Top Control Engineering articles, September 2013

The most-visited articles at during September 2013 included: Alarm management standard, IT vs. OT, automation upgrade help, Invensys acquires InduSoft, thermowell selection, motor shaft grounding, machinery directive help, help from IT, big structures from small interlocking pieces, human-robotic collaboration, automation justification, modular PLCs, and more.

By Mark T. Hoske October 7, 2013

Most-read Control Engineering online articles during September 2013 at included: Alarm management standard, IT vs. OT, automation upgrade help, Invensys acquires InduSoft, thermowell selection, motor shaft grounding, machinery directive help, help from IT, big structures from small interlocking pieces, human-robotic collaboration, automation justification, modular PLCs, networks and PLC functionality, redundant safety, machine safety compliance, cableless control, and when to automate. 

Because Control Engineering posts fresh content each business day, some articles posted later in the month don’t get as much time for exposure as those posted earlier. Therefore, articles are divided into two sections: those posted during the past two months (August and September 2013) and those posted prior to August 2013. More about each article and links follow, along with links to the most-frequented Control Engineering pages during September 2013. A link to each article or page is provided. 

September 2013 most-read online articles, among those posted in August and September 2013 

Implementing alarm management per the ANSI/ISA-18.2 standard – Aug. 27 – Summarizing the standard’s 10 stages into four general tasks can simplify implementation and speed up the schedule.

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?

10 steps to a smoother automation system upgrade – Aug. 27 – When migrating or upgrading your automation system, don’t forget to examine this group of areas outside of the HMI, controllers, and I/O. These suggestions will help you identify and deal with lurking problems early in the process.

Wonderware owner Invensys acquires InduSoft – Sept. 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.

Taking the mystery out of thermowell selection – Aug. 27 – It stands between your process and the sensor element, so understanding thermowell characteristics is key to reliable measurements. Second in the temperature series.

Motor shaft grounding can enhance reliability in your inverter-fed motor – Sept. 19 – While variable frequency drives save energy, they sometimes lead to premature bearing and motor failure when not properly grounded and programmed. Beware of this “new” cause of bearing failure and know how to prevent it by eliminating common mode voltage.

15 steps to help with European Union’s Machinery Directive, EN/ISO 13849- 1 – Sept. 16 – Machine safety compliance is more flexible and interpretive than in the past. Basic definitions of the machinery directive and the following 15 steps can clarify. See table and chart.

IT support of industrial control networks – Sept. 17 – Ask most plant personnel what they think of IT support for their industrial control systems (ICS) and you’re likely to receive a barrage of complaints in response. But why? (See video.)

3 ways to know it is time for an automation upgrade – Aug. 29 – Figuring out the right time to update your control system can be difficult. The following factors determine if the time is right. Three reasons show why ‘It works fine’ isn’t fine anymore. A fourth consideration may lift any final objections.

A new approach assembles big structures from small interlocking pieces – Aug. 23 – MIT researchers invent a new approach to assembling big structures — even airplanes and bridges — out of small interlocking composite components. A robotic system for assembly is under development.

Human-robotic collaboration: What will OSHA say? – Aug. 30 – Safety lifecycle approach is best when robots and humans work in the same areas, say automotive and safety experts.

Automation justification – Sept. 9 – Automation ROI: For maximum return on investment (ROI) when deciding to automate, ensure systems can scale with an operation, evolve, and be redeployed for maximum return on investment. For a productivity boost, follow 6 key steps for determining when and where to apply or upgrade automation. Don’t automatically think commercial-off-the-shelf technologies are better than a lean customized solution. Finally, economical controllers and universal programming software can ease the point of entry.

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.

Modular, all-in-one PLC has touchscreen, IO modules – Sept. 9 – Product Exclusive: Unitronics announces the launch of its new generation of modular, all-in-one PLC: the Unitronics UniStream cuts costs, saves space, and decreases programming time with predictive programming software.

Industrial networking expands PLC functionality – Aug. 9 – Combining real-time Ethernet with visualization, control, and communication capabilities allows PLCs to open the door to a new level of visibility and control for manufacturers.

Hardware configuration of redundant safety integrated systems – Sept. 6 – Control system architects apply redundancy selectively to ensure reliability while minimizing false alarms. Here are some of the strategy options.

Machine safety compliance: start with design – Sept. 11 – From ergonomics and e-stops to OSHA and output, here are the essential considerations for machine safety compliance. Safety starts with design.

Ensure cableless control reliability – Sept. 18 – Industrial wireless, or using ANSI’s term, cableless control, requires reliability. Don’t let radio frequency interference lead to downtime; follow these policing precautions.

When to automate: Conventional and robotic applications – Sept. 4 – For modular conventional, robotic, or hybrid motion control applications, ensure that systems can scale with an operation, handle evolving packaging styles, and be redeployed to alternate production lines for maximum flexibility and return on investment.

Most read online Control Engineering articles during September among those posted prior to August 2013

2013 Engineers’ Choice AwardsControl Engineering Engineers’ Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation, and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering‘s print and online subscribers. Subscribers to the North American print and digital editions are asked to select the best products based on technological advancement, service to the industry, and market impact.

How to select a VFD – These guidelines dispel the confusion about matching variable frequency drives (VFDs) and motors to fans and pumps that are typically encountered in commercial building applications. 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. And with these noble intentions in mind, the engineer will specify a VFD for his client. Often, that isn’t the end of the story for the engineer.

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.

Control Engineering Salary and Survey, Advice – Career Update: The 2012 Control Engineering salary and career survey showed enthusiasm for automation, controls, and instrumentation professions. Pay is up, and survey respondents encouraged those interested in engineering to continue learning. Strategies for workplace success follow.

System Integrator Giants of 2013 – 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.

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

Transformer efficiency: Minimizing transformer losses – Matching a transformer to its anticipated load is a critical aspect of reducing energy consumption.

PLC vs. PAC – 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.

Control Engineering salary and career survey, 2013 – 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.

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Also see …

Control Engineering System Integrator Hall of Fame – Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories (based on the size of the organization). Three general criteria are considered for the selection of winners: business skills, technical competence, and customer satisfaction. Winners are then inducted into our System Integrator Hall of Fame. This page was updated in December 2012 with the class of 2013. 

Integrator Guide – Search the online Automation Integrator Guide. Selecting multiple criteria will narrow your search results. Integrators wishing to apply for their own listing can do so. 

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