Tech Support is Standing By

KEY WORDS Process and advanced control Service Training Life-cycle planning Software and information integration Back in the "good old days," distributed control meant controllers were physically distributed throughout the plant or across the shop floor and the nearest thing to a control room was the break-room.

06/01/2001


KEY WORDS

  • Process and advanced control

  • Service

  • Training

  • Life-cycle planning

  • Software and information integration

Back in the "good old days," distributed control meant controllers were physically distributed throughout the plant or across the shop floor and the nearest thing to a control room was the break-room. Information technology meant an assortment of clipboards with "reading" sheets that were manually filled out on some predetermined schedule.

In those days, instrument engineers and technicians specified and installed instrumentation, controllers, and chart recorders; read the supplier's documentation; and maintained everything themselves. If a problem was encountered the engineer or technician couldn't figure out, the local supplier sales folks were generally the first, and often the only, needed point of contact. Oh, how times have changed.

Today, distributed control is achieved using microprocessor-based systems and a variety of networks. Everything is programmable, the quantity of available features is staggering, and no one recalls the last time a user was able to go-it-alone. Ever increasing system sophistication demands that every supplier take customer support deadly seriously, because those who don't will become extinct.

Hardware and software modularity has come to imply flexibility; the same is true when considering the availability of support services. Most of the suppliers responding to Control Engineering' s request for support service information indicated they offer users a variety of service packages, often free for the first 90 to 120 days. Several suppliers indicated they do now, or soon will, offer users support services on a a-la-carte basis.

Based on supplier information provided, the most common support services have been assembled in the table "Common Supplier Support Service Offerings." The table includes a brief explanation of what users might expect for each service and a list of questions users may want to use, to clarify exactly what and how each service applies to their particular situation.

Though not all questions apply to all industries, applications, or users, they will serve as mental stimuli and help ensure users and suppliers enter into a support services partnership fully aware of their own, as well as others', roles and responsibilities.

Yes, users and suppliers do indeed want your control and automation investments to achieve the maximum "bang-for-the-buck," and they have competent staff standing by.

See the " Users Speak Out on Support Services" supplement accompanying this issue of Control Engineering for an in-depth analysis of user support service requirements, also available with the online version of this article, at www.controleng.com .





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