Engineering determination, control software

Automation software providers need to stop delivering knockout punches to their customers and end users and understand that “easy to integrate” and “easy to use” need to be more than sales pitches. Take a 4 question poll on control software usability.

Mark T. Hoske


What’s the difference between an Olympic gold medal boxer and an engineer interested in configuring and helping users with control software? The boxer avoids leading with his head.

How are they alike? After getting knocked down, both seek opportunities to get back in the fight.

Sugar Ray Leonard, as the invited keynote speaker at the Rockwell Automation RSTechED 2012 technology conference in Orlando last month, told engineers that determination, vision, preparation, and risk-taking can help engineers, as well as boxers.

Sports where the audience cheers wildly upon witnessing a purposefully delivered concussion need revision. Likewise, any automation and control suppliers that deliver difficult-to-use, hard-to-integrate, unsecured-out-of-the-box, won’t-play-nice-with-others software need to think again. System integrators, original equipment manufacturers, end users, and other engineers (as well as the machine and process control operators they serve) do not have the resources to decipher obtuse layers of software complexity.

Rockwell Automation made an effort to showcase customers and partners who have successfully applied and integrated Rockwell Software, extending functionality—with surprising ease, some said—into the “cloud” and into various mobile devices. One machine builder, CMD Corp., extended ease-of-use by designing an icon-based operator interface on its latest machine. Results include 40% fewer words to translate to other languages, easier training, and, after setting parameters, transition from stop to full production by pressing four buttons.

At the Siemens Summit conference in Washington, D.C., in late June, the easy-to-configure and use software themes continued. (More on that next month.)

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE MediaAt both meetings there were some moments of software frustration shared here and there, and, in all cases I heard, company representatives seemed eager to help—all positive signs, I think. Please take the online poll to give your view of the current state of control software usability.

Share your views about software

Please take the survey below [Control software usability poll is now closed. Click here and scroll down to see the results.] to give your view of the current state of control software usability. We’d also like to find out if you think wider use of icons would help users with control software and decrease training time. Also is proliferation of smart phones and tablets likely to make control software easier to use? And, finally, share any advice you might have for companies that design control software (get specific)!

Mark T. Hoske is content manager CFE Media, Control Engineering,

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