Making technical, business sense

Automation can help companies be more competitive, but that alone does not make a plant successful, productive, or profitable.
By Jack Smith April 10, 2016

Automation provides tools to help successful enterprises achieve a necessary balance. This strategic balance of planning, communication, maintenance, discipline, and automation is a big part of making manufacturers world-class enterprises. Although automation can help companies be more competitive, automation alone does not make a plant successful, productive, or profitable. As I have written many times in AppliedAutomation: "One should not automate just for the sake of automating. Wise use of automation should be done for the right business and technical reasons."

The author of this issue’s cover story explores automation migration, upgrades, and retrofits. He writes, "Sorting through a plethora of technical and operational issues while keeping budgets and schedules under control is a tough course to navigate, but great outcomes are more than possible."

Because of the increasing emphasis on the cloud, big data, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the importance of security continues to grow. The cover story author writes: "Think about the access and security of the system up front, not as an afterthought. Security is an ongoing endeavor comprised of both people processes and technology tools working together to protect the system."

That brings us to the other story in this issue, which examines network cyber security. The author writes: "Good cyber security requires understanding network risks, threats, and the technical safeguards that can prevent unwanted plant data intrusions. Cyber security is the overall view of technical controls that should be in place to help prevent sensitive company data systems from being breached. Technical security and physical security should work together for network security. Multiple layers of defense should be in place in case one layer is compromised."

This article appears in the Applied Automation supplement for Control Engineering 
and Plant Engineering

– See other articles from the supplement below.