Is Your MES Integrated with Your Business Goals?

Posted by John Clemons on April 4, 2012 @ 7:26 am

In the past 10 years alone, there have been some big changes in the MES space. Not just changing business requirements or changing manufacturing work. I’m talking about changes that come from new technology and new architectures and solutions presented by the various MES vendors. The good news is, most of these changes are really pretty good — and a lot of the new technology is excellent and well worth taking a close look at. But, yes, there’s some bad news, too: The basic business requirements haven’t really changed, nor has the actual job of manufacturing down on the shop floor. Yes, there have been some changes due to regulations and some changes in the labor mix and such. But fundamentally, the business requirements for a manufacturing operation are pretty much the same as they were 10 years ago, or even 20 or 30 years ago. So, how do you decide if any of the new MES te... Continue Reading

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Some Notable Control Features of DeltaV Control System

Posted by Sergei Kuznetsov on March 28, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

Soon after the acronym DCS appeared, more than 30 years ago now, discussions about what system is “best” cropped up among control engineers. The conversations continue today. Which DCS is indeed the best? Or is DCS even needed anymore, when modern PLCs — especially high-end PACs — can allegedly do the job? Over the years I’ve seen a number of different approaches to the control system selection. Some — usually larger — companies take a very methodical approach, with complex criteria that take into consideration an enormous amount of information. Smaller companies look at certain features that are most critical to them, like the proximity of a reputable engineering outfit capable of handling routine maintenance issues. Precious few seek advice from a consulting company. The truth is, a good engineering team (or a lone engineer, as may be the case) can make any contr... Continue Reading

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Sailing Ships, Wired Telephones and Floppy Disks

Posted by Bruce Brandt on March 22, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

What do these three items have in common? The companies that made them were all felled by disruptive technologies. To be fair, sailing ships and wired phones still exist, but not like they did in their heyday. When’s the last time you saw a sail-powered cargo ship? How many of us even have a wired home phone? Does your new computer have a floppy disk drive? This week at MAVERICK we were charged with thinking like entrepreneurs, and one of the points on the slides was to look at disruptive technology. But just what is disruptive technology, and how will I know when I see it? That’s part of the problem — it’s sometimes hard to spot. As the Harvard Business Review put it, disruptive technology is initially less capable and less functional than what it will eventually replace. Take sailing ships. The builders of sailing ships initially dismissed the new steam-powered ships beca... Continue Reading

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Protecting Your Plant Floor Investment in the Post-Stuxnet Age

Posted by Erik Goode on March 15, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

Everyone’s heard of Stuxnet. But what does it mean to us now? In any economic climate, businesses desire reliability and predictability in their processes. Thanks to Stuxnet, there’s now more awareness of security improvements on the plant floor. Since insecure systems are a threat to predictability, and unpredictable systems are not safe, this is definitely a good thing. So, if your management threw money at you and said, “fix our processes,” what would you do? For that matter, what would you do if they left out the money part? Here are some actionable thoughts to consider in the areas of design, operational monitoring and incident response. Design Design to minimize the unexpected. Use physical network isolation and access control lists to control communication to and from your different SCADA control networks. Do not share physical networks with no... Continue Reading

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The Key to a Successful Automation Project

Posted by Mike Gavin on March 7, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

Today, project management success is as much about the process and procedures followed during execution as it is about the project managers themselves. Definition, justification, specifications, proposal development, etc., are all important aspects of a successful project, as are the skill, experience and intangible assets of the PM. True success, however, sometimes comes from areas unrelated to one person. From a pure procedural perspective, the Project Management Institute (PMI) specializes in defining the processes for managing efforts in general, but a successful automation effort requires a tailored approach to managing a project. The most successful automation companies develop specific project execution methodologies they use to manage their project portfolios, usually by blending in best practices from various industry experts like ISO, ISA and GAMP. By merging these best prac... Continue Reading

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