Dennis Brandl


Wireless October 4, 2016

Tips on determining what is IT, OT

Engineering and IT Insight: Companies looking to determine what are information technology (IT) organizations and operations technology (OT) organizations should be focused on what the systems do rather than what they are to solve potential conflicts. See related article topic: IT, OT teams need to work together.

By Dennis Brandl
DCS, SCADA, Controllers August 3, 2016

A new architecture for control systems being developed

Engineering and IT Insight: ExxonMobil is working to define a new architecture for distributed control systems (DCSs) by creating a system made up of programmable devices and distributed control nodes (DCNs) that can collective execute multiple layers of control strategies.

By Dennis Brandl
Wireless July 9, 2016

Manufacturing operations management maturity starts when drama ends

Engineering and IT Insight: MESA International’s Manufacturing Operations Management Capability Maturity Model (MOM-CMM) is designed to improve operational processes by evaluating how the people involved in operations handle normal and abnormal situations in a variety of settings.

By Dennis Brandl
PLM, Control Design May 8, 2016

Smart manufacturing is not a thing; it’s a convergence of things

Smart manufacturing is a convergence of capabilities from multiple areas to enhance productivity. Smart manufacturing is where smart business processes converge with smart operational processes, smart equipment, and smart product definitions.

By Dennis Brandl
Workforce Development April 27, 2016

Manufacturing organizations need a succession plan

Engineering and IT insight for career succession planning: Manufacturing companies need to have more than one engineer who can bridge the gap between automation and information technology (IT) to keep things moving smoothly in case that one engineer departs.

By Dennis Brandl
Wireless April 7, 2016

Manufacturing software development: Bigger is not always better

Manufacturing and IT insight: More lines of code in a software development project do not mean that a project will be successful; there is more to effective software development than just a sophisticated programming package. Software tools without proper programming training for the right people only lead to major headaches down the road for everyone.

By Dennis Brandl
Cybersecurity March 8, 2016

Why manufacturing software should be tested before updates

Engineering and IT Insight: The way Microsoft is updating its Microsoft Windows 10 operating system, the ball is out of the user’s court. Instead, Microsoft has installed an automated ball machine that fires when it wants, even if the user isn’t ready. This new update scheme may wreak havoc for many mission-critical systems. Read this to know “why I should test” and why “Disable automatic updates.”

By Dennis Brandl
Process Safety January 26, 2016

Industrial cyber security: It’s best to learn from the mistakes of others

Engineering and IT Insight: When we don’t learn from past mistakes, we are forced to repeat them, and true to form, it has happened again. An outsourced IT department–unaware of the manufacturing elements of IT–recently shutdown production in a multi-billion dollar manufacturing company.

By Dennis Brandl
Process Safety January 1, 2016

The long goodbye to Microsoft Windows XP Embedded

Microsoft’s extended support for Windows XP Embedded ends on January 12, 2016, and those using the system after the expiration date need to take stock of their situation with a complete system inventory to assess the systems’ support availability and where upgrades are really needed.

By Dennis Brandl
Cybersecurity December 8, 2015

Information integration and IIoT Webcast: Questions answered

More answers about information integration and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the topic of a Dec. 3 Webcast, are provided by a system integrator and automation standards expert. Answers to more audience questions cover infrastructure, adoption and benefits, security, and networks and information integration. IIoT progress also requires effective policies, procedures, and training.

By Dennis Brandl
PLM, Control Design May 21, 2015

Use less code, get more security with a Nano Server

Engineering and IT Insight: The upcoming Microsoft Nano Server, with a much smaller footprint, exposes less code, decreases risk, and so will increase security. Reducing the need to patch, reducing the need to reboot, and optimizing for a virtual machine (VM) environment with the design of manufacturing information technology (IT) systems.

By Dennis Brandl
Process Safety April 27, 2015

If you cannot afford an Einstein to protect the network, try a canary

By using what is known as a “canary,” companies can take an active defense against cyber attackers. The canary will alert IT when there have been changes to the system and actions can be taken to shore up the system and block the attackers. The time between system compromise and detection is more than seven months, too long to know that the manufacturing IT system has been hacked.

By Dennis Brandl
Industrial PCs April 21, 2015

Get ready for big data by getting the architecture right

Managing big data can be an issue for many manufacturers and other companies with a strong online presence that needs to be integrated into production facilities. This is easier when multi-threaded applications are introduced to the system. Use these architectures and open-source technologies used by Amazon and others to improve big data gathering and analysis.

By Dennis Brandl
Virtualization, Cloud Analytics March 4, 2015

Microsoft Windows 10 features may help manufacturers more than recent releases

Engineering and IT Insight: Nothing lasts forever. Microsoft Windows 10 is coming with features that may suit manufacturing, software developers, system integrators, and end users more than recent releases. Note these Microsoft Windows expiration dates to plan ahead and reduce risk and cost. Plan for IT upgrades using the same 5-step IT-CSI model used for security upgrades.

By Dennis Brandl
Wireless January 28, 2015

9 ways to avoid crisis upgrades to automation IT

Engineering and IT Insight: No one may want to claim support for old automation or IT systems. When systems are old and without support, documentation, or labels, it may become a matter of: If you touch IT, you own IT. See 9 practical ways to avoid crisis upgrades.

By Dennis Brandl
Process Instrumentation and Sensors December 22, 2014

MES or batch: What is the best answer?

Should an application use a manufacturing execution system or will batch software suffice? A small set of decision points can determine the most commonly used models for selection or integration of ISA 88 batch execution systems and ISA 95 manufacturing operations management (MOM) systems. Ask these questions to decide. The ISA 95 Technical Report TR95.02 – Integrating ISA 88 and ISA 95 workflows can help.

By Dennis Brandl
Wireless December 19, 2014

Improve PLC and DCS programming with a mental model

Engineering and IT Insight: Develop a mental model to address real-time programming, which differs from web development or classical programming. Base real-time programmable logic controller (PLC) and distributed control system (DCS) programs on models of functional programming, encapsulation, hierarchy decomposition, and petri nets. Do not accept unstructured and poorly designed PLC and DCS code.

By Dennis Brandl
PLM, Control Design November 20, 2014

Control system programming requires collaboration

Engineering and IT Insight: Programming and the other associated tasks of design, installation, debugging, and maintenance all require significant interactions with other team members, end users, and management. “Works well with others” is an important habit to remember in control system programming.

By Dennis Brandl
PLM, Control Design October 15, 2014

Control system programming: More design time, less implementation time

Engineering and IT Insight: Lazy?! Great control system programmers spend more time in design so they can spend far less time in the implementation stage. While this might seem that you need to be lazy to be a great control system programmer, you’re just being smart, efficient, and thrifty with programming time and budget.

By Dennis Brandl
PLM, Control Design August 27, 2014

Developing good coding habits

Engineering and IT Insight: Good coding habits reduce errors, save time, and can help you become a better control system programmer. These simple habits may seem to add extra work, but they actually reduce the overall time to code and debug control programs.

By Dennis Brandl
PLM, Control Design July 22, 2014

Habits to improve your control programming

Engineering and IT Insight: Control programming is programming, even if it uses ladder logic, sequential function charts, function block diagrams, and procedure function charts. Improve your programming in a dozen ways. Errors in control programs can harm people, damage equipment, and destroy products.

By Dennis Brandl
DCS, SCADA, Controllers May 21, 2014

Distributed controls in the Internet of things create control engineering resources

Internet of things (IoT) will provide for a new generation of automation systems, and these new systems will have unparalleled capability and extensibility. What can we do with the extra cycles offered by IoT to help distributed control strategies defined in IEC 61158-2, IEC 61804-2, ISA88, and ISA106? IoT will offer efficiency gains in line with Moore’s Law.

By Dennis Brandl
Cybersecurity April 24, 2014

100x the systems with the Industrial Internet of Things

Engineering and IT Insight: Does your manufacturing IT infrastructure have tools to handle 100 times the number of current connections and manage tens of thousands of new smart network connected devices, as industry moves to the Industrial Internet of Things (I2oT) and distributed control, with every device in a facility connected to a plant-wide Ethernet network? What got you here won’t get you there.

By Dennis Brandl
Wireless April 14, 2014

Goodbye Windows XP; Hello IsXP?

Microsoft Windows XP support ends April 8. What happens April 9? Three things to remember. NEW: Updated with answers to reader feedback on April 14.

By Dennis Brandl
PLM, Control Design March 26, 2014

Justifying manufacturing IT investments using the RAVE approach

Engineering and IT Insight: Justify investing in and applying new technology by explaining four main benefits: R is for revolutionary benefit, A for avoidance, V for visionary, and E for enhancement (RAVE). Listing all expected benefits will help determine if the change is worth the cost.

By Dennis Brandl
Wireless February 25, 2014

Are Microsoft technologies still best for process control systems?

Engineering and IT Insight: Process control architects and designers are questioning the 15-year wisdom that you cannot go wrong by picking the Microsoft environment for a process control system. See 6 critical requirements for process controls.

By Dennis Brandl
PLM, Control Design February 4, 2014

Microsoft patches: Know when it is better to wait

Engineering and IT Insight: A recent Microsoft “Patch Tuesday” and a challenging Microsoft Windows 8.1 upgrade suggested that it can be better to wait before installing patches. Do you have a mission critical Industrial Automation and Control System (IACS)? Follow best practices for patch management and be sure you know which patches can wait.

By Dennis Brandl
PLM, Control Design January 21, 2014

Serialization, where automation and IT collide

Engineering and IT Insight: If your company has a serialization project, or is starting one, to prevent counterfeits, ensure the manufacturing IT and automation groups are involved early in the project.

By Dennis Brandl
Industrial Networking November 23, 2013

Drowning in data, starved for information

Engineering and IT Insight: Ensure projects use 4 key practices to bring the value of big data analysis to your production floor.

By Dennis Brandl
Industrial Networking September 27, 2013

Socializing success with automation standards, models, systems

Engineering and IT Insight: No matter how you like to share information, short text, explanatory text, audio, or video, there is a way to socialize the success you have had with new standards, models, or systems. Set up policies that encourage your people to share their knowledge.

By Dennis Brandl
Project Management August 20, 2013

Integration fit for purpose

Engineering and IT Insight: Choose the best integration model using the five criteria provided for a robust, easy to expand, debug, and maintain system. Choosing the wrong model results in a system that is brittle, difficult to maintain, and has unneeded complexity. Table adds more information.

By Dennis Brandl
Wireless July 3, 2013

Getting the basics right, first

Engineering and IT Insight: Proper infrastructure, policies, and procedures for manufacturing IT are critical groundwork before applying the latest technologies to manufacturing.

By Dennis Brandl
HMI, OI June 18, 2013

Who is building your HMI?

Engineering and IT Insight: Train your development staff in the rules of high-performance HMIs and you will be improving operator performance, reducing operational errors, and potentially saving millions of dollars per year due to missed critical information.

By Dennis Brandl
Cybersecurity May 21, 2013

Hacked without knowing it

Engineering and IT Insight: Cyber-criminals are stealing manufacturing companies’ intellectual property (IP). Is your lack of cyber security hardware, software, and best practices giving away millions of dollars of IP to unknown competitors without your knowledge?

By Dennis Brandl
Ethernet April 24, 2013

When M2M meets IT

Engineering and IT Insight: Subsecond latency and delivery jitter lead to lost production time and potentially millions of dollars of unrealized production. Do not let your production suffer when M2M network requirements collide with IT policies. See 5 quality of service measures.

By Dennis Brandl
Info Management March 22, 2013

Embedded systems in a connected world

Engineering and IT Insight: Embedded systems are often mechanically connected to other systems, and planning for network connectivity will allow them to also be electronically connected. See 8 requirements to add for embedded system design.

By Dennis Brandl
Virtualization, Cloud Analytics February 22, 2013

Advanced process control in the cloud

Engineering and IT Insight: When considering which applications to move to the cloud to reduce costs, consider moving advanced process control (APC) model building and APC model validation tools—usually lightly used and usually not mission critical. Learn three types of cloud-based services.

By Dennis Brandl
Virtualization, Cloud Analytics January 21, 2013

Make the virtualized manufacturing environment visible

Engineering and IT Insight: Add IT assets to your manufacturing data historian and alarm system for faster reactions and greater plant-floor reliability. Use existing data historian and OPC-UA to provide critical visibility into the virtualized IT environment and stop operating IT assets in the blind.

By Dennis Brandl
Mobility December 20, 2012

The next big thing is at hand

Engineering and IT Insight: For manufacturing, the next big thing has arrived. Have you noticed? The operator assistant, based on the second generation of smartphones and the software capability to provide situational awareness, will be the “always-on” eyes and ears of operators, listening and looking for problems and patterns not normally visible to operators.

By Dennis Brandl
Virtualization, Cloud Analytics November 22, 2012

Best system integration advice for engineering, controls, and IT

Integrating manufacturing and controls with higher-level systems isn’t always easy; here are the top 10 pieces of advice on that and related project management and automation system integration projects in the “Engineering and IT Insight” article series.

By Dennis Brandl
System Integrators November 15, 2012

When enough is enough, please just stop

Engineering and IT Insight: Knowing when to stop a software project is among the most difficult things to do in manufacturing IT or with control software; no one wants to be associated with failure. Yet ignoring obvious evidence will just make it worse. Here how to know if it is time to stop, reboot, or restart.

By Dennis Brandl
System Integrators October 19, 2012

Do your projects follow Wright’s Law?

IT and Engineering Insight: Moore’s Law says semiconductor technology doubles every 18 months with corresponding decreases in cost and increases in functionality and performance. There is a similar rule for other industries and projects, called Wright’s Law.

By Dennis Brandl
IIoT, Industrie 4.0 September 26, 2012

Design patterns and anti-patterns

IT and Engineering Insight: Good software design solves hard problems in a standard way and is well documented and easy to maintain and extend, as opposed to code that seemed reasonable at some time but has spread and become a nightmare to maintain or extend.

By Dennis Brandl
System Integrators August 6, 2012

When outsourcing is slow-sourcing

Engineering and IT Insight: You cannot improve what you don’t measure, so at the very least it is important that every outsourced support organization includes a measurable feedback policy for each issue. Also consider these three steps.

By Dennis Brandl
Mobility July 17, 2012

3 pillars of industrial cyber security

Engineering and IT Insight: A stable physical structure requires at least three main supports. Three “pillars” form the basis for an effective industrial cyber security system: technology, policy and procedures, and people.

By Dennis Brandl
System Integrators May 23, 2012

Reduce human errors: Get out of the typing pool

Engineering and IT Insight: Error-proofing can include adding automation to processes that are dangerous, dirty, exacting, or repetitive. Manual entry of signatures, dates, and times is a candidate. Use keyboard wedges to scan predefined reason codes, enter user IDs, and provide biometric identification. Convert voice to text to reduce errors and speed manual data entry.

By Dennis Brandl
Project Management April 19, 2012

Project management: All hands on deck may sink the project

Engineering and IT Insight: When you call “All hands on deck!” to help finish a late project, ensure that all of the extra resources don’t further sink the project. If adding extra people at the end of a project, apply them to independent subtasks, use experienced people, and organize work to minimize required intra-project communications.

By Dennis Brandl
Project Management March 13, 2012

Building your house of software

Engineering and IT Insight: To stay on time and in budget, software project managers need to prepare for challenges with other organizations, develop a flexible plan and schedule to handle uncontrollable delays, develop an external communication plan, and develop plans to use resources for other parts of the project when there are delays.

By Dennis Brandl
IIoT, Industrie 4.0 February 20, 2012

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.

By Dennis Brandl
PLCs, PACs January 24, 2012

Understanding UML is an important part of your toolkit

Engineering and IT Insight: Control system development requires information exchange among many people and systems. Unified modeling language (UML) can help bring out inconsistencies, remove ambiguity, and provide a “standard” way to communicate project information.

By Dennis Brandl
System Integration December 15, 2011

What are your manufacturing IT project principles?

Engineering and IT Insight: Do many projects seem to repeat basic arguments on project direction and options? Does the team often rehash issues? If so, then perhaps you need to specify project principles; 10 tips, and alternatives, follow.

By Dennis Brandl
Asset Management October 14, 2011

Engineering and IT Insight: MES vs. ERP for manufacturing

Can’t we just use our enterprise resource planning (ERP) system instead of buying a manufacturing execution system (MES) system? The answer isn’t as obvious as the question.

By Dennis Brandl
Asset Management September 19, 2011

Engineering and IT Insight: Keep your systems from becoming MULES

Manufacturing IT systems can easily become mature, undocumented legacy execution systems (MULES) as requirements change, knowledge is lost, and supporting systems go obsolete. Keep your software relevant by following these tips.

By Dennis Brandl
Mobility August 12, 2011

Engineering and IT Insight: What’s the best manufacturing operations management systems design?

Should your manufacturing operations management (MOM) systems be centralized or distributed? These key considerations can help you decide. MOM includes MES (manufacturing execution systems), LIMS (laboratory information management systems), WMS (warehouse management systems), tank farm management systems, and AMS (asset management systems).

By Dennis Brandl
Virtualization, Cloud Analytics July 21, 2011

Engineering and IT Insight: How to convert a project into a product

Extra effort is required to convert a manufacturing IT project into a successful product. Advice follows on how to do it. (If you’re considering buying software that sounds or test drives more like a project, you may want to look at other software.)

By Dennis Brandl
Virtualization, Cloud Analytics June 20, 2011

Engineering and IT Insight: virtualize now, send the message to your vendors

Virtualization simplifies system upgrades, and there are at least two more reasons to virtualize and three major issues to address.

By Dennis Brandl
Project Management February 18, 2011

Engineering and IT Insight: Keep documentation in sync with code

Deferring software documentation based on highly optimistic perfection expectations (HOPE) is not a successful project strategy. Link to all 7 Bad Habits of Unsuccessful Projects.

By Dennis Brandl
IIoT, Industrie 4.0 January 23, 2011

Engineering and IT Insight – Bad project documentation: Break the habit

Improve manufacturing IT, automation, or control projects by avoiding missing, incorrect, poorly written, or incomplete documentation.

By Dennis Brandl
IIoT, Industrie 4.0 January 3, 2011

Engineering and IT Insight: Failure is not an option

Taking a "failure is not an option" or "do it right the first time" approach with manufacturing IT projects can hide important information and waste time, especially when workflows are in place to catch and quickly correct an occasional error.

By Dennis Brandl
DCS, SCADA, Controllers November 5, 2010

Engineering and IT Insight: Are you using the wrong control system tools?

Applying the wrong tools in control system projects can be akin to using stone knives and bearskins. Which of these five misused tools are killing your productivity?

By Dennis Brandl
Info Management April 1, 2010

Production line remote monitoring

Engineering and IT Insight: Automation engineers spend a lot of time just getting to the right place to identify and fix problems. The IT solution to this problem is based on VNC, or virtual network computing.

By Dennis Brandl
HMI, OI March 1, 2010

Do you know your patch compatibility?

A pending ISA99 technical report defines a standard XML format for automation vendors to publish patch compatibility information.

By Dennis Brandl
HMI, OI February 1, 2010

When machines talk, will you listen?

With MTConnect, a machine tool acts as a web server to share information about itself. An upcoming OPC-UA interface standard adds control, as explained in Control Engineering's "IT & Engineering Insight" column, February 2010.

By Dennis Brandl
Machine Safety January 1, 2010

Don’t cloud your compliance data

Even the best security and data integrity processes may not be enough. Make sure your company's legal advisors are involved.

By Dennis Brandl
Networking and Security December 10, 2009

Dennis Brandl: Control vendors bundle anti-virus, spyware-protection with products

Tighter integration of security software and control system software can reduce the need for manufacturing IT personnel to be security experts.

By Dennis Brandl
Energy, Power December 1, 2009

Focus on avoidance, not on the risk itself

When riding my bicycle, wearing my bright yellow jersey, most drivers will make sure that they pass safely, but some will focus on my yellow jersey and slowly drift into my lane. These people are focusing on the risk, not focusing on the actions needed to avoid the risk. The advice to focus on the actions of avoidance and not the risk also applies to manufacturing and automation systems.

By Dennis Brandl
Networking and Security November 1, 2009

Cyber security: Vendors fight back

New aspects of control system software are reducing the need for manufacturing IT personnel to be security experts.

By Dennis Brandl
Project Management October 1, 2009

Automation project scheduling tips

On-boarding and ramp-up time can constitute a month or more of non-productive time and be a substantial part of project cost, especially when using offshore resources. Here's how to reduce waste.

By Dennis Brandl
PLCs, PACs September 1, 2009

How and when to fold an IT project

Many manufacturing IT projects do not finish, not necessarily because they failed, but because of changing requirements, changing business conditions, company mergers, or changes in products and processes. It's important to know when to fold a project, but it is equally important to know what to do when you fold a project.

By Dennis Brandl
Diagnostics, Asset Management August 1, 2009

Large group system development for small groups

The Continual Build and Test technique (CBT) of software development ensures that acceptance tests are successful by helping to identify which functions are truly necessary for release.

By Dennis Brandl
PID, APC July 1, 2009

Agile software development

Scrum and agile software development methodologies can reduce time & augment quality of projects significantly over traditional methods. Here's how.

By Dennis Brandl
Diagnostics, Asset Management June 1, 2009

TRUST in software engineering

It seems that every generation needs to relearn the lessons of previous generations. This is equally true in manufacturing, where older engineers are retiring and must pass on knowledge to younger engineers. Unfortunately for manufacturing software, there are actually few lessons that can be passed on.

By Dennis Brandl
Manufacturing IT, MES April 1, 2009

Cut costs with manufacturing IT standards, best practices

As every manufacturing company looks for ways to cut costs and save money, there is one place that too many engineers and executives are ignoring. If you had the opportunity to reduce automation project costs or times by over 30%, reduce costs for plant-to-enterprise integration by over 70%, or reduce maintenance support costs by over 10%, you would think that most engineers or executives would...

By Dennis Brandl
System Integration March 1, 2009

Manufacturing intelligence delivers new analyses

Business intelligence (BI) is the term given to the set of tools and processes used to make business decisions based on facts—instead of on guesses, intuition, and often irrelevant experience. Few companies can afford to guess any more, so decisions based on sound data and provable relationships are critical for business survival.

By Dennis Brandl
PID, APC February 1, 2009

Application development: Give it a REST

In the era of “doing more with less,” you may need to implement manufacturing applications that consist of a database and a set of user interface screens and reports. A software architecture style for these environments is highly recommended and widely used. It is called REST, short for Representational State Transfer, and describes a collection of network architecture principles for building scaleable and robust distributed applications.

By Dennis Brandl
PID, APC January 1, 2009

Doing more with open-source and recycled systems

In times of economic stress, all companies and departments are challenged to do more with less, and this includes manufacturing IT departments. On a regular basis, manufacturing IT has to address new user requirements, continual product upgrades, hardware that rapidly becomes obsolete, and new security threats.

By Dennis Brandl
Machine Safety December 1, 2008

‘DONA’ forget about security

There are some headlines that every manufacturing IT professional should dread. A recent one was the late October announcement that Microsoft was releasing an out-of-band security patch. This patch fixes a problem that allows remote code execution if a Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Windows Server 2003 system receive a specially crafted RFC request and can be exploited in an internet/in...

By Dennis Brandl
Energy, Power November 1, 2008

Release your inner geek

Unless you are paying close attention to the actual statistics, it is possible to believe that manufacturing in the U.S. is in decline and that manufacturing professionals should start looking elsewhere for employment. The actual numbers show something different, however: U.S. manufacturing output is increasing at almost 3% per year and producing over 20% of the world's manufactured products, d...

By Dennis Brandl
Energy, Power October 1, 2008

Rules for software success

There are many new information technologies that can be effectively used in manufacturing environments. It is difficult to keep up with all of the new choices, and even harder to run effective projects that integrate new technologies with existing systems. The sad fact is that a lot of new-technology manufacturing IT projects fail to meet their goals. Some simple rules to apply to software projects that significantly reduce the risk of failure. Here they are.

By Dennis Brandl
Wireless September 1, 2008

You can knock, but you can’t get in

There is a new form of network control called Network Access Control (NAC) that will have a major impact on industrial Ethernet networks. NAC has been in the IT press for several years, but it has only recently starting to hit mainstream IT organizations. NAC is the general name given for systems that manage device access to wireless and wired networks.

By Dennis Brandl
Energy, Power August 1, 2008

Data deletion, or letting go is hard to do

The July 2008 column discussed the advantages of creating a manufacturing operations cloud, a set of servers that provide common services for manufacturing operations. These services include manufacturing execution systems (MES), laboratory management systems (LIMS), maintenance management, warehouse management, receiving, material tracking, equipment logs, and training logs.

By Dennis Brandl
HMI, OI July 1, 2008

Manufacturing in the clouds

The term “computing in the cloud” is the latest topic in the enterprise computing space. The image of a cloud is used in network architecture diagrams to represent the Internet. Computing in the cloud simply means using applications and services available through the Internet.

By Dennis Brandl
Energy, Power June 1, 2008

Your personal downturn plan

Ups and downs in manufacturing are inevitable. Having a plan to survive a downturn is critical to support organizations such as manufacturing IT. They are often the first to suffer in a downturn because it's hard to tie their performance to overall productivity. You can find many examples of maintenance, training, and technical support organizations that are cut back in downturns, only to see o...

By Dennis Brandl
Energy, Power May 1, 2008

What business can learn from manufacturing

These columns usually describe how Business IT can be applied to Manufacturing IT problems. However, there are many lessons that well-run manufacturing IT organizations can teach business IT organizations. Manufacturing has had many requirements that are only now becoming general-purpose business IT requirements.

By Dennis Brandl
Workforce Development April 1, 2008

Enterprise search creates role of content manager

Today you can find volumes of information from any place in the world within seconds using Internet search engines. Students use this capability to find more information in minutes than previous generations could discover in weeks. As these students enter manufacturing companies as employees, they bring an expectation of the same search capability for corporate information.

By Dennis Brandl
System Integration March 1, 2008

‘Low-tech’ IT solution for paperwork

Finding vital business information can be a time-consuming and frustrating task. Office personnel, vendors, and customers can generate volumes of paper. Yet, the volume of office information can pale in comparison to the paper records generated by many manufacturing companies. Some companies estimate that knowledge workers (just about anyone using a computer on a regular basis) spend up to 20% ...

By Dennis Brandl
Discrete Manufacturing February 1, 2008

Capacity and constraints

Most manufacturing companies have a deep hierarchy of planning and scheduling processes that start with market forecasts and business plans, and end with machine and unit schedules. The higher levels are the responsibility of logistics, marketing, sales, and executive management, while the lower levels of the hierarchy are typically the responsibility of manufacturing operations.

By Dennis Brandl
Diagnostics, Asset Management January 1, 2008

Mathematics of information

Information is the important element of manufacturing IT, and one skill that every well-rounded control engineer should have is knowledge of the mathematics of information— specifically, the mathematics of relational databases. Most control engineers will eventually have to build or specify a database to hold instrument data, analysis data, or production reporting data.

By Dennis Brandl
Cybersecurity December 1, 2007

Sometimes its personnel

Sometimes it’s easy to forget about the people aspect of control systems. Multiple regulatory rules, laws, and internal procedures require that people who perform shop floor actions are unequivocally identified, are authorized to perform the actions, and have valid training or qualifications to perform the actions.

By Dennis Brandl
Manufacturing IT, MES November 1, 2007

We live in a material world

Manufacturing lives in a material world. It is not surprising that manufacturing systems have a requirement to identify and track materials, because the main purpose of manufacturing is to convert materials in one form into materials of another form. An important part of integrating manufacturing systems with other corporate systems is maintaining and exchanging material identification and info...

By Dennis Brandl
HMI, OI October 1, 2007

Equipment – what’s in a name?

The “information” part of manufacturing IT is as important as the “technology” part. One important element of managed information is the correct identification of the equipment used for manufacturing. Equipment identification is used for scheduling, qualification, tracking and tracing, maintenance, troubleshooting, visualization (HMI), finance, capacity tracking, overal...

By Dennis Brandl
System Integrators September 1, 2007

Let’s put information back in IT

IT means Information Technology, but often IT departments focus on the technology side and don’t give the information side equal attention. The information side deals with the form and format of data and with the data’s “metadata.” Metadata is data that is used to explain and describe other data.

By Dennis Brandl
System Integrators August 1, 2007

SOA explained

The most recent buzzword in the IT industry is SOA, short for service oriented architecture. SOA is the current favorite of IT managers, system integrators and IT vendors, yet few managers, integrators, or vendors agree on what it really is. SOA is not a product, technology, or architecture. SOA is just a concept for integrating applications.

By Dennis Brandl
HMI, OI July 1, 2007

Document wars— A new hope and an old friend

Genealogists and historians are well aware of the problems with finding and translating old documents. When information technology is added to the mix, the problems become harder because of the number of different possible file formats. Unfortunately, in the IT world “old documents” may be as little as fifteen years old, often less than the lifetime of a manufactured product.

By Dennis Brandl
IIoT, Industrie 4.0 June 1, 2007

A software patchwork quilt

Computer system patching is in the news again as numerous attacks target unpatched operating systems and applications. Software patches are an unfortunate common practice with any major O/S, database, or system service application. A software attack can use any known vulnerability and can occur within days, even hours, of a vulnerability being discovered.

By Dennis Brandl
Manufacturing IT, MES May 1, 2007

Build your own manufacturing IT tool kit

Plumbers have their tool boxes, carpenters have their tool belts, and even Batman has his utility belt. Manufacturing IT professionals also need a tool kit to diagnose and solve common system problems. USB drives cost less than $20 and are perfect for creating your own personal manufacturing IT tool kit.

By Dennis Brandl
Networking and Security April 1, 2007

Effective automation networks

Designing effective automation networks is a difficult task, not because the physical network is hard to design, but because of the number of applications and services that must operate within it. The physical network is made up of routers, switches, and firewalls, usually configured in a redundant tree structure.

By Dennis Brandl
System Integrators March 1, 2007

Which language is next?

A reader recently asked what programming language will next take the control world by storm. The question is important, because a lot of system integrators and application developers are looking for the “right” answer. Unfortunately, there is no single right answer. Different problems require different languages.

By Dennis Brandl
Virtualization, Cloud Analytics February 1, 2007

Cold standby a hot problem

It seems that as soon as we solve one problem, changes in information technologies cause new ones. The latest change is due to the new Microsoft Window Vista and Longhorn Server operating systems and their anti-piracy protection. The problem will be maintaining cold standby systems. The usual method for maintaining cold standby systems is to keep one or more “empty” servers that can...

By Dennis Brandl
IIoT, Industrie 4.0 January 1, 2007

What’s your energy level?

Yet another regulation will soon affect manufacturing companies. In July, 2007, the European Union Directive 2005/32/EC for Energy-using Products (EuP) will become effective. If you manufacture or design energy-using products (or parts that go inside) and sell them into the European Union, then this directive has serious implications to your manufacturing IT and business IT organizations.

By Dennis Brandl
System Integrators January 1, 1999

Facing year 2000 with SP95 integration standard

To survive and prosper in the new millennium, manufacturers must optimize supply chains by integrating manufacturing control systems with business logistics systems. This is not an easy task because these two sectors evolved separately in most companies; they often don't understand the complete picture or each other's problems; and each uses numerous different planning, scheduling, invent...

By Dennis Brandl