Top 10 tech tips

Here are 10 technology tips for operational excellence. These weren't too hard to come by; life inside the control loop is all is all about continuous improvement: Sensors measure; logic devices decide how to improve; and valves, pumps, motors, and other devices actuate an improvement. The process continues.

By Mark T. Hoske, Editor-in-Chief October 1, 2005

Here are 10 technology tips for operational excellence. These weren’t too hard to come by; life inside the control loop is all is all about continuous improvement: Sensors measure ; logic devices decide how to improve; and valves, pumps, motors, and other devices actuate an improvement. The process continues. Networks and software help tie it all together, making it understandable to and interactive with the rest of the world. (Read this online for links to supporting articles and three related quotes.)

The 10 tips are to improve:

  1. Sensing. Sensor selection depends on application. Consider sensor location in design process; throughput can increase with optimal sensor placement. When considering what to measure, think outside of wired constraints. Pay attention to signal quality.

  2. Networks/communications. Consider system design. Today the sensor, logic, and actuator can be located in more places than in the past, with savings on wiring and augmented efficiency with greater information flow. Watch for wireless and Ethernet opportunities and replacement of legacy communications.

  3. Logic/analysis. Knowing application requirements helps in choosing an expanded range of logic hardware and software for simulation, processes, motion, inspection, monitoring, and analysis. Modular designs for hardware and software make upgrades easier.

  4. Actuation. Size and locate devices using appropriate application, knowledge, and budget. Proper sizing minimizes wear and can increase energy efficiency.

  5. Processes. Don’t just throw money at technology. Before, during, and after applying any new technologies, examine and update processes. Use predictive maintenance, purchase integrated systems when practical, take a broader view of production to seek efficiencies, and record lessons learned.

  6. Standards. Follow standards (or widely used platforms and conventions). Make best-in-class selections to ease operations, unify software development environments, simplify interconnections, and speed upgrades.

  7. Safety devices. Instead of being hard-wired, safety can be incorporated into control networks. Safety standards focus more on risk assessment, increasingly in line with international codes.

  8. Migration paths. Incremental upgrades are leading to the end of rip and replace. Enabling technologies ensure hardware and software are upgraded as often as possible or practical.

  9. Training, research, and references Stay fresh/relevant. Gather information, make a plan, and stick to it. Start in areas with large, quick returns. Make learning and training part of your workflow. See and touch competing technologies at diverse, multi-vendor shows.

  10. Partners Choose allies you can learn from, and teach them your best practices to ensure they help with your challenges and share in rewards.

Mark T. Hoske, Editor-in-Chief

MHoske@cfemedia.com

Online extra

Why do we need to use control engineering technologies to improve operational efficiencies? Because if we don’t learn from each other, we’re doomed to reinvent the wheel, repeat the same mistakes, and make it easier for competitors to succeed. Three quotes provide perspective.

  • If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.
    — Lord Kelvin, IEC’s first president, 1906

  • The further back you look, the further forward you see.
    — Winston Churchill

  • We’re on the verge of some very major advances.
    — Bill Gates, Comdex, November 1998

Related Control Engineering articles include:

  • 6 Asset Management Myths

  • Flat Panels: Thin is in

  • Micro PLCs

  • Machine Vision Looks Well Beyond Inspection

  • Safety Networks up and Running

  • Machine Retrofits and Safety

  • Ethernet Explained

  • Energy Efficient Motors Deliver Savings

Other topics not listed here can readily be found by searching atop any page at / .