Making the right automation changes

Choosing to upgrade—or not to upgrade—can be the proverbial double-edged sword whether it be network-migration best practices or HMI advances.

By Jack Smith December 1, 2015

As with most migration decisions, those that involve keeping legacy versus upgrading to modernized plant-floor networks can be among the most daunting. Choosing to upgrade—or not to upgrade—can be the proverbial double-edged sword. As the author of this issue’s cover story puts it, "The benefits of upgrading can be significant. So can the challenges."

However, the author offers reassurance that others have successfully upgraded their industrial networks. He also provides network-migration best practices, which include planning, documentation, cabling, switches, and security. The author writes: "A solid network migration plan is the foundation for a successful outcome. It begins with a good understanding of where you are and where you want to be."

This issue’s other story tracks human-machine interface (HMI) advances and trends. After providing a brief timeline of the technology, the author explains the features available in today’s HMIs. Viewing HMI screens remotely on mobile devices is catching on as a time-saving resource for collecting information, determining machine status, and keeping an eye on production. The author also explains that the ability to display media in popular formats on the HMI during runtime is a becoming a must-have capability. "PDF, Xcel, Word, and video format viewers allow HMI programs to display information that can train an operator, help an operator run the machine, or solve a machine issue." The author also speculates about where HMIs are headed. "Possibly, at some point, a model could evolve where tools and features are selected for an application, and end users are charged only for what they use." 

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

– See other articles from the supplement below.