Program development: How to simplify a complex system

Posted by Brad Ems on August 12, 2014 @ 9:09 am

Control systems engineers work on processes that can be incredibly complex. The interactions of process, operator, environment, and control systems can produce at time a dizzying and bewildering array of outcomes.

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." - Albert Einstein We, as control systems engineers, work on processes that can be incredibly complex. The interactions of process, operator, environment, and control systems can produce at times a dizzying and bewildering array of outcomes. We make every effort to anticipate and manage those outcomes, but as systems grow more complex, the ability of even the most thorough engineer can fall short. Add to that the growing tool sets available to us, such as the IEC 61131-3 programming languages, utilities that permit the use of pre-programmed code blocks, and the ability to manipulate our control p... Continue Reading

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Converting control systems: Take the time to improve control strategy

Posted by MayAnn Stroup on August 5, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

Consider investing the time to write a scope that includes control strategy improvement and open the door to taking advantage of the functionality provided by a new control system.

Courtesy: Maverick Technologies

One of the most frustrating expressions I see in scope documents is, “Convert the existing control system as it is. We’ll make control strategy improvements later.” It’s painful to see. In my 24 years in systems integration, I’ve learned that later never comes.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of convert-it-as-it-is scopes. First, we know the existing system is working—mostly; where it’s not ... Continue Reading

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Operator training simulators can help meet plant-wide safety goals

Posted by Matt Thibodaux on July 30, 2014 @ 12:59 pm

Consider thinking of operator training simulators as a long term investment, reducing maintenance costs and providing round-the-clock training for plant employees.

Operator training simulators (OTSs) can be a major asset to a large plant or refinery. However, many managers consider them more as an expense, a sink for valuable resources, without looking at their utility in sustaining plant safety and reducing costly shutdowns. I think it’s time to shed some light on the value that these simulators can contribute to a process. At steady-state, a healthy plant operates as a well-oiled machine. Its control system smoothly allows the process to be self-correcting when an upset or disturbance occurs. Some disruptions are significant enough that they require operators to take corrective action to restore the process to steady state. In rare cases, a disturbance upsets the plant s... Continue Reading

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Enterprise batch records and supply chain traceability

Posted by John Clemons on July 23, 2014 @ 10:10 am

In addition to tracking a finished product from the receiving dock to the shipping dock, enterprise batch records can also connect upstream to suppliers and downstream to customers, taking traceability to the next level.

I’ve talked before a little bit about electronic batch records and enterprise batch records. Electronic batch records are all about keeping everything about a batch electronically instead of on lots of paper. That makes everything about the batch easier to manage and supports other things like batch historical analyses, batch-to-batch comparisons, and electronic certificates of analysis (COAs). Building on the idea of electronic batch records is the idea of enterprise batch records. Enterpr... Continue Reading

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MES project execution: 3 mistakes to avoid

Posted by William Zupon on July 16, 2014 @ 10:08 am

Here are a few basic guidelines to help ensure your next MES project is successful.

For those of you who have had the opportunity to work on a manufacturing execution system (MES) implementation project, you know they can be very large and complex. Consequently, there are many things that can go wrong if not properly executed. An MES project, in addition to its project specific functionality, provides the link between plant floor control systems and corporate level business systems. I have seen a very simple transaction manager with limited capability, as well as complex multi-location MES installations. Both were called MES. The exact boundaries of the MES will most likely depend on the customer and the current systems they have in place. An MES installation can be custom developed, or “off-the-shelf” MES software packages can be purchased from many different supplier... Continue Reading

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