Integration simplification

Admit it. You're a technology fan, and you have at least a half-dozen gadgets at home that you'd like to optimize. It's not that you can't figure out how to use the advanced features. You're fully capable, but haven't taken the time. After all, the devices do work; you know the basics, but haven't gotten around to really making them hum.

By Mark T. Hoske, Editor-in-Chief December 1, 2004

Admit it. You’re a technology fan, and you have at least a half-dozen gadgets at home that you’d like to optimize. It’s not that you can’t figure out how to use the advanced features. You’re fully capable, but haven’t taken the time. After all, the devices do work; you know the basics, but haven’t gotten around to really making them hum. (Me too.)

I’d bet a tin of holiday cookies that a few things around your plant also operate all right, but aren’t integrated and optimized as they could be. That might include devices, systems, instrumentation, controls, automation, networks, and related software. And there are certainly reasons: time, budget, staff, and lack of documentation may be among them.

1. Make a New Year’s resolution that you’re going to set aside time every day to systematically address some of these areas.

2. Consider your track record in keeping New Year’s resolutions.

3. Then, instead, link up with an automation system integrator to really make your devices and systems hum. A great resource for that is the Control Engineering Automation Integrator Guide, an in-print supplement, wrapped in a polybag with this issue. It’s also online with a very cool multi-parameter search engine at www.controleng.com/integrators .

4. Also, as you upgrade or purchase systems, look for kinder, simpler integration of technologies over the product lifecycle. Keywords to watch and listen for are: modular and scalable, plug-and-play, standardization, auto-configure, downloadable upgrades, and anything that generally plays well with others.

Examples of integration simplification abound, including Sealed Air Shanklin’s new Omni Form-Fill-Seal Wrapper shrink packing machines, introduced at Pack Expo International, Nov. 7-11. The machines outdo competitors’ efforts, company representatives said, because separate, modular infeeds auto-configure when they’re connected, adding system capabilities and flexibility. In addition to speeding setup, the design also lowers overall cost and increases quality; the machine stores set-up parameters on a memory card that can be shared, via the touchscreen human-machine interface, from line to line. Sensors, servo-drives, and 100-recipe storage all help. It’s a fine example of an OEM’s customers reaping benefits through creative application of automation. (This column online at www.controleng.com , December 2004 archives, has more about the technologies involved.)

5. Cut yourself just a little slack. Look back on 2004 for gifts you have and think ahead with determination to do even better in 2005. Enjoy the holidays.

Mark T. Hoske, Editor-in-Chief

MHoske@cfemedia.com

Related reading
For more from Control Engineering on Sealed Air’s use of automation to make life easier, please click into: “It’s a wrap: Sealed Air gains advantage with network, HMI.”