Fear of darkness: Integrating automation systems to a more complex protocol convertor

Posted by Bruce Billedeaux on April 15, 2015 @ 9:22 am

As data collection becomes a larger task, it may be time to see if you need an automation system that lasts longer and makes system integration easier.

One task I am commonly asked to perform is to redesign a system to eliminate the aptly named “black box”. As most readers of this blog know a “black box” is the generic term for a protocol convertor. Originally, these devices only converted electrical protocols, for example RS-232 to RS-485. They were named because no one knew how the magic took place in the “black box”. If these boxes remained solely electrical protocol convertors, I don’t think that my services would have much value to our clients. These original “black boxes” ran for years without any user intervention or maintenance requirements. Times change and as automation systems became more complex and data interfaces became more important each man... Continue Reading

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Moving beyond technology: 4 keys to project success

Posted by John Clemons on April 2, 2015 @ 10:19 am

Technology is only a tool for project success. Proper training and access to data combined with the appropriate technologies is a power combination for achieving results.

I’m an engineer and I work for a technology company. All the projects we do are about technology, and rightly so. Technology is an extremely powerful driving force in our world. Technology is used everywhere, and it’s all just amazing. In manufacturing, technology is used to increase productivity, reduce costs, provide new capabilities for companies to serve their customers, and provides hard dollar benefits to the bottom line. But in manufacturing—for technology to be successful—there needs to be more than just the technology. It’s necessary to move beyond just the technology to ensure that the project is a success, that it’s really used in the company, and that it really achieves the hard d... Continue Reading

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Why Team Communications Fail

Posted by Bruce Brandt on March 27, 2015 @ 10:24 am

Communications issues between team members or customers delay projects and increase frustration levels. See tips on how to address popular miscommunications and avoid them in the future.shutterstock_10070713

Unless you are a one person team, you will always have problems with team communications during projects. Even if you are a one person team, you will always have problems with customer communications during projects. Those are rather absolute statements, but after 45 years of projects, I can’t remember a project where there were absolutely no communications issues. In analyzing those issues some patterns emerge that point to underlying causes of miscommunication. “Everybody does it... Continue Reading

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Automation resource taxation

Posted by Art Howell on March 18, 2015 @ 9:48 am

Today’s engineers are faced with having to keep up on new technologies as well as maintaining older systems, and oftentimes integrating the two. See three examples on automation resource taxation.

Is it my imagination, or are today’s automation resources being heavily taxed? Today’s engineers are faced with an onslaught of technology that seems to be growing exponentially. On top of keeping up with all the new technologies, engineers are faced with having to maintain older technologies as well. There are so many varieties of products on the market that the integration of all these different technologies is becoming increasingly taxing, as well. For instance, there are many ways for these devices to communicate information, different network types, and protocols. A basic knowledge of communication networks and protocols is a must. I was recently called to a plant site w... Continue Reading

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Advanced regulatory versus model-predictive control

Posted by Jim Ford on March 17, 2015 @ 8:46 am

Some currently practicing control engineers may be regarding the features and capabilities of advanced regulatory control (ARC) as inferior to model-predictive control (MPC)—but are they really?

A contributor to a recent LinkedIn APC blog made the following statement about the difference between advanced regulatory control (ARC) and model-predictive control (MPC): “In a general and very simple way, an advanced regulatory controller acts based on an error, while a predictive controller uses a model in order to predict what is going to happen and acts in consequence to avoid it.” As a long-time proponent of ARC for the solution of many industrial control problems, I would like to correct a common misconception held by probably 99% of current practicing control engineers regarding the features and capabilities of ARC. During the 1970s, and with the advent of ... Continue Reading

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