Learning fieldbus, developing talent
A knowledge of Fieldbus and a willingness to educate or re-train workers looking to get into skilled automation could go a long way in developing long-term benefits for the manufacturing industry.
According to an engineer I once quoted: “A technology is ‘open’ if the development specification is published and readily available to anyone who wants it. Those who wish to do so can develop a product that is compatible with the technology. Open does not mean that everything connects freely to everything else; it means that within a defined set of rules, anyone that wants to can make products that are compatible with anyone else’s products as long as they conform to the same set of rules.”
FOUNDATION Fieldbus is one of the technologies that claim to be open and nonproprietary. The Foundation was established in September 1994 by a merger of WorldFIP North America and the Interoperable Systems Project.
In this issue’s cover story, Fieldbus Foundation’s Larry O’Brien (formerly research director for process automation at ARC Advisory Group) offers advice for first-time FOUNDATION Fieldbus users. O’Brien emphasizes the importance of fully understanding the requirements before embarking on a fieldbus project. He also stresses the differences between conventional and FOUNDATION Fieldbus projects.
In the second story, Mike Gavin, director of performance excellence at MAVERICK Technologies, writes about the shortage of skilled automation professionals in the U.S. and how to reverse the trend. Gavin said, “Reversing this decline requires a thorough understanding of the underlying causes: loss of our current talent base and a lack of an established way to correct it.”
According to Gavin, developing automation talent in-house is one way to remedy the automation skills gap. Using ISA and MAVERICK University as examples, Gavin suggests that companies can begin to develop their own automation talent by applying industry best practices to the process of learning, while avoiding the pitfalls.
Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.