IIoT) integration, the automotive industry is one area at the forefront of automation innovation. Car manufacturing is about improving productivity through automation because, as an industry, profitability is directly linked to the speed of manufacture and machine availability. Designing open automation systems gives the flexibility to use a broader array of protocols and components. Open servo drives, for instance, support a wide range of industry standard technologies and protocols.

Siemens: Digitalization, I/O, updates, ease of use

Alessandra Da Silva is product marketing manager, Siemens Industry Inc.: Today’s factory floor is undergoing a transformation through increased digitalization. More intelligent automation and connected devices are changing traditional production, to provide a more flexible, reliable and transparent environment. As machine builders and end users move to a digitalized manufacturing approach, industrial PCs (IPCs) are well suited to ensure increasing production capacity and flexibility to meet variable demand, improving quality while reducing production costs, and improving efficiency in secure settings.

Raj Rajendra, consultant/manager, Siemens Industry Inc.: Input/output systems (I/O or IO systems) are designed to be simpler, smaller, and more powerful. Installation and wiring should be simple, done faster, and with fewer or no tools. Compact size, faster response times, diagnostics, and greater functionality are expected. Such designs help companies with automation systems to maximize performance, improve efficiency, increase flexibility, and reduce downtime while reducing footprint. To meet these challenges, automation that’s smaller, more powerful, and offers greater functionality is needed.

Jana Kocianova, product manager, Siemens: Keeping the customer’s current and future needs in mind is the most important part of designing a successful automation product. Machine manufacturers need tools to stay connected with many automation devices, cut costs, and stay independent of an engineering framework. Machine manufacturers and plant operators are facing the challenge of customizing their machines and plants and keeping them up to date. Different life stages of commissioning, maintenance, and service come with special requirements or tasks. Reduce downtime and increase efficiency with one tool to manage automation components.

Craig Nelson: product manager, Siemens Industry Inc.: In the digital factory — motion control business: Automation advice: Devices and systems should provide a positive customer experience and be easily connect, monitor, commission, and operate. The customer experience is a driving force behind any successful product development. In today’s environment of limited personnel resources and expanding operations, ease-of-use can often be the hardest part of product development to justify in the budgeting phase. However, it also can have the biggest return on the bottom line. Creating a unique product can present new challenges for development and requires a comprehensive set of requirement specifications and feedback from the field to hit the mark. Use smartphone as an ease-of-use benchmark.

Universal Robots: easier robot use

Jürgen Von Hollen: president of Universal Robots: Fast set-up, easy programming, flexible deployment, and safe operation are the four core principles that define collaborative robots. A lot of people mistake collaborative robot design as only being about safety; that’s just the cost of entry. Upgrading the collaborative robot’s internal features has strengthened each of those four core principles. Built-in force torque sensing, safety features, and improved precision enable faster integration in a wider range of future-proofed applications. Increased repeatability makes collaborative robots suitable for precise finishing, assembly, and electronics tasks.

Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

KEYWORDS: Automation product design

Automation products should be easy to use.

Reliability and quality are important.

Easy integration and safety help.


Are your automation products easy to implement, use, adapt, and update?

Mark T. Hoske
Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.