Top Control Engineering articles for 2013

Award winning Control Engineering products, system integration, salary and career survey, PID and advanced control, cyber security, human machine interface of the future, optimization, sensing, motor sizing and efficiency, PLC programming, and motion control were among top 25 Control Engineering stories for 2013, based on online traffic. See the titles and description of each article below. Link online to each article, including 20 more most-read articles in 2013 that were posted prior to 2013.

By Mark T. Hoske January 13, 2014

Leading Control Engineering articles in 2013 covered Control Engineering Engineers’ Choice Award related products, system integration, salary survey and career advice, PID and advanced control, cyber security measures, human machine interface of the future, process optimization, temperature sensing, motor sizing and efficiency, PLC programming cost savings, and motion control. These were among top 25 Control Engineering stories for 2013, based on online traffic. With this article online, link directly to each article, below.

A word about the tyranny of the calendar: Because articles posted later in 2013 have less chance of showing up in this ranking, we also have included the 20 most-read articles posted prior to 2013.

Articles help those involved with controls, automation, and instrumentation to be more useful and more valuable to those they serve.

Share the knowledge: Email this link or individual articles to your peers.

Is your article here? If not, why not? Share your automation, controls, or instrumentation tutorial, success story, lessons learned, or technology trends article with Control Engineering print and digital editions (in six regions and five languages), newsletters, in our content syndication service, and via discussions in our social media outlets; learn how here:

Also search “top control engineering articles” here for a monthly tally of the most read online.

Top 25 articles read during 2013, among those posted during 2013

1. Control Engineering Engineers’ Choice Awards

Review the finalists, winners, and honorable mentions from 2012; see the finalists for 2014. The 2014 winners will be announced in the February North American edition. Beyond seeing which products were voted as “Engineers’ Choice” winners, the collection of finalists provides some of the most-useful products to advance automation, control, and instrumentation productivity.

2. Evolving PID tuning rules – March 13

A brief history, starting with the earliest PID controllers to the most recent developments. There is more continuity than you might expect.

3. System Integrator Giants of 2013 – June

The 100 firms on the System Integrator Giants list represent the largest system integrators of 2013, among the companies listed in the Control Engineering Automation Integrator Guide. In the survey, system integrator revenue is defined as automation integration services minus the cost of all off-the-shelf products: hardware, software, and equipment. The system integrators who responded to this survey provided information about engineering specialties, industries served, products integrated, associations/affiliations, and challenges from their industry.

4. Control Engineering salary and career survey, 2013 – March 25

Average annual base salary was $92,918 among respondents to the 2013 Control Engineering salary and career survey, with 70% expecting an increase and average bonus of $10,486. Best skills to get ahead are engineering skills, project management skills, communication and presentation skills, and computer skills. Other career advice follows.

5. PID math demystified, part 1 May 6

You’ve seen the equations, but have you thought about how those elements work together? Part 1: The basic concepts and proportional control.

6. PLC vs. PAC – Feb. 4

These technologies continue to evolve, making differences harder to distinguish. Here are some thoughts on what does what, and how to choose between a PLC and a PAC for your next application.

7. Fundamentals of lambda tuning – April 16

Understanding a particularly conservative PID controller design technique.

8. PID math demystified, part 2 – May 13

You’ve see the equations, but have you thought about how those elements work together? Part 2: Adding integral and derivative to the mix.

9. Cyber security experiment reveals threats to industrial systems – Oct. 4

A recent report shows how “honey pots” designed to look like municipal water utility networks attract many hackers. Security experts offer their analysis of the findings and suggest how they could influence your defensive strategies.

10. The HMI of the future will look very familiar – July 7

HMI/SCADA applications enable companies to benefit from commercial off-the-shelf technologies adapted for industrial automation to lower costs and improve operations. See video.

11. Optimizing strategy for boiler drum level control

This process sensing optimization article looks at strategies for making better measurements, specifically with level control. Avoid trips and maximize steam output by reviewing control equipment, strategy, and tuning.

12. Temperature sensors: Make the right choice, RTD vs. TC – June 25

When you need a temperature measurement, one of the most basic decisions is choosing which kind of sensor to deploy. The application should guide your decision.

13. How to size servo motors: Advanced inertia calculations – July 18

Inside Machines: To properly select the appropriate servo motor for a motion control application, find the inertia of the load being rotated. Applications where the center of rotation is on a different axis than the center of mass can lead to some challenging inertial calculations.

14. How to lower PLC software costs – April 5

PLC vendors make much more profit from software licenses than they do selling hardware. Smart shopping can avoid some of those fees. Advice for lowering PLC licensing fees follows.

15. New approaches for remote I/O installations – Nov. 13

New modular I/O technologies increase your options for communication with field instrumentation and devices. These are particularly useful when longer distances are involved.

16. Motion control: Statue of Liberty rescue elevator – March 18

Application Update: At the Statue of Liberty, the new fast, efficient rescue elevator features a smooth ride to the top, ensured by a motor drive, to improve safety, emergency access, and evacuation for the crown jewel of U.S. statues and tourist destinations.

17. PID math demystified, part 3: More on derivative control – Oct. 21

Consider how a PD controller would work, without an integral function. Would you ever want to use that approach?

18. Transformer efficiency: Minimizing transformer losses – June 12

Matching a transformer to its anticipated load is a critical aspect of reducing energy consumption.

19. IT vs. OT: Bridging the divide – Aug. 16

Traditional IT is moving more onto the plant floor. OT will have to accept a greater level of integration. Is that a problem or an opportunity?

20. Selecting the right SCADA technology – Oct. 11

Modern SCADA technologies offer choices that satisfy functionality and security requirements while improving performance for remote users.

21. Understanding SIS industry standards – May 14

Process safety standards and practices are spreading from oil and gas and other energy-related industries to broader process industry applications. Here’s basic advice on how to make more sense of the numbers and acronyms.

22. Wonderware owner Invensys acquires InduSoft – Oct. 24

With the InduSoft acquisition, Invensys (currently with a recommended offer from Schneider Electric to be acquired) further expands human-machine interface (HMI) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) offerings for the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) sector. Invensys owns Wonderware HMI software, Foxboro, Triconex, SimSci-Esscor, and Avantis brands. Video: How InduSoft and Wonderware work together, added on Oct. 24.

23. Safety and control in collaborative robotics – Aug. 6

Robotics technology is moving at the speed of light, and the standards process is struggling to keep up. New types of collaborative robots can be safely implemented: Do a risk assessment, work with experienced suppliers, and get involved with standards development.

24. Commercial tablets get industrial enclosures – March 25

Making tablets rugged: Industrial-grade environmental protection can help ruggedize and protect Apple iPad, Google Android, and other tablet computers.

25. Is ‘ZigBee vs. Z-wave’ the wrong battle? An analyst’s insight into up and coming smart home technologies – May 6

A new report from IMS Research projects the adoption 13 connectivity technologies in the home.

– See next page for the Top 20 articles read during 2013, among those posted prior to 2013

Top 20 articles read during 2013, among those posted prior to 2013

1. Control Engineering Engineers’ Choice Awards

Prior to 2013, winners, honorable mentions, and finalists were available from 2012; and finalists were posted for 2013. The collection of finalists provides some of the most-useful products to advance automation, control, and instrumentation productivity.

2. How to select a VFD

These guidelines dispel the confusion about matching variable frequency drives (VFDs) and motors to fans and pumps. While the motivation to increase energy efficiency could be financial (reduced energy costs) or ethical (reduced greenhouse gas emissions associated with power production), it is taken for granted that VFDs are an easy way to improve energy efficiency in a motor application.

3. Control Engineering System Integrator Giants of 2012

Control Engineering published a list of the 100 largest automation system integrators based on annual system integration revenue, after surveying system integration firms in the Control Engineering Automation Integrator Guide. The article also covers issues critical to system integrators.

4. Tuning thermal PID loops

When dealing with critical temperature applications, PID controllers are a common regulatory approach, but tuning these often requires a different strategy than other types of loops. Auto-tuning features can help if you understand them.

5. Control Engineering salary survey, career advice – Salary and career survey from 2012 provides benchmarking for those involved in the control engineering discipline and identifies leading trends among survey respondents. A large write-in section offers significant advice in major categories, such as continuing education, workplace strategies, attitude, communication, and degree or specialties.

6. Inside Machines: PC versus PLC: Comparing control options

Advice helps with choosing controller hardware, PC-based hardware, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs). To choose between a PLC or PC, analyze and compare characteristics that could differentiate the two technologies, such as operation, robustness, serviceability, hardware integration, security, safety, programming, and cost. Graphics illustrate some key considerations. This was among top-read articles for five months.

7. System Integrators of the Year for 2013

Automation Integrator Guide cover story: Control Engineering recognizes the best system integrators in the industrial automation business. (This is included in the December 2012 issue.) The winners are…

8. Network redundancy reduces risk, downtime

Building network redundancy into the industrial network infrastructure helps avoid unplanned production stoppages. Practical guidelines from Belden follow on selecting the right network redundancy “insurance policy” for an application.

9. Disturbance-rejection vs. setpoint-tracking controllers

Designing a feedback control loop starts with understanding its objective as well as the process’s behavior.

10. Fixing PID

Proportional-Integral-Derivative controllers may be ubiquitous, but they’re not perfect. Mechanical PID mechanisms have been supplanted by pneumatic, electronic, and computer-based devices, and the PID calculation has been tweaked to provide tighter control.

11. Permanent magnet motors outperform induction motors in many applications

Permanent magnet synchronous motors offer significant advantages on high-energy-consuming and high-dynamic applications, compared to induction motors. See table, photo gallery.

12. 5 best ways to extend Ethernet

For many applications of TCP/IP networking, the 100-meter range limit of copper Ethernet cable becomes a problem. With conversion and extension, networks can cover distances that are measured in kilometers.

13. Successful lean manufacturing implementation: 5 fundamental jigsaw pieces

Implementing lean manufacturing requires participants to review job environment and satisfaction, motivate participation, demand leadership responsibility, develop new behavior patterns, and insist on lean methods and tools.

14. Artificial intelligence: Fuzzy logic explained

Fuzzy logic for most of us: It’s not as fuzzy as you might think and has been working quietly behind the scenes for years. Fuzzy logic is a rule-based system that can rely on the practical experience of an operator, particularly useful to capture experienced operator knowledge. Here’s what you need to know.

15. Direct-drive wind turbines flex muscles

A different drivetrain design that eliminates the gearbox between a turbine’s rotor and generator is attracting wind turbine manufacturers in the quest for higher power output, increased offshore reliability, and potential cost savings over the system’s lifetime. See photos, diagram, links.

16. UML use cases, sequence diagrams: easily converted into executable code

Engineering and IT Insight: UML (Unified Modeling Language) is the language of software engineering, and State Models in UML are used to define internal logic. When state diagrams, use case diagrams, and sequence diagrams are combined with UML class diagrams they define a system, can be easily understood by non-programmers, and can be rapidly converted into executable code.

17. Codes and regulations: Electrical controls’ dirty little secret: We don’t follow NFPA rules

Of course safety is important, but most don’t follow NFPA 70e safety rules for working on an energized electrical panel. Risky? Yes. Unsafe? No, according to this system integrator. Perhaps industrial control panels need their own arc flash standard. (Do you follow the rules when working on control panels? Link to anonymous survey results. See related articles.)

18. Reduce energy consumption: Cement production

How conducting manufacturing energy assessment can help identify a wide range of changes to help reduce consumption. Metering, power quality, load shedding, motor management, power factor, and energy optimization all can help cement operations and other plants, as well.

19. Advanced motor design: New motors reach new applications

Permanent magnets, axial, transverse, and radial flux designs optimize torque, power, efficiency, size, weight, and other motor performance parameters, as explained in this February Control Engineering feature article. Reader feedback added below on Feb. 16.

20. Ask Control Engineering: Using 2-wire proximity sensors

Dear Control Engineering: Is it practical to replace a 3-wire proximity sensor with 2-wire type?

– Compiled by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,


See other top articles, for several prior years, linked at bottom of this posting online.

Article collection: Control Engineering System Integrator Hall of Fame – To identify and recognize the best providers of system integration services, each year Control Engineering judges evaluate applications and name the leading automation integrators. This collection of articles and videos highlights winners and has provided advice since 2007.

Consider this

Do you know anyone else who could value from a link to this article? Search “Top articles 2013” and “Top articles 2012” at to get and e-mail the links to each story.

Write a tutorial or application story for us in 2014:

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.