Good vs. poor documentation: Don’t be ‘that guy’

Posted by Jeff Monforton on December 17, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

A well organized and well documented system, complete with commentary within your code, can only help you and your fellow developers and programmers.

Over the years we have all had to modify, repair, debug, and otherwise live with someone else’s code. The platforms vary, but the challenges remain the same—the biggest of which is, “What in #@$! was this guy thinking?!” Looking at that single—sometimes painful and often confusing—question leaves us wondering how it happened in the first place. More often than not, we find ourselves in this perplexing situation because the documentation has become separated from the program. This can happen for various reasons: - The equipment has changed hands several times, misplacing information - Someone saw this as an opportunity to insure continued employment by being the ‘go to’ guy - The dog ate it - It was never ... Continue Reading

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Some perspectives on MES implementations: Part 1

Posted by John Clemons on December 17, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

A lack of understanding or definition of MES within a company can lead to the same mistakes being made on project after project.

I think everyone knows by now that I’m a manufacturing execution systems (MES) guy from way back. I’ve been doing MES since way before they even called it MES. In fact, when I started doing it we didn’t even have a name for it. MES is one of the names for a class of computer-based systems that are focused on the execution side of manufacturing. Another common name for these systems is manufacturing operations management (MOM). I’ve seen more MES implementations than I can count, and I’ve seen so many of them that I’m seeing the same mistakes being repeated. It’s interesting in that the industries might change, the software might change, but the mistakes that are being made are the same. An entire class of mistakes can boil down to ... Continue Reading

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Penny wise and pound foolish

Posted by Bruce Brandt on December 17, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

A few appropriate costs early in a project can create major savings down the road and avoid a whole lot of aggravation in the process.

I’ve just finished helping support a project startup that has gone rather well in spite of some decisions to save cost at the start. I continue to be amazed time and time again that companies underestimate the impact of cutting the wrong costs, simply because they don’t know what the project really should cost before they go for funding. The project in this particular case  is actually the follow-on to the first phase of a system migration from one DCS platform to another. The customer’s old platform had been in service for a very long time and was becoming unsupportable when things failed. Since any migration was going to be a rip-and-replace, they decided to investigate what was now available in the market place and chose not to stay wi... Continue Reading

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Classified-area control panels

Posted by Andy Crossman on December 17, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

4 basic design concepts that could help avoid costly errors or worse.

Designing a control panel rated for a classified area can be a daunting task for individuals with limited or no prior experience. These four basic steps should get you started in the right direction: 1. Determine applicable codes for your geographic region—Before embarking on the design and laying out components, determine which governing agencies and applicable codes will come into play. That includes being cognizant of where the system will be built in addition to where it will be installed. If installed in another country you may have additional regulations to consider. 2. Obtain official documentation that declares the area classification—Note the emphasis on official, getting verification of the declared rating with tangible documentation. This is not an area in which “back of napkin,” or ... Continue Reading

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Science, it just works

Posted by Bruce Brandt on December 17, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

Some operational myths seem to live on even in the face of evidence to the contrary. How many of them are changing the way you work?

The actual quote is a bit harsher but the sentiment is the same: Science works and mythology doesn’t. Yet in my experience there is still a lot of mythology and misunderstanding at work in the application of process control that could be dispelled with proper scientific and engineering analysis, though sometimes the people involved just don’t understand. A case in point: I once had a boiler operator ask me when I was going to fix the electronic indicator on his control panel to match the reading on the drum level gauge glass. I told him that the gage glass was installed too low and that the electronic indicator was right. He replied that a gage glass couldn’t be wrong and proceeded to repeat his request every day. Finally, one morning I walk... Continue Reading

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