Balancing secure networks and process control systems access

Posted by Bruce Billedeaux on September 17, 2014 @ 1:33 pm

What are automation engineers to do to enhance security while ensuring the need for barrier-free access to the process control system?

Our friends in the information technology (IT) field that take care of the business networks talk a lot about security. I am sure that most people reading this blog had to log in to their workstation with a company provided username and a password that has to be changed every 90 days. The IT folks further program the networks to limit access to the minimal amount of data that is required to get each employee’s job done. Some firms even go as far as limiting which websites can be accessed from a company workstation. All this for a workstation already physically located inside a building with controlled access. Why all this effort to control what happens at a workstation inside what is essentially a controlled area: the company's building? It... Continue Reading

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Migration projects: Incorporating the ‘old’ into the ‘new’

Posted by Bruce Brandt on September 9, 2014 @ 10:08 am

Most distributed control systems migration projects revolve around ensuring that the new system can meet production targets of the old system immediately, but this isn’t always the case.

I’m currently in the midst of a migration project from an obsolete distributed control system (DCS) and the biggest challenge is convincing the plant that the team has done a perfect conversion in spite of the plant also wanting to take advantage of the latest thinking in controls—in particular the improvements in Batch. This is not unique to this project. Most migration design decisions revolve around ensuring that the new system can at least meet production targets of the old system the day you turn it on. If you actually deliver some improvement then that’s just icing on the cake. The challenges in accomplishing this are the plant seldom actually knows just how the old system do... Continue Reading

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Identifying a clear scope, target to increase achievability

Posted by MayAnn Stroup on September 3, 2014 @ 9:56 am

After 24 years of implementing controls projects, I’m something of a control freak. I have this expectation that I’ll know what I’m required to do for a particular project. It’s not always a realistic expectation.

Some projects I’ve worked on have had the (unofficial) scope of, “We’re going to do stuff! And make the plant run better!” On one level, this is very appealing. It’s a scope that can almost certainly be met. Failure is unlikely, if not impossible. On another level, this kind of scope is appalling. A phrase often quoted is, “When performance is measured, performance improves.” Measurement is useful. It tells you if you’re on schedule, if you’re meeting deliverables, if you need more hands on deck. It provides an informed opportunity to make corrections. Unfortunately, the “We’re going to do stuff” scope promotes another mode of o... Continue Reading

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Enhancing piping, instrumentation diagrams to fit your needs

Posted by MayAnn Stroup on August 27, 2014 @ 8:50 am

Process overview documents don’t always include everything you may need for a project, so don’t be afraid to add your own grubby little sketches.

When I start work on a project, the first thing I do is get an understanding of the process that will be controlled. Piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs) are a useful resource, but they are multi-purpose documents. They may include piping codes, vessel specifications, and construction notes. A process usually covers multiple P&IDs. If the existing process is already controlled by a distributed control system (DCS) or programmable logic controller (PLC), the existing operator interface displays are also useful references. A process usually requires multiple displays to show all of its components. If there are few displays, or if there are good process overview displays, I can use them for my purposes as they are. ... Continue Reading

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Enterprise batch records and enterprise manufacturing intelligence

Posted by John Clemons on August 20, 2014 @ 9:59 am

Enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI) has its own benefits, but it’s most useful when used with the enterprise batch records, providing personnel with to access the data they need.

In past blog posts where I’ve talked about enterprise batch records, I’ve also mentioned the concept of enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI) a couple of times. But, I noticed that I haven’t really spent that much time explaining EMI. So, I thought it would make sense to devote some time specifically to the idea of EMI.

But, a couple of background points first. EMI is really a lot of different things. And, different people call EMI by different ... Continue Reading

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