5 tips for planning a successful automation project deployment

Posted by Jason Montroy on May 20, 2015 @ 9:16 am

Project deployment is a critical time in the life cycle of a process automation project. It follows design/development and precedes startup/commissioning. During this project stage, the process automation team ‘deploys’ the applications they have written and tested with the customers into the plant’s systems and hardware.

CTL_1505_web_IMG_Maverick_projectdeployment. Courtesy: Jason Montory

Because startup and commissioning efforts cannot begin until completion of deployment, it can be a high-pressure time for the project t... Continue Reading

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Still learning about process automation

Posted by MayAnn Stroup on May 13, 2015 @ 9:33 am

No matter how long someone has been a part of the process automation industry; there is always something new to learn and new strategies to employ.

Earlier this year a colleague surprised me by complaining about needing to learn a new control system: “I’m 48 years old.  I thought by this time in my life I would know all I needed to know about my profession.”  What an amazing idea!  That may be possible for some fields, but it’s not the case for process automation.

In process automation, something changes every day – maybe every second.  OEM’s develop new platforms.  New communications protocols come into vogue.  New tools for creating and documenting control logic appear.  New insights into potential safety hazards emerge.  New, and probably undocumented, “features” of a system appear.

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Human machine interface (HMI) design: It takes more than just pretty pictures

Posted by Dave Cortivo on May 6, 2015 @ 8:18 am

HMI design isn’t just about being creative, it has to take into account who will be seeing it on a regular basis and what it will be used for.

In order to insure successful implantation, effective HMI design should start with the same proper planning as any other project. Just making an HMI look like the real think is not always the best answer. HMIs are present in a great deal of applications, which leads to multiple lessons that should be taken into consideration when starting a new design project. Often times, designers overlook what they could have learned from past designs (and even mistakes) until it’s too late. It is imperative that information from accidents from the past are used to insure success in the future. Arming yourself with simple rules from lessons learned on the how to communicate to operations is extremely important to the success of your project.

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To fuse or not to fuse individual I/O points

Posted by Joe Weathers on April 29, 2015 @ 8:32 am

When designing a PLC control panel, one of the fundamental decisions is how to provide overcurrent protection for I/O modules. Should each I/O module be fused with a single fuse, or should each I/O point be fused individually? Here are 11 things to consider when deciding how and when to fuse I/O points.

1. Always follow specific customer project requirements and specifications when they are provided. Note that many times it is appropriate from an electrical standpoint to fuse each I/O module with a single fuse. However, customers may require individual fusing per I/O point (or per field device) so that one fault only disrupts the one point.

2. Review and consult I/O module product documentation for any specific product details and requirements to ensure that the I/O modules are being installed in a compl... Continue Reading

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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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