Think Again: Time for automation system integration
Gain efficiency through tighter control system integration. Ensure you're doing all you can to work effectively with system integrators.
Integrating disparate control systems can deliver easier apples-to-apples comparisons, parallel metrics, and less complicated information integration from manufacturing through the enterprise and supply chain. If you don’t have enough engineering resources on staff to do the integration within or across cells, lines, or plants, find the control system integrator with the appropriate skill set to help get the job done.
Integration moves data more efficiently (such as timely data transfer as with real time control systems), lowers costs of managing software that translates data or the hardware that facilitates translations, and lowers overhead without sacrificing large amounts of CPU power to perform translations. That’s especially important when that time, effort, and CPU power could be better spent for actual production or process control, as the cover story, “Integrating Disparate Control Systems,” explains.
Tools like OPC Unified Architecture, common physical layers for communications (Ethernet), even if many protocol choices remain, continue to make integration easier. “Integration is still not a clean and simple process,” observes Jeanine Katzel in the article, although “enormous strides have been made. Look for more to be made in the future. Manufacturers must recognize that innumerable options and alternatives exist and exercise care in making connectivity decisions. There are as many ways to bring control systems together or push data to the enterprise are as there are manufacturing facilities.”
And at your facilities, and even through your present partners, you may not have the expertise required for the optimal level of integration, or to assess what kind of return on investment might be available. For that task, you may find it useful to use automation system integrators in the Control Engineering Automation Integrator Guide.
At www.controleng.com/integrators online (and a subset in print), find the best skill set from among more than 2,130 integrators using a multi-parameter search. Perhaps most useful in this case, select one or more engineering specialties, such as computer hardware, computer software, data processing/management, factory automation, information systems, MES, networking/communications, process control, PLCs, SCADA, and web technology, among others.
While those projects are launched and underway, automation system integrators advise end users to track what’s happening at every stage of an automation project. Here how to ensure you get what you want, explains Vance VanDoren, in one of the Automation Integrator Guide’s articles:
- Collaborate on a plan with all-around buy-in;
- Communicate effectively; and
- Stay in the game until the final score is tallied.
Share your integration experiences at www.controleng.com/events-and-awards/ce-tips-and-tricks.html.
- Mark T. Hoske, Content Manager, Control Engineering, www.controleng.com
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.